Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gnocchi

Gnocchi is one of my husband's favorite foods and while I love cooking in general, I really love making a meal that I know my husband will enjoy. I read through the following two recipes:

Dylan Giordan's recipe (head chef at Serafina, a well-know Seattle favorite)
Silver Spoon's recipe (arguably the best Italian cookbook ever)

The ingredients are identical and the directions are very similar. I ended up with a similar recipe but pretty different instructions that I hope first time gnocchi makers will find useful. Making gnocchi is a messy, fun task that yields great results. And I love how it only has 4 ingredients in it.


Gnocchi
Serves 4
Adapted from Dylan Giordan and Silver Spoon

2 3/4 pounds of potatoes
1 Large Egg
2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Salt

Sauce (i.e. butter with herbs or a marinara. My current favorite is the Simple Marinara Sauce Recipe from The North End Italian Cookbook.)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes clean and bake them until they are cooked through, about 70 minutes depending on size. Take them out of the oven and let cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the contents and put it through a food mill or potato ricer. Place the riced potato into a bowl. Mix in one egg and some of the flour, about 1 1/4 cups. Always start with less flour and work your way up. First blend the mix with a spoon until you can handle it and then turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead it, mixing in more flour if the dough starts to stick to the surface. The dough I ended up with had the texture of chocolate chip cookie dough, still fairly sticky.

Start a large pot of well-salted water boiling on the stove. Form the dough into a ball and cut a 2 inch (or so) strip off the ball. Roll them with your hands, without pressing down too much. Roll and stretch, gently. Keep doing this until you have a long strip that is approximately 1 inch thick. Cut the rope into gnocchi sized pieces and place them on a well-floured cookie sheet. Toss the gnocchi gently with the flour. Repeat this until all the gnocchi is rolled out and cut. When you are ready to eat, cook a small number of the gnocchi at a time (~4 batches with this recipe). Drop them in, let them rise to the surface and let them cook there for about 30 seconds more. Scoop them out with a hand-held strainer and place them in a colander. Put the next batch of gnocchi in, moving the cooked gnocchi to your serving bowl. Repeat this process until all the gnocchi is cooked. Toss with the sauce of choice and serve.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Bacon

This recipe yields a mellow pan of cannellini beans that would be easy to nudge in different directions. Next time I might add more shallots than the recipe calls for and possibly a 1/4 cup of white wine (added to the pan and simmered for a few minutes just prior to adding the beans). These were served with butter lemon roasted chicken with red onions and wilted spinach which created a nice combination of textures and flavors.

 
Serves 6

2 cups dried cannellini beans
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 strips of bacon

Rinse the beans and pick through them discarding rocks and damaged beans. Cover them with cold water and let soak for 4 - 6 hours.

Drain the beans and place them in a large pot along with the broth, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the beans simmer until soft about an hour and a half, adding water if needed.

In a large skillet cook the bacon until it is crispy and set aside. Drain all but about 1 T of the bacon fat and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the shallots to the pan. Cook the shallots until they are golden brown. Add the beans with remaining liquid and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Chop the bacon, sprinkle on top of the beans and serve.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Week of Dining with Friends

My husband was in Ireland for a week so I was on my own with my little salt and peppercorn. I received two dinner invitations right away and then a third friend called and said she wanted to book a night, "before my dance card filled up." I ended up with five dinner invitations starting on Monday and ending on Friday. I love eating and I love my friends so it was looking to be a nice week despite missing my better half.

The week started out at my lovely friend Andrea's house who served us a delicious chicken breasts that she had liberally applied (by accident she said, she mixed up the opening on the spice container) with herbs. Accidents aside, this didn't really matter. My son ate more chicken than any of the adults and just when I started to feel kind of embarrassed that he was going to finish up all remaining chicken on this planet he finally decided he was full. With it came stuffing and a nice spinach salad. Top Pot Donuts were for dessert.

Day two was dinner with my lovely mother and step-father at Santorini Pizza & Pasta. This is a great place for a family dinner. Dino the owner will come over to talk to you and push a glass of wine on your mom and dad despite their saying they don't want any. They were tired and Dino was being sweet, he could tell they needed a little vino. My parents were exhausted from moving and eating out was just what the doctor ordered. But eating at Santorini's is like eating at a friends house but instead of having to offer to help clean up, you just pay your bill and say, 'see you next time.'

