Monday, October 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

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I've had a love-hate relationship with gnocchi -- I love to eat them, but hate the ones that I make. There are a couple of times that they turned out alright, but most of the times, they're either mushy and weird or really dense. I was stubborn about making them with nothing but potatoes and flour. But I can never quite get the dough to stay together in boiling water. Or I end up overworking the dough and turning out little hockey pocks. Now, for the first time ever, I made gnocchi that I find acceptable. I dare call it... good! The key, as you probably guessed, is egg. A beaten egg added to the dough made a whole world of difference. I actually made fluffy gnocchi! For a change!

This sweet potato gnocchi is perfect for fall. Slightly sweet, it pairs so well with a sage and butter sauce. I'm not gonna lie -- this recipe takes some time, but most of it is spent baking sweet potatoes. Otherwise, it's actually fairly easy and has very few number of ingredients. I think you will like it.

For this sweet potato gnocchi, you'll need:
  • 3 small to medium garnet sweet potatoes
  • 1 medium Russet potato
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs of sage, leaves only (about 12-16 leaves)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt to taste
  • chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
  • grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Perforate potato and sweet potatoes on all sides with a fork. Bake in 400 degree oven until you can easily pierce them with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool until they can be safely handled but still warm. Peel and chop into large chunks. Pass chunks through a ricer and into a bowl. Add beaten egg, flour, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Mix together. Once the dough comes together, gently knead a few times. If the dough becomes sticky again, add a little bit more flour. Turn dough out to a floured work surface. Roll dough into a long thin roll about 1/2 inch in diameter. You may want to work in batches.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt.

Portion the dough so you'd get pieces of dough that are roughly the size of a Sour Ball. Roll each piece gently in your hands to form a ball. Press each ball down lightly with a fork. Remember to dust with flour liberally so dough doesn't stick to work surface. Drop gnocchi in boiling water. Boil for 3-5 minutes. They will float once cooked. Strain and set aside.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan. Once butter has melted, add about 4 sage leaves. Let the butter brown slightly and sage leaves get crispy. Toss in about one quarter of the gnocchi that you've set aside. Quickly coat gnocchi with butter. Repeat. You should get 4 portions out of this recipe. Garnish with grated Parmesan and/or chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Healing Bowl

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It seems like everyone is sick. I am too. I hate mucus. When I'm sick, I want hot soup with noodles. This dish will make you feel better. I had this dish in Mendocino at the Mendocino Cafe. When I got sick, I craved the rich broth and soft noodles. So I made it at home. Yes, it did make me feel better.

You'll need:
  • 6 dry shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 stalk of green onion, chopped into long segments
  • 1 whole Thai chili pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 servings of soba noodles
  • 1 bunch kale, stem removed, thoroughly cleaned and sliced into strips
  • 1 block firm tofu or bean curd, diced
  • 6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons miso (I used white miso, which is less salty. If you use darker, saltier miso, you will need less)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Begin by soaking dry shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain. Bring 6 cups of water to boil. Add rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, fresh ginger slices, green onion, Thai chili pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, gently pan fry diced tofu in a non-stick frying pan until golden brown on 4 sides. Set aside.

Strain out and discard everything, leaving just the broth. Add miso, one tablespoon at a time. Make sure to taste the broth so it's not too salty. Whisk gently to dissolve the miso. Add rice wine vinegar. Just prior to serving, bring broth to boil. Add kale, fresh sliced shiitake mushroom and soba noodles. Boil until soba noodles are cooked. Add tofu prior to serving. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Southwestern Pasta Salad with Roasted Pepper Chipotle Sauce

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First food post in a long time! I got tired of eating boxed frozen meals and takeout, so I decided to try cooking for a change. Imagine that. It's simple, healthy and fast. I think this makes a very good side dish (or main, if you've only got so much time on hand to cook like me).

You'll need:
  • 3 chipotles in adobe sauce, roughly chopped
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 pound of pasta, cooked according to package instructions and cooled to room temp
  • 1 15-ounce can of corn, drained
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
Begin by roasting red bell pepper whole over open flame until skin is completely charred on all sides. If you don't have a source of fire, you can broil on high for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Place bell pepper into a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove bell pepper and rub off charred skin. Remove stem and seeds. Rough chop. Blend together roasted pepper with chopped chipotles, lime juice, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water. The resulting sauce should be relatively smooth. If not, add more water. Season with salt.

Toss pasta together with sauce, corn, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and green onion. Serve cold or at room temp.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mini-Moon in Mendocino

Pin It Every long absence from the blog deserves an equally long-winded excuse. This is a good one, so hear me out... VB and I got hitched! In the middle of our cross country wedding circuit, we took a break and drove up to Mendocino and Fort Bragg for a quick getaway. But don't call it a honeymoon, because we'd like to reserve that moniker for a bigger, badder vacation. I shall call it.... mini-moon (cue Dr. Evil).

We started off near Healdsburg and then drove up to Medocino and Fort Bragg. Nothing up there but sun, beach, wine and beer. And hippies. All good things in my book. Except the hippies. Well... they're alright too.

Dry Creek General Store. So charming.
Real pop. With sugar and everything.

Hazy Mendocino morning.

Wild blackberries -- lots of large seeds and not particularly palatable. Yes, I ate one.

Hiking in Russian Gulch.

Darwin's advice on eating things found in a forest: "Don't be stoopid." We weren't.
Same advice applies here, despite its resemblance to banana.

Sunset at Fort Bragg.
Beach full of glass washed ashore from years of trash being dumped into the ocean.
Last look at Mendocino

Obligatory cute animal picture. His name is Lou.