Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bourbon-Maple Scallops

This recipe came from a failed cedar-planked salmon experiment I had last week. The marinade was originally for grilled salmon on a cedar plank.

I liked the combination of flavors in the marinade, so I decided to try it with scallops. First, I tried it on a wood plank. I really disliked the taste of the wood planks. Maybe it was the type of wood I had. I was surprised because I've had wood-grilled scallops before, and I've liked them.

Next, I made the scallops without the wood planks. That's much better! The scallops are sweet and tender. The syrup and the bourbon combine and create pure deliciousness with the scallops. This recipe gets a big thumbs-up!

Bourbon-Maple Scallops

1 pound of fresh sea scallops
1/4 cup Bourbon
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
2 Tbs olive oil

Lightly score the tops and bottoms of the scallops with a crosshatch pattern (a slanted tic-tac-toe board). Only let the knife go through the surface slightly.

Whisk the liquids and seasonings together. Add the scallops and let them marinate in the liquid for 15-30 minutes. Saute on a medium-high flame for 2-3 minute per side. Try to only turn over once.

Drizzle the pan juices over the top and serve.

Brown Rice and Goat Cheese Cakes

The minute I saw this recipe in Eating Well Magazine I knew I had to make it. It followed a story about the Lundberg family who produces a line of wild rices. I just happened to have a bag of their brown rice mix in my pantry. I also had most of the other ingredients on hand, so this was meant to be.

I tweaked the recipe just a little, adding a bit more cheese and some cayenne pepper. I also slightly changed some other little things. I liked the result, and ate it all up within a couple of days and then decided to make it again and see if I could tweak it more.

I was going for something to hold the mixture together stronger. My only complaint about the first batch was that once you broke into the patty, the insides tended to not stick together so well. So I added another egg white. I also decided to experiment with a little orange zest. The results? Too much egg white and I didn't like the orange zest. As for the egg whites, I'm recommending one and a half.

You'll notice that I did garnish with lemon slices. Maybe it's because they resemble crab cakes. I also squeezed a little lemon on these and it was pleasant. I tried drizzling a tiny bit of honey as well. I liked it, but it's not necessary.

Brown Rice and Goat Cheese Cakes
Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

¾ cup medium-grain brown rice
1 ½ cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 medium shallots, chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded using the large holes of a box grater
1/2 cup toasted pecans
5 ounces goat cheese
1 large egg white plus half of another
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bring the rice and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at the lowest bubble until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 50 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir often, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the carrots, reduce the heat to low, and stir often, until softened and the shallots are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Transfer the cooked vegetables and rice to a large food processor. Add pecans, goat cheese, thyme, salt and pepper. Lastly, add the egg white. I say this because the warm ingredients could start cooking the white, so you don't want to put in the egg white until you are ready to start blending.

Pulse the mixture until well blended but still a little coarse. Scrape into a large bowl. Here's my original mixture. You can see it's a little dry, which is why I'm going to say to add another half of an egg white.

With wet hands, form the mixture into six 3-inch patties, about 1/2 cup each. But truth be told, I got seven patties.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook until well-browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Once the patties hit the pan, do not try to move them. If you do, they will stick and your patties will be broken. Don't try to move them for a couple of minutes, until a crust has formed. When you do begin to flip them over, swiftly scoop the spatula under the patty and gently turn it over. This will help to keep the patties from falling apart.

Transfer the patties to a PAM-sprayed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. They will come out evenly cooked and should be firm to the touch.

Garnish with extra crumbled goat cheese and perhaps some lemon and thyme sprigs!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower

My supervisor at work moved here from Sicily when she was about 14 years old. Recently at work she handed me a cookbook called Treasures of Sicilian Cuisine and told me that this cookbook is authentic Sicilian.

So I examined it from cover to cover and photocopied two recipes. This is one of them! But I have to say, I hesitated. Why? I saw the A-word in the recipe. That's right, Anchovies. As I made my gross-out face, I told Maria that I was thinking of making it, but leaving them out.

She somehow convinced me to leave those little critters in the recipe, telling me that the anchovies are meant to be a power booster. She went on, promising me that they shouldn't add a fishy taste and that we Americans don't tend to use them the right way. When we use them, we slop them onto pizza, or simply use way too much of them.

