Category Archives: Technique

Gnocchi with Mushrooms in Rosemary butter

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter G. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Little potato pillows of yum

I was having trouble with inspiration for G.   Not that there aren’t a bunch of great G foods (ginger, garlic, gummy worms, etc), it’s just that I wasn’t feeling inspired.   While we were discussing our alphabetic progression, I mentioned to Kettle that I was falling flat with G.  He thought for a second, and then offered up “What about homemade gnocchi?”
Mmm, genius.  And that’s why I love him.

Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a very nice place to start.

We had never made gnocchi before.  It’s one of those items we think about making periodically, but never seem to get around to.  You’ll remember that we have a love for the homemade pastas, so it only seemed logical that we tackle gnocchi at somepoint.  Since I haven’t the foggiest on where to begin when making gnocchi, I generously put Kettle in charge.

Sending the hot potatoes through the mesh strainer creates a light, airy texture.

We decided to focus our creativity on how to sauce and complement them.  Kettle went basic with our first gnocchi prep, so we could learn the techinique and get a little more funky with it next time. For saucing them, we decided to build on the earthy nature of the potato but without going to heavy.  Though the gnocchi were soft and light, they are filling!  Kettle was aiming for a way to bring flavor without adding weight to the meal.  We ended up with an earthy concotion of mushrooms, rosemary, garlic, and butter.  The smell was awesome.  We used fresh Rosemary from our semi-successful patio garden.

Rosemary and Mushroom for the top.

Overall project gnocchi was a great success.  Sure, it takes a little extra work, but they taste wonderful.  Th most important part is not over working the dough and maintaining the light, airy texture that comes from sending it through the mesh strainer.  And Kettle will definitely be invited back for another round as head chef!

Gnocchi with mushrooms in rosemary butter

Inspiration found here.

1 lb russet potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg white
3/4 cup flour, extra for dusting
1/2 cup butter
5 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
1 pint baby bell mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
shaved parmesan for topping
First bake (or microwave until soft) potatoes, remove the skin and rough chop the potato as quickly as possible to release steam.  This part is hot so watch your finger! Then pass the hot potato mash through a potato ricer (or mesh sieve if you don’t have one) into a large bowl.  This creates a light and airy potato mixture and allows as much moister to leave the potatoes as possible.  Don’t mash them, they won’t get nearly light enough and the steam will remained trapped in the potatoes. Add the flour slowly to the potatoes and, with your hands, gently mix together to preserve airiness of the potatoes. Add the egg, salt, and baking powder, and mix together.  Your gnocchi dough is prepped.

Rolling out some gnocchi

Once the ingredients have been incorporated, dust a flat, open surface with flour and roll out small amounts of dough into a snake, roughly 1/4″ in diameter. Cut into 1″ segments and roll a fork over each piece to score the pasta. Add the gnocchi, roughly 10 at a time, to a large pot of highly salted water. The pasta will float to the surface within 1 minute. Cook the pasta for an additional 3-4 minutes and remove from the water.
To prepare the mushroom sauce, sauteed a pint of sliced baby bella mushrooms in olive oil for several minutes. We then added chopped garlic and sauteed for another two minutes. The heat was turned down to medium and a stick of butter was melted into the pan. Once the butter turned a shade of light brown, three sprigs of rosemary was added and the temperature was dropped to low to await the addition of the gnocchi.  Gently add the gnocchi the butter sauce. Top with fresh parmesan and rosemary and enjoy!
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Farmer’s Cheese with basil

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter F. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Finished Farmer's Cheese

CSA mini-workshop number two was on making homemade cheese.  When it was announced, I thought it would be interesting, but I wasn’t sure how much I would really use it at home.  But never one to miss a learning opportunity, I was first to arrive again.

Let's eat.

The woman who taught it had lived on several organic dairy farms and had made all types of cheeses.  She was a wonderful resource for questions and ideas and, of course, I took full advantage.  We focused only on soft cheeses in order to complete the entire process (including prep, cooking, and taste testing) in under an hour and a half.  We made two soft cheeses: a farmer’s cheese and ricotta.

Bringing the heat.

It’s incredibly simple, like silly simple.  I actually could be heard saying a bit too loudly, “It’s that easy?  You’re kidding!”  The basic idea is to separate the curds from the whey.  Though the method is very simple, there are plenty of opportunities to make the recipe your own, starting with your choice of dairy.  Animal (cow, goat, etc), diet (grass fed, grain, etc), and fat content are all important factors that influence the flavor.

Separating the curds from the whey Miss Muffet style.

The process of making Farmer’s Cheese starts by heating the milk, removing it from heat, and then adding an acid.  The acid causes the curds (fats) from the whey.  The choice of acid will influence the final flavor and can add to the overall flavor profile.  I chose to use fresh lemon juice because I like the light freshness it adds to the flavor, and went with a less is more philosophy as far as volume.  If you don’t get good separation, you can always add more.

