Ricotta and Sweet Potato Gnocchi

•July 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Sweet potatoes are a precious root here, not easy to find and fairly expensive since they are shipped from the US, I also doubt that many of the locals buy them very often. Leftover sweet potatoes therefore cannot be thrown away and instead of reheating them, re-purposing them was the more delicious alternative. Our lovely neighbor often pops by with fresh ricotta from her family’s farm and serendipitously brought some by the day after we had smashed sweet potatoes. A delicious combination for the perfect gnocchi.

I made these ahead of time and froze them for an easy weeknight meal, they do not need to be thawed prior to plopping them in the water, but note that you should only boil about a dozen at a time or they will turn to mush. A lesson that I sadly learned after making potato gnocchi for the first time.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

adapted from epicurious.com

  • 2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
  • 1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish (we used rosemary since sage is as hard to find as the sweet potatoes)

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet. (I hand rolled them for bigger gnocchi).

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.

Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.

Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.

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One Year Ago: Penne with Sausages and Cicoria & Acciughe al Finocchio

Two Years Ago: Fried Zucchini Flowers, Watermelon, Quinoa and Feta Cheese Salad, Casareccie con Triglie e Pesto di Acciughe alla Menta, Insalata di Seppie e Zucchine alla Scapece & Farfalle alla Primavera

Three Years Ago: Chickpeas With Baby Spinach

Four Years Ago: Flounder in Cartoccio & Torta Caprese

Five Years Ago: Panzanella, Green Beans alla Napoletana, Chickpea and Vegetable Stew with Couscous, Pasta e Lenticchie & Pasta all’Insalata Caprese

Insalata di Farro

•July 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Grain salads in summer are delicious and a simple solution for dinner. My daughter and I have been packing up in the afternoon and heading to the beach, which makes for a very tired mama by the time we get home. Making dinner is usually the last thing on my mind after the trip home and the process of de-sanding ourselves. I can easily make a whole grain salad in the morning and have it waiting for us in the fridge for that evening.

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When the weather starts to warm up I usually start to stock my pantry with pickled vegetables, because those are the best for grain salads and again, simplicity. Italy has a wonderful tradition of preserving vegetables and though the ones that you can find in the stores are nothing compared to the homemade version, they aren’t anything to complain about either. I usually have too many veggies in my fridge too and toss in whatever is ready to be consumed.

For the longest time I felt the need to cook my beets and recently realized that I could peel them and grate them, and despite my pink fingers, I love how easy and cool that makes my life. They roast at crazy high temperatures.

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Insalata di Farro

  • 1 cup farro, soaked for one hour in water to cover and drained
  • 2 medium beets, peeled and grated
  • 1 barattiere or cucumber, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, if dry, soak in warm water for an hour before slicing
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup lampascioni, cocktail onions will be a good substitute
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • extra-virgin olive oil, as much as you need
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the farro, boil for about 10 minutes or until the farro is tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl combine the cooled farro,  grated beets, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, onions and parsley, drizzle the olive oil and toss well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago: Orata Steamed with Zucchini and Mint

Two Years Ago: Sarde Incinte in Agrodolce & Carrot Coconut Cake

Three Years Ago: Pizza with Ricotta, Zucchini, Olives and Provolone

Five Years Ago: Daniel Island Farmers Market & Boiled P-Nuts

Mercato del Pesce, Chioggia – Veneto

•July 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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We recently spent a few days in Chioggia, which is an island in the Laguna Veneta, much like its neighbor Venice, with canals running through the city. We chose to stay in Chioggia partly because my husband’s step-father’s father was Chioggiano and because we liked the idea of seaside Veneto without all of the craziness and tourist mobs in Venice. Not to mention avoiding the high prices and mediocre food that is so easy to run into in Venice. We were a boat ride away, spent one day there and the rest of our trip we meandered around the Veneto, enjoying the food and the delicious white wine.

