I have to admit I don't frequently challenge myself with using Filipino ingredients or cooking Filipino food (because: you can get that anytime here). For this edition of "Lasang Pinoy" (The Filipino Taste), where we are to prepare a meal inspired by and for a Filipino hero, I chose to create a dish in honor of Francisco Balagtas, and I'd like to think he would be the kind of person to not be freaked out by a "new" dish with an Italian influence.
The same ravioli with good old-fashioned tomato sauce.
Why did I choose Francisco Balagtas? He certainly didn't make second year high school any easier for me (Pag-ibig anaki'y aking nakilala/ Di dapat palakhin ang bata sa saya...-- sorry if I misquoted). But I do love the idea of one of our heroes-- a military man at that-- is responsible for the advancement of Filipino literature (together with our National hero Jose Rizal of course). It's a salient point in our culture that we revere those figures in history who showed the Spanish colonists that we were so much more than the "indios" we were perceived to be, and that we were capable of great academic advancement. (Naturally I think Juan Luna is awesome too-- I ought to write about those Filipino artists I admire.) (Recipe follows)
I realize it sounds a lot like a Project Runway challenge but I drew inspiration from the wreath of laurel leaves which commonly sits in his head in portraits. That, and I used Filipino ingredients. It was rare when I was a kid, but now Spinach and Arugula are grown in cooler areas of the Philippines.
Prepare the filling by wilting 2.5 ounces (70g) fresh spinach or 70g frozen spinach in a saucepan or in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. When warm enough to handle, squeeze out all the spinach water and chop the wrung bundles finely. Stir 200g of kesong puti (white goat's or cow's milk cheese) in a small bowl until smooth, then add the chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese. (Can be prepared a day in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator.)
Prepare pasta as directed here using 6 ounces (170g) of flour and 2 eggs. Cut the rested dough into 4 small balls and run through the pasta machine until it reaches the thinnest setting. On 2 of the sheets of pasta, place teaspoonfuls of the filling 2 inches apart, then lay the 2 other sheets of pasta on top. Seal the area around the filling, pushing out any air before sealing completely. Cut into individual squares. (Can be prepared 4 hours in advance. Keep covered with a damp tea towel in the refrigerator).
Bring 2 liters of water in a large pot to a rolling boil and add a generous pinch of salt. Drop the ravioli, cooking 4 pieces at a time, and take each one out of the pot with a strainer or spider as soon as they rise to the surface. Drizzle the cooked ravioli with olive oil to keep from sticking in the meantime.
In a dry pan, toast a handful of pine nuts until brown, then set aside. In the same pan over low heat, add 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter and 1 clove of garlic that you've minced and heat gently. It will start to bubble, then shortly after, the milk solids will brown and sink, and soon you will be left with brown butter (use a white spoon or white plate on the side to check the color frequently). Turn off the heat and stir in a whole bay leaf for 15 seconds to infuse the flavor, then discard the bay leaf. Add to the pine nuts and set aside. In the same pan over medium heat, toast the ravioli until the surface is golden brown, about 2 minutes a side.
Arrange a few leaves of arugula on the plate. Top with the ravioli and drizzle with the brown butter sauce and pine nuts. Top with cracked black pepper. Serve with calamansi or lemon.