Jan 21, 2010

beet gnocchi

This week I've been eating a sweet potato tart that I made on Monday. It's good but there is a bit more tweaking I want to do with the recipe before I share it. So instead I'm going to introduce you all to fabulous beet gnocchi! I first played around with this recipe a couple years ago, but pulled it out again last week as I had a pile of beets gathering in the fridge.

For some reason every time I was at the store recently I kept thinking how I needed to get another beet, knowing that I wanted to make these. But then of course when I finally looked up my recipe notes and realized that 1-2 was all that was needed. Needless to say I've been eating them the rest of the week with my tart. Dinner this week has been orange, red, gold, with a touch of green (a bit of broccoli).

The color on these babies was absolutely beautiful! And they are so tasty both with or without the sauce. I made a quick olive oil, pine nut sauce to top them, but simple butter and cheese would also be good. I've been really enjoying pine nuts lately. They seem to add another layer of flavor that I don't find with other nuts, and their not quite as dry. I'll have to find out where they are grown to see how local I can get them.

beet gnocchi
adapted from Apples for Jam

Cook time: 1 hour or less

5 small potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled (I used 3 Yukon Gold and 2 Red)
2 medium beets, steamed and peeled
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten
salt and olive oil
4 tablespoons butter

for a simple sauce

1/4 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes and boil for about 25 minutes until they are soft. Drain and when cool enough to handle, peel them, and pass them through a food mill into a bowl, or mash thoroughly. (I mashed as best I could and still had small chunks of potato, however once all the dough came together I didn't even notice them.)

Puree the beets in a food processor or blender until completely smooth, a just a touch of olive oil to make the blending easier if necessary. You will need 3/4 cup of beet puree, which is then folded into the potatoes. Add the flour, Parmesan, egg, and salt to taste. Mix everything together first with a wooden spoon and then by hand until you have a completely smooth soft dough. The gnocchi need to be shaped and cooked right away to avoid having to add more flour, which would make them hard.

For the sauce coarsely chop up most of the pine nuts, leaving a few whole. Put them in a small bowl and add the Parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix this an set aside as you cook the gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and have a casserole dish ready with the butter (cut into chunks) in the bottom. Divide the dough into four and hand roll out each portion into a long salami about 1/2 inch in diameter. Try to avoid adding flour to the work surface, but if needed lightly flour your hands while rolling. Cut each salami into short lengths (about 1/2 inch), and don't worry if they are not all uniform. Cook them in batches, dropping them into the boiling water and stirring gently. They are ready as soon as they bob up to the surface (which takes less than a minute), then quickly lift them out with a slotted spoon, put them in the dish with the butter and continue until finished.

Toss the gnocchi with the butter and sauce in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan and serve immediately.

Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a side.

Jan 16, 2010

orange semolina cake

With oranges in abundance these days this cake caught my eye. Well that, and because I recently printed off an Olive Oil Semolina Cake recipe from a Tasting Table post that I received. In less then two weeks I have come across two recipes for semolina cake, I took it as a sign.

But why semolina flour? Truthfully I'm still not sure. The cake came out denser and courser than a basic white flour cake. Perhaps I will make the cake again and tweek the recipe to use only white flour and see what happens. Hmmm...more cake does not sound like a bad idea.

In the course of making this cake I did look up semolina flour in my handy Food Lovers Companion, it is made from durum wheat and it is more coarsely ground then most wheat flour. One word of caution for those who are gluten sensitive, semolina flour is high in gluten so sadly this cake is not for you. Looking back through my previous recipes I couldn't find another recipe to suggest instead. Sounds like another reason to make another one to me. Things are looking good in the cake making department.

One note of caution. You must make the syrup. I tried to do without and it is just too dense to really enjoy. But once you douse a piece in syrup it comes together nicely. The dense piece of cake soaks up the syrup and your taste buds will go crazy with orangy goodness.

orange semolina cake
adapted from The New Cook

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fine semolina flour
4 eggs separated
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar, or baker's sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup orange juice
pine nuts (optional)


1 1/2 cups sugar (superfine sugar or regular sugar will work)
1 1/4 cups orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the flour, baking powder and semolina flour in a bowl and mix to combine. Place the egg yolks, sugar, oil and orange rind in a bowl and beat until well combined. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture with the orange juice.
(Be careful not to over mix. I simply poured the entire egg yolk mix and orange juice over my flour mix and carefully folded the whole thing over and over until it was almost completely mixed but I could still see flecks of flour.)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Fold into the flour/egg yolk mixture. (With this folding you want everything well combined, but I found if I mixed it all up good the first time, then it was both harder to add the beaten egg whites, and the final cake was more dense as well.)

Pour into a greased 8x8 inch square cake tin. If using, sprinkle a small handful of pine nuts over the cake so they bake into the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested in the middle.

While the cake is cooking prepare the syrup. Place the sugar, orange juice and rind in a sauce pan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes. Pour half the syrup over the when it comes out of the oven.

To serve, cut the cake and cover with the remaining syrup. (I also served mine with fresh whip cream when I had guests over and the whole thing was a huge hit).

Serves 8.

Jan 13, 2010

roasted pumpkin salad with balsamic chicken

Have you ever had pumpkins sitting around in January (or any other time really) and thinking, I should really do something with those. Well that was me last week, I had three beautiful pumpkins I brought home from my in-laws farm in Oregon just begging for me to do something with them, besides just look at them. I've bought pumpkins before with good intentions of cutting them up and roasting either the flesh or the seeds, but it always seems like to much work to actually cut into the pumpkin.

I was strong last week though and took matters into my own hands...I cut into the pumpkin. And it actually wasn't as hard as I thought. Just like a big butternut squash really. This recipe used about a quarter of my chopped up pumpkin so the rest is in the fridge already chopped up and ready for the next pumpkin recipe. I know this is January and not everyone will have access to pumpkins right now, however I think in this recipe other kinds of squash (I found beautiful Acorn squash at the farmers market last week) would also work.

Thankfully the chicken only required a quick marinade, and after a few minutes in the broiler (a nice new trick I learned with this recipe) it was beautiful crusted on the outside and only needed a bit longer to finish cooking. I ended up slicing it long ways to be placed a top my salad along with the roasted pumpkin.

Also, remember the blue cheese from last fall. I crumbled a bit of it on top of the entire salad. Oh, it was so good and creamy and blue. Yum.

roast pumpkin salad with balsamic chicken

adapted from two recipes in The New Cook

1 lb sweet pumpkin, sliced (about 1/4 of a medium sized pumpkin)
olive oil
cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large chicken breast fillets (or four smaller fillets)
1/2 cup marinated olives
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cups arugula
blue cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and soft. Allow to cool.

Turn the oven up to preheat the broiler. Combine the 3 tablespoons of vinegar, crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and pepper. Pour over the chicken and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Cook on a foil covered baking sheet in the broiler for 7-10 minutes and then bake at 425 degrees F for an additional 10-15 minutes or until cooked through (alternatively cook on a preheated grill).

Toss the olives, oregano, and rocket in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and two 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. To assemble the salad and the chicken, first place the dressed salad on serving plates. Top each salad with the roasted pumpkin, and 1/2 of a chicken breast, and crumbled blue cheese if you wish.

Serves 4.

Jan 8, 2010

Pasta with Greens and Prosciutto

For my first recipe from "The New Cook" I choose this easy pasta with greens. And it was super easy because in less than 30 minutes I had dinner. It was perfect for a busy weeknight and combined my veggies with my pasta into one dish. I added the prosciutto because we have a ton left over from the holidays and I'm practically adding it to everything. Earlier this week I made biscuits for lunch just so I could try them with prosciutto. In case your wondering fresh biscuits and prosciutto are really good together.

The garlic and olive oil proved to be a nice "dressing" for the greens, and I love using these pappardelle noodles. Come to think of it I like anything with a large flat noodle, the Thai noodle dish Pad See Ew is another favorite of mine. The original recipe calls for beetroot tops along with the arugula and spinach but sadly I didn't have any so the other two greens had to suffice. I can think of endless ways to alter this dish by adding additional vegetables or other kinds of meat.

Pasta with Greens
adapted from The New Cook

8 oz pappardelle or wide fettuccine
1 T olive oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup prosciutto (optional*)
5 cups of mixed arugula and spinach, rinsed and dried
cracked black pepper
salted capers, rinsed and dried
goat cheese (optional)

Place the pasta in a saucepan of rapidly boiling salted water and cook until al dente. Drain, rinse (be sure to rinse the noodles after draining them - I didn't and mine were a little sticky), and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and prosciutto (if using) and cook until the garlic is golden. Remove from the heat. Place the greens in a medium sized bowl and toss thoroughly with the hot oil. Place the pasta in serving bowls and top with the greens, pepper, capers, and goat cheese if using.

Serves 2 (with a little for leftovers)

Alison's Notes:
*The prosciutto wasn't in the original recipe but I thought it was a nice addition to this dish. Also, if you eliminated the prosciutto and the cheese it would be a nice vegan dish.

