Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making gnocchi

A few days ago I started my vegan reloaded with store-bought gnocchi. Today, it was Sunday, I was adventurous and decided to make home-made gnocchi. I cooked 2 large russet potatoes, cooled them, mixed them with flour and an egg and some salt, and for a moment there I felt like an old nana from Italy visited by Tyler Florence with a camera, rolling, pinching and pressing 1000s of little gnocchi bundles to be thrown in a large pot with boiling water waiting to feed a family of 20. I’ve made gnocchi before, many years ago when I knew little about cooking, and all I remember was that it was a complete disaster and I never made them again. But as said, I felt adventurous.

I cooked a few for 4 min and to my great delight they came out perfectly, with a light, fluffy texture and light potato-ey taste (they are really just tiny German dumplings).

Here we go --- home-made gnocchi:

You need
  • 2 russet potatoes (mine came up to 1 pound).
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/3 cup of flour (+ 1-2 TB)
  • 1/2 ts salt
Peel the potatoes, cut them into large chunks and cook for about 30min. Preserve the potato water, remove the potatoes and cool (at least 20min).

Use a foodmill and ‘shred’ the cooked potatoes into a soft mash (see picture below). On a large, washable surface, pour out the mashed potatoes,distribute the flour over it, make a small mound, and crack in the egg.

Use a dough scraper and fold in the flour and egg into the potatoes.
The mass should combine to a nice dough that is not too tacky (if tacky, add more flour).  Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll out each part like a tube about as thick as your thumb. Use the scraper to cut off 1 inch pieces.
Place each gnocchi on a fork and press in it from the backside with your thumb. Take it off and place it on a floured surface.
Now, it is time for cooking. They have to be cooked in batches so that they don’t crowd the pot. Use the preserved potato water for extra flavor. If you poured it out accidentally, just use salted water. Bring water to a boil, and then add a few gnocchi (depending on the size of the pot). At the beginning the gnocchi fall to the bottom of the pot, but rise after 1-2min. However, they taste best when cooked for 4 min.
Serve with a simple butter or cream sauce --- just melt some butter with a bit of salt and some herbs. I had it with a side of green bell pepper and corn with truffle butter.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mushroom ravioli with spicy tomato sauce

I stayed with yesterday’s theme: a spicy anchovy based tomato sauce with baby spinach but with store-bought mushroom ravioli instead of gnocchi. Delightful and luxurious. Not quite vegan but had no time to find mushroom ravioli without cheese or make some myself.


Mushroom ravioli with spicy tomato sauce (1 serving)

  • 3-4 large mushroom ravioli (I used buitoni)
  • 1/3 onion, diced
  • 1 ts olive oli
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 1 cup of fresh or canned  tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • handful baby spinach
  • 2 TB goat cheese crumbles
  • salt to taste
  • In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onion until browned. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant. Add anchovies and melt into the sauce (1-2 Min). Add the tomatoes, baby spinach, ravioli and goat cheese crumbles. Simmer on medium for about 10 min. Serve with some fresh ground pepper.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gnocchi with tomato feta sauce

Well, this is almost vegan, besides  a sliver of feta. Definitely got me out of the vegan rut. Gnocchi, simmered in a flavorful sauce of tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, kalamata olives, baby spinach and garlic.


Gnocchi with tomato feta sauce (1 serving)
  • 1/2 –1 cup gnocchi
  • 1/3 onion, diced
  • 1 ts olive oli
  • 4-5 kalamata olives, quartered
  • 2-3 anchovy filets
  • 1 cup of fresh or canned  tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • handful baby spinach
  • 1/2 inch slice sheep milk feta
  • 2 TB of feta brine (or salt to taste).
In a small hot, heat 1/2 quart of water and heat the gnocchi.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onion until browned. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant. Add anchovies and melt into the sauce (1-2 Min). Add the tomatoes, baby spinach, gnocchi and feta plus brine. Simmer on medium for about 10 min. Serve!

