ricotta gnocchi

after taking much of the summer off, i’m back to cooking and blogging! i meant to make a grand entrance in early fall and wow you with all my fabulous autumnal recipes, but soon realized that i had a stack of tested recipes with no pictures to accompany them. i don’t know about you, but nothing bugs me more than reading about cooking and food with no pictures to look at. i love you all too much to have put you through that torture, so i am slowly working through my stack of culinary gems and snapping away as i cook.

fall is not only my favorite season because i can finally wear my boots and scarves again… i also love that the cool crisp air and bulky sweaters allow me to eat pasta  and stews with reckless abandon! waistline, shmaistline! and when i think about fall pastas, gnocchi is the first one that springs to mind. it slowly shows up on the menus of our favorite restaurants in all its glorious forms, but making it at home can be a bit daunting for the home cook. traditional potato gnocchi, with all of its steps and temperamental ways, can trip up even the most seasoned chef. my ricotta gnocchi recipe is just the thing you need to look like a pro without breaking a sweat.

ricotta gnocchi (makes 4 servings)

1 16-ounce container whole milk ricotta
1 egg
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tablespoon italian parsley, finely chopped
1 cup flour, you may need a bit more or less

set a strainer lined with a couple layers of cheese cloth over a bowl and strain the ricotta for an hour in the fridge or over-night.
using a wooden spoon, mix the strained ricotta, egg, cheese, salt, nutmeg and parsley in a large bowl. mix in half the flour and slowly add the other half until the dough comes together. it should be sticky but not cling to your fingers. let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. line a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. (make sure the baking sheet fits in your freezer)
on a floured cutting board, roll about a fourth of the dough into a thick rope, around 3/4-inch thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 3/4″ pieces. roll each gnocchi on the back of a fork with your thumb using gentle pressure and transfer them to the baking sheet. repeat with the rest of the dough and then transfer the baking sheet to the freezer. freeze until each gnocchi is individually frozen*. at this point you can put the gnocchi into a freezer bag and cook later (they will keep for about 1 month) or drop them into a large pot of boiling salted water and boil until they float to the the top. strain the gnocchi and add them directly to whatever sauce you plan to use**.

*i have found that freezing the gnocchi first produces a much better little dumpling and they never fall apart.
**i used marinara for my gnocchi, but a simple butter and sage sauce works great too.

Posted in cheese, Pasta, Recipes | 2 Comments

fantastic favas

getting a farm box every week has proved to be both wonderful and a tad arduous. wonderful for all the inspiration it has given me and arduous, since all your produce comes at once and needs to be washed and dealt with in some way. i’ve gotten used to just blocking out a 1/2 hour and washing and trimming everything at once so it’s all ready to go for a week of cooking. a little hassle for a big payback in my opinion. but then came the fava beans! holy mackerel are these little guys a pain in the butt! first you have to shuck them out of their big, green, fuzzy pods, and then you have to blanch them to remove their outer shell. is all of this work worth it? hell yes! boy are these guys good, and super good for you. i’ve become a little bit of a fava addict these days. i hope these tips make you one as well!

1. remove the fava beans from their outer pod. (once this step is done you can put them in a ziplock bag and store them in the fridge until your ready to use them, about 5 days)

2. blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute, drain immediately and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking.

3. gently peel away the outer shell to reveal the bright green tender bean. (once this step is done you can use them right away or store them in an airtight container, about 3 days)

at this point, these little beauties are ready to be tossed in a salad and eaten just as they are. or, try adding them to a simple veggie roast or an orzotto (orzo in the style of risotto) like i did for a fabulous side dish or lunch.

for this orzotto, i followed my recipe and added cubes of fresh mozzerella and the favas.

