6.24.2011

Gnocchi (to go with those Grilled Lamb Chops)


I love anything potato.  I did not have an Italian grandma who taught me how to make these (I sure wish I did).  I ate them once, fell in love with them.  Im German and Irish, like I wouldn't love anything with so much potato????

I discovered that they are not as difficult as they seem and they are just so good.  Its also that making fresh dough thing.  There is something very therapeutic about it.  

Gnocchi

4 large Idaho Baking Potatoes
2 Eggs
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1-1/2 Flour

Wash and pierce the potatoes with a fork.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until tender and done.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle.  Cut the potatoes lengthwise, in half.  Scoop out the flesh.  (Set the skins aside and make some Smokey Potato Skins).  Do not cool the potatoes too long.  You want to work with the potatoes while they are still warm.  It helps in making a light and pillowy gnocchi.  

Place the potato flesh in the center of a mixing board or mat, so they are all in a large mound.  Make a well in the center of the mound.  In the well add the eggs, salt and pepper.  Now, this is where it is really good to mix these "old-school".  Make sure your hands are clean (and your jewelry removed!).  Taken your hand and with a swirling motion, beginning to mix the egg mixture into the potatoes, scooping up some potatoes from the side as you move around the circle.  Sprinkle the mound with flour as you work, to help bind the mix into a light dough.  It should only take about 3-4 minutes to mix everything together, including the flour into the potato mix.  The key here is to NOT over-mix.  The less you mix, the warmer the potatoes, the lighter and pillowy the gnocchi will be.  

Once the dough is combined, Knead the dough (like you would a bread dough) for a very few short minutes.  The dough will be sticky enough to stick to your hands.  Just scrape it off and work it back into the mix.   Form a nice soft ball.  

Now, wash your hands, making sure to dry them completely.  Lightly dust the mound of dough.   Divide the dough into two equal portions.   Set one piece aside.  Now cut the piece into three pieces.  

Making the gnocchi:  Taking a piece of the cut dough, roll the dough out with your hands (gently) into a long rope.  You may have to continue to lightly dust the dough, which is normal.  Just edit yourself and err on the side of too little flour, rather than too much. 

Once the dough is in a long rope (about 1/2 inch thick), cut the pieces of dough into about 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, making sure you have a consistent size.  Lightly flour the pieces and set aside.  

Now here is where I differ from most people.  I did not grow up with an italian grandma who showed me the tips and tricks of rolling the pieces of dough onto fork tines to make the pretty little indentations of a gnocchi.  I have tried and frankly, am just impatient, so I dont roll them.  I ask why? Cause they taste the same ?  If you have mastered this art or want to give it a go, youtube is a great place to watch and learn how to roll the gnocchi.  If not...

Heat a pot of lightly salted  water (about 6 quarts worth) to boiling, as you would if you were making any kind of pasta.  When the water is boiling, drop half of your gnocchi into the pot of water.   When they float to the top, they are done.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in a large skillet, with melted butter.  Wait until the water has come to a boil again, then drop the remaining gnocchi pieces into the water and do the same.  

I serve my gnocchi with browned butter and fresh sage.  I also make a blue cheese sauce and once cooked, drop them in the bleu cheese sauce.  You can also just heat up or prepare from scratch, your own marinara sauce and pour some of that over the fresh cooked gnocchi.  

Serve the above with a nice green salad and some homemade lemonade!  Enjoy your weekend!


6.23.2011

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie.

CRUST
1-1/2 c crushed graham crackers
3 T sugar
5 T butter, melted

PIE FILLING
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
8 large egg yolks
Zest of 2 lime
1 c key lime juice (approximately 20-30 key limes, depending on how juicy they are)

Few tips:  For the Key Lime juice, you have a couple of choices - you can squeeze fresh key limes or you can use bottled Key lime juice.  If you choose to use the bottled juice, pick one that is not "imitation".  You have plenty of options.  If your supermarket carries it, they will shelve it with the bottled lemon juices.  If not, Amazon.com has Nellie & Joe's by the bottle or by the pack.

I like a thicker pie, so this recipe makes a filling that when set is 1 to 1-1/2 inches.   If you like a thinner filling, reduce the filling recipe in half.


1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a medium bowl, add crushed graham crackers and sugar.  Mix together thoroughly with a fork or a whisk.  Add melted butter and stir until all crumbs are moist.
3.  Pour mixture into a 9 inch pie tin.  Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
4.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until crumbs are light golden brown.  Don't over-bake.
5.  Cool completely on wire rack.
6.  While crust is cooling, in a medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks.  Mix until well combined and smooth.  Add lime zest and lime juice.  Mix completely.
7.  Once the pie crust is completely cool, pour the filling mix into the pie plate.   Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.   The pie will have a custard appearance and a knife will come out clean.
8.  Remove pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Cool the pie completely.  When cool, place in the refrigerator for approximately one hour or more.

You can either - Top with a meringue - just like you would a lemon pie (see Arlene's Lemon Meringue Pie) or you can whip up some real whip cream and serve.  Either way, it makes for a wonderfully citrus refreshing summer (or any time of the year) pie!