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We had two meals in Chioggia and were blown away by the fresh fish and the delicious way that everything was prepared. The fish market in Chioggia was enormous and was the first thing that I wanted to see in the town, I know that they are famous for their fresh fish and they have one of the largest wholesale markets in Italy.

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There were so many different types of fish, eels, cuttlefish, shellfish, every type of Mediterranean fish imaginable. We were lucky to have been able to try some of the local specialties and what was in season at that moment. Though they weren’t at their peak, I had the fried moleche, which are soft-shelled crabs. I had had them the first time we went to Venice where they dip them in egg and flour, but in Chioggia they only dust them with flour. One of the restauranteur’s stated that she had never tried them in the Venetian style, they seemed too heavy. That is the type of provincialism that keeps traditional cooking alive in Italy, from one town to another.

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I started this blog as an exploration of the 20 “breads” of Italy, a metaphor for the 20 regions and the endless different types of cuisine that you can find within each region and in the case of Chioggia and Venezia, within the same province. Frying with an egg batter or a simple dusting of flour seems trivial, but Italians take these differences very seriously and they distinguish themselves by them. I love traveling in Italy and trying the local cuisine, especially when it is seafood based.

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My daughter, who loves octopus, wouldn’t touch the octopus up there, she asked where the tentacles were and was freaked out by the texture, which was indeed different. They peel the skin off of the octopus in the north and don’t beat their fresh catch against something like they do down here, making it much less tender.

Delicious trip, I look forward to our next jaunt in the Veneto, hopefully for a few more days.

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One Year Ago: Orecchiette al ragu di polpo & Torta di Riso Integrale

Two Years Ago: Sarago in Cartoccio, Spaghetti con Fagiolini Paesani, Panzanella Pugliese, Insalata Fredda di Seppioline & Cole Slaw

Three Years Ago: Tagliatelle with Rhubarb, Cranberry Bean Salad with Celery, Basil and Mint & Spaghetti Integrali con Zucchine Gratugiate e Fior di Zucca

Four Years Ago: Asparagus Panzanella & Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Anchovies

Five Years Ago: Baby Artichokes and Scallops Risotto, Couscous Salad with Yellow Zucchini, Farfalle with Zucchini Flowers and Saffron, Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas & Casareccie with Pattypan Squash

Octopus and Black Pepper Spaghetti

•June 17, 2014 • 1 Comment

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It’s been a while since I have come up with any new ideas of second lives of meals, recycling meals or just getting creative with leftovers. For Father’s Day I made our favorite octopus dish baked with potatoes. Having started with pasta we weren’t able to finish the whole thing, leaving us with a lot of octopus. I could have gotten creative with the potatoes, but let them go and just used the octopus and the broth that was leftover at the bottom of the pan. I added a few cherry tomatoes and a lot of black pepper, the results were amazing, it was a rich and delicious pasta.

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Octopus and Black Pepper Spaghetti

There are two different ways that you could make this dish, if you are using leftovers from your Polipo al Forno con le Patate, pour the broth into a dish and reserve the leftover octopus, you really want at least 6 tentacles and a head or two to make an abundant enough dish. You can also make this with a fresh octopus, though it may not have the same depth of flavor. The octopus will create its own broth cooking.

  • 1 medium octopus, cleaned or about 6 tentacles leftover from the baked octopus
  • 8 to 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup white wine (if cooking from scratch)
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti

Rinse the octopus and cut the tentacles into small disks. If using cooked, don’t bother rinsing.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high, add garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle add the quartered tomatoes, cook over high heat for a minute before adding the octopus. Keep the heat high when adding the octopus and lower it as the octopus starts to release its liquid. If you are using leftovers, you can immediately add the reserved broth. If using fresh let the octopus release some liquid before adding the white wine.

If you are using fresh octopus, let the octopus cook, covered, over low heat for at least an hour. The cooked octopus can cook for that same amount of time, but will be equally delicious with about 20 minutes on the stove.