Strain carefully! Mixture is VERY hot!

The firmness of the cheese will depend on how long you strain it.  For a drier, more crumbly cheese, strain the cheese longer.  Once you are done straining, additional flavor can be added with fresh herbs or flavored salts. It’s perfect for ravioli filling or just spread on a good piece of crusty bread.  It’s so fresh and simple, and it tastes like nothing you buy in the store.  And eating it warm is pretty awesome too.

All strained and ready for flavoring

Farmer’s Cheese

For this demo:
2 cups whole milk
1+1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 leaf basil, chiffonade
.
Heat milk to 140°F with gentle stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until there is a distinct separation between the curds and the whey.  Strain through cheese cloth, using a mesh strainer to support the cloth.  Be very careful, as the mixture will be extremely hot (trust me, I have the blisters to prove it).  Hang cloth (or wring gently) to remove excess moister.  Once desired firmness is obtained, stir in salt and other flavors.  Consume immediately or store in the refrigerator for a few days.  Cheese does not contain preservatives, so use the sniff test to check for freshness.
.
Enjoy!

Dilly Beans (and a few other dilly items)

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter D. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

I’ve really wanted to get into canning.  My grandmother canned all types of things when I was little (relishes, pickles, jams, etc), but I never had a chance to take advantage of her knowledge before she passed away. I regret that now big time.  She had the advantage of using things directly from my grandfather’s garden.  It was big as he often overplanted resulting in any visitor being sent home with at least one brown bag full of produce, lopsided pumpkins, or other piece of garden bounty.  I have fond memories of wondering the rows with him and snacking on fresh green beans as we go.  How I cherished those memories and wish I could relive a tenth of it.

Green beans are my most favorite veggie

But, as luck would have it, canning is hot right now.  However, my inner nerd is petrified of giving Kettle botolism and therefore ruining my canning career and killing off my test audience.  That would be a big downer.  When our summer CSA started free mini-workshops at pick-up and announced the first one would be pickling, I nearly came unglued I was so excited.  Finally, someone with decades of experience trapped in a room with me, stuck answering all my questions.

The last bean and the leftover spices

The good news is that pickling is essentially the gateway method to harder types of canning.  It’s simple, you can’t really mess it up, and better yet, you can’t really kill anyone with it (unless they OD on your pickles because they are so awesome).  To put it nicely, my inner nerd flourished at the CSA workshop.  Did I sit front and center and show up 15 minutes early?  Yes and yes.  Did I take notes and email the lovely woman with additional questions?  Of course.  Did I enviously eye other people’s veggies to pickle and wish I had thought of it?  Yes, and I may have even bummed  spare veggies off them just to try.

In a pickle.

The set-up was awesome.  The organizers brought a whole variety of recipes, herbs, and spices and let us have at it.  There were only about 8 or 10 of us in the class, so there was plenty of time for me to accost the experienced canners without monopolizing their time.  We discussed variations, family methods, and ways to mix it up.  I focused on making dilly beans.  They are my favorite pickled snack and they make a fantastic garnish for bloody mary’s.  I also made a jar of cucumber pickles and jammed a few extra veggies in just for fun (carrot coins and radish halves).  I used garlic, dill, black mustard seeds, all spice, and coriander seeds to flavor my pickles along with a classic cold pack pickle brine.  After packing all the ingredients, the jars were topped and left at room temperature in a cool dark place for 5 days.  Once a day I did invert each jar to recirculate the spices.  On the sixth day, I put the jars in the refrigerator to stop the pickling process and on the seventh day, we ate.  Overall, major pickling success.  I may get a little more creative next time and add other spices (hot peppers) or more spices, but we had no problems eating them all.

Dilly Beans (a cold pack pickle recipe)

Care of the lovely ladies at our CSA

Brine

1+1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup coarse kosher salt

5+1/2 cups water

Spices (use as desired)

3 sprigs dill

1 clove garlic, halved

coriander seeds

black mustard seeds

all spice seeds

Place spices in the bottom of jar.  Tightly pack cleaned veggies upto 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  Fill jar with brine to cover veggies (but no higher that 1/4 from top of the jar).  Cap and leave at room temp in a cool place for 5 days.  Stored in the refigerator for 24 hours and then eat.  They won’t last long!

Enjoy!

Green beans are my most favorite vegetable.


Homemade Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Sorry about the lack of posts last week.  My dog literally ate my ‘homework’, which in baking terms means my dog (Kettle calls her “the stomach”) attempted to eat a 2lb bag of flour while I was at work and became violently ill, consuming a lot of my time last week. She is going to be fine, but the jury is still out on the carpet.  May you never have to try to get paste made from flour and dogdrool out of your carpet!  What a mess.  But enough with the excuses and on to the good stuff!  Baseball/ballpark food week continues!