Posted in Recipes, side dishes, Uncategorized, vegetables | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

bi bim bop… done my way

i am a huge fan of rice bowls in all varieties. italian risotto, chinese fried rice, mexican rice and beans… but my all time favorite is the korean version bi bim bop! i love how it looks when it’s first set down in front of you. there are so many “first bite” possibilities! you can mix it all up and use the egg yolk as a sauce or keep things separate and create all kinds of different combos.  my way is obviously not a classic korean bowl, but it was delicious and simple to prepare. this is how i did it…

bi bim bop (makes 4 servings)

1 lb short ribs, cut off the bone and marinated in korean bbq sauce for 4 hours or overnight
1 english cucumber, julliened
1 carrot, julliened
1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 handfuls of fancy greens, i used italian parsley
2 cups of white rice, cooked
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup rice vinegar
soy sauce and chili sauce for dipping

mix together salt, sugar and rice vinegar. add the carrot and cucumber and let the veggies pickle while you’re making everything else. grill the short ribs for 4 to 5 minutes on each side and then set aside to rest. toss the shrimp in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast in one layer on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. dress your greens in a little oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
now put everything together over rice in large bowls making sure to drain your pickles and slice your short ribs. serve with soy and chili sauce on the side and a beautiful egg yolk right on top. (you can fry your eggs if you don’t want to serve raw yolks)

this dish is a blank canvas for any cook. you can use any kind of meat or vegetable that you like and by serving the sauces on the side, your guests can personalize their heat level. don’t shy away from pickling your veggies though. it really adds so much flavor and depth to this meal. happy experimenting!

 

Posted in beef, meat dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

asian short ribs


in an effort to become a better person, and more responsible meat eater, i’ve made some changes in my weekly grocery shopping routine. instead of doing a “one-stop” trip to trader joe’s for all our weekly essentials and then a whole foods “drive-by” for some specialty items and meat, i’ve signed up for a weekly produce delivery from full circle farm. they have an amazing sustainably raised meat program as well as dairy and eggs, all of which are organic and locally produced with not a factory in sight! i am a firm believer in the food chain, but factory farms are killing our environment and producing low quality food. i can no longer participate in their existence so buying meat and produce just got a little pricier in my household. but, just like at large grocery chains, there are some cuts of meat that are always a bit cheaper because they need a little more skill, finesse, or patience to prepare. don’t fear dear readers. i have some great recipes that highlight these gems of meaty goodness and really make them shine. short ribs were on special this week so let’s get cooking!

sticky sweet asian short ribs (serves 4)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup brown sugar
the zest and juice of one orange
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 lbs short ribs
water to cover
1 tablespoon fresh scallions, chopped fine
preheat oven to 300 degrees.
in a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the first 9 ingredients. pour over the short ribs in a large dutch oven and add enough water just to cover. cover the pot and simmer in the oven for 3 hours, until the short ribs are tender and separate easily from their bones.
remove the ribs to a plate and discard bones. pour the braising liquid in a fat separator. return the liquid, sans fat, back to the pot and cook over a high flame until it’s reduced to a thick syrupy glaze, about 10 minutes. add the ribs back to the pot to coat in the glaze. sprinkle with the chopped scallions and serve over rice. enjoy!
short ribs can be cooked so many different ways, but this is definitely my family’s favorite. i love that i can stick them in the oven and forget about them for a few hours too. the leftovers make awesome asian tacos… just shred the meat and serve with julienned carrots and napa cabbage in moo shu wraps!

Posted in beef, meat dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

sprinkle cookies

if you grew up in or near a big city with access to “old school” bakeries like i did, maybe you share my obsession with the addictive sugary, buttery sprinkle cookies that all those bakeries seem to sell. i’ve never been able to find a recipe that comes close to the right texture, sweetness factor, and abundance of sprinkles that is forever etched in my memory, so i decided to try and write one. after doing some research, and calling some bakeries, shortening seemed to be the elusive ingredient for these little beauties. since i’m not a huge fan of the mouthfeel that shortening creates, i tried a combination of shortening and butter. i also have no idea how those bakeries get their sprinkles to stick to the cookies since theirs seem to be pressed from a cookie gun, so i sliced my dough and pressed each cookie in a plate of sprinkles. it worked great and was super easy. i hope these cookies bring back some memories for you like they did for me. there’s no school like the old school!