Jan 6, 2010

butternut squash gnocchi

For some reason I'm drawn to making gnocchi. It can be so tasty and wonderful that every time I see a recipe I'm sure to either tear it out or mark it for future use. Last month I made this butternut squash version a couple times. The first time it was good, but I had enough squash left over to try it again, and really wanted to try a broccoli rabe walnut pesto I found in the January issue of Food & Wine. In the magazine this pesto was paired with linguine, but I thought it would made the perfect addition to my gnocchi. And I was right, it turned out beautifully.

My mom passed along this recipe a while back and I happened to find it again last month while looking for a family Christmas cookie recipe. She changed it slightly, making notes in the margins, and then I changed it a bit more, making it my own. What's great about gnocchi is that it looks / sounds harder to make than I think it really is. The most important thing is time. You have to have a little time to let the dough set, so unfortunately you can't see this recipe and whip it up in an hour or less. But believe me, its worth the wait.

I like this version, and found that it came together really nicely. One thing I thought of the second time I made it was to use one of those small quick release cookie scoopers to scoop out the dough. This little tool worked great, however, two spoons will also work.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Adapted from Ciao Italia

1 pound butternut squash, cut into quarters and seeded (1 large or 2 small)*
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)**
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the quartered squash in a casserole dish large enough to hold in a single layer. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and cover the dish with a piece of foil. Bake the squash until a knife is easily inserted, and the middle is soft. This takes about 45 minutes.

Let the squash cool until it is easy to handle. Scoop the squash into a bowl and discard the skins. Mash the squash with a fork to smooth it out. 1 and a half cups of mashed squash are needed for one recipe. Stir in the flour, egg yolks, salt, and cinnamon. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it at least 2 hours or overnight. Letting the dough rest in the refrigerator makes it easier to handle when forming the gnocchi.

Butter a casserole dish and set it aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

To form the gnocchi, use a small cookie scooper (or two spoons) to scoop some of the batter and drop it into the boiling water. Do not crowd the pot. Make six to eight at a time. When they bob to the surface of the water, take them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the casserole dish. Keep them warm and covered until all the batter is used.

Melt the butter in a small pan and pour it over the top of the gnocchi. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake the gnocchi for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until heated through. Serve as a first course, or with pesto as I have done in the pictures above for a main-course.

Alison's Notes
*A note from my mom was that 1 can of pureed pumpkin could also be used in place of the squash, however a little more flour is needed if this substitution is made.
**I think the cinnamon is optional as it definitely adds a little sweetness to the gnocchi, so if you want to minimize this flavor I would take it out.

Jan 5, 2010

A new year, a fresh idea...

Happy 2010. I'm just 5 days late in posting this new year's post, but I'm so excited that I don't really care. As you know I became a bit absent in December, and part of that was busyness, and part of it was just needing to re-group and decide how to go forward with beets and biscuits. I love to cook and am so passionate about all things food related, and I'm really enjoying learning more about photography...but I've struggled a bit with posting consistently and creating structure for myself. Does anyone else struggle with this?

So...I'm starting a-fresh and plan to focus month-to-month with the following goals:

Goal 1: Each month I will choose a cookbook to feature and will share the recipes I've made from the chosen book as adapted by me. Now there is no way I will get through the whole book, but if I can make 2-3 recipes from the chosen book each week I'll be happy with that. This also will give you, my fabulous readers, deeper insights into cookbooks and recipes you might not have seen.

Goal 2: Additionally I plan to focus on another ingredient or type of food that I can really dive into for the month - say for example, cakes, or wine, or bread. I know these are a bit random but I'm hoping by diving into an item each month I'll learn more about it and hopefully in 12 months will know a bit more about each item (okay I must admit my heart starts to beat a little faster when I think of 12 months from now and everything I want to do...bit by bit right)...

Goal 3: I also might add non-recipe food and community events - this was the plan when I started the blog and so I'm going to try again.

I have a couple cookbooks in mind and a couple ingredients / items that have been calling my name, but if anyone has suggestions along the way please let me know. Without further ado...lets get started.

In January I will be cooking out of a cookbook that Matt got me for Christmas, its called The New Cook, by Donna Hay. I'm a big fan of Donna's book and the simple straightforward recipes they feature so this new cookbook seems like an excellent place to start. And for my ingredient/item I've chosen gnocchi. I love gnocchi and I made a stellar version in December that I can wait to share with you...again an easy place to start. I still plan to cook with the most seasonal ingredients possible so that will affect the recipes I choose.

Feel free to contact me any time with thoughts or suggestions. I'll put an email address where I can be reached up shortly.