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Archive for the ‘flour’ Tag


fried gnocchi.

I’m not a liar, I promise. I know that in my croquetas post I mentioned that I hated frying, and I do, but I couldn’t pass this up. Last week I made about 200 gnocchi for A Taste of the Mediterranean; after photographing them, I boiled a quick batch for dinner with some leftover pesto and stashed the remaining 180 in my freezer, in individual servings. 

mise en place

The idea for this snack came to me last Thursday at around midnight while studying for my Arabic exam the following day. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know this is not my first craving this week. For some reason, probably having to do with the endless hours I spend studying Arabic grammar, I’ve been craving everything from oatmeal raisin cookies, dates (the edible kinds), to tatter tots. I stopped conjugating irregular verbs for a second and thought about frying up some of the gnocchi I had in my freezer, but I didn’t. Instead I continued conjugating and waited until right after my test Friday afternoon to fulfill my craving. As you could tell from the mise en place photo though, I knew that one bag wasn’t going to be enough that afternoon.

they puff up like pillows

Once you start to plop the gnocchi into the hot oil they immediately begin to puff up like pillows. Fight the urge to nudge them around and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful, golden-brown nuggets of Italian deliciousness. As is my advice with all fried foods, also resist the urge to bite into the ones fresh out of the oil. I, of course, didn’t follow my own advice (again) and am typing this post with a slight tingly pain at the tip of my tongue.

fried gnocchi

I was in no mood to go shopping or do extra cooking after my exam, so I opted for store-bought tomato sauce my roommate (who recently found out she is allergic to tomatoes) had in the fridge. Another sauce that would probably go well with these is the saffron aioli I made back in the day.

Fried Gnocchi

yields approx 4-6 appetizer servings

Components

  • 48 gnocchi
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for frying
  • tomato sauce

Putting them all together

  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan (preferably cast iron) to 350-375 degrees F.*
  2. Fry the fresh or frozen gnocchi in small batches until golden brown on both sides.
  3. Move to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  4. Season with some salt, if necessary.
  5. Serve along side tomato sauce or saffron aioli

note: If you don’t have a thermometer and want to know if your oil is hot enough, stick the back end of a wooden spoon into the oil – if bubbles start to form on the spoon, your oil is ready for frying.

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dunk in dipping sauce of choice

edible italian clouds

I was able to wear a short sleeve shirt today without turning blue. It was bittersweet, however, because it made me realize that I’ve been remiss in blogging lately. Time does fly, but the truth is I started taking grad classes this semester and have literally been surviving off of cereal and my frozen batches of pastitsio that were supposedly reserved for “emergencies”. The pastitsio entries for A Taste of the Mediterranean were always a treat to read and an excuse for me to take a break from studying. So, to those who partook in lowering my gpa preserving my sanity, thank you. I’m happy to announce that the winner for February’s ATOM challenge is Joie de Vivre with her Lamb Pastitsio post! Make sure to check out all the creative pastitsio entries that were submitted, here.

This month we’re featuring Italy with Francesco from The Food Traveller. When I e-mailed Francesco to ask him what he wanted to prepare for ATOM, his heart was set on gnocchi (neo-ki). Last Sunday to prepare for the contest, I set aside some time in the afternoon, put on my nonna apron and cranked out a few hundred of these soft cloud-like Italian dumplings. It was beautiful.

mise en place

Before I start raving about this Italian pasta/dumpling, I need to make a confession. Although I’m not proud of it, a few years ago I fell into the temptation of cooking store-bought “gnocchi”, if you could even call them that. The stuff that’s sold in the vacuum-sealed packages is often a dense, starchy imitation of the traditional, billowy pieces of Italian heaven. Nothing more than an impostor.

As you can tell from the mise en place, the ingredients for this dish couldn’t be simpler. Ingredients that I’ll venture to say a good 80% of people (85% of foodies) already have on hand.

the well method

If you try googling for a gnocchi recipe, you’ll find that everyone pretty much has their own version. You’ll find some that boil the potatoes, a few that bake, some will call for eggs, others will use ricotta – it all depends on who taught them to make their recipe. You’ll often notice this trend in Italian recipes depending on what was available in the different regions.

The recipe that I use is one that I developed after trying different approaches to making gnocchi. This one boils the potatoes in the beginning, finishes them off in the oven and binds everything using an egg, and no ricotta. The reason why I boil and bake is because boiling the potatoes ensures that they do not dry out in the oven. I then finish them off in the oven for the opposite reason – to make sure that any excess moister gets evaporated. Once they come out of the oven, I peel and mash them to make something similar in texture to potato crumbles. If you have a food mill or a ricer you could use that to make sure you don’t over-mash the potatoes. Of course Italian grandmothers never needed these fancy gadgets to prepare their gnocchi; for them a fork and some old fashioned care was all they needed. Once you get the potatoes mashed you’ll want to combine them gently with the egg and the flour to form the dough, making sure to never over-knead the mix.  

my kind of treasure

The good thing about these dumplings is that they freeze extremely well and still taste infinitely better than any of the stuff you’ll pull from off the shelf. I doubled my recipe and froze individual-sized portions to last me the entire month, experimenting with different sauce ideas. The sauce is why it is important to create the ridges on the gnocchi – not only will the gnocchi look more authentic/prettier, but they will also have more surface area to hold on to the sauce. 

I can’t wait to see all the variations of gnocchi for A Taste of the Mediterranean – experiment with different doughs, sauces, presentations and submit your entry by March 31st for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to igourmet!

