Posts filed under ‘Pasta’
Last night’s meal unexpectedly went down as “the best thing you’ve made in a long time” according to wifey. “I’ve got goosebumps!” she exclaimed at one point. I mean, while I expected it to be tasty, it went a little beyond that. OK, a lot beyond that. Best of all, it didn’t dirty many dishes or take a long time. (I know that’s a rare occurrence for a lot of my recipes. Sorry, dish-doing-haters). I only cooked for 2, but this should serve about 4. Remember that gnocchi is a gut-buster.
The largest portobellas you can find (1 per person)
3-4 stalks of sage
1 handful of chives
1T caraway seeds
6 cloves of garlic
1/4 c flour
1-2 c milk
6T olive oil/butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Feta to crumble over top
Additional oil for frying (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375. Reserve 15-20 of the largest sage leaves for frying later. Chop the rest of the sage and the chives. Set aside. Finely chop the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the caraway, and cook until the onions are golden (another 3 minutes or so). Sprinkle the flour in a little at a time so that the fat/oil can absorb it. Let this cook another 10-15 minutes until it’s a toasty, golden color, stirring semi-frequently. Begin adding milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously until it dissolves. Once you have a thick roux, add the chopped sage and chives. Salt & pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and let the flavors meld, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, remove the stems from the portobellas, and put them gills-up on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10-15min until their juices are just starting to run. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the gnocchi. They’re done when the float. Drain them and set aside. Once the mushrooms are done pre-cooking, remove them. Spoon a little bit of sauce onto the mushroom, and spread it around on the gills. Pile as many gnocchi as you can possibly fit onto each mushroom. Smother in sauce and top with crumbled feta. Put in the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes. While it’s baking, pour 1/4″ of oil into a small frying pan and heat. Take the large sage leaves that you reserved at the beginning into the hot oil bottom-side-up (the way the leaf curls when it fries, it just works better upside-down). Fry for 1-2 minutes until deep green. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel or clean dish rag. Sprinkle a little salt on the leaves while they’re still hot, so that it sticks to them.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven, and carefully move them to serving plates using a large spatula. (I used two spatulas. The cooked mushrooms will not longer be firm enough to support the weight of the gnocchi, and you don’t want the gnocchi to slide off the mushroom caps when you serve them.) Garnish with 4-5 fried sage leaves.
Last night we made gnocchi for the first time. It was actually relatively easy, except that something with the recipe was a little screwy. Basically, you’re supposed to mix a little flour in with the potatoes, until it gets to a dough consistency that is slightly sticky to touch, but doesn’t doesn’t stick to you. The recipe calls for two cups. I used close to eight, and it still was too sticky. We just made sure our hands were well floured before handling it. So anyhow, I’m including the original recipe in the hopes that there was something goofy with my batch. Just be sure you have plenty of flour on hand just in case. Otherwise things went well. We made ours a little too big, but it wasn’t too bad. I would say the ideal size would be oblong balls as long as a quarter and as thick as a dime.
Gnocchi can be gut busters, and this recipe (adapted from Mario Batali and the Smitten Kitchen) makes plenty. We fed 5 people with it, and had enough left over to freeze an entire gallon Ziploc bag of them.
Ingredients for gnocchi:
1.5 kg (3 lbs.) russet potatoes
2 c flour (or 8 if you’re me)
1 tsp salt
Ingredients for sauce:
1 bulb of garlic (yes… bulb, not clove)
1 lb spinach
1 c of milk (or cream, if you’re feeling caloric)
4 T olive oil, butter, or a mixture of the two
4 T white flour
1+ c white wine or chicken broth (I used broth)
1/2 c grated mozzarella
1/8 c grated parmesan
Dash of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
Prick the potatoes with a fork. Place them in a large pot of water, bring it to a boil, and cook for 45 minutes until the potatoes are soft when pierced. (It’s important to both prick the potatoes with a fork and to bring the pot of water to a boil with them already inside–rather than adding them to a pot of boiling water. If you don’t follow these two steps, the potato skins may split open causing soggy potatoes. And soggy potatoes may have been my problem). Once the potatoes are finished, remove them from the pot.
