Random Bag Night – Gut Buster Mashed Potatoes

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I’ve been a slacker on the cooking front this last week since I was out or away almost every night. Thankfully, my husband, who seems to be cooking a lot more than me lately, has been busy in the kitchen cleaning out what is in our fridge. Above you can see last night’s dinner creation – I’d love to give you the recipe for the pork concoction on the right but I wasn’t present when it was made and my hub couldn’t tell me what all went in. You can see, however, from the pic that it included some dried chestnuts (another Asian grocery store score), some pork butt, and some dried mushrooms.  What I could get out of him, as far as recipes go, is an insanely good and so not good for you mashed potato recipe that I can say was truly magical. Put on your elastic waistbands and here you go:

3 Lbs small red potatoes with skins on, cleaned and cut into 4s

1/2 stick salted butter

1/2 cup of Half n Half (you could use cream as well but we never keep that in the house)

4 oz blue cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes and add them to a large pot of water, and allow the whole thing to come to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are soft (poke them with a fork and if they fall right off they are done) – probably at least 15 minutes of simmering. Drain the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Add the cream and butter and a generous pinch of salt (and pepper if you like it). Use a hand mashed to smash the potatoes, skins and all, and incorporate the cream and melty butter. Once reasonablly well mashed, crumble blue cheese into the mix, taste for seasoning & adjust for salt & pepper. Stir to combine the blue cheese into the potatoes.

Yeah, my pants are tight but my belly is oh so happy.

Gnudi – A spectacular failure

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For Christmas this year I received a veritable culinary bible: The Silver Spoon Cookbook by Phaidon. I’ve been salivating over the many delicious recipes in there and today was my first chance to test one out.

My husband and I had the whole day at home – starting with the bread he made – and I thought I would start working up the courage to attempt gnocchi by taking what I thought would be an excellent intermediate step: gnudi.  If you’ve never had gnudi, it is essentially the filling of a ravioli made into little dumplings, and it is light and unbelievably tasty when served with a nice ragu (or just with butter and cheese). I’ve only ever had it in Italian restaurants and after snickering (it is pronounced with a silent G – “nudie”) I have thoroughly enjoyed them.

Naturally I started with the cookbook’s recipe which serves 4:

2.5 pounds of spinach (I used 2 10 oz bags)

1.5 cups ricotta

2 tablespoons of parmesan

2 egg yolks

All purpose flour for dusting

salt & pepper

Saute spinach in a pan with just the water on the leaves after you wash them (so just enough to help wilt the spinach) until it is fully wilted. Transfer to a sieve and let as much water drain out of it as possible. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I ended up wrapping it in cheesecloth and squeezing the crap out of it. Then, take the spinach, chop it and place it in a bowl. Add the ricotta – which I also allowed to drain for about 15 minutes – parmesan, egg yolks (lightly beaten), salt and pepper to taste. You are supposed to form small dumplings (see photo above) and dust them with flour.

Everything was going so well… and then…

I started a pot of salted water on the stove and when it reached a rolling boil, I dropped my little dumplings into the water. Took about, oh, 5 seconds for them to disintegrate and all the spinach to float to the top. GRRRR ! So, I am at a loss at the moment for how to fix them and better hold things together …. any and all suggestions are welcome. Maybe I could freeze them? Add more egg? More ricotta? More flour?  imported I-talian grandmother?

Update on no-Knead Bread recipe

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I know that the no-Knead Bread recipe posted by Mark Bittman on the NYTimes website has been a big hit, not only because it is easy but because it is also AWESOME. Here is the link in case you haven’t checked it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=1 

Today my hubby attempted two variations on the original recipe. The first, pictured above, is the whole grain loaf made with the following ingredients added to the basic dough recipe:

1/4 cup steel oats

1/4 cup mix of sesame seeds (toasted), sunflower seeds, bulger wheat, lightly crushed

Place all the grains above into a bowl with boiling water and allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain well – important to get as much water out as possible – with a sieve and incorporate into original dough recipe.

