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Homemade Gnocchi

16 May

gnocchi 3gnocchi

Special Guest post from Jess P! 

Homemade Gnocchi 

5-6 small to medium sized potatoes (you want the mealy, dry kind. I used Russet, but Idaho, Yukon Gold, etc. are recommended too – I really don’t know too much about potatoes)

1 C. flour
1 egg (beaten, room temperature)
– Boil about 5/6 small to medium size potatoes for about a half hour or until they are soft and you can poke them easily with a fork. You can peel them first or just let the ricer do the work.
– When they are still boiling hot (temperature is important here) press through a potato ricer (I’m pretty much banking on this tool being essential to making the gnocchi fluffy). Rice the potatoes directly onto a baking sheet and cool evenly before proceeding.
– Then, in a big bowl, mix a un-heaping cup of flour and about half of the potatoes.
– Add the beaten egg with some salt and two shakes of nutmeg and mix in by hand, adding the potatoes until the potato-flour ratio feels right. You want to use as little flour as possible since this will weigh the gnocchi down.
– Knead for about 4 minutes by hand (but less kneading is better). I have not had to add additional flour at this step. The dough should be only slightly sticky at this point.
– Divide into sections and roll on a extremely lightly floured surface. I barely need to use any flour at this point. Cut into 3/4 – 1″ bits.
– Shape gnocchi by pressing the center with your pointer and middle fingers (or a fork) while simultaneously rolling the dough towards you (you want the dough to roll back on itself.)
– Lay out on wax paper or a dish towel and then place into salted, boiling water in batches until they float to the top of the water. Strain to remove.

Soba with Eggplant and Mango

11 Nov

soba eggplant mango

Dear Reader,

I fear you have become like a long lost pen-pal. That I should begin every post with apologies for not writing more. I could give excuses- and say, that i’ve been lazy– that i’ve started, as chrissy would say “to make food” more than cook. Or that- in perhaps a growing comfort in the kitchen- i’ve relied less on recipes– and become more like the people i used to despise— using a dash of this and glug of that. measurements too imprecise to pass on to you, dear reader. But instead of these quibbles,  i will offer you something better. A recipe. This comes from the Ottolenghi cookbook- Plenty- which happens to be vegetarian- Special Thanks to Kara– who gave me this cookbook for my last bday. This recipe is easy to put together— but it tastes like something i’d be willing to pay for in restaurant. the author says his mother loves to show off with it when she has guests over. the combination of eggplant and mango- with a lime-spiked dressing is refreshing- perhaps characteristic of a summer dish. boston is cold. but fuck it, this shit tastes good.

i should add- that i threw some best baked tofu in here [baked alongside the eggplant at 350]. you could also serve alongside some nice miso salmon or seared tuna.

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

2 garlic cloves

1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped [i subbed a big pinch of red chili flakes]

1 tsp sesame oil

grated zest and juice of 1 lime

2 eggplants, cut into 3/4 in. dice [mine weighed roughly 1 pound each]

8 to 9 0z soba noodles

1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/4 inch dice or 1/4 in thick strips [i used about 3/4 of a pound- sold pre-cut from whole foods- which i then sliced into strips.

1 2/3 basil leaves, chopped (ottelanghi writes if you can get thai basil- use it- but use much less of it)

2 1/2 cups of cilantro leaves, chopped [i will admit- this is a lot of herbs- and didn’t use all, so it’s ok if you are a little scant]

1/2 onion, thinly sliced.

1 cup sunflower- if frying eggplant- i did not.

in a small saucepan, gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to a minute, just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add garlic, chile and sesame. Allow to cool and then add lime zest and juice.

original recipe is to shallow fry the eggplant in three  to four batches- once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain. HOWEVER- I decided to bake the eggplant- because I always find frying it problematic. I chopped, put in a colander- liberally salted- and left for an hour to drain. Then, I rinsed the eggplant, squished dry in paper towels. Put on a baking sheet- doused with olive oil [just a couple glugs :)- no need for a cup], salt and pepper- and baked in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes.

Cook noodles in boiling salted water- stirring occasionally- takes about 5-8 minutes- until tender but al dente [don’t overdo.] Drain and rise well- running under cold water. Shake off as much water as possible- then put on a dry dish towel to further drain.

in a mixing bowl- toss noodles, dressing, mango, half the herbs and the onion. you can leave this for an hour or two. then when ready to serve add rest of herbs- pile on plate or bowl.

Spaghetti Carbonara

15 Mar


I last made this dish– and started a post on November 6, 2010 (ah, drafts box).  But, as tasty as this dish is, I was wholly unsatisfied with the picture– and it took me, oh, a few years to remake and reshoot. This dish is made to share— because it is basically a vat of bacons, egg and pasta– mmmm… Come to think of it– why isn’t this a more standard brunch dish?  What is great about this America’s Test Kitchen recipe– is that it does not use cream– it is has this ingenius method of heating a bowl, mixing in raw eggs, which cook as you mix them. Very clever guys.

