Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gnocchi with Marinara Sauce

We had lots of tomatoes and lots of potatoes accumulating from our Farmer's Box, and we needed something to do with them. The tomatoes were of the plum variety, which are pretty much good for tomato sauce and not much else. We also had two egg yolks, and a quick google search indicated that you could add egg yolks to gnocchi. So I thought it would be fun to make our own gnocchi with the potatoes and make Marcella Hazan's classic sauce. The gnocchi is also adapted from Marcella Hazan, and I'll mention how we differed as I go through. Both recipes can be found in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. This book has quite a bit of information on cooking.

First, start your sauce. That takes a while to cook. We made the Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, which according to Marcella, is "the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly sweet tomato taste." It's the recommended sauce for the gnocchi, but more on that at the end. Marcella says to use fresh, naturally and fully ripened, plum tomatoes when available. You can also use canned. If using fresh, start with 2 pounds, and if using canned use 2 cups cut up, with their juice. When using fresh tomatoes, you need to peel them. Bring a pot of water to boil. Then, cut a cross over the stem of your tomato, like so:


Once the water is boiling, plunge your tomato into the boiling water using a slotted spoon or ladle, hold it there for about a minute, then pull it out. When it's cooled enough that you can stand to touch the tomato, peel off the skin. It should come off pretty easily, but if not you have the cuts in the cross where you can start peeling. Quarter the tomatoes and put them in the saucepan, or dump the canned tomatoes right in. Add five tablespoons butter, one medium onion, cut in half, and salt to taste. Marcella says if it's not salty enough on it's own, it's not salty enough to go with pasta. Cook, uncovered, for at least 45 minutes. Marcella says never to cook sauce in a covered pot because it won't be flavorful. Sauce cooks by evaporation. Stir from time to time, mashing any tomato chunks with a spoon. Once it was done, we ran the immersion blender through it, because I love my immersion blender. Here is the final product:


While the sauce is simmering (we simmered for an hour and a half), make the gnocchi. If you're concerned about timing, wait until the sauce is done. It's better to have sauce waiting for gnocchi than gnocchi waiting for sauce. To make the gnocchi, first peel 1.5 pounds of potatoes. According to Marcella, the choice of potato is "critical." You can't use a baking potato or a new potato. Quoth Marcella: "The only reliable potato for gnocchi is the more or less round, common kind known as a 'boiling' potato." Marcella says to boil the potatoes in their skins, but we peeled ours first. Cook until tender, but don't prick them too much or they will get waterlogged. You really do want them tender; ours were a bit underdone and we had some large potato chunks in a few of our gnocchi. Marcella says to puree through a food mill, but we don't have one of those, so I mashed them roughly with a potato masher and then used the immersion blender. You want it very smooth.

Once the potatoes are mashed, turn them out onto a work surface dusted with flour. Ideally, you have a beautiful granite countertop for this. We don't, so we used our hard-to-clean countertop before realizing that a wooden cutting board was the better choice. Add about a cup of flour to the mixture. It will be done with the flour/potato mixture is soft and smooth but still slightly sticky. At this point, we added two egg yolks and a tablespoon of ricotta. Here is what Marcella says about adding an egg: "Some people do use eggs because the dough becomes easier to handle, but that method, which is called alla parigina, 'Paris style,' results in a tougher, more rubbery product." I thought ours were fine. Since we used egg yolks and ricotta, we needed another half-cup of flour.

When the dough is the right consistency, add more flour to your work surface, split the dough up into 2-4 parts, and roll each part into a snake-like roll about an inch in diameter. Slice the roll into pieces about 3/4"-1" long. Once it's cut into pieces, you have to shape the gnocchi. Well, you don't actually have to, but you should, since "they will cook more evenly and hold sauce more successfully." To shape it, take a fork and hold it so the fork is at about a 45 degree angle with the counter. Roll your little slices along the concave side with your index finger. This was a little tricky, but this is how the gnocchi looked before and after cooking:



After it's shaped, it's ready for cooking. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt. Before you cook all the gnocchi, test it out with 2-3. Ten seconds after they have floated to the surface, take them out and taste them. If it tastes like raw flour, add a few seconds to the cooking time, if they are nearly dissolved, subtract a few seconds. We added a few seconds. Drop in about two dozen, and when they float to the surface, remember what you decided to do after the test batch. When they are done, scoop them out and add the next batch. Now they are ready to be sauced and eaten! Of course, you will want to add Parmesan cheese.