Preheat the oven to 375. Take a sharp knife, and cut the top the garlic bulb. A tiny bit of the top of each bulb should be exposed. Place the bulb in the center of a square of a aluminum foil. Sprinkle the top of the exposed cloves with salt and pepper. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the bulb. Wrap the foil over the bulb, and twiste it at the top. Place the bulb on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove it when it’s done and let it cool while you make the gnocchi dough.
If you have gloves specifically made for playing Hot Potato, get them now. As I understand it, you want the dough to stay warm while you’re making it, so grab a clean towel (if you don’t have Hot Potato gloves) for handling them. Peel the potatoes, and mash them in a large bowl. (Ideally, pass them through a food mill. I didn’t have one, so I grated them. You could use a food processor, too, or mash them the old fashioned way). Form a volcano hole in the middle of the potatoes, and sprinkle 2 cups of flour over the top. Add the salt and egg to the volcano. Quickly mix them all together so that the egg mixes before it gets cooked by the potatoes. Knead for an additional 4-5 min until the mixture is dough, and slightly sticky to the touch. (This is where my attempt bordered on disastrous. It was super sticky even after an additional 6 cups of flour. Better luck to you).
Take the garlic bulb, and squeeze it from the base towards the top. The roasted cloves should pop out. Take a fork and mash these into a smooth paste. In a large skillet, melt the butter (or add the oil) and heat. Sprinkle the flour a bit at a time, whisking it into the hot oil until it dissolves. Mix in the garlic paste at this time, too. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking vigorously to make a roux. Add wine/broth until you have a thick sauce, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Sprinkle the cheese on top and mix it into the roux. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low, and stir sparingly. Add more liquid if it’s starts getting to thick. Remove any thick stems from the spinach and roughly chop. Add a tiny bit of water to a pot and heat. Wilt the spinach, drain it and squeeze as much liquid from it as you can. Set it aside to be added at the end.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Take a fist-sized chunk of dough and roll it out kindergarten-style into a snake about the thickness of a dime. Cut the snake into one-inch bits. Roll them briefly in your hands to round any pointy edges, then roll them long-ways along the tines of a fork to create ridges. (Traditionally gnocchi has ridges; we skipped this step). Place them on an oiled baking sheet and rub them around or spray them with oil to prevent sticking. Break off another piece of dough and repeat.
Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir once to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cook about 2 minutes until it floats up to the surface. With a slotted spoon, scoop up the cooked gnocchi and plop them into the sauce. (Alternately, transfer them to an oiled baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. This prevents them from freezing into a large gnocchish lump). Add the spinach to the sauce, and mix them all together.
It’s been dumping snow in buckets all day, keeping us mostly cooped up in the house. To relieve our boredom, wifey and I have been cooking up a storm. Last night we made homemade pasta. My parents gave us a Marcato Atlas pasta machine for our wedding. Pasta-making can be a time consuming process. However, it’s well worth the wait. The taste of fresh pasta is incomparable to the dried, cardboard-flavored, box pasta you get at the grocery store. It also makes for a wonderful at-home group activity. It takes a couple hours, and there’s always something to do, but it’s never rushed.
This was my first experiment with whole wheat pasta. The results surpassed even my highest expectations. I’ve made spinach- and tomato-flavored pasta before with marginal success. With the whole wheat, I was worried that something might go awry with the glutens. However, while making the dough, things seemed to go rather easily. (The only difference was that the dough seemed a little dry. I wet my hands and kneaded the dough until the water absorbed. I wasn’t expecting this because white flour seems more absorbant than whole wheat in my experience).
I thought I had gotten off too easily, so when it came time to roll out the pasta, I was nervous. However, the pasta rolled out and cut perfectly fine! In fact, it was probably the easiest batch of pasta I’ve ever made. I haven’t excluded the possibility of beginners luck, but I’ll say this… I doubt we’ll ever make white pasta again. It went so well, that I saved half the dough in the freezer. I have no idea if you can freeze pasta dough and use it later, so I’ll report back sometime later as to how that worked.
A pasta machine is well worth the investment, in my opinion. We’ve already gotten great use out of ours, and it provides a level of precision and accuracy that would be virtually impossible to achieve with rolling and cutting by hand.
