Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sage & Saffron Gnocchi Two Ways

Gnocchi is both simple and complex. A recipe won't really help you much, but a primer about technique will do you a world of good. As most of you know, gnocchi are Italian dumplings made from potatoes and flour. When done properly they are light and pillowy, but when done wrong they are chewy and gummy. The difference between the two can be a few tablespoons of flour. It all depends on the potato. With that said, don't expect to get it right the first time. It is not likely to happen that way. It takes time. It takes eating some gummy potatoes to figure out what you did wrong, and change it up. Believe me, it is totally worth it.

First you must steam a peeled potato that has been cut into a large dice. Simple enough. I use a stainless steel colander inside of my largest pot that I have filled with an inch or two of water. I cover it, and wrap the top in a kitchen towel. I usually leave it on a low boil for about half an hour. Once the potato is tender, remove from the heat, and toss into your Kitchen-Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Run it on low for a few seconds until the potato has broken up. Add flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough starts to some together. It will be between 1/2 a cup and 1 cup per potato depending on how much starch the potato had to start with. Once you have your dough, turn it out onto a floured surface, form it into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge to cool. 
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut in half. On a floured surface, roll each half into a long snake that is about a 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the snake into 1/2 inch pieces. You can get more fancy with the shaping of the dumplings, but I never do. Now just cook them in a large pot of salted water. You will know they are done when they float to the top. Take them out of the water, and place them directly into a pan with your choice of sauce. They go great with tomato sauce, cream sauce, or a simple butter sauce.

I made one batch using blue potatoes and another using sweet potatoes. It was so good. The sauce is simply olive oil and parmesan butter (thanks Michel & Kelly) flavored with fresh minced sage and garlic. I allowed the gnocchi to crisp in the butter sauce before plating it up. I garnished the dish with saffron flowers and a little grated parmesan. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegan Mango Lassi

Our new obsession: mango lassis. Now, fresh mangoes can be unpredictable, and they're too pricey to waste. We recently found frozen mango in the freezer at Schnucks grocery, and it is a stepping stone to a quick, non-icy lassi.

12 ounce package frozen mango
1-2 cups soy or rice milk
1 tablespoon agave syrup (or 2 tablespoons honey)

Pile all the ingredients into the blender, cover, and turn on low. Add enough milk to get things moving, and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses, and enjoy. This goes great with curry dishes or as a snack.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everyone Wish The Wife a Happy Birthday

When I asked her what she wanted to eat for her birthday weekend she wasted no time in telling me: spaghetti with faux meatballs, chocolate souffle´, TCV's famous beer & chocolate chili, and a cake made from Cafe Eclectic doughnuts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Savory Cheesecake with Caramelized Shallots & Olives

This was a part of our recent Memphis Flyer story on switching up sweet and savory dishes. We did not have room for the recipe, but I have had some folks ask me for it so here goes:

Handful of fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
12 crostini (enough t0 make about 1 and 1/2 cups of bread crumbs)
4 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces of goat cheese
15 oz whole milk ricotta
2 large shallots'
1/4 cup white wine
6 inch twig fresh rosemary (stem removed)
3 eggs
S & P to taste

1/2 cup mixed olives
balsamic vinegar (10 year old)
fresh parsley

Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Pulse all of the crust ingredients in a food processor until they become a course crumb. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a standard spring form pan that has been brushed with olive oil. Place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes minutes, and then remove. Slice shallot and sautee´in olive oil over medium heat until they just start to brown. Add the wine, deglaze the pan, and reduce until most of the liquid has disappeared. Place shallots and the remaining ingredients for the filling into the food processor and pulse until everything is incorporated. Spoon filling into the spring form pan being careful not to disturb the crust. Bake for 50 minutes. Once it has cooled, remove the collar of the pan, and serve garnished with parsley, balsamic, and olives. This can be a main dish served with a salad or bring it to a party as a funky app. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Old Switcheroo: From sweet to savory and back again

Check it our story about savory cheesecake and sweet ravioli in the Memphis Flyer. Yeah!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Citrus Napoleon with Honey and Blue Cheese