Loosing my vegan mojo

Three years ago I started to eat vegan and I was on a roll: so much new territory of cooking to explore! I made myself 3 cookbooks during the course of the exploration of acquiring vegan cooking skills. Then, it peetered out. I made the same things all over again: some veggies, sauteed, likely with quinoa, sometimes potatoes or rice, always with BBQ sauce.

Now, I realize I felt I had cooked anything possible in vegan, I had made the rounds, there was nothing new to explore, discover and taste again. Loosing the mojo.

The combination space of vegan cooking is slightly reduced if you rule out white flour, desserts, and stick to vegetables, only fresh and frozen, legumes, nuts, herbs, polenta, quinoa, pasta, and spices.

But thanks to the human condition of forgetting, I just need to bring out the cookbooks again, and see what vegan, round 2, means for the kitchen adventures. This is to vegan food, revived.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter berry cake

The winter holidays are the time for fruit cakes, often dried fruit cakes. But with the invention of ice boxes, there is an option of winter frozen  fruit cake. This is one came out really well, especially complimented by its sides of a tangy cinnamon cream cheese frosting with a hot berry compote.


Winter Berry Cake
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 2 sticks  (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
Powder Sugar Frosting (on cake):
  • 1 cup powdered or confections’ sugar
  • 2 TB of milk
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting (as side): (ca 4-6 servings)
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 TB fresh pressed orange juice
Hot berry compote  (as side): (ca 4-6 servings)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 TB red currant jelly (or orange marmelade)
  • 1 TB powdered sugar
  • 1 TB brandy or rum (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray. Set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk or sift 2 1/2 cups flour (leaving 2 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a lower speed, add your eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla, too. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture.   Prepare the berries: if the berries are too big, shortly chop them in a food processor or cut them with a knife into smaller pieces. Also, chop the fresh cranberries in the food processor, rather finely. In the bowl where you’d mixed your dry ingredients, toss the fresh and frozen chopped berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the berries into the cake batter (I actually used the stand mixer, and the cake turned rather pink, which I did not mind).  Plop the cake batter in large spoonfuls into the pan, because it’s so thick — in the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for  60 to 65 minutes. The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter.  Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely.  cake_collage_1  fruit_cake_9 Cake frosting: whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, until smooth. Drip over the cooled cake.  Sides to cake: With a hand mixer, whisk together the cream cheese and its frosting ingredients (powdered sugar, orange zest, orange juice and powder sugar) until fluffy.  In a pan, heat the berries until hot, but not boiling. Add the sugar, jelly and rum (optional), mix to combine and keep warm until serving.  fruit_cake_7 fruit_cake_10

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas care packet from home

It is the time of the year when you get care packets from your relatives, in my case a care packet contains lebkuchen, zimtsterne, and vanillekipfel, typical German cookies around the holidays. And it also contained German dumplings. I immediately had to make one for dinner. Normally, there would be gravy, but BBQ sauce is a perfect pairing.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving for 1

Last year was a big feast, this year I felt like a low-key affair. Dinner for one, peace and quiet. Turkey legs are quite inexpensive, $3 for 2 since everyone wants the turkey breast, and I like dark meat better than white anyhow.  This is a simple, quick Thanksgiving meal with all the necessities; turkey, root vegetables, gravy, good smells, it is all done in pot and takes about 1 1/2 hours in the oven. Plenty good. And plenty of leftovers.


Thanksgiving for 1 (or 2) with beets, carrots and potatoes
  • 2 beets, peeled
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 regular sized russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 turkey legs, unfrozen
  • salt, pepper, herbs des Provence
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 oven proof casserole
Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the vegetables in large chunks and distributed on the bottom of the casserole. Season with salt, pepper and herbs des Provence. Wash the turkey, put dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and herbs the Provence. Place in the oven with a lid (or cover with aluminum foil) for 20 min. Remove lid/cover and bake for 1h or until thermometer inserted at thick part of turkey leg reads 185F. --- Serve vegetables with slices of turkey.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shaved Brussels sprouts with peas, beans and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette

In the  Mood for Love. Anyone seen this movie? I’ve watched it many, many times, drawing me into 1960s Hong Kong, tiny apartments, stylish clothes, unhappy people. But I am not in the mood for love, but thanksgiving! Today, I checked my freezer if I still have some frozen turkey legs and found a stash of expensive, local hand-made pasta, sold at Whole Foods. Sage pumpkin pasta became the heart of dinner. A side of roasted squash, and a shaved brussel sprout side with peas, beans, pomegrante molasses dressing and fresh pomegranate seeds. Feels like Thanksgiving already.