The second variation is a rosemary lemon loaf, pictured below:

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For the rosemary lemon variation add the following to the basic dough recipe:

3 tablespoons dried rosemary

zest of 3 lemons

Both turned out exceptionally well, with the rosemary in the second loaf being quite strong, so you may want to scale back a little for your first try.

Enjoy!

Random Bag Night (morning) – The Anti-Omlet Egg Breakfast

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My husband is baking bread again (the no-knead recipe posted here: https://theripetomato.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/mark-bittmans-no-knead-bread-recipe/  – only this time he is making two flavors = whole grain and lemon rosemary. I’ll post some photos of the finished product once we have it. In the meantime, I offered to make some breakfast since he was working so hard to make the awesome crusty bread I love. He requested an omlet (I am decidedly not an omlet fan – something about the spongy quality of the egg puts me off) however with just 2 eggs left in the fridge an omlet for 2 wasn’t going to happen. So I foraged around in our fridge for ideas and here is what we came up with:

2 eggs

1 small pad of butter

1/4 of an onion, sliced thin

3 tablespoons chopped pancetta

1 tablepoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tomato chopped

2 heaping tablepoons shredded cheese (cheddar)

smidge of olive oil

salt & pepper

Favorite carb of choice – we split an everything bagel

In a small saucepan, add onions and pancetta and a tiny dollop of olive oil on medium to low heat and saute until pancetta starts to get a little brown and the onions are soft. Once the pancetta and onion are looking good, add tomato and parsley and a small pinch of salt.  Turn up heat under another saucepan and add the butter. Let it melt and add the eggs to fry. Once the eggs are fried to your particular liking (we did over-medium) add the cheese. Top the toasted half of bagel (or whatever bread you like) with the cheesy egg and then top with tomato-onion-pancetta mix and enjoy!

Planning for the Future…

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This is the first weekend my husband and I have both been home together in almost 5 weeks and we decided to take full advantage of it and scratch the spring fever itch by starting our summer garden. We started growing tomatoes together 2 years ago, the first summer that we lived together, and we had 4 enormous tomato plants plus basil, mint and cilantro. The garden has escalated ever since. This will be the 3rd growing season for us as a couple and this year we’ve got 3 kinds of tomatoes seeded (Tumbler, Early & Often and Big Mama!) and we’re expanding to try beets, swiss chard, jalapenos, chives and parsley. Plus we will have basil, mint and rosemary going as well. We’re hopeful that this, along with signing up for a farm share of produce, will be fodder for many excellent meals and posts this summer. We’re also going to attempt to compost for the first time with a compost bin our city provides (if you live in Somerville, I believe there is just a nominal fee for it!). Almost all of our growing is done in pots on our porch and along the side of the condo. It’s probably a good thing we live in a condo in a reasonably urban area, otherwise we’d be overwhelmed and overgrown with planting options…..

Stewed Chicken and Stuffed Artichokes, a collaboration

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It’s been a long week, and I don’t know about all of you but I am tired of the gloom and doom media sky-is-falling-it’ll-be-winter-forever feeling that seems to be in the air these days. Trying my hardest to look on the bright side and one thing that’s been positive about the economy is that both myself and my husband are cooking more (instead of going out) and tonight, we made dinner together which was  a really nice treat.  A little wine, a little cooking, and all of the heaviness of the workday seems to slip away, at least for tonight. Two recipes resulted from tonight’s collaborative dinner effort, the first is from my husband – he is responsible for the delicious chicken concoction pictured above. Here is the recipe:

3.5 lbs of chicken legs & thighs

1 can crushed tomato

1/2 container of mushrooms (6 oz)

1 cup nicoise olives

3 tablespoons rosemary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup white wine

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

salt & pepper to taste

Place olive oil in a large heavy sauce pan on medium-high heat, add garlic. Add chicken to the pan (you might have to do this in more than one batch) and brown on each side. Take chicken out and set aside. De-glaze pan with white wine, add tomato, mushrooms, olives and chicken (with juices from plate). Add rosemary and salt & pepper to taste, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, covered. When almost ready to serve, add parsley.