Here is a sweet little bit of inspiration. The Wife told me that she wanted a citrus salad because we had all manner of good citrus lying around the house: oroblanco, grapefruit from Wendy's Florida trip, and cara cara oranges. I removed the skin and sliced the fruit into thick rounds. She stacked the fruit by color on little plates as I watched. Brilliant, I thought. I had no idea what she was getting at when we started this salad. I was thinking oranges on lettuce, but this is much cooler. So I diced up the leftover bits of fruit for the top as we discussed what else should go on our citrus napoleon. We whipped up a quick dressing using equal parts saw palmetto honey and olive oil and then crumbled some very mild blue cheese over the beautiful little creations. To finish we sprinkled a few scallions around the plate which added a little crunch and made for a wonderful presentation. Collaborating in the kitchen is always fun; this was the perfect side salad for the Tuscan white bean manicotti we had last night. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Technique Week: Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus

This is a recipe I developed for a friend of mine who is opening a cafe in Collierville. I'm not a huge fan of hummus, so I looked at it as a challenge. I set out to make a hummus that tastes good to me. I did this by playing down the traditional spices, and dialing up the smoky sweetness of roasted veggies. 

The Wife and I decided that next week will be technique week. We will discuss more in-depth the techniques we use in the kitchen to turn good results into great results. This is a good recipe to start with. Although it is simple, there are a few key techniques to making it truly successful.


1 red pepper (roasted, stemmed, and seeded)
1 small head of garlic (roasted)
1 can of chickpeas (rinsed)
1 tsp of tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
drizzle of honey
S & P to taste

Roasting a red pepper:
There is something thrilling about intentionally burning something, which is why I love to roast my own red peppers. I take it outside to the gas grill, and set it over a high flame. I allow each side to burn black before I turn it. Once the entire pepper is black I pick it up with some grill tongs, and put it into a paper bag. The pepper will rest there until it is cool enough to handle. At this point I will pull the pepper out of the bag, remove the stem, remove the seeds, and pull the bunt skin away from the flesh. Some people run the pepper under water as they do this, but I like to leave some of the char as it adds smokiness and character.

Roasting Garlic:
This is the best way to take the garlic from heat to sweet. Pull out a small sheet of foil, place the whole head of garlic in the center, and drizzle with about 1/4 tsp of olive oil. Gather the foil around the garlic. Now you are ready to throw it into a 350 degree oven, or the top tear of the grill as I did for this recipe. Either way it takes about 10 or 15 minutes to soften the garlic. Remove garlic from the heat and allow it to cool while still wrapped in the foil. Once it is cool enough to handle, unwrap it, and set it on a cutting board. slice off the pointed end with a sharp knife. Now take the flat edge of your knife and push down on the garlic bulb. The roasted garlic should squeeze out like toothpaste. Cool huh?
Toasting Spices:
In a pan over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander in the olive oil. Once they become fragrant remove the pan from the heat, and allow the olive oil to cool. This only takes a minute or two, but it makes all the difference in the world when using Indian and Middle Eastern spices. It takes that raw spice flavor and turns it smoother, nuttier, and milder.

Ok. Now all we need to do is to assemble the hummus. Place all ingredients into a food processor, and let'er rip. Some people like it smooth, some people like it chunkier. You do what you like. I like it somewhere in between. I made this for lunch this week and it was wonderful. I served it on greek pita with sliced cucumbers, lettuce, crumbled feta, and tomatoes. Once you taste homemade hummus you will never get that nasty, store-bought, pasty stuff ever again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grilled Corn with Mayo, Sriracha, and Cheese

It sounds much more poetic in spanish on the menu at Las Tortugas: Elote con Mayonesa y Cotija. However, it doesn't matter what you call it; I call it one of my all-time favorite things. If you find yourself in Germantown with $4 burning a hole in your pocket and a rumbling in your stomach, then stop by Las Tortugas and give their corn a try. You will be hooked.