sprinkle cookies (makes 3 dozen)

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
rainbow sprinkles for decorating
in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. add the flour mixture and mix until no flour is visible, don’t over-mix. dump out the dough onto a piece of parchment or wax paper and form into a log. roll up the parchment and freeze the dough for 1 hour.
preheat oven to 325 degrees.
unwrap the dough and slice into round cookies about 1/8 of an inch thick. press each cookie into sprinkles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart. bake on the very top rack of your oven for 8-11 minutes until the bottoms are very lightly browned. cool on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a rack to continue cooling. store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

lemon layer cake

For Friend’s birthdays I almost always offer to make the cake. For my friend trish’s latest milestone I was more than pleased to have the baking task because I have been working on a yellow cake recipe forever and was eager to try out a variation…lemon! In my world, if it’s not chocolate, it better be lemon. I’m a bit of a junkie for the bright yellow fruit. by adding the juice and zest of one lemon to my yellow cake recipe, this moist cake was transformed into a lemon lover’s dream. i then upped the lemon love by spreading lemon curd between the layers. lemon frosting would have been a mistake here…way too much lemon, so i added a touch of yellow food coloring to my buttercream/cream cheese frosting just to drive home the lemon story.
you now have my yellow cake and signature frosting recipes which are wonderful on their own, but act as a blank canvas for countless variations! maybe now, you too will be the designated baker among your friends and learn to say “happy birthday” with a signature cake of your own.

best yellow cake ever! (lemon variation)

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
variation: the zest and juice of 1 lemon and lemon curd for layers
(i make my own lemon curd but there are wonderful lemon curds available in stores so you can save yourself a step)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
butter and flour 2 -9″ or 3- 8”cake pans. In a bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. in another bowl whisk together oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved, around 2 minutes. Add the eggs and whisk until well incorporated. add the lemon juice and zest and whisk until blended. add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. pour batter (batter is very thin so don’t worry) into prepared pans and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and continue to cool completely.
my buttercream/cream cheese frosting

1 stick of butter, softened
1- 8oz package of cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
variation: yellow food coloring to make it a light pastel yellow

add all ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixture and mix on med-high until light and fluffy, around 5 mintues.

spread lemon curd between each cake layer and refrigerate until nice and firm. frost the cake with the buttercream/cream cheese frosting and refrigerate again until firmly set, around 1 hour. (i place 3 wooden skewers in the center of the cake to keep the layers from sliding while the frosting sets. i also sprinkle the top of the cake with decorating sugar for a little sparkle.)

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

skinny creamed spinach

I have it bad! The sun is finally shining, the birds are singing, and my patio is screaming out for a BBQ. SPRING FEVER! My usual cravings for soup and roast chicken have moved aside for everything green. I’ve been experimenting with spinach dishes as of late, and I came up with a healthier version of a steakhouse classic, creamed spinach. culinary school is quickly becoming a faint memory but I took a cue from something I learned there and used it in this recipe…demi-glace! Demi-glace is a super concentrated reduction of stock and can be used in all sorts of sauces and sautes to pump up flavor and make things taste wonderfully rich. If you can’t get your hands on good demi-glace you can use liquid bullion much to the same effect. You will need a good amount of fresh spinach for this recipe but the good news is it’s quite affordable and great for you. Happy spring!

Skinny creamed spinach (makes 2 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chicken demi-glace or liquid bullion (this will also act as the salt for this recipe)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh if you can)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tablespoons lite mascarpone or cream cheese

in a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. add the garlic and demi-glace and saute for another minute. add the spinach and cook until the spinach has wilted and all the liquid has been reduced, about 5 minutes. add the nutmeg, pepper and mascarpone and cook until the mascarpone has melted and the spinach is nice and creamy. plate and enjoy!

this spinach dish makes an excellent side for steak, chicken or fish, but you can also use it as a topping for pizza or tossed in your favorite pasta! super quick and good for you, the possibilities are endless. eat your greens!

Posted in Recipes, side dishes, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments