Gnudi – Done well this time

DSC_0609

So you may or may not remember the first time I made gnudi and it was a spectacular failure because I didn’t add flour. After all my hard work getting the water out of the cheese and the spinach and making all the tiny balls of ricotta yumminess I watched in horror as they disintegrated about 2 seconds after hitting the boiling water. I managed to salvage the remaining batter, freeze it, and then use it as ravioli filling, so not a complete failure I guess. I have poked around online and seen the errors of my ways – needing flour – but haven’t come across a compelling recipe until now. I have recently stumbled upon the Delicious Days blog which had this outstandingly easy recipe for gnudi (or ricotta gnocchi) and I tried it out yesterday. I am so freaking excited because not only was this easy but it was FAST too and something that can be modified in many ways to produce light pillows of ricotta fabulousness. Here is the recipe converted into US measure for those of you that don’t have a kitchen scale:

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup flour + a little extra for flouring work surface

1/3 cup parmesan

1 egg yolk

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (I added this for extra flavor

I followed the recipe as outlined on the DD blog, so I highly recommend having a read through there first. I combined the ricotta, with the excess water poured out (but no need to wrap it in cheesecloth and drain), with the egg yolk, cheese, salt and parmesan. Stir well so all ingredients are combined. You should start your pot of salted water boiling so it is ready to go before you add the flour.

Add the flour and just stir enough so it is combined but do not try to knead it. The dough will be somewhat wet and sticky but should stick together just fine. Take a large spoonful and place it onto your floured work surface. Roll it out into a long finger-like roll and then cut into bit sized pieces like so:

DSC_0605

Make sure you flour the surface you set them on so they are easy to remove. Once you have cut them all – and it’s important to time this well – put them right into the boiling water. Give it a stir, and watch them float to the top. It took about 3 minutes for them all to float up. Remove with a slotted spoon and add your favorite sauce. I made a crudo tomato sauce using the following ingredients:

1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 leaves of fresh basil

Take the garlic and cut it into smallish pieces, and saute it in the olive oil until it is light brown. Turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes to a bowl, pour over the hot oil and garlic, chopped basil and a pinch of salt to taste. Allow this mix to sit for about an hour or so – this allows the flavors to mingle. I placed the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute to heat it up before adding the gnudi.

DSC_0604

Advertisements

Garden Update – #6 – Roses!

DSC_0576

This is when all of our hard work starts to pay off. Above is a photo of our climbing rose bush, which is one of the many reasons why we fell in love with this condo. It was nearing the end of it’s blooms last year when we moved in, and I decided to take a chance and prune it back for the fall. It definitely paid off! I was nervous about pruning it, since I haven’t done that ever before (except maybe on some bonsai plants that I have killed off fairly quickly) but it worked very well. The rose bush is full of blooms. We’ve also had to battle aphids and some white mold on the bush this year but so far so good.

And I am happy to report that for the most part, our tomato plants are starting to take off. One of them got mauled by an unknown force (I am guessing it was a squirrel since there was also a lot of dirt moved about in our pots) but otherwise they are finally going from skinny waify things to full on tomato plants. They’re not as big as the 4 we purchased but they’re catching up:

DSC_0578

DSC_0585DSC_0588

Today the tomato cages are going up before these guys get any bigger.

The herbs in the garden box are doing great, in fact, we’ve been using the basil already and soon we might be able to start using the parsley which makes me very happy. The chard and beets are also taking off:

DSC_0582DSC_0584
DSC_0583

Lastly, we were finally able to purchase a composting bin from our city (they are always out of them as each time they get some in, they sell out in 24 hours) which is self contained, relatively well sized for our lack of yard space and so far does not emit any noxious fumes or bugginess. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be better for next year, though maybe in a few months we’ll get some usable compost:

DSC_0586

Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad

dsc_04632

As I mentioned in my last (super fast) post, we’ve been entertaining my parents and my in-laws at our condo over the last few days so finding time to take photos and post wasn’t happening. I do have to give a big huge shout out to my parents who celebrated 40 years of marriage yesterday, a feat which is really truly amazing and inspiring, especially as my husband and I close in on our first anniversary together. So in honor of the parents (the in-laws hit the 40-year milestone next year!) we invited some friends over for a big backyard BBQ, complete with ribs n’ chicken and a few eclectic side dishes. We have a variety of eaters amongst our friends and family: vegetarian, wheat allergen, red pepper allergen, no-carb/low-carb, etc, so I always try to make a good variety of items so everyone has at least 2-3 things they can eat. I lucked out in that my mom brought some home-roasted “sun-dried” tomatoes, packed in olive oil which were super tasty and sweet. I added them to the salad for a little extra flavor.

This salad, which is outstanding in the summer when you can get sun-riped tomatoes and fresh corn, is an easy side dish, popular amongst the friends, and offends almost no one, so it’s almost a regular item for these kinds of events:

1 large bag of frozen sweet corn 

1 medium red onion, sliced thin

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

handful fresh parsley, chopped (cilantro works great too)

5-6 fresh chives, chopped (feel free to toss in other favorite herbs, mint is nice)

2-3 nice, ripe tomatoes (Costco has some and sometimes Trader Joes)

6-7 soft sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil, not the dry variety)

generous pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 375 (385 if it doesn’t get hot enough). Take a piece of tin foil and line a large cookie sheet with it. Toss the corn (still frozen), the onion slices, a pinch of salt and the olive oil and spread out on the cookie sheet in a thin layer. When the oven is hot, insert the corn mix and bake until it starts to get brown around the edges. You’ll have to stir it every so often so it doesn’t burn. Not all the corn will get brown, but you want to make sure the onions start to soften. 

Once the corn is done, take it out of the oven and place it in a large bowl. Allow it to cool down while you chop the other ingredients. Once the corn is cooled down a bit, add the chopped tomatoes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs and toss to combine. You may want to taste for salt again just to make sure all the flavor is there.

This dish tastes better if it sits for a little while, and you can leave it out on the counter for an hour or two (covered) while the flavors mingle.

A New Spin On Spaghetti & Meatballs

dsc_0438

If you are anything like me, you are participating in the annual cliche of dreading the onset of summer bathing suit season. I’ve been working out more, running, spin class, weights, etc, all in an effort to combat the ever increasing size of my bum. Actually, one of the reasons for writing this blog is to help me catalogue what I’m eating so that I can 1. force myself to be more creative and varied with my diet and 2. find new and imrpoved recipes 3. have a history of recipes and eating habits. I guess it’s my equivalent of having a diary.

 That being said, I’ve never been one for crazy diets (if you check out the carb category on this post you’ll see that I’d never survive a low-carb diet) or really restrictive eating. Instead, I’m opting for trying to update a few favorites to be a little more diet-friendly and here is one of my experiments: Brown rice pasta with turkey meatballs in a chunky tomato sauce. I like the brown rice pasta a whole heck of a lot more than whole wheat pasta. It takes slightly longer to cook but otherwise, it’s actually not bad. I have been using the Trader Joes brand and I am so far very happy with it. The meatballs are baked, not fried, which is my preferred method for making traditional beef meatballs. Here is the recipe for the turkey meatballs and the sauce:

Turkey Meatballs

1 lb ground turkey (don’t use white meat turkey, it wll be too dry)

3 teaspoons of non-fat greek yogurt

1 egg

3 teaspoons of chopped parsley

3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan (cheese is good for you!)

1 pinch of salt

1 small clove of garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hand. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (I use olive oil spray). Roll the mix into meatballs, placing each on the cookie sheet about an inch or so apart. Once the oven is heated, place the meatballs in and cook for about 30 minutes, until the meatballs are nicely browned all over:

dsc_0437

While the meatballs are baking, you can start the pasta water and the sauce. The following is the recipe for chunky tomato sauce. It makes a light tomato sauce, with the leeks adding a mellow sweetness to the flavor:

1 can whole plum tomatoes

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 leek, white portion sliced thinly

1 pinch dried basil (3-4 fresh leaves)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Open the can of tomato, and carefully crush the tomato with your hands – this is messy so you may want to pour out the tomatoes and juice into a large bowl before you start to crush them. It’s easy to squirt the tomato juice all over so squeeze them slowly! Place the olive oil, garlic and leeks in a sauce pan on medium high heat and saute until the leeks are lightly browned – stir frequently. Once the leeks are lightly browned, add the tomatoes & juice, basil and a pinch of salt. Allow the tomatoes to simmer while the pasta cooks. 

Some notes:

1. The meatballs can be made in advance and frozen. If you do bake & freeze them in advance, once they are thawed out, add them to the sauce to warm through while you cook the pasta

2. I used breadcrumbs with the meatballs but you could easily use 1-2 slices of white bread. If you use the whole slices of bread, soak them in a little milk and forgo the yogurt in the recipe

3. If you prefer, you could use cilantro instead of parsley for a nice fresh flavor in the meatball recipe

Random Bag Night – Eggplant Surprise, er, something….

dsc_0399

This one is definitely putting the “random” in Random Bag Night. This post should be caveatted by the fact that 1. I had the lovely stomach virus last week and I’m *still* not quite right and 2. thanks to the glorious airlines and weather, we got home at 1am last night and I’m therefore completely exhausted. On the upside, it’s easy, it helps clear the pantry, it could be a side or a main (add pasta to it and make it a meal!). I grabbed some pork chops and an eggplant on the way home and the following is what resulted from the eggplant:

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into large chunks

1 can artichoke hearts, quartered

1 can kidney beans

1 can (small) of diced tomatoes

1 onion, sliced

1 small clove of garlic, minced

handful of mushrooms, quartered (I used baby bellas)

1/2 cup white wine

1 pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you want heat)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons of minced parsley

Salt to taste

Place the olive oil and onions into a large (deep) saucepan on low heat and saute until the onions are soft (maybe 7-8 minutes). Add garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add eggplant, mushrooms, beans, and artichoke hearts. Continue to stir, and add a pinch of salt. Allow to saute for 1 minute or so. Turn heat up to medium high, add tomatoes, with juice, and white wine. Cover the pot, and allow the mixture to simmer on medium heat for a while – will take maybe 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to soften and the flavors to mingle. Life the lid and stir occasionally. Once 15 – 20 minutes have passed, lift lid, add parsley and continue to allow simmer. Taste for seasonings, add salt as needed. Should take another 5-6 minutes with the lid off and everything should be nicely softened.

Random Bag Night – Pasta with Tuna & Olives

dsc_0258

Yesterday was definitely inspired by the sea. My husband and I set out to run some errands in the gloriously warm weather. We headed over to the Inman Square area of Cambridge to check out some potential gifts to take to London with us this week (vacation !!) and while we were over there, my husband mentioned that he had been wanting to check out a good seafood vendor he’d heard about. We have been looking for a place to get good fresh seafood for a while. The stuff you get at Shaws and even Whole Foods is kind of meh, so boy were we excited when we entered the New Deal Seafood shop (www.newdealfishmarket.com). The staff is super friendly (seemed like there were a lot of regulars there) and extremely knowledgeable, offering tips on how to prepare their various seafood offerings. In addition, the selection was the best I have seen in the area so far in terms of freshness and variety. After debating the many options we had and convincing ourselves we didn’t have to try EVERYTHING this time, we picked up a whole red snapper and several fresh sardines. I’ll have the results of those recipes in the next post.

After we got home, we were starving so for lunch I made a quick tuna & olive pasta sauce. I don’t make this one too often, but it is tasty every now and again and we happened to have all the items in the pantry so it was easy to throw together. The cat LOVES this dish because he usually gets a little piece of tuna to nosh on while I cook. This makes enough for 2 people:

1 can tuna, preferably packed in olive oil

2/3 can of tomatoes, lightly crushed

Handful black olives, I used oil cured but Kalamata would be great too

2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 pound of linguine

Start your pasta water. In the meantime, for the sauce, place the olive oil including any excess oil from the tuna can and garlic in a pan on medium heat and let the garlic get lightly browned. Once garlic is lightly browned, add tuna and give a quick stir. Add tomato and simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes are nice and bubbly. Turn heat to low, add olives and parsley and a pinch of salt to taste.

dsc_0256

The sauce will be done when the pasta is ready. Cook the linguine until it is al dente, and then add it directly to the pan. I don’t usually add any cheese to this dish but you can feel free to do so.  Also, you could add a little white wine in the beginning just make sure you let the sauce simmer a little longer to let some of the alcohol burn off.

Random Bag Night – Pasta with Chickpeas

dsc_0246

Today was our last ski day of the season, ironically ahead of a huge snowstorm moving in tonight…  But I digress…

It was another reach-into-the-cabinet-and-surprise! type of meal tonight. We had a hankering for pasta, and to health it up a little I am adding chickpeas (though very offset by the presence of pancetta in the pan… ). Here is the recipe:

1/2 lb short pasta (I used whole wheat rotelle)

1 16oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 16oz can diced tomato

1/2 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped pancetta

1/4 cup dry white wine

8-9  black oil-cured olives

3 cloves of garlic, slightly smashed but still in large chunks

1 sprig of thyme

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

A quick note – You’ll see i said “slightly smashed garlic” – which is something that you achieve by laying the side of your knife on top of a garlic clove, and VERY CAREFULLY applying pressure with your hand to smash the clove. This makes the garlic much easier to peel, and it releases the garlic flavoring while leaving you with a large enough chunk to fish out. I almost always do my garlic this way because I love the flavor but don’t like to ingest a lot of actual garlic clove – nothing says “mmm pretty” like a nice garlic belch, eh?

This one is pretty simple, I like to start the sauce a little before I turn the heat on under the pasta water. Place the olive oil in a saucepan and turn on to medium heat. Add onion and pancetta, stirring regularly to avoid burning the onion but not so often that there isn’t any carmelization. Once the onion has started to soften a little, add the garlic and thyme sprig and continue to stir.

dsc_0241

After about 5 or 6 minutes, the onions should be pretty soft with hopefully a little bit of brown bits starting to form at the bottom of the pan. At that point, add chickpeas and stir. Allow to cook for about 1 minute, then add wine and a pinch of salt. Allow the wine to simmer off a touch before adding the tomatoes (maybe a minute) and olives. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir on occasion.

Once your pasta is done the sauce should be ready. Drain the pasta and toss with some sauce. Garnish with grated cheese of your choice.

dsc_0244