The version I make in my own kitchen is a little different. Rather than boil the corn I grill it, I use low-fat mayo, and I use whatever aged cheese I have lying around the house. 

4 ears of fresh corn (cleaned, shucked)
1/4 cup Spectrum low-fat canola mayo.
2 cups finely-grated aged cheese (cotija, asiago, parm)
1 lime quartered
olive oil 
sriracha hot sauce
cilantro for garnish
Brush corn with olive oil, and then grill over  a hot fire until the sugars start to caramelize. This should take about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the corn from heat, and allow to cool enough to handle. Using your hands spread the mayo lightly over the entire ear of corn. Holding the corn by the stem, sprinkle the grated cheese over it as you turn the corn to ensure the cheese sticks all over. Repeat. Stack the ears on a plate garnish with cilantro, a generous amount of sriracha, and lime wedges. Squeeze the lime wedge over the ear of corn just before you take your first bite. We had this with seitan and black bean enchiladas with tomatillo sauce.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blood Orange and Cherry Quick Bread

It is such a luxury to wake up and make breakfast from scratch. This morning I thought I wanted a cranberry-orange tea bread, but I ended up eyeing the blood oranges (their season started this month!) and the orange flower water on my counter. Also, I was out of cranberries, so I chopped up the dried cherries I did have. Here is the quick recipe:

2 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c raw sugar
1/4 c soy margarine

2 eggs, beaten (or 3 if small)
grated rind of 3 blood oranges
juice of 3 blood oranges, about 3/4 c
1/2 c chopped dried cherries
1 tbsp. orange flower water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside. Mix dry ingredients and then mix in wet ingredients until just mixed. Batter will be thick. Pour into loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Perfect for Sunday morning breakfast!

Monday, February 9, 2009

We've Got Class, Yes We Do!

The Wife and I are so excited about teaching the vegetarian cooking class at the Memphis Botanic Gardens on March 1st. I have some bad news for those of you who have not registered: the class is sold out. I know, I couldn't believe it either, but it is true. I wanted to keep the class small enough to be able to feed everyone a little of each delicious thing that we make in the class. 
Here is what we are going to do with our time. The Wife and I will spend a few minutes talking about our experience as enthusiastic home cooks and the meaning of food in our lives. Then I will go over some easy ways to vegetarianize some of your favorite family recipes, and take questions on that subject. However, most of our time together will be spent cooking. We will go through some hearty, healthy recipes step-by-step as we talk about the ingredients and techniques for each. I plan on doing at least three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We will also create a menu for a special occasion, and go over some tips for creating a fast, healthy lunch or dinner. 

I can not wait. Feel free to post any questions or requests that you have right here. I will answer them as completely as I can. 

In the meantime, I'll Leave you with some photos of what happens when I get carried away in the kitchen. Up top you see a Caramelized Fennel Tart with Easter Egg Radishes, and an English Pea Puree. To the left you are looking at a creation I made after visiting the Winchester Farmer's Market. I call it Coconut Black Thai Rice With Ginger-Brazed Bok Choy and Tofu served in a cracked white coconut.

See you soon!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Carrot & Peppadew Pimento-Cheese Sandwich with Veggie-Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato

I thought I dreamed it, and then as I was putting the sandwich together this morning I realized that I spotted it on the menu board at Muddy Bake Shop. It is the pimento b.l.t. Thanks for the inspiration Kat. Think of this lunch as a genius way to save on bread by having two of your favorite sandwiches in one.

For lunch this week I developed a healthier pimento cheese. I wanted a spread that retains the creamy texture that you love while adding a healthy dose of vegetables. So I decided that I'd add carrots, red peppers, and peppadews for a bit of sweetness and crunch.

3 cups sharp cheddar (shredded)
1 large carrot (shredded)
1/2 red pepper (shredded)
10 marinated peppadews (chopped)
S & P to taste

Mix it all together, and then pulse in the food processor until you like the consistency. Have it on bread, crackers, or match it with some morningstar farms veggie bacon, lettuce and tomato for a truly sublime lunch.