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.