Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

I knew this was going to happen it.  I knew it!! I resisted the urge to try out the brown butter thing for years because I knew it would become an instant obsession.  And oh, it was.

 

The cake was one thing – I don’t have the time, energy, inclination, or metabolism to bake that kind of elaborate cake every day.  But when I was standing over the stove, browning the butter, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities.  And that, my friends, was my downfall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Especially when Mom brought home fresh sage, and a tiny voice in the back of my mind started chanting sageandbrownbutter, sageandbrownbutter, sageandbrownbutterANDGNOCCHI, SAGEANDBROWNBUTTERANDGNOCCHI. I think we all know that my meager reserves of self-control and I would not survive against that kind of mental onslaught of deliciousness for long.

 

And OH MY GOD was it ever fantastic.  Really, how could it not be?  I melted butter and herbs and poured it over one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  How could I not swoon? Swoon I did, and so will you.

Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Feeds one person who knows she must eat this in small portions – I would double it unless you’re eating veggies or something on the side, which I was

 

2 tbsp butter

2 leaves of fresh sage

1 cup cooked gnocchi (I used frozen, but if you’re lucky enough to have fresh, I can only imagine the improvement)

1 small handful of chopped walnuts (I used about 4 or 5 halves, chopped)

 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  As soon as it coats the bottom, add the (whole) sage leaves.  Cook the butter until it becomes deeply golden and smells nutty, stirring frequently to get all of the butter solids off of the bottom.  When the butter is nearly finished, toss in the walnuts to lightly toast them.

Remove the sage leaves from the sauce, and pour over gnocchi.  Love every, single, solitary bite.

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Wontons Monday, Oct 26 2009 

In the interest of full disclosure (What’s that?  You don’t want to know all  my deep dark secrets? Too damn bad.), I feel that I should warn you of the impending photographic horrors about to be inflicted upon you during these next few posts.  My photography skills are not legendary, friends, and some recipes just don’t lend themselves to beautiful photos.  Wontons are one such dish.  That does not, however, mean that they weren’t completely delicious.

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I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve had Asian food on the brain bigtime lately.  Maybe the reason is that Boyfriend’s roommates were in the process of ordering dim sum last week when I was supposed to be on a plane, and even though my flight was delayed for two and a half hours (thank you, shitty snowy OCTOBER weather), I wasn’t there late enough to partake.  Instead, I ate at Wendy’s.  It honestly had not occurred to me that the entirety of Logan airport would be closing up shop for the night when I strolled up at 7:30, a half hour after this plane was originally scheduled to depart.  I mean really?  Did anyone else know that those check-in kiosk things only operate till 6PM?  Or that only one person works at each airport check-in counter at that time of the night on a Sunday?

I digress.  But when I finally flung myself into bed at 1AM after what could have been a much shorter day of traveling and a much more satisfying dinner, I was still salivating for the Asian food I had missed out on…for the entire two minutes it took me to pass the hell out and sleep like a rock until my god forsaken alarm went off at the absurdly early (and dark) hour of 7AM.  And after my 12-hour day of work, I dragged my tired self home to make the dinner I had been wanting for a full 24 hours.

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There was little to no plan involved here.  I did no shopping – if it wasn’t already in the fridge, I wasn’t eating it that night – and I sort of just started pulling ingredients out and adding them to the pan all willy-nilly.  Considering this, and the fact that my eyes were hardly open, I was pleasantly surprised astonished to find that I had actually created something so delicious that I made it again, from the beginning, the next night, so that I could measure and photograph it.  Not that the photographing portion of the evening went particularly well, but hey – the cooking part was a raging success, and isn’t that why you’re all here to begin with? That’s what I thought.

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Vegetable Wontons

Serves one

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp olive oil

1/8 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 baby carrots, grated

1 tbsp chopped red pepper

1/4 cup chopped eggplant

1 tsp chopped walnuts

1 1/2 tsp chunky peanut butter

1/2 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp beef broth

Wonton wrappers

Extra soy sauce, salt and red pepper flakes to taste

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil.  Add garlic and onion and cook until transluscent and slightly brown.  Add the rest of the vegetables and cook till soft.  Add peanut butter, beef stock and soy sauce, mixing everything together to coat all the vegetables.  Add walnuts, stir to combine.

On a sheet of waxed paper, lay separated wonton wrappers flat.  Place about a teaspoon of filling in each wrapper, then seal by dipping your finger in water and running along the rim of the wrapper.  Fold wrapper over filling and squeeze egdes together.

Heat a large pot of water to just under a boil, then drop in wontons in small batches, cooking (but not boiling) until transluscent.  Remove from water and place in bowl.  Top cooked wontons with salt, red pepper, and soy sauce.

