Friday, July 29, 2011

Gnocchi is Served

A serving suggestion for Potato Gnocchi.

Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce & Fresh Mozzarella
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
26 ounces strained tomatoes, preferably Pomì brand
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 to 4 large sprigs basil, plus chiffonaded leaves for serving
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe Potato Gnocchi
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, drained and diced
Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, for serving

Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, cream, and basil sprigs. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 16 to 18 minutes, or until thickened and saucy.

Cook the gnocchi in 2 or 3 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they float to the surface of the water. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and discard the basil sprigs. When the gnocchi float to the surface of the water, using a wire skimmer, transfer them from the pot to the sauce and gently toss to combine. Remove from the heat, let cool for a few minutes, and stir in the mozzarella. Arrange on individual plates, top with plenty of Parmegiano and basil, and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main course. Fresh mozzarella balls come in a variety of sizes, and if you want a shortcut, look for pearlini, which are so small they don’t even need to be diced. Be sure to let the gnocchi cool a bit before adding the mozzarella, or it will melt into a gooey mess. It also helps if the mozzarella is cold when it goes in. For a quick and easy variation which happens to be a weeknight favorite at my house, serve this sauce with penne rigate instead of gnocchi. And if you like that idea, you may like Penne with Tomato-Pepper Sauce & Fresh Mozzarella. This vegetarian dish has been known to satisfy meat eaters.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Authentic Potato Gnocchi

What better way to learn to cook than to get into the kitchen and work shoulder to shoulder with your grandmother?

Sorta makes me wish I had a French grandmother and a Mexican grandmother and a Chinese grandmother and an Indian grandmother and an Italian grandmother. Definitely an Italian grandmother. She would've taught me to make authentic soft, pillowy gnocchi. But since I do not have an Italian grandmother, I had to figure it out for myself. I'm pretty sure my Italian grandmother would've been proud of these…

Potato Gnocchi
Printable Recipe

3 large Russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place the potatoes on a rack on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Let rest for about 15 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Peel and puree in a ricer using the finest disc. Spread evenly on the baking tray and let cool to room temperature.

Transfer the potato puree to a large bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the egg. Stir in the flour. Transfer to a work surface and knead briefly until smooth. Cut the dough into eighths. Roll 1 portion of dough into a ½-inch thick rope and sprinkle lightly with flour. Using a bench knife, cut the rope into ½-inch pieces. Roll 1 side of each piece of dough against a lightly floured gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork, pressing the other side lightly with your thumb as you roll. Make more gnocchi with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for up to 2 hours.

Cook the gnocchi in 2 or 3 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they float to the surface of the water. Remove the gnocchi from the pot using a wire skimmer. Serve immediately as desired.

Serves 4 as a main course. The key to making light, fluffy gnocchi is to drive off as much of the moisture from the potato as possible during baking and cooling and to incorporate as little flour into the dough as possible. (Hence, recipes that call for boiling or steaming the potatoes yield inferior results.) The dough will be a bit soft and sticky, but it should be smooth and fairly easy to knead and form. Keep your hands, work surface, tools, and dough lightly floured as you work but avoid adding excess flour. Serve the gnocchi tossed with plain butter, brown butter and sage, or your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmegiano-Reggiano. Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce & Fresh Mozzarella is a winning combination. Uncooked gnocchi may be frozen in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and transferred to a zip-top bag when frozen solid. Gnocchi keep for several weeks frozen. Cook them straight from the freezer—do not thaw.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Hearts and Strawberries

Strawberry season came later than usual this year, but the timing was perfect. My parents were here visiting, so we had free labor for strawberry picking! We filled up a flat in record time…

And then we emptied it in record time.

But before I proceed with the berrylicious treat made with our haul…

A big thank you goes out to Yummly for featuring my Steak au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce.

And hugs and kisses to my little brother for once again singing the praises of Seared to Perfection. Thanks, Andrew, for being my biggest fan! Word cannot express how much I love you and how proud I am of you for becoming such an amazing cook in your own right!

Coeur à la Crème with Strawberries
Printable Recipe

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces heavy cream
1 ¾ pounds strawberries, sliced
1 ounce sugar

In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the motor running on high, gradually add the cream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to whip on high to stiff peaks. Divide among 6 cheesecloth-lined coeur à la crème molds set on a baking tray. Smooth the mixture into the molds using a spatula and fold the excess cheesecloth over the tops. Let drain in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve, unfold the cheesecloth from the coeurs and invert each one onto a dessert plate. Remove the molds, gently peel off the cheesecloth, and set aside at room temperature for about half an hour. Meanwhile, toss together the strawberries and sugar in a medium bowl and let macerate, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft and juicy. Divide the strawberries among the coeurs and serve immediately.

Serves 6. Use a high quality cream cheese such as Nancy's. If you can get your hands on it, use Tahitian vanilla, which has a uniquely floral character. You'll need about 2 pints of strawberries for this recipe. If heart-shaped coeur à la crème molds are unavailable, use little berry colanders instead. Finely woven cheesecloth is preferable—if you have the loosely woven kind, use several layers of it. If you like, flavor the coeurs with some finely grated lemon zest. Alternatively, substitute chèvre for a portion of the cream cheese.
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