Sunday, October 31, 2010


Carving pumpkins..?

Maybe some baked goods?

The weather is beautiful and shining.

I'm staring at two pumpkins waiting to be carved. (Maybe somehow I will challenge a creativity that I am completely unaware off.)

BBQ some pizza, which at this point I have become a master off... Rustic and traditional, I would almost call this my specialty.

Baked pumpkin seeds will come next. I'm thinking candied sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice on them.

Spiced apple cider? A scary movie or two?

This Halloween may not be filled with costumes and drinks, but a warm cozy day and night filled with good food and company. Thats what any Holiday is truly about :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to really impress a dinner date...!

It's true.

I spent a year in Italy watching Mauro make gnocchi at least twice a week; Potatoes, flour, egg yolks, salt. It is so simple and easy. Made simply without a special shape or design they were just cut from the roll of dough and Every time they were cooked it was like the perfect potato pillow, never mushy or chewy.

The best way to judge a good Italian restaurant in my mind is by the gnocchi. Such a simple thing yet so many times you are amazed at how they are chewy, to big, one big blob. There a few places that hit the nail on the head. Love what you are doing. That is the secret.

I had a few days off and wanted gnocchi. I didn't want to drive into town and get the only great gnocchi you can buy in general so I decided that I would do it myself! I have a good Italian cook book and some knowledge from watching some Italian chefs in the kitchen. The ratios were easy, about 2 pounds potatoes, 1-1 1/2 cup flour, 2 egg yolks, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese (give or take) and salt.

You bake the potatoes for about an hour. You let them cool so you can peel and then mill or grate with a cheese grater. You don't just mash them because you want the potatoes to have no lumps.... You the add the egg yolks, 1 cup of flour, cheese and salt... You want to mix the dough thoroughly but not to much. The dough should be firm with a tiny bit of stickiness (It cannot be to sticky or you will get a bowl of mush after boiling). The more flour you add you have a greater chance of chewy gnocchi.

Take dough out of bowl and cut into about 6-10 equal sized pieces. Sprinkle flour on your counter and a little it of flour on a cookie sheet. Roll the dough into a snake, depending on the thickness you want your gnocchi to be. Then cut into equal sized "pillows." Once you cut the pieces put onto the cookie tray. Continue this same process for each of the large pieces. Cook immediately or refrigerate. Do not freeze until completely cooled or they will freeze to the tray and each other.
When you cook these you do so in a very large pot of heavily salted water. Add the salt to the boiling water. You do not put the salt in the cold water because it lowers the boiling temperature. Add Gnocchi and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook or once again they will turn into mush.

My favorite way to eat these is with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive. Another very traditional way is with pesto. Different regions in Italy served them baked, big, or with cream sauce, and with meat sauce is another way to serve them as well.

The response I got was better then the packaged ones. "Bomb-diggity!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Potstickers and Hot Oil

Along the lines of traditional I went on a pot sticker journey. I needed something fun and easy to teach my cooking class. I looked through the notes that I kept of the things they wanted to learn and dumplings was a choice. Pot stickers( Chinese, steamed and or Pan fried) or gyoza (fried) are one of my ultimate favorite foods. Not eating meat poses a slight problem in the land of Pot stickers; usually when you get these wonderful fried treats they have pork, chicken, and shrimp a winning combination assorted meats. I have tried a few different kinds of veggie pot stickers "Ling Ling" is the best brand I have found so far but most do not cut it. They are stinky and usually filled with rice, tofu, and to much cabbage... I did a little bit of Internet and cook book research and came up with an amazing Veggie Pot sticker!

In Chinese cooking they have a traditional mirepoix: GGS (Garlic Ginger and Scallions) in the US our Mirepoix is Onion, carrot and celery. When cooking Chinese savory food I think it is fairly important to use GGS it gives whatever you are cooking an immediate "Asian" flavor.

Instead of using tofu or rice to fill these bad boys up, I used Nappa cabbage, Shitake Mushrooms, and Baby Bok Choy... For flavor I sauteed GGS, a yellow onion, carrots and a yellow bell pepper. I then Added a ton of shitake mushrooms two baby bok choy and half a head of nappa cabbage. I also added a couple pinches of Chinese five spice powder, a tablespoon or so of Tamari (this is instead of salt) and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. You can always use salt and pepper, but traditionally salt is not used in most Asian foods. (There a lots of salty fermented soy products and different sauces to use in place of salt.)

The grocery store was out of the round gyoza wrappers so I used the small won ton wrappers. It is important to use either the gyoza or won ton wrappers and NOT egg roll wrappers because the gyoza and won ton wrappers are meant top be steamed or boiled where as the egg roll wrappers are meant to be fried only.

Once the filling has cooled you want to place a heaping spoonful in the middle, coat the edges of the wrapper with water, fold edges over and seal. I made mine all triangle shape, you can get incredibly creative as long as the edges seal up so your filling doesn't fall out.

I tried making these two ways, first round I fried till brown then added water and covered so they could steam as well... yummy this was a more soft pot sticker with a browned bottom...
The second way was fry on both sides only which gifts you a crispy more Japanese style dumpling. Both ways excellent and efficient just be careful if you choose to add water. Hot oil and water do not like each other so if you don't have a cover to put over the water you are entering a HOT oil flying zone which creates bad burns. The oil is also very unpredictable so it flies everywhere and anywhere.

To dip these I used rice vinegar, tamari, brown sugar, red chili flakes and scallions. If you like a lot of vinegar flavor add less sugar.

The kids were impressed, my dinner guest was impressed, and I am very excited to have come up with a GOOD vegetarian pot sticker recipe!