Potato Gnocchi

yields approx 6-8 servings

Components

  • 2 lbs potatoes, russet
  • 1 scant cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Boil your potatoes (with the skin on) for 30 minutes or until slightly undercooked. If you poke one with a sharp knife it should still offer some resistance. 
  2. Transfer the potatoes to a 400 degree oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. While the potatoes are still hot, peel them and mash them with a ricer, food mill or a fork (whatever you have on hand).
  4. Let the mashed potatoes cool.
  5. Beat the egg.
  6. Create a well by layering the potatoes with 3/4 cup of the flour and the egg. 
  7. Start kneading the dough slowly and softly incorporating more flour as you need it. You’re looking for a soft dough that is still still slightly moist, but not sticky or tacky.
  8. Cut the dough into four pieces and start by rolling the wedges into 1/4 in. diameter snakes. 
  9. Slice every half inch and roll each gnocchi over the back of a fork to create ridges.
  10. Set aside on a sheet tray until ready to boil.

note: To make sure the gnocchi remain light and fluffy try your best not to overwork the dough by kneading it gently. To freeze the gnocchi for later, freeze them first in a large sheet tray first for about 5 hours then transfer them to individual zip-lock bags for convenience.

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Divine Culinary Intervention

"Tony, you just ate 1200 calories worth of bread." 
-Jess Park

I rediscovered Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe a couple weeks ago. It was Wednesday evening and there it was, idly sitting in my RSS feed, waiting to be double-clicked: Faster No-Knead Bread. Mark Bittman had just blogged about a quicker variation of the original recipe he featured in the NYT in 2006. I never got around to making this bread when it first came out. Originally, I sided with the skeptical foodies who wanted no part in this trendy no-knead fad. For me, the foundation of bread was all in the traditional kneading techniques and no post in the NYT was going to change that. But, many successful minimalist recipes later, Mark had made a believer out of me. I took Mark’s recent post as a sign of divine culinary intervention and decided to give this no-knead method a try. 

Before I could experiment with any quicker variations though, I thought it would only be right to try Jim’s original 24-hour, no-knead recipe, first. There was no mise en place, or anything of that nature. Like I said, it was a Wednesday evening, after work, and I was only surfing the web to procrastinate my inevitable visit to the gym (nothing unusual). I went down to the kitchen, mixed the flour, water, yeast and salt, covered it and went about my workout. 

foodie magnifying lens
air pockets

I couldn’t concentrate at work the following day. I was eager to see if time had done its job in creating the much desired gluten proteins that usually require 15+ minutes of intense kneading to develop. As soon as I got home and stepped foot in my kitchen I was greeted by the intoxicating aroma of yeast belch – it was glorious. After 18 hours I uncovered the well-rested dough and took a deep breath of the bakery scent that was being propagated from within.

The next step in the recipe was to invert the dough onto a floured surface and fold it onto itself. Then I placed it seam side down onto a cornmeal dusted cotton towel and allowed it to enter its final rising stage, just like in the video. This time, I was able to make it to the gym without any resistance – I knew that as soon as I got home, I would be less than an hour away from carbohydrate heaven!

very sticky dough
sticky dough
homemade artisan bread
artisan bread

I pre-heated the oven as soon as I got home from the gym and immediately hopped into the shower so as to not disrupt the final rising stage. After 45 minutes of baking in a 550 degree oven, I was rewarded with my most successful loaf of homemade bread.

great crumb structure
crumb structure

I was like a proud father. I embraced my inner bread geek and admired the crispy crust and delicate crumb structure of the bread. Apparently none of my friends know what I am talking about (ahem, ahem, Mike), but crumb structure refers to the different size pockets of air inside the bread; the more of those there are, the better.

mise en place
mise en place

I couldn’t leave you guys without a mise en place photo though. In celebration of all things minimalist, I decided to enjoy the bread with some high quality extra virgin olive oil and traditional balsamic vinegar that I brought with me from Modena.

a few drops of good quality balsamic
balsamic vinegar

This is not the usual balsamic that you’ll find on the shelf of your local grocery store. At about 80 euros a pop, this stuff is as close as you can get to liquid gold. Traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena is only produced by a select number of families that have passed on the tradition from generation to generation. I got my bottle from L’Acetaia di Giorgio, where they invited me for an afternoon and showed me the entire process for making their vinegar. While I was there Giorgio showed me a batch that he started 22 years ago that he named Carlotta, after his daughter, which he will later use as her dowry – a tradition amongst most balsamic vinegar producing families. If you’re planing to go to Italy in the near future, I definitely recommend contacting Consorzio di Aceto Balsamico di Modena (CABM – the association for balsamic vinegar producing families) who can then put you in touch with one of their members for a private tour.

life’s simple pleasures
homemade bread

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy bread right out of the oven. Hence the quote from my friend Jess who, “for fun”, calculated how many calories of bread I had eaten in a two-day window. I figure it’s all good because I work it all off at the gym… right? Have you guys tried any of the no-knead recipes? What have your experiences been with the bread? Send me links to your post if you’ve blogged about it, I’d love to read some of the variations!

No-Knead Bread

Jim Lahey’s Recipe

Components

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 5/8 cups water 
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

Putting them all together

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Cover the dough and let rest from 12-18 hours at room temperature.
  2. You’ll know the dough is ready because the surface will be dotted with bubbles. On a lightly floured surface, invert the dough and fold it over itself once or twice. Make sure your hands are also coated with flour because the dough will be very sticky at this point. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Gently and quickly form the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel, sprinkle with more flour, wheat bran or cornmeal and cover loosely with another cotton towel.  
  4. Preheat your oven and cooking vessel (cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) to 550 degrees. 
  5. After the dough has risen for 2 more hours and has doubled in size, invert the dough into the preheated cooking vessel so that it bakes seam side up.
  6. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
  7. Cool on a rack.

note: The dipping oil is simply extra virgin olive oil, high quality balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

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