A note about sauce: my preferred sauce for gnocchi is either a bolognese or classic butter and cheese. This sauce was too watery, so it didn't really stick to the gnocchi.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vegetarian Enchiladas

This week, we had green tomatoes in our farmer's box. Last time I got green tomatoes in the box, I made a green tomato and swiss chard gratin. There are very few recipes that I don't finish, but this was one of them (oddly, the other one of recent memory also had swiss chard, so I might just hate swiss chard). When I saw green tomatoes on the list this time, I thought, "oh, crap. What am I going to do with them?" Additionally, we get four ears of corn every week. We are up to our eyeballs in corn. We have a bunch frozen in the freezer, and yet it just keeps coming. So I wanted something that would make use of both things. Googling recipes for green tomatoes I found that you could make enchilada sauce with them, so we went in that direction.

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • Medium Onion, diced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Approximately 2 lbs green tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 Peppers, roughly chopped (we used bull's horn peppers, because we had a lot from our box. They were mildly spicy, so this had some heat. You can use whatever combo of peppers you want.)
  • Half a bunch of cilantro, destemmed
  • 1.5 teaspoons Salt
  • <0.25 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4 cups broth (we used veggie bouillon, since I've not yet made broth this year. You can use chicken, as well)
Steps
  1. Put all ingredients from tomatoes to lime juice in a blender and puree. This may take multiple batches.


  2. In a medium/large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and onions until fragrant.
  3. Add the pureed tomato mixture and chicken broth into the pot and bring to a boil. Once it's reached a boil, lower the heat. Let simmer uncovered until it's at the thickness you want. We simmered for an hour and a half, or so. Stir occasionally and give it a taste every so often. If it's too sour, you can add some sugar. We didn't, since enchilada sauce tends to a be on the tart side. Once it's done, feel free to blend further. I used an immersion blender, because any time you get to use an immersion blender it's a good day. You can also put in in the regular blender, but you have to be careful about steam and overflow.
The finished product. Ours turned into a red sauce, even though we used green tomatoes, because the peppers were red.


Now, on to the enchiladas!

Corn, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas

Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Garlic, minced
  • One can black beans
  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • Half a bag of frozen, chopped spinach
  • Cumin
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Corn tortillas
  • Green Tomato Enchilada Sauce (see above)
  • Shredded cheese (we used the Mexican cheese blend from Trader Joe's)
Steps
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large frying pan until fragrant. Add the black beans, corn, spinach, and cumin. Once cooked, add the lime juice.
  3. Pour a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a square baking dish.
  4. Fill the tortillas with the filling, and then roll the tortilla. Place it seam down in the baking dish. Continue until the dish is filled.
  5. Pour more enchilada sauce over the tortillas until they are covered. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.

The finished product! Garnish with avocado, diced tomato, and sour cream (we used low-fat Greek yogurt, since it's tangy).



Note: You will have lots of extra sauce. You can just freeze the leftovers for later. We also had some leftover filling, since our baking dish only held six enchiladas.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fruit and Chia Compote

This is a super-simple compote, thickened with chia seeds. It's actually more of ajam, since the fruit is smashed into pieces, but since it's thickened with chia it's not really jam.


To make it you need fruit, chia seeds, and sweetener/spices of your choice. If you use large fruit (I used peaches), it's best to slice them up first. Take your fruit and put it in a saucepan. Get the liquid boiling, and heat for 15-20 minutes. About five minutes into it, I took a potato masher and smushed the fruit roughly, to get more liquid out. You want it to be pretty saucy so that the chia seeds have something to absorb. During this time, add your sweetener and spices. For the peaches, I used a little bit of honey and some maple syrup to sweeten. I also added cinnamon, powdered vanilla, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, and ground allspice. All of this is to taste. Once the fruit has cooked down and is nice and saucy, take it off the heat and add the chia seeds, one tablespoon per cup of fruit. I had about 4 cups of peaches before I cooked them down, so I added 4 tablespoons of chia.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chickpea of the Sea

Because of the environmental toll that meat takes on the environment (in general, but especially factory farming), I am trying to cut back on my meat consumption. Lunch has always been hardest for me, since making sandwiches is so easy. This is a pretty easy substitute for tuna, although for me it requires a bit of planning ahead. It takes a bit longer to make than tuna does, so I like to make it on Sunday night. This recipe makes 2-3 lunches, since I also pack a fruit and some yogurt.