In the meantime, fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water starts to boil for the pasta add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

When the pasta is about 1 minute from being cooked to al dente perfection, turn up the heat on the sauce and drain the pasta. Without shaking all of the water out of the colander pour the pasta into the pan and toss it with the sauce, finishing up the cooking in the octopus broth. Sprinkle an abundance of freshly grated black pepper on the pasta and continue tossing. Remove from the heat and toss with chopped parsley, serve immediately.

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One Year Ago: Wine-Braised Brisket with Tart Cherries & Citrus Shrimp Salad

Two Years Ago: Strawberry, Mulberry and Cherry Tatin, Linguine alla Beccafico e Albicocche & Torta di Riso

Three Years Ago: Farfalle with Yellow Zucchini and Tuna, Fried Flounder with Zucchini Straws over Grits & Beet and Beet Green Gratin

Four Years Ago: Summer Squash and Potato Torte & Pasta alla Norma

Five Years Ago: Okra Sautéed with Tomatoes and Garlic alla Napoletana, Carbonara with a Twist, Peach and Blueberry Cobbler & Morningside Farmers Market

Insalata di Seppie e Patate

•June 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Sadly the period for fresh peas and fresh favas has past here in Puglia, but for the short time that it lasted, we enjoyed them enormously. Fava beans aren’t a legume that I was familiar with before I moved to Italy, but they were a wonderful discovery, raw and freshly shelled, dried and cooked into a purée or blanched and thrown into a gorgeous seafood salad. I am always looking for new ways to make a salad out of seafood and this Pugliese recipe was perfect for the season. I also found these lovely little fingerling potatoes and couldn’t resist using them, though I think the potato element of this salad would lend itself better had I peeled the potatoes.

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Insalata di Seppie e Patate

  • 800 grams (1.75 lbs) cuttlefish, cut into rings or small cuttlefish
  • 5 white potatoes
  • 200 grams (1/2 lb.) shelled fresh peas
  • 200 grams (1/2 lb.) shelled fresh fava beans
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 sprig of parsley, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a slice of lemon, 2 tablespoons of its juice and salt to the water. Rinse the cuttlefish well and boil for 30 minutes.

Clean and scrub the potatoes and boil in salted water and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. I used little fingerling potatoes and didn’t peel them, just squished some of them with the back of a spoon. If using larger potatoes, once they have cooled, peel and cut into small pieces.

Rinse the peas and the fava beans and boil in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking, an ice bath would work as well, if you have ice (we don’t at the moment).

In a large bowl toss the cuttlefish, the potatoes, peas and fava beans together. Add the parsley, salt, freshly ground pepper the remaining juice of the lemons  and the olive oil, as much as you think necessary. Toss well and serve at room temperature or cold.

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One Year Ago: Limoncello

Two Years Ago: Cuttlefish and Zucchini Risotto alla Scapece & Alici alla Beccafico

Three Years Ago: Chicken Couscous Salad & Frittata di Zucchine Gialle e Provola

Four Years Ago: Cacio e Pepe della Scala

Five Years Ago: Farfalle with Grilled Zucchini and Sausages, Honeydew Melon and Green Tomato Salad, Grilled Sockeye Salmon Fillet & Sautéed Summer Squash

Roasted Asparagus and Scallion Quiche

•May 27, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Delicious spring, delicious vegetables in abundance at the market and as always, I get excited and buy too much. The asparagus have been lovely lately, both the wild asparagus as well as these farmed asparagus. I love that you can find thin asparagus, our last few years in the states it felt like you could find asparagus all year long and they were always monstrously big, which never lent themselves to an asparagus’s delicacy.

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One of my favorite ways to enjoy my spring vegetables is in a quiche and Italy makes that so easy with several different types of pre-made crusts, all delicious, in the grocery store. I am not a pastry person and have embraced the fact that I never will be. There are things that I am just not willing to break a sweat for and pie crust is one of them. The original recipe calls for a whole wheat pâte brisée which I substituted with the store bought one, which I was so pleased to have found.

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This quiche would be lovely for brunch, or for people who don’t really do brunch, like us, it is the perfect light dinner, served with a salad.

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Roasted Asparagus and Scallion Quiche

from the New York Times

  • 3/4 pound thick asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch good-size scallions (the kind you get in the farmers market) or 1 1/2 bunches thin scallions (the kind you get in the supermarket) (about 5 ounces), trimmed, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 (9-inch) whole-wheat pâte brisée pie crust, fully baked and cooled
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 ounces Gruyère, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Break off and discard woody ends of asparagus and place asparagus on the baking sheet. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of the oil, add salt and pepper to taste and toss together with your hands until asparagus is thoroughly coated with oil. Place in oven and roast 12 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned in spots, turning asparagus halfway through. Remove asparagus from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle it. Slice into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add scallions. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Transfer to bowl with asparagus. Add tarragon and parsley and toss together.

Beat together egg yolks and eggs in a medium bowl. Set tart pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom of the crust with some of the beaten egg and place in oven for 5 minutes.

Add salt (I use 1/2 teaspoon), pepper, and milk to remaining eggs and whisk together.

Spread scallion and asparagus mixture in an even layer in the crust. Stir together cheeses and sprinkle evenly on top. Very slowly pour in egg custard over the filling. If your tart pan has low edges, you may not need all of it to fill the shell, and you want to keep the custard from spilling over. Place quiche, on baking sheet, in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set and just beginning to color on the top. Remove from oven and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Yield: 6 generous servings

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One Year Ago: Farfalle with Fresh Shelled Peas and Pancetta

Two Years Ago: Mushroom Quiche

Three Years Ago: Spinach and Ricotta Quiche with Roasted Tomatoes and Onion Blossoms & Tagliatelle with Yellow Zucchini and Olive Tapenade

Four Years Ago: Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market & Risotto with Artichokes, Saffron and Baby Shrimp

Five Years Ago: Ziti with Asparagus and Flounder, Frittata di Patate, Butternut Squash Soup, Risotto with Sausage, Baby Bellas and Saffron, Fish Stew with Quinoa & Grilled Vermillion Snapper and Grilled Veggies

Fresh Shelled Pea Pate

•May 16, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Fresh peas are in season and so, it is that one time of year that I love peas! It is a short window, but I must say an exciting one. It sings spring to me and I am always happy to come out of winter, even if the weather is still chilly out there. I usually try to use my peas in a pasta or a risotto, but I wanted to go another route this time and found a great recipe for a pea spread on the wonderful blog 101 cookbooks.

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She uses this on bread, but also uses it as a filling in ravioli, but I think it would also work as a pesto, dressing pasta with it. Everything goes well with pasta. We loved this spread on crusty bread though, even better on toasted crusty bread. I served this with fresh cow’s milk mozzarella and a little salad. A perfect meal.

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Spring Pea slathered Crostini

from 101 Cookbooks

  • 1 standard brown paper lunch bag full of fresh English peas (still in their pods) – I’m guessing a pound or two
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup FRESHLY shredded parmesan
  • tiny pinch of cayenne
  • lemon zest
  • salt to taste

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. While the water is heating, remove the peas from their pods and place in a bowl. When the water reaches a boil, add some salt and the peas. You are just going to cook them for a very short time. Don’t leave the stove. Somewhere between ten and thirty seconds. You want them just barely tender. Quickly drain.

After draining, puree the peas – I use a hand/immersion blender to make quick work of it. Add a generous squeeze of lemon. Add the toasted pine nuts, and puree one more time. Stir in the Parmesan, cayenne, a few pinches of lemon zest, and a few pinches of salt. Taste, and adjust for seasoning – add more salt if needed. Spread it on whatever you’ve got around.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of puree.

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One Year Ago: Spaghetti con la Bottarga

Two Years Ago: Vitello Tonné

Three Years Ago: Stuffed Zucchini & Melanzane in Insalata alla Calabrese

Four Years Ago: Pollo all’Arancia

Five Years Ago: Grilled Sausages, Rigatoni with Sausages and Broccoli Rabe & Ligurian Stuffed Zucchini

 
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