America’s Test Kitchen recipe

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil [i know oil and bacon seems gratuitous but just do it]

1/2 pound bacon (6-8 slices), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. [I only used 7 oz, because that’s what I had]
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 large eggs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese [I really wanted to use both, but I am cheap and only bought Parm. Used 1 cup]
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 pound spaghetti
sea salt
ground black pepper
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set [big] heatproof serving bowl on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large stockpot.

While water is heating, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp. about 8 minutes. Add wine and simmer until alcohol aroma has cooked off and wine is slightly reduced 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Beat eggs, cheeses, and garlic together with fork in small bowl; set aside.

When water comes to boil, add pasta and 1 tablespoon kosher salt; stir to separate pasta. Cook until al dente; reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta for about 5 seconds, leaving pasta slightly wet. Transfer drained pasta to warm serving bowl; if pasta appears dry, add some reserved cooking water and toss to moisten. Immediately pour egg mixture over hot pasta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or 3/4 teaspoon table salt; toss well to combine. Pour bacon mixture over pasta, season generously with black pepper, and toss well to combine. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

[it starts to clump if don’t serve immediately. My serving bowl was way too small so mixed in the big pasta pot—which I figured was just as hot as the bowl I had sitting in the oven.]



23 Apr

I like the whole spicy, sweet & sour idea of eggplant caponata- which is a Sicilian eggplant relish that is often eaten as appetizer on crostini (toasted bread rounds) or alongside a main . I chased many a recipes and ended up– lost in the internets– on this Batali recipe. The combination of cinnamon, sugar and cocoa plus lots of red chili flakes, currants, pine nuts- intrigued me. I have to say that actually all Batali recipes I have tried are very heavy on the chili flake- so keep that in mind and reduce if you feel- it can be a bit overpowering. Anyway, for some bizarre reason this Caponata involves making a basic tomato sauce– which although sounds like too much extra work– felt like a good idea at the time. What happened was I spent many weeks not cooking at all– then finally I just went nuts and made like 5 things in a night (including orange sherbet- post to come, damn that shit was good. like creamsicles). I wouldn’t say that Batali’s basic tomato sauce is my favorite (i prefer the hazan) but in attempts to use some of the leftovers I made this bacon/pancetta tomato sauce– and boom! takes it up a level (perhaps I should be riffing Emeril-like phrases to describe a Batali recipe) but all in all– a wholly worthwhile exercise.

Let me also add that I made this sauce too b/c some lady on the cooking channel comments said the caponata is much better when using Batali’s sauce. Which isn’t to say- if you have some jarred stuff (heaven forbid) in your pantry that it wouldn’t work. Also, when consuming the rest of your jar, I think it would be safe to say that it would be bumped up a notch by giving it the bacon/pancetta treatment.

Batali’s Eggplant Caponata

1/2 cup virgin olive oil [i definitely skimped on this amount]
1 large Spanish onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice [used regular onion]
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups) [i used one large eggplant]
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs mint, chopped [didn’t have so left out]
1 baguette, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds and toasted on grill or in oven

I added a first step. Chopped eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Generously toss w. kosher salt. Let sit in a colander, over a bowl, for an hour to drain bitter liquid. Rinse well. Squeeze dry (thoroughly) w. paper towels. This gets out excess moisture so it doesn’t suck up all your oil.
In a large 12-14 in saute pan, over med heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil. [well I wouldn’t say there is quite enough liquid to consider boil, but it bubbles aggressively?]
Lower heat and simmer for 5 mins. [some reviewers say it takes longer– so keep cooking until the eggplant is soft enough to your liking. I was surprised this didn’t take that long, perhaps b/c i salted first, maybe 10 mins?]
Remove from heat, cool to room temp. Garnish w. more red chili flakes and mint [i skipped that step.]
Cut baguette into slices. Drizzle w. olive oil and toast in the over for a few minutes.  Serve together. I also served w. Ricotta Salata (a salty cheese pictured above) but this is not really necessary.

Batali’s basic tomato sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice [used regular]
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is softened. Add the tomatoes and juice [can liquid] and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Makes 4 cups.

Pasta all’Amatriciana [w. bacon, pancetta or guanciale]
I would say this recipe- as I made it- was quite different than as Batali wrote it because I cut the bacon etc. to 1/4 of a pound- and used half bacon/half unsmoked pancetta (as that is what I had on hand). This gave a great subtle bacon flavor to the whole pasta- but wasn’t so overwhelming so that all you could taste was bacon. I would recommend doing as I did. This pasta also recommended w. Bucatini- a hose-shaped pasta. I didn’t have but used fresh pasta from Russo’s– long spaghetti-length spirals. Delish.
3/4 pound guanciale, thinly sliced, or substitute smoked pancetta or bacon [i used 1/4 pound combo of bacon and unsmoked pancetta- which is a few slices of each)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and sliced
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes [I think I cut this down to 1 tsp]
2 cups basic tomato sauce [see above]
1 pound bucatini or other pasta
Parm, pecorino romano or caciocavallo (?) cheese for grating [didn’t have but did have some extra ricotta salata on hand]
salt and pepper

Bring water to a boil and add a generous tablespoon of salt for pasta.

In a 12 to 14 in saute pan, spread your pork product of choice in a single layer- cooking over med-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered out. Remove bacon etc from pan and put on a plate lined w. paper towels.

Depending on how much fat you have, discard some leaving enough to coat and cook the garlic, onion and pepper flakes. Because I didn’t use all the bacon recipe called for- I only had just enough fat left and didn’t pour out any. Place above 3 ingredients in pan and add bacon/pancetta and cook over med-high heat for 5 mins until the onion, garlic and pancetta etc are a light golden brown. Season w. salt and pepper. You can add a little extra virgin olive oil if necessary to keep these aromatics from burning. Add the tomato sauce, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 10-15 mins.

Cook pasta in water until al dente. Drain pasta and add to simmering sauce. Increase heat to high and toss to coat. Divide among 4 bowls and top w. fresh grated cheese if you please.

Slow Bolognese or Super Simple Tomato Sauce

17 Feb

i have two choices for you. both from marcella hazan (as most of my italian recipes are.) one is a low and slow bolgnese. the other is the most super simple tomato sauce. the bolgnese, marcella says can cook from 3 1/2 to 5 hours. i ate my first meal of it at 3 1/2 and tried it again at 5 and was amazed at the difference– creamy, tasty and worth the time, no doubt. but if you are going to spend 5 hours making the sauce, then i think we should at least double it– amounts i have put in [ ]. though meat sauce freezes well, i think, so you could always triple or quadruple original if you felt so inclined. also- i think if you are going to put this much effort in- go out and buy some fresh pasta (or make it.) I got a tagliatelle, which i love– but of course it will work with anything. Enjoyed some of the leftovers w. polenta and fresh mozzarella… and then– because that’s what i eat w. all my lunches- i mixed some up w. wheatberries.

2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion [1/4 cup]
3 tablespoons olive oil [6]

3 tablespoons butter [6]
2 tablespoons chopped celery [1/4 cup]
2 tablespoons chopped carrot [1/4 cup]
3/4 cup ground chopped lean beef, preferably chuck [1.5 pounds]
1 cup dry white wine [2 cups]
1/2 milk (i used whole) [1 cup]
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg [1/4 tsp]
2 cups canned Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juices [4 cups, or two 28oz cans plum tomatoes]

Marcella’s notes
– the meat must be sauteed just barely long enough to lose its raw color. it must not brown or it will lose its delicacy
-it must be cooked in milk before the tomatoes are added. this keeps the meat creamier and sweeter tasting.
-it must cook at the merest summer for a long, long time. the minimum is 3 1/2 hours, 5 is better

1. Use an earthenware or heavy cast-iron casserole, the deepest you have (to keep the ragu from reducing too quickly.) Put in chopped onion with all the oil and butter and saute briefly over med heat until just translucent. Add celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes.
2. Adding ground beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add 1 tsp salt [2 tsp], stir and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red color. [I take this to mean, when it at has lost some of the raw red– if you wait until all raw is gone, that’s too far- and you are cooking this sucker for 5 hours so won’t be underdone.] Add the wine, turn the heat up to a med high and cook, stirring occasionally until all the wine has evaporated. [this can take a while, but i took it to mean not all the liquid- because there will still be some from fat– but liquid will be nearly gone and that alcohol scent will evaporate.]
3. turn heat back down to med, add milk and nutmeg and cook until evaporated [same note as above.] stir frequently.
4. when the milk has evaporated, add tomatoes and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer, just an occasional bubble. Cook uncovered for a minimum of 3 1/2 to 4 hours [5 is great], stirring occasionally. taste and correct for salt. (If you cannot watch the sauce for a long stretch, you can turn off the heat and resume cooking it later on. But do finish cooking it in one day.)

Super Simple Tomato Sauce
What’s so amazing about this sauce is that there is barely anything in it. just tomatoes, butter and an onion– which you take out after its cooked. Seriously, there is no reason to buy canned sauce again. For New Years Eve, we used in Pasta Bake.

2 pounds, fresh ripe plum tomatoes [or 2 cups canned tomato w. their juice- used a 28oz can]
1/4 pound butter [1 stick- or if this seems like a lot- i think 3/4 of a stick will work fine]
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1/4 tsp granulated sugar

If using canned tomatoes, start at step 2.
1. wash the tomatoes in cold water. cut them in half lengthwise. Cook in a covered stockpot or saucepan until they have simmered for 10 minutes.
2. Puree through a food mill [or immersion blender] and put back in pot– [i didn’t do this– just used hands to crush the tomatoes.] add the butter, onion, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and sugar and cook at a slow but steady summer, uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste and correct for salt. discard the onion.

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