I wasn't quite sure that I believed her, but I found myself purchasing this little can on my way home and wondering what the hell I was doing!

Knowing that Joe would never eat this pasta dish, I invited some friends over for dinner so I'd have someone to share it with. Karen told me that she and Todd love anchovies and were very into trying this dish, along with the stack of Corncakes with Fruit and Mascarpone Cream that I promised for dessert.

When Karen and Todd arrived, I was ready to assemble the dish. The cauliflower had been parboiled and all the ingredients were prepped and ready to go into a hot pan. That is, all except those anchovies. I hesitated for a few moments. Especially when I opened the can and took a look at them, with all their little bones all over the place.

The recipe actually states that the anchovies "dissolve in the oil." That was the only reason that I mustered-up my courage and said to myself - I'm going to do this the right way. So I chopped them up super-fine and readied myself for throwing them into the pan. And what do you know, they really did dissolve.

And even better than the fact that the anchovies dissolved was the fact that I really didn't taste fish. What do you know, Maria didn't lie to me!

I use the word adapted under the title of the recipe because I had to make a few small changes. The recipe called for a small bag of saffron. I'm assuming that they are referring to saffron powder. I used the real thing, so I looked up how much saffron typically goes with a pound of pasta and came up with the one scant teaspoon (that's not quite a teaspoon) that I steeped in the hot liquid from the parboil of the cauliflower before adding it into the sauteed onions.

I also added quite bit extra in the pine nut department.

I'm glad I tried this recipe. It was new and different, and I liked it. Karen and Todd liked it too. Joe made a separate meal for himself and enjoyed the company while I got to experiment and share with other people who would enjoy such a dish. All of us were happy little eaters.

Sicilian Pasta with Cauliflower

Adapted from Treasures of Sicilian Cuisine

1 pound spaghetti
1 medium cauliflower
1 large, sweet onion, chopped
2 ounces large golden raisins
2.5 ounces pine nuts
1 scant teaspoon saffron threads
2 ounces anchovy fillets in oil
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut off the florets of cauliflower and add them to a pot of salted water. Once the water reaches a boil, continue to boil the cauliflower for five minutes.

Drain and put aside the cooking water. Use a small amount of it (2 tablespoons) to steep the saffron threads, covering the little steeping dish with plastic wrap.

Use the rest of the cauliflower water, plus any extra water that you need to cook the pasta to "al dente."

In a large pan, saute and caramelize the minced onion with plenty of oil. After all, olive oil is good for you! Be sure to season the onions with salt and pepper to your liking.

Add the chopped anchovies and dissolve it in the oil.

Add the raisins, the pine nuts, and the cauliflower and brown the mixture on a medium-high flame, stirring often.

Add the steeped saffron.

Finally, add the pasta to the pan. Toss and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Trip to Boston

I've been the neglected wife of a golfer at the beginning of golfing season. I think Joe felt my pain after a rather sarcastic remark I made a few days ago and offered that we go on a date to any place I want. I wanted to go to Boston, specifically to the South End.

The South End of Boston seems to be the hip area these days with a great dining scene. I did a slight bit of Internet research and was a little worried about going to the South End, not quite knowing where it was. I kind of chickened-out and suggested we go somewhere in the Fenway. I remember seeing a recent Iron Chef America where a Boston chef of a Spanish restaurant, Toro, competed and won. I wanted to check out his restaurant which I thought was in the Fenway.

Reviewers online seem to unanimously state that the menu and food at Toro is the most authentic of the Boston-area Spanish restaurants. So I was excited to check it out. My only reservation was that we would have the brunch menu as opposed to the regular dinner menu. But there were some really tempting menu items that could not be ignored.

As we approached Toro, we discovered that we were, in fact, in the heart of the South End. Well, what do you know? Toro was on Washington Street. It is not far from the theater district. Here it is from the outside:

I'm glad we went on Memorial Day Weekend because there were no crowds, and we had absolutely perfect weather.

Though the weather was indeed perfect, we decided to sit inside. So we walked right in and there were open seats everywhere. I appreciated that they kept the doors open and there was a lot of fresh air. Here are some shots of the inside.