Pumpkin Ravioli Thursday, Oct 8 2009 

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Ok everyone.  It’s over.  The pumpkin is gone from the fridge.  Is that a collective sigh of relief I’m hearing out there in blogville!? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised…

What I am surprised about is the ease with which these ravioli came together.  There was not even the remotest chance that yesterday evening, after three flu clinics in a row (during which I answered the question “When will the swine flu shot be available?” approximately 439,945,938 times), I was going to make pasta dough from scratch.  I don’t care how easy it is.  Even the thought of measuring flour exhausted me.  Instead, I took what I think is possibly one of the most ingenius culinary shortcuts ever invented – I used wonton wrappers.

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Have you ever used these things!? People: they are one dollar at the farmer’s market in my town. One dollar! For seemingly one million tiny little perfectly-cut circles of dough.  The package says it contains five servings, but my dinner creation last night did nothing to diminish the height of the stack.  What these suckers did diminish was my frustration level and cooking time – they cook in about four minutes, and the water isn’t even meant to come to a boil.  Does it get any easier, friends?  I think not.

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Pumpkin Ravioli
Look for the wonton/dumpling wrappers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  Obviously, you can stuff them with anything under the sun, and I’m already plotting our next adventure together. Don’t be surprised if you see them again this weekend stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. Yummmm, goat cheese.

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 ground chicken

Handful of chopped, frozen spinach

1/4 finely dicely white onion

Pinch of each of the following, or to taste: salt, pepper, cayenne/red pepper flakes, all-spice, nutmeg, and cinnamon

1 tbsp olive oil

Lots of wonton wrappers

Lots of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

Heat oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion until translucent, but not browned.  Add the chicken and cook until it is broken up and no longer pink.  Add pumpkin and spinach, and cook to heat.  Add spices and mix well.  Remove from heat.

Lay one wonton wrapper flat on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and fill one side with about 2 teaspoons of filling.  Wet the outside edge of the wrapper, and seal tightly with your fingers.  Work quickly, as the wrappers will begin to dry out once the filling is inside.  You can either boil them in separate batches, or cover with a damp towel.

Once the ravioli are filled, heat a pot of water until just under boiling.  Drop ravioli in – don’t overcrowd, or they’ll stick together! – and cook until they begin to float and become translucent.

Top with grated cheese, and cracked pepper.

Pasta, Please! Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

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I apologize if the Italian-sounding name of this blog threw you off, but aside from my most favorite thing ever, I don’t really eat that much pasta.  I certainly don’t hate pasta, I just think it has a few strikes against it: it’s nutritionally lacking, it’s generally so over-cooked that it’s merely a soggy vehicle for whatever delicious sauce has compelled me to give it a go, and I truly find things like bulgar, polenta, and farro to be far more flavorful beds for sausage, pesto, and ratatouille, to name a few.  But that’s just me and my crazy biases talking again, so fear not, friends: tonight, I give you pasta.

P1030934I’ve been dying to try making my own pasta for quite some time.  Maybe it’s the hours of Iron Chef I watch, where Ann Borell is, perpetually it seems, cracking eggs into a concave of flour and feeding the finished dough seamlessly through her handy dandy pasta machine.  She makes it look so damn easy.  And the judges make it look so damn delicious.

But alas, I lack one key element of that equation: the pasta machine.  Which is, really, the part that makes homemade pasta “easy.”  So when I saw a recipe for homemade pasta dough without the magic machine, I went for it.

Things learned:

1 – When you think you’ve rolled it thin enough, roll it thinner.  Seriously.  Walk away, let it rest, it will get thinner.

2 – When you boil it, against all odds, it will puff up slightly.  Making your pasta resemble those crunchy, dry Chinese noodles is not the goal of this exercise, so again: roll them really, really thin.

3 – I guess it’s not fair to say I “learned” this because I already knew it, but they take literally three minutes to cook.  Don’t walk away – they’ll be done before you get back.

4 – Whatever cluster or jumble you put them into the boiling water in is the shape they’re going to hang onto for dear life, regardless of your best efforts to make them more flexible.  Perhaps this was just because mine were so much thicker than regular noodles.  I can’t be sure.

5 – They are delicious.  More flavorful and heartier than any whole-wheat pasta I’ve ever gotten from a box, and really, not a whole lot more work.  Please don’t cover them in some cream-based, heavy sauce.  Garlic, olive oil and a little parmesan is really all these babies need to shine.

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Whole-Wheat Pasta

Adapted from Sugarlaws

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Water

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, flour, and salt.  Add water, little by little, until a dough forms.  Dump dough, and its floury bits, onto a lightly flour surface, and knead to form a cohesive ball.  Roll the ball as thin as you possibly can with a rolling pin, then cut dough into strips.  If the dough springs back while you’re rolling, let it rest a few minutes, then try again.

Once you have cut all your dough into noodles, cook in boiling, salted water (in batches if necessary) for 3 – 4 minutes (the noodles will float to the top).  Top with something light and fresh, so you can really taste your hardwork.