Ingredients

  • One can chickpeas
  • Olive Oil
  • Mayonnaise (or Vegannaise)
  • Celery (I use 2 stalks)
  • Mustard
  • Pickles (I use 3 sandwich slices)
  • Salt and Pepper
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Place them in a bowl, add some salt and pepper, and then mash them up. I like to mash them before adding the celery for a smoother consistency. Slice up your celery and pickles to the size you want, and then add them to the mashed chickpeas. Glug in some olive oil, add mayonnaise and mustard to taste, and stir everything together. If you don't want to use mayonnaise or Vegannaise, you can just olive oil, although I haven't tried that. Serve as a sandwich, on crackers, on cucumber slices, plain...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fresh Tuna as only the Italians can make

When we spent time on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy, I had fresh tuna for lunch every day.  It was the best tuna I have ever had.  It has taken me a few years but I have finally been able to almost replicate the recipe.

The first thing is to get really fresh tuna.  I am fortunate to have recently joined a group called Community Seafood (http://www.communityseafood.com/seafood-of-the-week/).  They bring fresh seafood to my local Farmer's Market weekly.  You never know what you are going to get.  A few weeks ago I really scored and got this delicious tuna.  I managed to buy more than my weekly share so I was able to recreate my tuna dish from Italy and have it for more than just one week. 

Here is the recipe.  It is a little time-consuming, but the tuna keeps for weeks in the refrigerator so it is worth the effort.

Tonno Bollito

Ingredients
1-2 carrots 1 medium onion (red or yellow)
1 stalk of celery
1 bay leaf
6-8 stalks of Italian parsley
3 lbs fresh tuna
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Boil 2 quarts of lightly salted water and all the ingredients but the tuna and olive oil for about 1 hour.
 Filter the broth and then add the tuna.  Cook approximately 30 minutes and then remove.



 Finally, put the tuna on a bed of lettuce, add tomato, salt and pepper and season with olive oil. 

With the extra tuna you cooked, cover it completely with olive oil, put it in the coldest part of your refrigerator and it will last for weeks, assuming you have the will power to not eat it completely in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chia Pudding

To quote The Who Pink Floyd (oops!), "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?" When it's a breakfast pudding made from chia seeds! Or anytime, really, I just like the quote. Chia pudding is best when you have time to let it sit overnight. I like this for summer, since it's refreshing.



Anyway, chia pudding is a weird sort of thing. I first saw it on goop, and her recipe was kind of bland. It was also chewier than I wanted it to be. So, after scouring the internet, I think I've stumbled upon the best liquid:seed ratio. I'm using slightly more than a 4:1 ratio--0.5 cups of liquid (I use unsweetened, plain almond milk) to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. Then I add a few more splashes of liquid. This makes one serving. Just pour your liquid over the seeds (I used a leftover jam jar that I had lying around, if you're a hipster you can use a mason jar. I've also used regular bowls). Stir. This step is key. That way, all the seeds will get mixed in, and you won't have a weird clump at the bottom of your bowl/jar. You can also stir in fruit. Here, I put in strawberries, but the possibilities are endless! I definitely recommend some fruit. I also put in a sprinkling of vanilla powder. I keep forgetting to put in cinnamon, but I bet that would be tasty, too. I'm thinking of trying cocoa powder and bananas. Once it's topped and stirred (stir a lot!), put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning you will have a delicious breakfast!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Matzoh Ball Soup

I had my own Seder for Passover this year. It was potluck style, but I provided the matzoh ball soup and the dessert. I made my own broth and matzoh balls. To make the broth, I put a whole chicken in a pot, along with the detritus of various vegetables that I've been collecting. Make sure that you remove the innards from the chicken. You can put them back in, but you want to make sure you get rid of the paper that they're wrapped in. Also, whenever you prepare veggies, you should set aside the parts you don't use, like the carrot peels, onion peels, ends of the celery, etc. Put them in a bag in the freezer, and then when you need to make broth, you're all set! For the broth, add salt and pepper to the water, and then let it simmer for a few hours. Once it's done, throw out the vegetable detritus, put the chicken aside (it should basically be falling apart), and pour the broth into tupperware.

If you're going to eat the broth immediately, try and skim off as much fat as possible; otherwise, put the tupperware in the refrigerator to cool. The fat should solidify at the top, and then you can just skim it off. Make sure to save it! You'll need it for the matzoh balls.

To make the matzoh balls, I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but instead of refrigerating them for 30 minutes I let them sit out for 20. I doubled it, which made 15 decent sized matzoh balls.

I would suggest waiting until the water is ready before shaping them, because letting them sit in the bowl while I waited for the water to boil meant that they stuck together a bit.