Joe ordered a Dos Equis, and I decided to start out with a glass of red. I've got a thing for Rioja reds these days. When they brought it to the table I was surprised to see the glass. I was also surprised to see the generous portion of wine! This is a really horrible picture, and I had already been drinking it for 1/2 hour, but better late than never.

The ordering didn't take long. We had been looking at the brunch menu at home before we left.

Joe ordered what is now called Huevos con Chorizo. It is scrambled eggs with Spanish chorizo sausage. It smelled and tasted great.

I got the Breakfast Tartine. It was a slice of brioche topped with dried apricots, goat cheese, and acacia honey. It wasn't completely what I expected since the menu calls the apricots "preserved." Did they just run out? Aside from the apricot misunderstnding, the dish was sweet and delicious.

I loved the eclectic mix of coffee mugs that were on the tables in front of me.

Finally, we ordered some churros and chocolate for dessert. The chocolate sauce was super-thick and had a hint of chile powder in it.

The churros were very different from other churros I've had. The outside was not as crispy as the churros I've eaten in other places. The inside was more dough-like and moist. And instead of rolling the churros in granular sugar and cinnamon, they were topped with the powdered sugar. In my first bite, I noted what tasted like a previously fried ham croquette, but it didn't ruin the experience for me, and the rest of my bites weren't like that.

I'd love to return to Toro for their dinner menu. Perhaps on my next trip to the city. But for right now, my favorite restaurant in the state is the tapas restaurant in my own back yard, Bocado in Worcester.

And while poor Petey and Elvis waited for our return home, we kept them in our thoughts as we made a stop into the Polka Dog Bakery. We brought them home an assortment of baked treats, salmon jerkey, and dried talapia. Lucky dogs!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Corncakes with Fruit and Mascarpone Cream

What to do with leftover cornmeal pancakes? Make something spectacular! And this little dessert was just that - spectacular. The toasty goodness of the corn pancakes, the fresh spring fruit, the mascarpone cream with just a hint of rum. And above all that, it looks impressive. People will ooh-and-aah when they see it.

I gave this particular one in the picture to a coworker. We sat in the lunch room and she was eating it when another coworker came in and said, "How dare you bring something like that in here!" That made me feel good. She was so impressed when I said that I had made it. That made me feel even better.


Cornmeal Pancakes
Mascarpone Cream
Your favorite preserves (I used Dickinson's Seedless Black Raspberry)
Fresh Fruit
Mint for Garnish

Okay, here's my ingredients, ready to go.

Put the bottom pancake on the plate. Top it with a layer of preserves.

Slather the mascarpone cream on the bottom of another pancake and then place that on top of the first pancake.

Top that pancake with a layer of preserves and then place another pancake with a mascarpone cream bottom on top.

Top with fresh fruit. Garnish with more fresh fruit and mint.

And here's the view from the top.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mascarpone Cream

Mascarpone Cream

1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup + 2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp dark rum (I used Bacardi Select)

Whip it all together on high with a mixer until the meadium peak stage.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grilled Asparagus with Sherry Vinegar

Here's a nice little side dish for you. It's quite tasty and goes well with seafood. I ate it with my Bourbon-Maple Scallops and a Brown Rice and Goat Cheese Cake.

I would have preferred some young, thin asparagus, but I could only get the bigger stalks. I think the younger ones are more tender. With the bigger stalks, I cut a good portion off the bottom because it would have been tough and fibrous.

Grilled Asparagus with Sherry Vinegar

One bunch of asparagus, bottoms trimmed
2 Tbs cup sherry vinegar
2 Tbs olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Trim the bottoms off the asparagus. Put it in a flat tupperware or pan. Pour the oil and vinegar over top. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the mixture around to coat the asparagus.

I put the asparagus directly on the grill, perpendicular to the grate. You could also make a raft with two skewars to prevent the asparagus from falling between the grates.

Cook for just a few menutes. The asparagus should be warm and tender with a little bite to it, not soft and mushy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cornmeal Pancakes

I love the taste of cornmeal, but sometimes it becomes grainy in baked goods. But that is not so with these delicious and light cornmeal pancakes! This recipe is a definite keeper.