Shaved Brussels Sprouts with peas, beans and pomegranate molasses (1 serving)
  • ca 10 fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 TB cooked beans
  • 1/2 TB roasted pumpkin seed oil (or grapeseed oil)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh pomegranate seeds
For pomegranate molasses vinaigrette: (ca. 3 servings)
  • 2 TB pomegranate molasses
  • 1 TB maple syrup
  • 1/2 TB mustard
  • 1 TB olive oil
In a hot skillet heat the olive oil and shave the Brussels sprouts with a mandoline directly into the pan. Add the peas and beans, and stir until the Brussels sprouts are slightly browned and the peas and beans heated. Season with salt. Serve with fresh pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette.

Thanksgiving week

Things slow down this week, less work, more cozying up the house, laying low, saving the energy for the Thanksgiving feast and the black friday shopping bonanza. Last weekend was a late in the season trip to Belfast. Chase’s Daily still sells produce, mostly squash, potatoes, leeks, a few brussels, and flower bulbs. This time we added a beer tasting at the Marshall Wharf.













Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spanish wedding soup

When I saw photos of this soup…. I knew I had to make it --- a soup with pomegranate seeds (and meatballs)? Sign me up. Unfortunately, my photos looks less attractive than the originals so I give you both. The soup, however, very tasty as expected. A simple soup with leeks, rice, lentils, peas, baby spinach in broth with aromatic meatballs made with coriander and a dash of cinnamon. To let the meatballs flavor the soup, I plunged them in the soup directly instead of frying them ahead of time (frying them ahead of time, however, keeps the soup clear). I think both options work really well. The soup is a recipe from Spain; it resembles mostly what is in the US known as “Italian wedding soup”, but the original name is not Spanish wedding soup but Sopa de Granada…

Spanish Wedding Soup (make 4 servings)
For soup:
  • 1oo g fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 leek stalk, cleaned, green and white parts, sliced in thin rings
  • 1 small, white onion, peeled, and chopped
  • 50 g red or yellow lentils
  • 50 g white rice
  • 1 1/2 quarts water (or broth)
  • kernels of 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • juice of 1 lemon or 1 bitter orange
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground fresh pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt
  • olive oil (for frying if you fry them)
Meatballs: mix the ground beef with cinnamon, coriander, pepper and a dash of salt and the egg (I used a fork to mix it up). Form small meatballs and either heat olive oil and fry them, or set them aside.
Soup: in a large heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onion until translucent. Add the rice, and water (or broth) and cook for 15min on medium heat. Now, add the lentils and leeks (and meatballs if you want to add them raw), cover with a lid and cook for another 10 min. Now, add the pomegranate juice, kernels, baby spinach and frozen peas, and cook another 3 minutes. Flavor soup with salt (if not using broth), and lemon or bitter orange juice.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spicy corn muffins with feta and smoked paprika (GF)

I am a big fan of savory muffins like the cherry tomato basil feta muffins or the butternut squash baby spinach feta muffins. This muffin recipe is a different type --- it is based on corn meal and the texture is similar to cornbread but the single serve portions of individual corn muffins with some smoked paprika, roasted corn kernels and feta cheese are perfect for the fall season, a side for chilis, or to bring for a  Thanksgiving dinner.

Ps. make sure to only use local, farmers market organic, non-GMO corn and corn meal.


