Archive for December, 2011

don’t say No to Gnocchi

December 30, 2011

Last night I made my own homemade Gnocchi from this recipe, from Mario Batali on my new favorite show, The Chew. Making gnocchi something I have always wanted to do. Gnocchi is Italian for dumpling and that is just what these are, soft little pillows of heaven. Most recipes call for them to be made with potatoes and that is the version I first tasted and they are delicious. This recipe was relatively easy to make and the dough was easier to work with than regular pasta dough. I cut my recipe in half since it was just for me and the girls and it made just enough. First I followed Mario’s directions and boiled the potatoes whole for 45 minutes. That made them easy to peel. Then since I don’t have a potato ricer, I used a wooden spoon and a small strainer to smash the potatoes through to get the same result. It was sort of like a play-doh toy getting the potatoes to squeeze through into little pieces. It looked like this:

Then I formed it into a big ball, this is the one time you are allowed to play with your food, so enjoy it!

After that I sprinkled flour on the ball and cracked the egg over it (remember I made half a batch so that is why there is one egg)

Then I kneaded the dough, the texture was really cool and much easier to knead than typical pasta dough, then I formed it into a ball

After this I separated it into tennis ball sized pieces and rolled them out into 3/4 inch dowels, as Mario instructed

Then you slice the log into 1 inch strips

Then you use your fork to flick down and somewhat flatten to get that typical Gnocchi shape (be gentle, it was my first time, so they look a bit wonky)

After that you boil for 4-5 minutes. Strain carefully and be gentle as I was a little too hard on mine and some came apart. Next time I would probably scoop them out with a straining spoon instead of dumping them into a strainer in the sink, which I think was too hard on them. I topped my Gnocchi with some leftover Cacciatore sauce (you know I save everything!) I had in the freezer and let me tell you, with the peppers and the capers, this made one tasty dish. You could use the simple red sauce Mario suggests too or any sauce you like, even a pesto would be great on gnocchi. So if you love gnocchi or have always wanted to try them, check out the recipe link above, I would also suggest watching Mario’s video on the Chew site, listed below the recipe in two parts, to see how to properly make them. Oh and for fun I put that picture of Sofia’s first gnocchi back in 2008, at the top of my blog, she loved it!

Leave some Chocolate Caldo for Babbo Natale

December 21, 2011

There were many great culinary treasures I discovered when I was in Italy. Magnum caramel bars (thank god they are in US now), mandorla granita, spaghetti alla vongole, pistachio alfredo, and many more things I could write in a novel. Hmm that is not a bad idea, it would be called “Tara eats everything in Italy”.  Anyhoo one of my favorite discoveries was Chocolate Caldo or Italian hot chocolate. Think of a big steaming cup of chocolate pudding freshly made. OMG I have so many fond memories of this beverage. One of them involves me and my friend Coy at one of our weekend adventures at the local Farmers market. So after moving back to the states I got Chocolate Caldo withdrawal. I attempted to make my own and even tried mexican hot chocolate which is supposed to be a similar consistency but not so much. I tried to google Ciobar, the brand of hot chocolate they use but I was not able to get it here in the US (Sicilian friends send me some please!)… Recently I stumbled on a recipe and I tried it and I heard the angels sing, it tasted pretty darn close to the Italian version. Don’t think it is going to be like the American version, it is much thicker and meant to be eaten with a spoon, not drank, it is a real treat. So in honor of my witty friend Coy and the bambina she is carrying, here is the recipe for her:

Chocolate Caldo

1/2 c cocoa baking powder

1/3 c sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1 cup milk (at least 2%)

Mix dry ingredients in saucepan then add 1/2 c milk. Whisk over low heat till lumps are gone. then add rest of milk and cook for about 10 minutes on med/low heat until it thickens, it will thicken more as it cools. Then grab your spoon and enjoy! If you like chocolate you won’t be disappointed and I bet I will convert you!

Campy’s Crisp

December 4, 2011

I have had 3 family events in the past few months that I made this recipe for. It was my husband’s #1 request lately. He loves cobbler or crisp, not necessarily the fruit part but the crunchy buttery yummy part. He always tells me to double the topping. This recipe was the perfect find for him. It is the Barefoot Contessa’s Apple and Pear Crisp. He was unsure at first because of the oats but once I made it he was convinced. I guess he didn’t think a good crisp should have oats but that is the key ingredient to me. I was that weird kid who loved getting hot lunch at school and especially if it had cobbler in it.

This recipe calls for pears and apples but I always use frozen peaches and blueberries for Campy and it is phenominal. I think the orange and lemon zest and juices really make the flavors pop. Also thanks to my MIL, I grated some fresh nutmeg into the recipe this last time I made it and it really tasted delicious. So if you need a tummy warming fall dessert that is a big crowd pleaser you can’t go wrong with Ina’s butter filled recipe! EDIT: forgot to mention I made this with the vanilla bean gelato I mentioned in a previous post, can you say decadent and delicious?! I also like to make it with homemade whipped cream.

Campy’s Crisp
  • 2 bags of frozen peaches
  • one bag of frozen blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For the topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the zests, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch oval baking dish.

For the topping:Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.

Easy Alfredo

December 1, 2011

I have marinara sauce running through my veins. Yes I am only 50% Italian but I am sure I am 100% deep down. That and sauce sounds better than German ale running through my veins, or wait maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Anyhow every now and then I go from my standard red sauce to white. A lot of people I talk to are intimidated by making alfredo from scratch. But buying it in a jar or from the store with so many additives seems silly to me when you can make it for a much lower cost from scratch. I even had someone ask if I put flour in it to thicken it, umm no, unless you want to eat Elmer’s Glue on your pasta. I always have the ingredients to make a great alfredo on hand.

First I saute some garlic over medium low heat in about 1-2 Tablespoons of butter. Usually I use a two or three cloves of garlic in my garlic press, depending how much you like garlic. After it has cooked a bit, but not on too high of a heat or the garlic will get bitter when burned (think translucent not brown) I add heavy cream, about a whole pint depending on how much sauce you need to make (about a pint makes about 2 cups of sauce, enough for my family). Then I put about 2 cups freshly grated (fine) cheese into it. I use Pecorino Romano (I don’t like parm in Alfredo). Then I stir it for a bit on medium heat to get the cheese to melt. Once it has melted and started bubbling a bit I shut the heat off and it will thicken more on its own after, if you cook it too hot or too long it will curdle. Basically it took me a few tries to get it right and now I have it down to a science.

Add some fresh cracked black pepper, parsley, and pink or kosher salt to taste. Toss in some broccoli or chicken for a more balanced meal. We added it to some bucatini, my favorite pasta, it is a spaghetti with a hole down the strand of the spaghetti, so it is like a long skinny tube and all the sauce goes in and it gets all yummy. Both my girls cleaned their plates and had seconds with no need for me to bribe them to finish, a rarity at dinner. So don’t buy store bought Alfredo when you can make your own at home with 4 simple ingredients and you will join the clean plate club too!