Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

June 24, 2009

Gnocchi


After reading this post on delicious:days, I felt inspired.

Gnocchi (pronounced: nyo-key) are Italian dumplings. Traditionally they are made with potato; a complicated, time consuming process. These Ricotta Gnocchi are quick and satisfying. Served with a speedy tomato-basil sauce, you can't go wrong.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredients:
16 oz. ricotta cheese
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 generous pinch salt
1 generous pinch pepper
1 c. grated parmesan
2 c. flour (or as needed)

Directions:
Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta's packaging may contain, then add Ricotta cheese, eggs and yolks, salt, basil and freshly grated Parmigiano into a large bowl. Mix well with a spoon.
Add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined - the dough will still be quite sticky. (You can add more flour, but remember that the more flour you use, the denser the gnocchi will be. And you want them to be as light & fluffy as possible, with a velvet-like texture.)
Forming these gnocchi is the slightly tricky step. You can refrigerate overnight and then shape these, but if you can work with the dough the same day, that would be best. This is the technique that works best for me: Generously flour a board, take a big tablespoon of the dough and scoop it onto the board. It gets dusted with flour (dust your hands generously, too!), before rolling it into a finger-thick roll.
Cut it into little pillows (stick the knife's blade into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough). Then place each gnoccho (that's how you say just one, gnocchi is plural) on a floured board or parchment paper lined baking tray. Continue quickly with the next step, otherwise they will get soggy and stick to the paper/board anyway.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don't stick to the bottom - then let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 2 to 4 minutes.
Take out with a skimmer and serve immediately.

Tomato Basil Sauce
Ingredients:
1, 24 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (I could find these in my regular grocery store, but you can also go to an Italian specialty store)
2 Tbsp. prepared basil pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat tomatoes over medium heat until they have thickened a bit. (How thick you make it just depends on your preference. I don't let mine thicken too much.) Break up any larger chunks of tomato with the back of your wooden spoon. Stir in pesto, season as you like with salt and pepper, (add more pesto, if you'r so inclinied) and let heat through. Serve. Leftovers keep about one week in the fridge or three months in the freezer.

June 20, 2009

Pantry Meals: Chicken Enchiladas


I know in this day and age it's sacrilege to use anything less than the freshest ingredients, but I honestly think if you can't transform canned goods into something fantastic, you might have some sort of severe culinary handicap. Educate yourself on how to put together a few pantry meals, and you might never need to eat out again if you keep the ingredients on hand.

This is a great way to use food storage, and it can also help you stay on your budget (especially if you shop the case-lot sales).

I know Chicken Enchiladas have many incarnations. The kind my mother favored growing up was to smother them with cream of chicken soup and sour cream, a soggy concoction I've never really stood behind. I prefer something a little more aesthetic. (And probably more waist-line friendly.)

This recipe is adapted from Robin Miller's recipe, but uses pantry staples in place of some fresh ingredients. It's definitely a go-to meal for me. It comes together really fast with practically no prep.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2, 24 oz. cans chicken breast, drained (We use the ones from Costco. So handy!)
1, 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1, 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1/3 c. prepared salsa
flour tortillas
cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400˚. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute 2 minutes or so. Add chicken, beans, chiles and salsa. Let simmer 5 minutes, until liquid reduces and thickens.

Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, roll and place in greased casserole dish. Cover generously with cheese and bake 15 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Serve with desired condiments. (sour cream, extra salsa, guacamole, etc.)

I've also made these with one can of chicken and some leftover rice. P said he liked them even more than the all-chicken variety. Play around with it and find what works for you.

June 10, 2009

Rice: the epic tale


I was planning a different post, which I promise I'll get around to, when PERFECT RICE happened.

Maybe you make perfect rice every time you attempt, reader dear, but I do not. Perfect rice is a rarity in these parts.

My rice saga has been long and sad. It begins with a bewildered bride. She wants to make rice. Mom made it look pretty darn easy (even if it did take a long time and result in the microwave overheating). She thinks, "No prob!", and opts for the stovetop over microwave. The result: bony rice that is burned on the bottom. This happens more times than I care to recount.

Dying a little inside (the weight of her failures heavy in her little foodie heart), this savvy bride purchases a rice cooker from a co-worker. He got it as a wedding present and only asked her to give him $5 for it. Score! Excitedly, she plugs it in and follows the directions, already imagining the fluffiness of the rice that will result. Ten minutes later, she comes back to check the progress of her new toy. It is lukewarm, and will not start up again. The rice inside lays stonily at the bottom of the pool of starchy water in the pot. It was not to be. The rice cooker had died, never to rice cook again. (Or ever, really, since it didn't even make it through round one.)

Fast forward a little. The bride and her hubby are in a new place, but having the same old problem. Stovetop rice that's bony and burned on the bottom (albeit slightly less than before) . They give the microwave method a try. The result: mushy rice, and starchy water all over the microwave.

When will the madness end?!

One magical day, she happens upon this post on The Wednesday Chef. It promises perfect rice for utter rice failures like herself!

It seemed too good to be true, but it is true, friends. It is.

If you, like me, have trouble with rice, I have the solution for you:

Life-Changing Baked Rice
Ingredients
1 (generous) Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. rice
2 3/4 - 3 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the olive oil or place the butter in a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and set the pan over medium-high heat.
Throw in the rice and stir it until the oil or butter coats all the grain.
Cook, stirring, for a few minutes. The rice will look glassy and smell toasty.
Pour in the water, add the salt, and bring to a boil.
Stir the rice once, then cover the pot and place in the oven.
Set the timer for 13 minutes.
After 13 minutes, remove the pot from the oven. Do not remove the lid from the pot and let the rice rest for five minutes.
After resting, fork through the rice to fluff it and serve.
(Serves at least 4)

June 01, 2009

Bork Bork Bork!

This is how making pizza dough used to make me feel:



But no more. Pizza and I are friends at last!

I may not be the world's biggest fan of Tyler Florence, but his pizza dough recipe works miracles. You think I'm kidding, dear reader, but I am not. This recipe is so divine, I could make pizza everyday and, possibly, not get sick of it.

Pizza Dough (courtesy Tyler Florence, Foodnetwork.com)
Ingredients:
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 c. flour

Directions:
Dissolve sugar in warm water and proof yeast for 5 or 10 minutes.
Stir in oil, then salt.
Add in flour 1 c. at a time until all flour is incorporated. (As with all yeast doughs, I stir in the flour by hand until I've decided it's too stiff, then use my kitchenaid's dough hook.)
Turn dough out on lightly floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic. (Most of the time I don't use flour on my counter. Just knead away. If it's sticking, though, use the flour.)
Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to coat dough.
Let rise until double in bulk. (about 1 hr.) Punch down.
Turn on your oven to 500 and place your pizza stone in to get hot.
Roll and stretch dough into a cylinder and cut in half.
Let sit for 10 minutes to let dough relax. (This is the crucial step. I don't care how much of a hurry you are in, this must be done, or your dough will be very uncooperative.)
Shape into rounds using your rolling pin on a lightly floured counter, or using your hands and tossing in the air.
Transfer your dough to the pizza stone and top as you like.
Bake for 7 - 10 minutes.

A few of our favorite ways to top our dough:

Parmesan Garlic Hearth Bread
In a small saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp. of butter with one clove of garlic. (It can be whole if you have whole cloves around. I usually have a jar of minced garlic in the fridge, so that's what I use.)
When your dough is shaped and transferred to the pizza stone, "paint" on the garlic butter with a pastry brush. Top generously with grated parmesan cheese and slip into the oven.
This should cook more quickly than a pizza would. Check it after 4 or 5 minutes.

Pesto Chicken
Once your dough is on your stone, spread out a thin layer of prepared pesto (I use my fingers to spread it because it only takes a very thin layer) and top with mozzarella cheese.
Top this with cooked, cubed chicken breast. This would also be excellent with a crumble of bacon and some artichoke hearts.
Sprinkle a little parmesan over the top of everything.

Mexican Pizza
Mix about 1/3 c, refried beans with a couple tablespoons of prepared salsa and spread on dough. Top with cheese. Mozzarella is good. We used a Mexican bend from the store.
Sprinkle on what you like. We used taco-seasoned ground beef, black olives and tomatoes. Next time I might add green pepper. And if you like cilantro and green onions, both would go well on here.

Classic Margherita
Spread dough with a thin layer of tomato sauce (like this one, also by Tyler Florence)
Top with either rounds of mozzarella cut from a fresh ball, or shredded mozarella.
Dot with leaves of fresh basil. (Leaving them whole is very authentic, but you can also slice them in a little choffonade, if you're not crazy about eating the whole leaves.)

If you have a favorite way to top your pizza, let me know. I'm always on the lookout for fun new ways to make pizza even better!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips