Saturday, February 18, 2017

Roasted Beet & Ricotta Gnocchi with Wilted Beet Greens

With R at robotics till 7 o'clock on Valentines' Day, D and I had plenty of time to make a nice family dinner. We served it just as soon as they walked in the door. To make them pink, I added some beet puree to my ricotta gnocchi. I used the beet greens in the sauce. And the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was a great help in rolling the gnocchi. We put on some Fleetwood Mac and went to town.

Ingredients
Gnocchi
  • 2 to 3 small red beets with greens attached (I actually used all 6 beets for the dinner, but only 2 to 3 in this recipe)
  • 1⁄4 C olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • 2 C whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1⁄4 C gluten-free flour + more for rolling
  • 1 C grated Pecorino Romano + more for serving
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper

Sauce
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 C beet greens
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T aged balsamic vinegar + more for drizzling

Procedure
Roasted Beets
Separate the greens from the beets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scrub and trim the beets, then roll them in olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Lay them on a baking sheet. Roast until they are fork tender. It depends on the size of the beet, but it usually takes about an hour. Once they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin.

Rinse and dry the beet greens. Chop them into 1" pieces.

Gnocchi
Place 2 to 3 small beets into the bowl of a food processor. Process until nicely chopped. Add in the ricotta and process until well-combined and a uniform pink color.

Spoon the beet-ricotta mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add in the egg, cheese, nutmeg, and pepper. Add flour, stirring with a silicone spatula to form a soft, wet dough.


Shape dough on a parchment-lined surface with lightly floured hands. Roll into 1" ropes and cut crosswise into 1" pieces with a lightly floured knife to form pillow dumplings.


To form the gnocchi, press a piece of dough onto the tines of a fork. Use your thumb to create a dimple in the top of the gnocchi. Roll the dough down the tines to create gnocchi's signature indentations.


Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet until you're ready to cook them.


Cook gnocchi in a few batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water with a splash of olive oil. Add a few to the pot at a time, stirring occasionally. When they float to the surface, they are finished. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.

Sauce
In a large, flat-bottom pot, heat olive oil. Cook garlic until softened. Stir in the beet greens and cook until wilted. Once your gnocchi are all cooked, add butter to the beet greens. When the butter is melted, lay the gnocchi in the pan in a single layer, if possible, tossing to coat with the butter. When the gnocchi have browned a little bit, sprinkle the entire dish with more Pecorino. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve hot.

Amaretti for Murder in the Generative Kitchen for #FoodieReads


As February moves past its half-way mark, I am forging ahead with my renewed Foodie Reads Challenge. I picked up a copy of Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo* after I saw it mentioned in last month's Foodie Reads collection.

On the Page...
While the concept is interesting, I was more than a little disappointed with the execution of the book.

Set in the not-too-distant future, we are introduced to the Vacation Jury Duty system where sequestered juries enjoy an all-expenses paid vacation while watching the trial via virtual reality. This particular jury is enjoying their civic duty in Acapulco, Mexico, far from their hometown of Chicago. The case? A woman is accused of murdering her husband by using her high-tech generative kitchen.

"'On the night of her husband's death, no other person came near that kitchen while Mrs. Ellis mde dinner. And the evidence will show that the presence of cyanide in Mr. Ellis's food was no accident: the advanced nature of the generative kitchen leaves no possibility for error. Likewise, because a generative kitchen must be programmed to suit its owner's needs, Mrs. Ellis must have carefully planned the means and method of her husband's demise'" (pg. 2).

Intriguing, right? I thought so. But the framework of the story - told from the standpoint of one juror, Julio Gonzalez - and his side story proved distracting and, honestly, more than a little annoying.

I longed for more description of how the generative kitchen worked and more of an exploration about its artificial intelligence. That would have been more fulfilling than reading about Julio trying to outsmart the Vacation Jury system.

They're sequestered. We get it. He's lonely and horny. We get that, too. But I certainly didn't need to read 81 pages about it. Yes, I did write 'eighty-one.' That's the other thing that bothered me about this book: it felt incomplete. It fell somewhere between a short story and a novella, but it just ended. Abruptly.


On the Plate...
I wanted to make a recipe with "bitter almonds" as that's what was used to murder Mr. Ellis. I learned that there are three different types of almonds: sweet almonds which is what we usually find at the store; bitter almonds which are high cyanide-containing almonds and I have no idea where to find them; and "bitter almonds" that are actually the pits from stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, and peaches.

I decided to share my recipe for Italian amaretti. These are one of our favorite cookies, easy to make, and not poisonous! Enjoy.

Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 C ground almonds

Procedure
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, again, forming stiff peaks. Gently fold in ground almonds. Spoon mixture onto parchment paper and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake in a 375 degree oven till the cookies are firm and the tops cracked, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place baking pan on a rack to cool. When cool gently peel cookies from parchment.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in February 2017: here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Corsican Fasgioli Incu Funghi (White Bean Stew with Mushrooms) #Winophiles


Here we are at the February 2017 event for The French Winophiles, a wine-swilling, food-loving group started by Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva and, now, jointly coordinated by Jill of L'occasion and Jeff of Food Wine Click. Here's Jill's full invitation for this month: here.

The French Winophiles are headed to Corsica which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, west of the Italy, southeast of the France, and just north of the Italian island of Sardinia. In fact, the closest I've been to Corsica is when I was camping on the cliffs above Spiaggia Rena Bianca on the northern tip of Sardinia; I could see Corsica across the water. But that was as close as I came...

from bbc.com

The Wines of Corsica
Due to its proximity to Italy, Corsica's winemaking traditions and its grape varieties are Italian in origin though viticulture on the island can be traced back as far as the 6th century BC. The three leading grape varieties of the region are Nielluccio, Sciacarello, and Vermentino.

What the Other Winophiles are Pouring...


In My Glass...
Many of the group commented that it was challenging to get their hands on a bottle of wine from Corsica. I found my bottle from K & L Wine Merchants for less than $15. Score!

I purchased a red blend from Domaine Petroni, a wine estate on the eastern side of Corsica near Lake Diane. Lake Diane is a famous lagoon, where the local aquaculturists produces oysters and mussels. Now run by the Ramazotti brothers, the vineyards of the estate are a mixture of clay and sandy soils. This red wine blend is comprised of 50% Nielluccio, 35% Syrah, and 15% Grenache. Grapes are fermented in concrete tanks and aged for a year in stainless after that.

I found this a remarkably friendly introduction to the reds of Corsica. Though it opened with a sweet note, it finished dry and light. I loved the herbal and mineral notes in this wine. I will open the next bottle with some spicy sausages and funky cheese, but for this pairing, I opted to make my version of a simple Corsican stew, Fasgioli Incu Funghi (White Bean Stew with Mushrooms).


In My Bowl...
It is still soup season here on California's central coast. In fact, given the amount of rain we're having, it might be soup season for quite awhile. This simple bean stew is typical of Corsica's flavorful, unpretentious fare. This is a quick-to-the-table dinner if you use fresh mushrooms and canned beans.


Ingredients
  • 4 C stock (I used my Mineral Rich Vegetable Broth)
  • 1 large onion, diced (approximately 2 C)
  • 2 C diced carrots
  • 2 C diced celery
  • 2 C cannellini beans (I used canned to save time)
  • 3 C mushrooms (I used a mixture of white beech mushrooms and oyster mushrooms)
  • 1 to 2 C diced tomatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh pesto for serving, optional and untraditional

Procedure
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter in olive oil and saute onions until they are softened and translucent. Stir in the carrots and celery and cook until they are softened. Pour in the stock and add in the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Add in the mushroom and beans. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the mushrooms are just softened by still holding their shape, approximately 5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and ladle into individual serving bowls. Top with a tablespoon of fresh pesto if desired. 


And that's a wrap for Corisca this month. Next month we'll be exploring Champagne. Stay tuned and join us.

Lohikeitto (Finnish Salmon Soup) #SoupSwappers


Here we are in the second month of Wendy's - of A Day in the Life on the Farm - new group: Soup Saturday Swappers. And our February theme is Let's Go International, hosted by Kathy of A Spoonful of Thyme. Love it!

I wanted to make my own version of this hearty, comforting Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto). And, since it's ready in thirty minutes, it was the perfect first course for when my in-laws came to visit. I used fresh salmon and herbs from CSA box. Traditionally, it would be topped with dill; I used chervil.


Ingredients
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 C leek, sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 C celery, diced
  • 1 C carrots, diced
  • 5 C fish stock (or you can use water)
  • 4 C potatoes, diced
  • 4 C salmon fillet, de-boned, de-skinned and cut into chunks
  • 1 C half-n-half
  • fresh chervil for garnish
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste



Procedure
Melt the butter in a splash of olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the sliced leek and saute until translucent, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, and potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Pout in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are completely cooked. Pour in the half-n-half and simmer until warmed through.

Add the salmon chunks and cook until the fish is opaque, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for another 5 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Xocolatl


Welcome to the second ImprovCooking Challenge of 2017. This group is now headed up by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife.

The idea behind Improv Cooking Challenge: we are assigned two ingredients and are challenged to create a recipe with those two things. 

This month's items: chocolate and chiles. I considered a lot of different things from spiced truffles to chile-flecked chocolate cremeux. But, in the end, the boys reminded me of a chocolate drink we made when I taught a six-week elective class at their school about chocolate!

We had read a book about the Mayans. The Mayans made chocol haa; the Aztecs, after they conquered the Mayans, made xocolatl.  Xocolatl comes from the Aztec language, xococ meaning sour or bitter, and atl meaning water or drink.  Bitter water.  That's a far cry from our modern day, milky hot chocolate drinks.


And since we remembered not really liking xocolatl, the version with just water and unsweetened cacao powder, we made this version with more spices, milk, and some honey.

Ingredients makes 4 servings
  • 2 C milk (you can use regular milk or any milk substitute such as almond milk or coconut milk)
  • 1/2 C unsweetened raw cacao powder
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 dried chile peppers
  • 1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 C raw honey


Procedure 
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together cacao powder and 1/4 C cold milk until it forms a paste. Place the spices and remaining milk into a pot. Heat gently until the milk begins to steam, but do not let it boil. Slowly add the paste to the pot and whisk until smooth. Simmer until slightly thickened. Whisk in the honey until dissolved. 


Strain out chiles and spices, then pour into individual mugs and serve hot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cardamom Panna Cotta with Amarena Cherries


A sweet for my sweets! I decided on a simple dessert for the end of our Valentines' Day dinner: panna cotta. I've made a lot of versions of panna cotta. But I opted for a simple panna cotta flavored with a sprinkle of my favorite spice. And, for some extra sweetness, I spooned some Amarena cherries over the top.


Ingredients makes eight 2-ounce servings
  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 1/4 C cold water
  • 2 C organic half-n-half
  • 1/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom
  • Amarena cherries for garnish

Procedure
Dissolve the gelatin in cold water in a medium mixing bowl.  Place all the other ingredients - up to the ground cardamom - in a medium saucepan and heat till it begins to steam. Do not let it boil. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour the warm cream into the gelatin and stir till completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into your serving containers, leaving a little bit of space at the top and let chill until set, but at least four hours. Serve cold. Before serving spoon Amarena cherries on the top.

Celebrating Love and My Three Guys

While I am not a big fan of Valentines' Day - you can read a little bit about my Grinch-like sentiment in this post - , I am always up for celebrating love, especially my three loves: Jake, R, and D.

And a nice meal is usually how I celebrate just about everything! So, here's how we feasted last night...oh, and a nice bottle of wine and a jar full of tulips doesn't hurt either.


To Start
Saffron-Peppercorn Pecorino
Grilled Baguette (regular and gluten-free)

Salads
Shaved Fennel Salad with Dungeness Crab and Fennel Pollen Vinaigrette
Orange-Beet Salad

First Entrée
Second Entrée
Grilled Lamb Lollipops with a Pear-Rosemary Glaze and a Sprinkling of Gorgonzola

Dessert

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Temper Chocolate + Baci di Ficchi #fantasticalfoodfight


Welcome to a new-ish online blogging event: the Fantastical Food Fight coordinated by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. For more information about the event, click here. I missed last month - boo! - because I haven't had a chance to unpack my slow cooker. So, I definitely had to jump into this month.


This month, we were given the challenge of dipping things in chocolate. So. Many. Possibilities.

But before you dip, you must temper. Tempering chocolate is a crucial step for making smooth, glossy, evenly colored coating for your dipped chocolates. Tempering prevents the dull, greyish color and tough, waxy texture that happens when the cocoa fat separates out. Tempered chocolate produces a crisp, satisfying snap when you bite into it.

How to Temper Chocolate

Place half of your chocolate in a double-boiler and, over low heat, warm until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the other half of the chocolate. Set aside until the chocolate begins to lose its shine; it's beginning to crystallize. Then, return the chocolate to the double-boiler and warm, over very low heat, until smooth and glossy.

Baci di Ficchi

Baci di Ficchi. Fig kisses. I have loved these ever since I had them at the girl + the fig in Sonoma. This is so easy it's almost laughable to write down a recipe. Figs + melted dark chocolate. That's it. Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 dozen dried figs


Procedure
Temper the chocolate and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Holding the figs by the stem, dip the bulbous end in the chocolate. Gently shake off any excess chocolate and place on the parchment paper to set. Once the chocolate is set, keep in an air-tight container...or just eat them right away!

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