So festive and fun!

Mmm hmmm, you read the title of this post right.  I went there.  I made them at home there by forcing myself to eat way too many of them.  But you know what?  I liked it. Every last bite.
The cookie ice cream sandwich is my brother’s weakness.  The boy can pop them down like its going out of style.  Not normally someone I would like to for recipe ideas or food advice, he is a true junk foodie, whose diet includes things like Hot Pockets and Doritos. But in the case of the cookie ice cream sandwich, I can’t fault him.  They are dang good and even better on a hot day.

Who doesnt love having these guys around?

These are silly easy and I think that is the biggest problem with the recipe.  If you can make chocolate chip cookies, and have the patience to combine said cookies with ice cream in an orderly fashion (as opposed to swallowing them all whole in some cookie monster style feeding frenzy), then you can make them too!  Oh, and mini sous chefs love them too.  Then again, I think everyone loves them.

In need of sprinkles.

The only bonus to making them at home, besides being able to play with different cookie/ice cream combos, is portion control.  I chose to make mine on the smaller side as to minimize the guilt of eating them.  Oh, who am I kidding, I don’t feel guilt.

I swear I didnt eat them all!

Homemade Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

For this recipe, I used a classic chocolate chip cookie and paired it with vanilla ice cream.  Feel free to get creative!  You can use any combo you can think of!

Classic Chocolate chip cookies (small batch)

1+1/8 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/8 cup brown sugar

3/8 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

4-6oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat in egg.  Slowly combine in dry ingredients.  Once well combined, fold in chocolate chips.  Bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes.

Make cookies as directed and allow them to fully cool on a cooling rack.  Be careful to make evenly sized cookies so they make prettier sandwiches.  I made the cookies one night and assembled the sandwiches the next so I didn’t rush it.   When you are ready to assemble, let the ice cream sit on the counter for 15 minutes.  This allows it to soften and make assembly much easier.  Assemble cookies and ice cream, and then rotate sandwich on end in a bowl of sprinkles (or mini chips) to decorate.  Pop sandwiches back in the freezer for a few minutes to allow the ice cream to firm back up.
Enjoy!

Nut-free Lemon Macarons, attempt #1

As I have previously mentioned, Kettle has a severe nut allergy.  Like break out the epi pen and rush him to the hospital severe.  And being the paranoid and nervous Pot that I am, I try not to bring nuts in the house because I am so afraid of making him sick or cross-contaminating something he might eat.  I was actually so nervous about it when we first started dating that I googled the fastest route to the hospital just in case.  I’m a nut, but one he’s not allergic to. 

Nut-free is the way to be.

This has been a huge challenge for me with regards to my mild obsession with the french macaron.  I love their look with their brightly colored, tiny little, almost cartoonish packages and their soft and light yet crisp texture (I’ve been dying to get my oven mitts on Jill’s book, Mad about Macarons, so I can explore more).  But, being that I refuse to bring almond flour into the house (even though Kettle has offered numerous times to leave the apartment while I bake so any aersolized almond flour doesn’t kill him), I have been on a personal mission to create nut-free macarons so he can enjoy their sheer wonderfulness and so I don’t have to plan my baking expeditions around his business trips.  What can I say, I’m smitten with macarons.  Oh, and of course Kettle. 

Pucker up!

I was inspired this week by Brave Tart’s post on “10 macaron myths” especially when I stumbled upon number 4: Even using Almonds.  To be honest, just leaving out the almond flour had never even crossed my mind.  It seems so obvious, but I’ve been tooling around with various bizarre, some successful some not so successful, alternatives (posts to come on these escapades!) when I could have tried leaving it out all together.  Hmm. I love it when the answer is right in front of my nose.

I have zero skills with the pastry bag. It's ugly. Trust me.

The macarons were very fragile!  More so than those made with almond flour. The flavor of both the shell and curd were well received, but the shells were so fragile it made transporting and storing them a real challenge. They looked a little ugly by the time they got to french lunch, but my fellow lunchers had no issues eating them. 

Lovely lemon curd.

Upon discussion of the structural integrity of my macarons with my boss (not kidding, this is how our workplace rolls) we decided that in the absence of almond flour, a substitute is essential to give the macaron the strength to ‘hold up’ the curd/ganache/frosting.  She suggested cream of tartar, but I’m contemplating other options. So back to the lab, er, kitchen I will go to try again.
Overall, there was definitely some success.  The cookies I made look like french macarons, they just need a little tweaking to become french macarons.  The lemon curd was excellent.  In fact I could eat it with a spoon.

Nut-free Lemon Macarons

2+1/2 egg whites (save the yolks for the curd!)
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
food coloring
lemon zest
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly beat in sugar.  Once firm peaks form, add food coloring and lemon zest.  Slowly fold in confectioners sugar.  Pipe 1 inch circles on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake at 250°F for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn temperature up to 375°F and return to oven once temperature is reach.  Bake 6-8 minutes.

Awesome Lemon curd

based on this recipe
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juice, zest, and salt in a bowl that can be used as for a double boiler.  Once well blended,  set bowl on sauce pan of simmering water.  Whisk curd-to-be constantly as it will begin to thicken as it warms up. Heat the mixture to 170-175, but don’ let it boil.  Once temperature is achieved, remove from double boiler and whisk in butter.  Once well blended, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Enjoy!

Cupcake Cones!

I had a pint-sized sous chef in the kitchen with me this weekend, Miss Mini Human, and she wanted to make cupcakes.  But not just any basic cupcakes, specifically cupcake cones.   For those of you unfamiliar with the cupcake cone, they are basically the same as regular cupcakes but awesomer because they are made in ice cream cones instead of cupcake wrappers.  That’s right, edible wrappers!

Frosted and ready to eat.

Miss Mini was in charge of shopping for the project, so she arrived early Saturday morning with Funfetti cake mix, multi-colored ice cream cones, and extra creamy vanilla frosting.  No, you’re right, we didn’t make anything from scratch for this recipe, but sometimes when you are cooking with a pint-sized sous chef, its better to go with a sure thing like Funfetti.

Cake and Ice cream

Now there are still things to learn from this project, besides the fact that kids like sweets and have short attention spans.  The first challenge was how to get the ice cream cones in the oven while they were full of cake batter.

Hot out of the oven

1. Use flat bottom cake cones.

2. Use a cupcake/muffin pan.  Cut out 6 inch x 6 inch squares of tinfoil and lay them over each muffin cup.  Stand the cone in the muffin cup with the tin foil below it and wrap the bottom of the cone with the excess foil to keep in stable.  It basically just needs to be stable long enough to get them in the oven.

3. Fill each cone with about 1/4 cup of batter.  Too much batter and you will have overflow down the sides of the cone.  Too little and you won’t have the cupcake top you need for good frosting.

Overflow happens

Overall, a fun and easy project to share with a little sous chef!

 

Enjoy!


Rosemary Infusion

So the other day I found myself with a handful of left over fresh rosemary sprigs.  They smelled so lovely that I just had to find away to use them.  With limited ingredients on hand to whip up an innovative culinary masterpiece, I turned instead the liquor cabinet. Yep,  I hit the bottle. The vodka bottle in fact.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not a heavy drinker, by I enjoy a good cocktail every now and then.  I decided to drop several sprigs of the rosemary into 200mL of vodka and wait. Patiently. For 4 days.  Each day I gently agitated the bottle and gave it the concoction a good sniff to monitor its development.  By 4 days it smelled wonderful and I was all to eager to try it, but what to do with it?  I needed a savory cocktail option that could build off the strong and fragrant rosemary spirits, but not let them over power it.

Patience is a virtue, and not my favorite one.

In the end I settled on a Rosemary Bloody Mary and it was excellent.  In fact, regular Bloody Mary’s just seem to be lacking now.  The Rosemary vodka gave a new depth to the drink without detracting from all that is classic about the Bloody Mary.  The best part may be the simplicity of it all.  The only thing required besides rosemary and vodka was patience.  I’ll be the first to admit that patience isn’t my strongest quality, but even I could handle this one.

Rosemary Vodka

Add several sprigs of fresh rosemary to 200mL of vodka.  Cap and let sit for 3-5 days.  Agitate daily and monitor infusion by scent.  Once it reaches desired strength, filter through a coffee filter to remove rosemary and sediment.

Cheers!


Happiness is…..

Fresh homemade Pasta.

I got a present in the mail today. Sure, I purchased and sent the present to myself, but it was glorious nonetheless.  After days of stalking its leisurely journey across the country, I arrived home to find the package waiting patiently on my doorstep.  I couldn’t open it fast enough, and at last, it was here.

 

You can almost hear the angels singing.

This is by far the best kitchen purchase I have made in awhile.  Let just say, I will never buy pasta again.  It so easy to make, takes the simplest of ingredients, and tastes fabulous.  If you’ve never made fresh pasta, do it. Trust me.

 

Basic pasta recipe

3/4 cup flour

1 pinch of salt

1 egg

Pile the flour and salt in a little pile on the cutting board and hollow out the center, kind of like a bird’s nest.  Place the egg in the center of the nest, and slowly knead the flour into the egg until full incorporated.  If the dough is too dry, simply add a little water.  If its too sticky (it should not stick to your hands), add a little flour.  The dough should be elastic, but smooth.  Then simply roll it out and cut as desired.  Add to salted boiling water and boil for 4-8 minutes depending on thickness.  Pasta will rise once its done.