Delicious!

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For my part of the bargain, I found some really inexpensive and nice-looking artichokes at Trader Joe’s last night and I decided to stuff them with some of the leftover breadcrumbs from last night’s pasta dish plus a few additions. The following is the recipe:

4 artichokes – these were fairly small – stems removed and cut in half

2 cups chicken broth – I like the free range boxed stuff from the supermarket

Juice of 2 lemons

Take the artichoke halves, place in a sauce pan with broth and lemon juice and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Once they are done, remove the artichoke halves, but do not discard the broth.

1/2 onion

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup of toasted breadcrumbs – mine had some garlic and pancetta added in (see yesterday’s post on breadcrumb pasta)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

Take the onion, slice it, and add it to the broth in the saucepan along with the white wine. Turn heat to medium low and allow the broth to reheat while you stuff the artichokes. To stuff the artichokes, mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and parsley and olive oil. Take a spoon and gently spoon mixture between the leaves. I spooned it into every other layer – you can add as much or as little as you like. Once all the artichoke halves are stuffed, gently place them as upright as possible along the sides of the saucepan. Cover and reduce to a simmer, allow to simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Anchovies and Breadcrumbs – A Batali experiment

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I keep reading about pasta with breadcrumbs, and I don’t know why really, but it totally appeals to my inner carb-loading monster. Of course, thumbing through Gourmet Magazine a month or two ago I see a recipe like this and it’s been in the back of my mind as something to try out, but today I got onto Epicurious at work and couldn’t find a suitable recipe. So I popped over to FoodNetwork.com and grabbed this little gem from Mario Batali: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/spaghetti-with-caramelized-onions-anchovies-and-toasted-bread-crumbs-recipe/index.html and thought I would give it a try.

I didn’t follow it to the letter (doh!), so here is the recipe, in steps, with my little changes, in a quantity that would serve 2 or 3 people. I’ll be honest and say this wasn’t what I had 100% hoped for, I think it needs a little work on the flavor. I am posting it here in the hopes people might have comments on how to adjust it:

Caramelized Onions:

1 Large Onion, cut into chunks

3 tablepoons olive oil

tiny pinch of salt

This part I followed to the letter except I only used 1 onion. I cut the onion into chunks and sauteed it on medium low heat in the olive oil until it was nice and brown, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

Breadcrumbs:

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic, sliced really thin

1/4 cup diced pancetta

1 tablespoon olive oil

This was my own improv here. The Batali recipe calls for 1 cup of toasted plain breadcrumbs – way way too much for just a couple servings. I saw pancetta in the store and said HELLO! and so I decided to add some extra flavor by sauteing the garlic and pancetta in the olive oil until they start to brown, add the breadcrumbs and toast until medium brown (maybe 5 minutes), stirring on occasion so nothing burns. Remove and set aside.

Rest of the Sauce

1 tin of Anchovies

1/4 cup white wine

4 cloves garlic, sliced really thin

1/2 lemon

1/2 pound of peeled cleaned shrimp

1 handful chopped fresh parsley

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

4-5 tablespoons of olive oil

Once your pasta water starts to boil and you add your pasta, you are ready to start the sauce. Turn the heat under your sauce pan to high. Add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir often until garlic just starts to get brown. This will happen very quickly. Add Anchovies and stir for 1 minute. Add shrimp, wine and juice from 1/2 lemon. Saute until shrimp start to turn light pink. Add caramelized onions to the pan and the parsley. At this point your pasta should be about cooked – we used spaghetti. Add pasta straight from the water into the sauce and stir to coat. Divide pasta among your bowls and sprinkle with breadcrumb mix. Be careful not to use too much (I did!) – a light coating is probably about right – and you may want to add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to the bowl to make sure the sauce isn’t too dry.

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