Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homemade Gnocchi with light Spring Sauce

We're not great at eating potatoes in our house. I know it's crazy, who has a problem cooking with plain ole' tators? Boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potato wedges, the options are endless. However, unless the potatoes are going into a roast or a stew, they tend to just hang out in my potato basket until the sprout, shrivel, and then mold. Sad, I know. It's just how things are.

We've had several weeks now of getting potatoes in our CSA box, off and on. I've made smashed potatoes and a yummy Spanish tapas-style tortilla. Yet, still the potatoes sat there. I then remembered my favorite potato dish (almost ever, but maybe not quite). Gnocchi.

Last fall, I attempted sweet potato gnocchi and last winter I made regular gnocchi (I just didn't post about it, ooops). One hot spring day (as all spring days were this year, sigh) I boiled some potatoes and started to make gnocchi. The kids wanted in on the process, which was a lot of fun. They helped roll out the gnocchi snakes. M, now 6, did a great job. I had to laugh at John's snake--it was complete with an enlarged flattened head at the front, just like a snake. At that point, John's helping was over. He lost interest when I had to roll the snake to be uniform and then cut it. He just wanted to use the gnocchi dough like play dough.

Don't let shaping the gnocchi correctly discourage you from trying. I make the saddest looking gnocchi you've ever seen. It doesn't prevent it from tasting good. I think I need to keep trying in hopes of someday getting it right.

For the sauce, I slightly adapted the macaroni, peas, and cheese recipe and topped the gnocchi with that. It was perfect for spring when I wasn't very hungry for a heavy tomato sauce.

We loved it. Curtis didn't partake. I know he's not gnocchi fan, so I made it on a day he wasn't home for supper. The gnocchi fills you up pretty quickly so this recipe goes a long way.

Serves 4 -6.

Potato Gnocchi with Spring Sauce
from + Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed
salt (about 3 T)
2 c + 2 T flour
2 large eggs
dash of freshly ground pepper

For the sauce
2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 c frozen peas
3 T heavy cream
2 T fresh mint or basil, chopped
2 t lemon juice

To make the gnocchi: Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Add 1 T of salt, bring to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes (less depending on the size of your potatoes). Drain the potatoes, and while they are still hot, peel the potatoes, using a clean kitchen towel to help you hold them, if necessary. Using a potato ricer or food mill (I use the food mill attachment for my kitchenaid---the same one I use for making applesauce), process the potatoes, letting them fall onto a lightly floured work surface (ie the counter). Make a well in the center of the potatoes, sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes, redefining the well if necessary. Break the eggs into the well. Add 1 T salt and a dash of pepper. Lightly beat eggs, then incorporate the flour and potatoes to make a soft dough. Knead the dough when it is too difficult to mix with a fork. You want to use as little extra dough as possible to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy like little pillows.

Divide the dough into 4 balls and on a lightly floured work surface, shape each ball into a 3/4" in diameter snake (no heads, please). Cut the rope into a 1/2 - 3/4" pieces. To shape the gnocchi, hold the gnocchi in one hand. Push the back of fork tines against the gnocchi and roll the gnocchi off the tines, making a indentation on the back as you do so with your index finger. (check out this recipe for a better explanation. Disclaimer: my gnocchi was malformed and ugly, but tasty). Put the gnocchi on a baking sheet, not letting them touch until all the gnocchi is shaped and you are ready to cook the gnocchi.

While you bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, make the sauce. To make the sauce: Cook the bacon or pancetta in a large skillet until crispy. Stir in the peas and cook for a minute to defrost. Add the heavy cream and herbs. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese. While the sauce cooks, put half the gnocchi in the pot of boiling water. Cook until the gnocchi floats to the surface, 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water and put directly into hot bacon and pea sauce. Repeat with remaining gnocchi, drizzle lemon juice on top of sauce, and stir gently to combine gnocchi and sauce. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Peaches

There are not many things I make that Curtis complains about while he watches me make them. I think those he does complain about, before trying can be grouped together in one of two categories: shellfish, and fruit in anything but a dessert. Needless to say, when Curtis saw this, he winced and told me that was a waste of perfectly good peaches.

I am pleased to report, that although Curtis complained before trying them, after trying them the complaining ceased. He decided he really liked this recipe. It helped that I substituted chicken breasts for the thighs. While I am usually a thigh girl, in this recipe I actually prefer breasts (we had both when I made it). We served this with crusty bread (you could also serve it with rice).

Everyone liked this and it's a nice dish to make when you just can't enough of the peaches that start showing up in the heat of the summer. You can make part of this ahead of time. Mix together everything but the peaches and refrigerate. Slice and add the peaches just before roasting.

This seves 4 - 6

Roasted Chicken with Peaches
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 lb peaches (they can even be hard, any stage of ripeness works), pit removed and sliced 1/2" thick
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips
1/4 T olive oil
1/4 c red wine or chicken broth
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1" piece fresh ginger, grated
1 t salt
1 t pepper

crusty bread or rice, for serving

In a 9 x 13" pan, toss together the peaches, chicken, olive oil, red wine, basil, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Roast in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the peaches have softened. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up juices or with rice.

Do ahead: toss together the chicken, olive oil, red wine, basil, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to roast, then toss with the peaches (don't slice the peaches ahead of time, just slice them when ready to roast). Roast as directed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

French Tuna Salad Sandwich

This is another of our summer staples this year. I've found it's particularly nice on a Sunday afternoon after we've been at the swimming pool. According to the original recipe, this is another recipe to make the day before and let sit overnight (in fact, you assemble the whole sandwich, and refrigerate, pressed, overnight in order for the oils/juices to make the bread soggy). However, while I can get my act together to make Cold Sauce Pasta the night before, I can't seem to do this the night before. It tastes great when you make it about 10 minutes before you eat it, you just miss out on the soggy bread.

My children don't like this. I'm not sure why, but to be honest, it makes me a little happy. Curtis and I get to happily eat our fancy tuna while they eat traditional tuna salad (ie tuna + mayonaisse) sandwiches. They don't know what they are missing out on. I usually cook a whole pound of green beans, put a few in our tuna and the kids eat the rest on the side.

This meal is perfect right now for what we are getting in our CSA box. Last night we used a bell pepper, green beans, and parsley from our box.

This serves between 2 -4, depending on how big your sandwiches are.

French Tuna Salad Sandwich
adapted from Waverly on Food52

1/2 - 1 loaf crusty baguette
1 (6-oz) can tuna
3/4 c black olives (Nicoise preferable), sliced
1/2 c bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
1 (net weight 14.5-oz) can artichoke hearts (not in oil), reserving about 3 hearts for another use
1/4 c green beans, cut and blanched
3 T lemon juice
6 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine the tuna, olive, pepper, parsley, artichoke hearts, and green beans. In a small jar, shake together the lemon juice and olive oil until it is emulsified (or well-combined). Pour the lemon/olive oil vinaigrette over the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut baguette into desired sandwich sizes and then in half, lengthwise (to fill). Remove some of the bread of the bottom half to create a trough to fill (just eat the bread you pulled out, yum.). Fill each bottom piece with tuna salad and enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cold Sauce Pasta

I have entered full-on summer cooking mode. It isn't even half way through June yet and we've hit 100 degrees at least 8 (maybe 10?) times. It is not surprising that I am no longer interested in long meals that I spend hours (or even 1 hour) over the stove stirring or cooking in the oven. I have been on the lookout for recipes that use minimal stovetop/oven time and are slightly lighter fair.

I stumbled up upon this when we were still in the midst of swim practice during prime cooking time. It was a God-send. Almost all the work is done the evening before. It just takes a little foresight (this isn't a last minute type of meal). The only stuff that uses the stove is cooking the pasta the day you serve this.

Again, let me reiterate: You must make this sauce the day before you want to eat the meal. The sauce takes almost no time to make, but it sits in the fridge over night to let the flavors marry and enrich.

We all enjoyed it. I do think my favorite part was the ease of it all. This will definitely be a swim team/summer staple.

This serves 4 - 6. I served it with a loaf of homemade basil pecan bread (once I get a loaf of that I'm proud of, I'll post the recipe. The recipe is over on Food52 if you want to check it out yourself).

Cold Sauce Pasta
adapted from Roxanne DeRosa on with the help of DRBAB's testing notes

1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 c basil, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, left whole
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
long skinny pasta (I probably used capellini, but spaghetti or anything else similar will do)

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, stir the olive oil into the sauce and remove the garlic cloves. Drain the hot pasta, place in a serving bowl and top with the sauce. Serve.

That's it. Really. It is that easy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sloppy Joes

If your childhood was at all like mine, you remember Sloppy Joes. We had them as an easy meal at my house, sometimes over potatoes instead of buns (or more likely, bread). We ate them in school cafeterias in both elementary school and high school. They were everywhere. When too much beef became bad for you, we made them out of ground turkey (ewww....).

And then, I went years and years and years without eating sloppy joes because they somehow got a bad wrap. Maybe it was the ground turkey substitution. Maybe it was the commercials for ManWich (or whatever sloppy joe in a can was called). Whatever it was, sloppy joes weren't cool enough for me.

Then I had kids. I also had a split 1/4 of cow in my freezer which meant lots of ground beef. It helped too, that Ree of The Pioneer Woman fame had a sloppy joe recipe last year with fabulous pictures (as usual). The stars aligned correctly and I tried sloppy joes again.

We all loved them. Even Curtis, the one who doesn't love casseroles and jello salads, stated they were good. This past time I made them (yes, I've made them several times before posting), I used large whole wheat dinner rolls for the buns--we didn't need hamburger sized sloppy joes. These are sloppy (I had a very sloppy J picture that didn't make the cut because it was just way too sloppy!)

Sloppy Joes
adapted just slightly from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 lb ground beef
1/4 large onion, diced
1/2 large bell pepper, diced (any color will do)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c ketchup
1/2 c water
1 T brown sugar
1 t chili powder
1/2 t dry mustard
1/2 -1 t Worcestershire sauce (I have to be honest, I didn't measure this)
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
buns, cooked/baked potatoes, or bread

Saute the ground beef in a large skillet until brown. Drain off excess fat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables soften. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in buns, over boiled or baked potatoes, or in bread.