The third dinner of the week was at our good friend Bruce and Rebecca's house. Pizza and a green salad with feta and a great homemade vinaigrette. More great company and a lovely meal. We brought dessert that night which was ice cream, chocolate sauce and homemade cookies. My kids and I had spent the afternoon making sugar and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. For the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, I only had one cup of rolled oats so I mixed in one cup of steel cut oats. The cookies were kind of crunchy. In retrospect I should have thrown the cup of steel cut oats into the food processor before mixing them in but I didn't think of it at the time. There were way too many cookies so I left half of them at my friends house and took the remaining sugar cookies to my daughter's pre-school the following day where they were devoured.

The fourth meal of the week was at our good friend's Emily and Jules' house. Miss Emily is about to have a baby but you cannot tell because she has more energy than I can believe. She claims she is tired but I see no evidence of this. She is constantly doing stuff, including that night, making crepe batter and making a huge pile of crepes and a 'make your own crepe' bar. The delicious options were roasted asparagus, fried potatoes and kale, shredded gruyere, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella, pesto, greek yogurt, jam, apple sauce, peanut butter and nutella. Along with this extraordinary spread there was also a romaine salad and to top if off a delicious rhubarb gallette that she had picked up from Whole Foods. Does this lady sound like she is about to have a baby? I think not. Dinner was delicious. I have no experience with crepes but of course I have already started looking at crepe pans on amazon.

Friday night met me with delicious homemade spaghetti and meatballs at our good friend Ted and Amy's house. Spaghetti and meatballs is my favorite comfort food. Along with the spaghetti and meatballs Amy also made an epic quantity of delicious artichokes following a great recipe from Mark Bittman that they have made for us before that I just love. They also made a caprese salad and there were enough leftovers to feed another family of four plus some. To top if off, Ted had made the delicious Boston Cream Cake that you see above which was as good as it looks. He claimed it was easy to make in the way that good cooks do.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scooter's Burgers & Shakes

Scooter's Burgers in Ballard is a tiny little place with a row of stools, seating maybe 10 people. The menu sits on the wall and offers classic burgers, chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers and add-ons like grilled mushrooms, pesto and blue cheese for the sandwiches. They offer combos with fries including a combo for kids at a reduced price. They have shakes with an impressive number of flavors (14). Their mini shake is less than $2, which is small but enough to satisfy if you just want a little treat.

We ordered a chicken sandwich combo, a cheeseburger combo, two kids burger combos and two mini chocolate shakes. The fries were somewhere between thin and thick fries and a nice golden color. They were good but not outstanding because our family motto is 'the crispier the better' when it comes to french fries. While they were crisp, they were not super crisp and had a bit of floppiness to them. I know the debate on floppy versus crisp is a long one though and not something I will go into here.

The burger was delicious with fresh vegies piled on and despite the relatively thin patty, it was not over cooked maintaining a slight pinkness in the center! The mayo topping was lacking a little, I would have preferred pure mayonnaise and ketchup as this mix had something else in it that didn't have the best flavor. The chicken sandwich had a thin breast, a straightforward chicken sandwich with the only flaw being that the chicken was a touch dry. The fries were served with small containers of ketchup and tartar sauce. The kids combos were generous with a large serving of fries, good-sized burgers and milk. Despite the small missteps, it is still a stand up burger joint and it has enough good things to offer that we will be eating at Scooter's again. I want to try a burger with pesto as an add-on as well as their onion rings. They are also offering 13 other flavors of shakes that we are interested in trying.


Scooter's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Pot Donuts in Capitol Hill



Top Pot Donuts in Capitol Hill on a Sunday morning met us with a short line of people dressed completely in black looking bored and in need of coffee. We took six donuts home for a weekend treat. Two glazed, a bavarian cream, a chocolate sprinkle (pictured above), a feather boa (pink icing with coconut sprinkles, pictured below) and Valley Girl Lemon (lemon filling, powdered top). Delicious donuts with a nice cake interior and sweet glistening frosting. The Valley Girl Lemon was like a Bavarian Cream in structure, glazed and with a creamy lemon filling.

On a separate visit we brought home another bavarian cream and an apple fritter along with two sandwiches. If you are so inclined you can veer away from a meal solely comprised of sugar and caffeine and have a sandwich! We picked up a chipotle turkey and a plain turkey, both on slice sourdough. The sandwiches were better left in the case. Labeling one of them chipotle was accurate if a bit of an exaggeration. It did have a very light spread of chipotle mayonnaise but it was definitely not the predominant taste, just a small addition of flavor, which there wasn't too much of. They did have a definite pre-made taste to them and with the mass supply of great food available around Capitol Hill I am not sure it makes sense to purchase these sandwiches. The apple fritter, however, was delicious as was this second and very dependable bavarian cream.


Top Pot Doughnuts (Capitol Hill) on Urbanspoon