Is it as easy as breaking open a box of Bisquick? No. But it is worth the added effort, and these pancakes store easily once you make them. You can put them in the fridge, or even freeze them for a day when you want something quick.

Today I had them with butter and maple syrup. I like the grade B maple syrup. I think the grading system we have is a bit deceptive because it makes you think of school, and an A is better than a B in school. Grade B maple syrup is the darkest of the grades of syrup available in the US, and has a deeper maple flavor.

I wanted perfectly round pancakes, and I didn't have a perfectly flat pan to do that with. So I made mine one at a time. A slight problem arose because there are egg whites folded into the batter, and the batter got thinner as time went by and my last pancakes were not as thick as the first ones. So I advise that you use a flat griddle pan or electric griddle to make these on.

The recipe calls for buttermilk. I use the powdered buttermilk from the supermarket. It keeps in the refrigerator. I like it because I would never be able to use an entire carton of regular buttermilk before it all goes bad. The powdered stuff keeps me from wasting.

I found this recipe on, but they got the recipe from a restaurant called Figtree's Cafe.

Cornmeal Pancakes
Adapted From Figtree's Cafe in Venice, California.

1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup whole grain pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs, separated (I use the shell-to-shell method)
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 200°F. This will keep your pancakes warm as you continue making them.

In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, pastry flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set it aside.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, egg yolks, and honey to blend. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until blended.

In another medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

Fold the whites into the batter in two separate additions. You may be tempted to mix instead of fold, but do this the right way! You will get much better results, and by that I mean you pancakes will be light and fluffy.

If you don't really know what folding means, then I recommend watching Chef John Mitzewich as he makes a batch of his own pancake recipe at He goes through the entire recipe quickly, so you won't be sitting there forever waiting to see how to fold.

Continue folding. If your batter looks like this, you are not done yet:

Here was my finished batter.

Here comes the fun part.

Melt some butter in heavy, large, flat griddle over medium heat. Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook the pancakes until the bottoms are golden brown and bubbles form on top. This takes about two minutes.

Turn pancakes over and cook them until the bottoms are golden brown, about one more minute.

Transfer the pancakes onto large oven-safe plate and put them in your 200 degree oven.

Serve your corn pancakes hot with maple syrup and butter.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

Joe made a rare request for me to make something for him this past week. His evening communications class was meeting for the final time this semester and they were having a pot luck. He needed something that wouldn't need to be reheated and could sit in his car all day while he was at work. I quickly wnet through the recipe file in my mind and pulled out the card for this little desert.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars are delightful! A moist, chewey macaroon on top, and a rich, lucious brownie on the bottom. I've made it a number of times and it is a favorite. I make it for pot lucks, summer parties, and on some years it's been part of a Christmas cookie package that I deliver to my friends and coworkers.

They are rather decadent, so I suggest cutting them into little squares. Or, I may cut them into bigger squares next time and split them diagonally to make triangles. That would be nice too. Either way, your family and friends are sure to enjoy these Black Botom Coconut Bars.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars
Every Day Food Magazine

For the Chocolate Base
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

For the Coconut Topping

2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 package (7 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut;

½ cup reserved for sprinkling

For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).

Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).

Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. They will be much easier to cut cleanly if the entire batch is cooled for several hours.

Lift the cake from pan, peel off the foil, and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Battle of the Drunken Chocolate Figs

A couple of months ago I found John & Kira's and ordered this chocolate tower:

The larger, bottom box has 15 bonbons, sampling of each of their available flavors.

The box on top contains 6 drunken figs. John and Kira describe their figs much better than I can: Noted for their extremely thin skins and sweet, almost candy-like taste, our Spanish figs are filled by hand with a silky dark 64% Valrhona ganache flavored with Whiskey and enrobed in a thin layer of dark 54% chocolate. The Calabacita variety of fig is grown by a family owned company in "Los Llanillos" in the village of Almoharin located in the Extremadura region of Spain.

They were really good, and I don't know why, but I had two left as of today.

But an interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago. While browsing through the HotPaella Web site looking for Spanish foods, I found this very similar product. called Rabitos Chocolate Stuffed Figs. Instead of whiskey, this one has brandy. This is how they describe their product on the
HotPaella Web site: Pure Decadent Bliss! Decadent brandy fudge stuffed dried figs dipped in chocolate. Although the figs are from Cáceres (that's also the Extremadura region), we think they’re grown in the Garden of Eden!

Last night I broke into the box to look at it because my friend Karen was visiting with her husband and I intended to give her a sample. To my delight, each of the figs was individually wrapped!

Well, I couldn't let this moment go by without doing a side-by-side comparison. So I cleansed my taste buds today and got down to work.

Here's a photo of both types. The Rabitos is on the left, and John & Kira's on the right.

While the chocolate on the Rabitos was noticeable darker, both chocolates enrobing the figs tasted great.

Here's a shot of each type cut open:

The enrobing chocolate on the Rabitos was a lot less likely to crackle and fall apart. While I've had the John & Kiras for a longer period of time, I tried cutting them open the week I got them and had the same results. In order to to take a picture, I tried sticking the chocolate that had fallen off back onto the fig. In the end, it didn't make for a stunning picture, so I never bothered to post it at the time, but here it is:

As for the flavor and texture of both fig brands, they were awesome. There was a slightly different taste due to the difference between the brandy and whiskey and the amount of liquor. John & Kira's goes light on the flavoring it adds to chocolate in general. Rabitos had more flavor added by the brandy.

If I were to have tasted these blindly, I don't know which I would have chosen, to be honest. I enjoyed them both.

As I stated earlier, I really love that the Rabitos is individually wrapped. And maybe that is why it was less prone to chocolate crumbling off the outside - it had less exposure to air.

The biggest, most notable difference between these products was the cost.

At John and Kira's, a 12-piece box of drunken figs costs $34.00. That's a lot of money at $2.83 per fig, plus shipping.

The Rabitos figs (through HotPaella) are $12.95 for a 9-piece box (that's $1.44 per fig) and you can get a 16-piece box for $18.50 (that's only $1.16 per fig), plus shipping from California.

I will get the figs from HotPaella next time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Dinner Date With Destiny

Pancakes and I had a date with destiny today.

I was scanning through the food porn sites during moments of free time today, and pancakes of all sorts seemed to be drawing my attention. Regular, buttermilk pancakes, gingerbread pancakes, and the clincher was a picture I saw of cornmeal pancakes. Momentarily, the baked french toast pictures took me off track, but then it was right back to pancakes.

In my mind, I would arrive at home and immediately get to some serious pancake-making. But by the time that hour arrived, I was tired, irritable, and hungry. So when I got to the kitchen, out came the once-used box of pancake mix. Ah, but even making pancakes from a mix seemed to be too much for my basic survival mindset: hunger - must eat - tired - must sleep.

So in the end, I threw a frozen Trader Joe's black bean and zucchini quesadilla into the microwave. That's right, I said into the microwave. I was too far gone for thawing and putting the thing into a fry pan to wait for what seemed like it would be an eternity. I needed instant gratification before I became one with the sofa and a snoring puppy or two.

It was only after my first nap of the evening that I got into some serious pancake-making. But I don't yet have the right equipment for taking good non-daylight photos, so my pancake post will have to wait until tomorrow or the next day.

Here's a teaser in the meantime.

Spain At My Doorstep

A Spanish Care Package? For me? Someone must think I'm special.

Oh yeah, that would be me. I ordered it last week!

José Andrés, from the PBS show Made in Spain, has really got me inspired. He talks about honey from Spain, I've got to have honey from Spain. He talks about Spanish paprika, I simply must have Spanish paprika! He goes to a bakery and gets Spanish marzipan, I'm' intrigued and have to get it. It looked so different from the marzipan that I'm familiar with, I just knew it would be worth it.

I had two sources for this care package. All but one of the products came from Hot Paella. But they didn't have the marzipan, so that came from La Tienda.

The chocolate figs (stuffed with a chocolate and brandy ganache) and chocolate fig bars (figs with orange liquor dipped in dark chocolate) were my own, personal whim, with no influence from José. I had to have those stuffed figs, especially since I got a very similar product from John and Kira's. I will have to do a side by side taste test since I still have two figs left from John and Kira's. That will be a fun post.

Hot Paella was glad to have my order, so they threw in a freebie: a bar of Amatller 50% cacao! It's made in Barcelona.

I've already tasted the marzipan from La Tienda, and it is wonderful. And, I was right, it is very different from the other marzipan I've had in my life. It is a baked item, and it is soft, and light, and sweet, and it's even individually wrapped! I love that. The marzipan will stay fresh.

I have no idea of what these shapes are supposed to represent. Unfortunately, I already ate the rabbit shape - that would have made for a pretty picture. The close piece looks like a jug from this direction, but there are two hole-like impressions punched into the bottom half of it, and jugs don't have holes like that.

Next time, I'll have to order a Spanish hot chocolate bar. Spanish hot chocolate is much thicker than what we have here in the US. I've seen it on TV and it's somewhere between liquid and pudding consistency. I watched Samantha Brown lay a spoon across the top, and it didn't sink. And then, I'll have to have it with some homemade churros. Mmmmm.......

No Glamourous Dinner Here!

I might like to cook, but not every night is homemade and special. Tonight I was tired and mentally exhausted and wanted some easy comfort food. To me, what tops the list is actually Kraft macaroni and cheese. But after searching high and low, there was none to be found. Poor me.

So the next best thing that was quick, warm, easy, and comforting was a Rice Noodle Bowl. Mine sure didn't look like the picture on the cover.
But it was still comforting, and I made sure to get every noodle before tossing the rest of the broth. It does have a whopping 800+ milligrams of sodium, so I hope my fingers don't turn into little sausages. Maybe all the sodium got tossed with the broth.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Is it possible that I grew up in a mostly Italian town in New Jersey, totally adore Italian food, and never eat any sort of gnocchi by the time you turn 41? Yes, it is! So today, not only did I eat gnocchi, but I made it. I started my gnocchi journey with the sweet potato kind.

The dough was easy to make. I did learn, though, that one must not overwork the dough when rolling out the gnocchi. Once you mix the dough, you have a large dough ball from which you take batches to roll them out into ropes and cut apart. In the first batch that I rolled out I overworked the dough. I was trying to get the hang of rolling it out and cutting the correct size. At first I cut them too big, so I had mushed them together and started over. Note of advice to you all - don't do that!

Another thing I found out is that making the cute little fork indentation in your gnocchi is not easy. I decided to save my dough and stick with the little pillows instead.

I'm thinking about making it again and improving my technique. I know that next time I will probably put the ricotta, once drained in the sieve, through a food processor so little white cheese lumps don't appear in my gnocchi.

The other thing I learned is that sweet potato gnocchi is absolutely delicious!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Adapted from Gourmet and Bon Appetit Magazines

For The Gnocchi
2 1-pound sweet potatoes
1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour

For The Sauce
2 cups apple cider, reduced by half
3 Tbs. heavy cream
salt ground pepper to taste
1/3 - 1/2 tsp. dried, chopped sage

Put the ricotta cheese in a sieve placed over a bowl. Drain the cheese for two hours.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse the sweet potatoes. Pat them dry and pierce them with a fork all over. Place them on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high until tender, about 7 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool.

Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash well till smooth. Transfer 3 cups of the mash to a large bowl.

Add ricotta cheese; blend well.

Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg. Bend it well.

Mix in flour with your hands, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. It will all clump into a ball and take the dough off the sides of the bowl when the time is right.

As I look at this picture below, I wish that I had mashed the potato and ricotta better. Perhaps putting the sweet potato and ricotta in food processor before mixing it together with the flour would have made for a prettier picture.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. As you roll, move your hands apart. Cut each rope into 20 pieces.

This is the point in which you can roll each piece over the tines of fork to indent. I tried doing this, but it didn't really work out well for me, so I left most of my gnocchi as little pillows.

Transfer the gnocchi to a baking sheet. Keep them floured and separated.

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Meanwhile, get the sauce started. In a small saucepan, simmer the apple cider over moderately high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, for about 20 minutes.

Add the cream, salt and pepper.

Pan fry the gnocchi in butter on a medium-high flame.

Keep frying till it is lightly browned.

Plate the gnocchi and drizzle it with the cider reduction sauce.

Mangia Bene!