Spicy corn muffins (makes 12 muffins): (glutenfree)
  • 1 1/2cup stone-ground or yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup low fat kefir and 1/2 cup 1% milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick of butter, melted  (4oz)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, roasted
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 hot chili pepper, cut into very small pieces
  • handful of baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of feta, cut into dice (or use shredded cheddar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin.  
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment or aluminum foil. Spread a cup of thawed frozen corn kernels on it. Roast in oven until browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while mixing batter.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter. With a standmixer, mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the roasted corn, feta, smoked paprika, feta and baby spinach. Stir to blend.
  4. Use an ice cream scoop to fill each muffin cup to the top. Bake until perfectly risen and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cool for a few minutes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Angel hair puttanesca

Puttanesca means… lady of the night in Italian, so angel hair(ed) puttanesca seems like a very special lady of the night (or street). Anyway, it was the perfect dinner for tonight: a cup of ready made tomato pasta sauce, some sliced (cocktail) olives, capers, fresh grated garlic, a dash of anchovy fish sauce and some fresh rosemary from the summer pot for good measure and the ultra fast cooking angel hair pasta. Done.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turkey month

November is the month I get into serious mood for turkey. Not just Thanksgiving turkey, but turkey burgers, turkey breast, turkey gravy. Ah! Just to make sure I will get my share of Thanksgiving turkey. By the time Thanksgiving comes around, I am typically already over turkey.

I bought a package of fresh ground turkey meat, 93% lean, used about a 1/3 cup and mixed it up with bread crumbs, a peanut ginger bbq sauce, some hot sauce, salt and it was ready for frying. Turkey meat has a rather bland flavor and can easily be dry, but this combination was juicy, flavorful and a fabulous ‘burger’, with rice, baked parsnip fries and a tiny cauliflower.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roasted sweet potato, leek and celeriac soup

Yesterday I went back to the place I seem to go often: Chase’s Daily, for its excellent food. Roasted beet salad anyone? Since Chase’s dishes are seasonal, the soup has been sweet potato and leek for a few weeks.
This is a surprisingly elegant and flavorful, subtle soup. There are different possibilities to prepare this soup: roast the sweet potato first and use the leek raw in the soup (a perfect balance of sweet and tangy), use both sweet potato and leek raw (a more tangy, light soup), or roast both leeks and sweet potatoes first (a soup with a sweet depth). Leeks have a definite onion-y tang and balance out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Anyone who has bbq-ed leeks knows that they become vegetable candy sticks once they are roasted with a very mild onion tone.
For this soup, I roasted both the sweet potato and the leeks, and added a small piece of celeriac raw. The soup cooked for 20 min in home-made chicken stock and a cup of milk. The flavor was rounded out by salt, garlic and cumin. When  I had a similar soup at Chase’s Daily the other day, it was served with melted gruyere, which was fabulous.
Sweet potato, leek and celeriac soup
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut in large chunks
  • 2 leek stalk, half of the green parts discarded, rest washed and cut into 7 inch parts
  • 6 oz celeriac (root), peeled, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1 shallot, peeled, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 TB bouillon
  • 1/2 TB cumin
Serve with melted grueyere.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the sweet potatoes and leeks on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 min (or leeks slightly charred).
Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom pot, melt the butter and saute the shallot until translucent. Add the celeriac root and slightly saute. Add the garlic and saute the mix until fragrant. Take off the stove.
Once the sweet potatoes and leeks are roasted, add them to the soup pot. Put back on medium heat, slightly saute, and add the chicken stock, milk, bouillon and cumin. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a soft simmer. Simmer for about 20min. With an immersion blender, bring the soup to a smooth consistency.
Add some fresh  grated garlic. Serve with grilled bread and melted Grueyere.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beatnik juice

After one week of eating grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, rice soups, and baked potatoes, I was ready to add fresh veggies back to my diet. I had started to feel that all that processed, squishy white bread was not making me feel any healthier/energized, and I decided although I am on a restricted diet I have to make a healthier version out of it: cook my own food, fresh, flavorful soups, simple ingredients, organic sources, and eat food that I can support again, philosophically. No more squishy white bread, not even when toasted with Sargento cheese. Today, I got the juicer out.

A few carrots, a beet that turned out to be an albino on the inside, a piece of ginger and 2 apples from the farmers market. Much better.