100g flour per person (I used 2/3 white, 1/3 whole wheat)
1 egg per person
1 t olive oil per person
1 pinch salt per person
(4 people = 400g flour + 4 eggs + 1T oil + 1t salt)
Rainbow Chard and Sweet Onions:
2 large onions thinly sliced
2 T butter
1/2c dry white wine
6ish stalks of rainbow or swish chard chopped into 1/2″ strips
1/4c crumbled feta
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix in the egg and olive oil, and knead until smooth. (You can do this by hand. It’s extremely messy and way more fun! See an example here). Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for an hour. After an hour, unwrap and run through the past machine in fist-sized segments. It can sometimes be tricky to get the right moisture level in the dough. Too dry and it will crumble on you. Too wet and it won’t cut properly. If you need more detailed instructions on how to do it right, ask me and I can recommend a book or two. Or better yet, come over for dinner and we’ll to it together sometime. After you’ve cut the pasta, drape it over chair backs to let it dry. (If you have cats or dogs, keep a close watch on them during this process!) To cook the pasta, bring a large pot a water to a boil. Fresh pasta cooks much quicker than box pasta. Linguine cooks in about 4 minutes. Angel hair virtually needs only be placed in the water before it’s ready.
Rainbow Chard & Sweet Onions:
Thinly slice the onions. In a large skillet (important: one with a lid), melt the butter. Place the onions in the skillet and mix until coated in butter. Cover tightly and cook on the lowest setting for an hour. (Do this while the pasta dough is resting). Cooking the onion slowly allows the sugars in it to thoroughly break down. We used Vidalia onions, grown only around Vidalia, GA. Vidalia onions are known for being sweet; they have more sugar than an orange. After the onions have sweated for an hour, remove the lid and add the wine. Replace the lid, but leave it slightly tilted. After another 20-30 min., the onions should be brown and well-caramelized. Add the chard and cook another 10-15 minutes until tender.
Toss the onions and chard in with the pasta, crumble the feta over the top, and enjoy!
Last night the wife and I made homemade saffron ricotta ravioli. Saffron consists of “threads”–stigmas of a crocus flower. Each crocus contains 3 stigmas, which must be picked out by hand. It takes approximately 80,000 crocuses to make one pound of saffron, making it the most costly spice in the world by weight. My Herbs and Spices book describes its aroma as: “rich, pungent, musky, floral, honeyed and tenacious,” and it’s taste as: “delicate yet penetrating, warm, earthy, musky, bitter and lingering.” Saffron’s bright color also make it an excellent dye. I’ve heard that it was traditionally used to dye the robes of Buddhist monks.
1T olive oil
1/2 t saffron
1 T milk
1 1/2 c ricotta
Zest of 1/2 orange
Pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
3 small tomatoes
1 sprig of fresh sage
4 T olive oil
Make the pasta dough:
Sift flour onto clean counter top.
Make a volcano out of the flour. Break eggs into the crater.
Add olive oil and salt. Using your fingers, mix eggs, oil and salt. Begin working flour into the egg mixture, being careful not to rupture the edge of the volcano.
Work into a dough, and knead for 3-5 minutes. One finished, wrap and let sit for an hour.
Make the ricotta filling:
Crush the saffron and let it soak in the milk for 20 minutes.
Zest the orange.
Mix the zest, egg, pepper and saffron/milk into the ricotta.
Make the ravioli:
Step 1: Keep all cats away from the pasta machine.
Break off a fist-sized chunk of pasta dough, and run it through the machine to the thinnest setting. (If you don’t have a pasta machine, roll the dough out on a floured surface until about as thick as a postcard).
Lay the dough over a ravioli tray. Carefully stretch the dough into the pockets of the tray.
Beat an egg with 1T of water. Paint the edges of the ravioli pockets (acts as a glue). Scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling into the pockets.
Lay another sheet of pasta dough over tray to cover the pockets. Roll the tray to perforate the edges of the ravioli.
Dump them out, separate them, and let them dry for an hour.
In olive oil, lightly fry two cloves of minced garlic. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting. Add diced tomatoes (seeds removed), chopped thyme and pepper to taste.
In another pot bring water to a boil. Add ravioli, and let them cook 4 or 5 minutes until puffy and floating.