Pan-fried Gnocchi with Chorizo Wednesday, Aug 5 2009 

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Boyfriend thinks I am incredibly, undeniably bizarre, but there is nothing I find more Zen (and I am not a Zen kind of person…I’m a neurotic kind of person who strongly believes in multitasking) than cooking dinner for the two of us after we go to the gym.

This is not normal.  The first instinct should be: shower.  Or protein shake or Gatorade (that would be for those of you P1030533who work out more earnestly than me.  My electrolytes do not dip low enough to warrant recovery drinks of that nature) or even, gasp, water.  But not: start cooking.  Hovering over a stove and chopping things is not what one normal people generally want to do after sweating up a storm (Again, this is relative – you should not assume that I am running ten miles or power-lifting truck tires or something.  In fact, I find a half hour on the treadmill to be tedious and painful most days, but I like to eat, and when you like to eat and you don’t work out, you get fat.  Trust me.  I have extensive experience in this area. ).

But it is my favorite thing to do after the gym.  I have no idea why, and Lord knows Boyfriend won’t complain, because this usually frees him up to watch ESPN until I’ve set a plate full of food in front of him.  Am I a 50’s housewife on the inside or what?  I keep telling him not to get used to it, but then it’s Sunday morning and I’m making him pancakes and you can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he’s having the great internal argument about whether or not he should bring up the fact that while I keep telling him not to get used to it, I do keep doing it and at some point he’s going to expect it…NO. Do not speak those words to her.

Instead, he eats.

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Pan-fried Gnocchi with Chorizo

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 small white onion, diced

2 links of (uncooked) chorizo sausage (with jalapenos), sliced with casings removed

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 – 3/4 cup beef stock

1/4 cup tomato sauce

Several slices of eggplant, julienned

3 – 4 cups of uncooked gnocchi

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onion, saute until onion is translucent, then add chorizo.  Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.  Remove meat from the pot (and any garlic and onion that come with it), and put the gnocchi in.  Make sure the all the gnocchi is touching the pan – you want them to brown as they pan-fry.  In 2 – 3 minutes (if you’re starting with frozen gnocchi, this will obviously take an extra minute or two to make sure they heat all the way through), once the gnocchi is browned on one side, flip them and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Dump gnocchi out of the pan, turn the heat down to medium and add beef stock.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to infuse the flavor of the chorizo into the sauce.  Add tomato sauce and red pepper flakes, stir, then add the eggplant, chorizo/onions/garlic back in.  Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, so that the sauce heats through and the eggplant cooks.

Divide gnocchi evenly amongst two bowls, then cover evenly with sauce.

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Gnocchi, You Will be Mine. Monday, Aug 3 2009 

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The idea of making homemade gnocchi has been in my head for years – ever since I had it for the first time four years ago.  See, once you’ve had homemade (and that’s the first way I ever had it) the frozen stuff is just not as good.  Don’t get me wrong – given the choice between frozen gnocchi and any other kind of pasta, I’m going to pick the gnocchi every single time.

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But I was nervous terrified.  What if I screwed up something that I love?  What if I told people I was making it (which I did, because why not add some more pressure to the equation?), then I tried and it just bombed…the dough didn’t come together, or the potatoes were too gluey, or…something.  What if I wasted three hours of my precious, precious weekend and had nothing to show for it other than a kitchen covered in flour and congealed potato (I bet you’re hungry after that description)?

So what was the solution to eventually calming those many, many nerves?

Wine, of course.

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Two delicious bottles of Spanish red, to be precise, that were both empty by the end of the process (before you pass any judgment on my drinking habits, Boyfriend was also drinking it and this was an all-day event).  Because if I’m going to be making pasta all day like a tiny old Italian grandmother, I think red wine is really a necessity.  But then again, there are very few occasions where I don’t think wine is a necessity.

Anyway, yesterday I bit the bullet and gnocchi was made.  Lots of gnocchi.  I actually should’ve made more, because I brought a bunch of it to work today (stupid) and now I just have the bag of it that I froze, because let’s face it – I don’t love my coworkers enough to bring them all of my homemade gnocchi.

I had psyched myself up for this process to be a whole lot harder than it was.  Like, tears-in-the-dough-when-will-it-all-be-over-why-did-I-even-start-this-project harder.  But it wasn’t.  Basically, the potatoes are pricked all over with a fork, baked for an hour, peeled, grated (my kitchen obsessions are not such that I have a potato ricer or a food mill), mixed with some salt, egg and flour, formed into dough, rolled into snakes and cut into little nubbins.  Sounds like a lot of steps, but really?  This is homemade pasta, people.  It is a labor of love.

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Deb gives a wonderful tutorial on the entity that is the potato over here.  I’m not really science-y enough to repeat it to anyone with any clarity (which I know because I tried to explain it to Mom yesterday, and her response was something to the effect of “Uh. Yeah. Makes sense,” which it clearly didn’t), so it’s best if you just get it straight from her along with the recipe I used (at the bottom), which she adapted from About.com.