Fajitas - Grilling Friday Repost

June 10, 2011 Weekend Grilling Menu - for 6-8 folks

Beef (or Chicken) Fajitas
Flour Tortillas (homemade or store bought - its all up to you)
Grilled peppers and onions
Grilled Corn

Marinade
1 lime, juiced and zest
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 t kosher salt
1 t cumin
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

For marinade:  Combine in a bowl, the juice and zest of the lime and lemon, crushed garlic, jalapeno, salt, cumin.  Mix together.  With a wire whisk, slowly add the olive oil into the mix, while whisking.   You want to slightly emulsify the mixture.

Fajitas
5 lbs of flank, skirt, flatiron, or chuck steak
(boneless/skinless chicken breast or thighs)
2 red peppers, cleaned and halved
2 green peppers, cleaned and halved
2 sweet (Vidalia or maui) onions, cleaned and cut in half


Place the meat into a large Ziploc bag.  Add 3/4 of the marinade to meat.  This can be marinated 2 hours.  For best results, marinade overnight, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.   If marinating overnight, reserve the remaining marinade and chill in refrigerator.  

Place the peppers and onion into another Ziploc bag.  Add the remaining marinade to the vegetable. Marinate for a couple of hours. 

On a prepared grill, over hot coals, place the meat and vegetables.  Cook the minute approximately 10 minutes on each side, only turning the meat once.  Watch carefully.  Cook to desired doneness.   We like medium rare.   

Remove from grill and allow to rest about 10 minutes.  Cut the meat cross grain.   

Cook vegetables until charred, slightly soft, but still a little texture and crunch.   Remove from grill.  Cut into lengthwise pieces, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  

Wrap flour tortillas in aluminum foil and place on grill to warm and soften. 

Into a warm tortilla, add met, veggies, some salsa, cheese, sour cream.  


Serve with grilled corn on the cob, Annie's Salad and homemade lemonade!

Guacamole

Creamy yummy Guacamole
I think we have referred to the use of guacamole several times in previous posts, so it seems appropriate that we include a great guacamole recipe.  I prefer a creamy guacamole, primarily because it was the only way I could get my kids (or at least a couple of my kids) to try it.   One of my girls refused to eat it until a few years ago.  I dont think she believed me when I said it was good.....now she does, so good on her! I do use a little of my Tomatillo Salsa in this recipe.  Enjoy!

Creamy Guacamole

4 ripe avacado (soft to the touch, but not mushy)
1/2 c red onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
2 limes, juiced
1/4 c cilantro, finely chopped
3 heaping T of Tomatillo Salsa
2 heaping T sour cream
1 heaping T mayonnaise
1 t kosher salt
1 t cracked black pepper

Cut avocados in half, lengthwise.  Remove the pits.  Scoop the flesh out of the shells and place in a medium mixing bowl.  Mash the avocado in the bowl.  I use a pastry blender because of its sharp thin blades.  Once mashed, add the chopped onion, minced garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and Tomatillo Salsa.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste for desired tartness.  Add more lime juice or more salsa to desired taste.

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Add to avocado mixture.  Mix thoroughly.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste!

You can leave out the sour cream/mayo if you are a purist.  We like it on the creamy side, but I also enjoy it without!  Play with it and make it your own!

Creamy Guacamole PRINTABLE RECIPE

6.22.2011

Baked Potato Skins

Delicious Smoky Potato Skins
I set out last weekend to make some homemade gnocchi.  Every now and then I like to immerse my hands in dough, be it bread dough or pasta dough.  I think it’s the touch and taste and smell combination.  It is also very therapeutic.  But, anyway, where was I going with this?  I made gnocchi.   I bake my potatoes (instead of boiling them) and I was scooping out the flesh, when I realized I had a stack of potato skins.  I hate wasting anything lately and wondered what would I do with these.  Sort of a duh moment, don’t you think?  So I foraged the fridge.  I had no bacon, but did have polish smoked sausage.  I found cheese and sour cream.  I also had 2 avocados perfectly ripe and some green onions and heirloom tomatoes.    Needless to say, we had scrumptious baked potato skins for dinner that night.  The gnocchi, I ate some too, but gave most of it away to a friend for their dinner.  I can always make more!

Smoky Potato Skins

10 potato skin halves, scooped out with some of the flesh left on the skin
4 T butter, melted
2-3 T crushed red pepper
½ of ring of polish smoked sausage chopped into small pieces
1 heirloom tomato, chopped into small pieces
3 green onions, chopped into small pieces
1 – 2 c of shredded cheese (your choice – I use pepper jack if I want a good kick or cojack for a mild flavor)
sour cream
guacamole
black olives

Brush the scooped out potato skins in and out with the melted butter.  Sprinkle each piece with crushed red pepper.  Place on a baking sheet, prepared with Pam and bake in a preheated oven (375 degrees) for 10 minutes or until crispy.

While the skins are baking, put 1 T butter in a sauté pan and melt.  Add the smoked sausage and sauté until crispy on the outside. 

Remove the skins from the oven.

While still warm, place the cheese and smoked sausage into the shells.  Return to the oven for an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove.

Cool slightly, then add your sour cream, tomatoes, guacamole and black olives as toppings.  You can add a dash of tomatilla salsa if you like or hot sauce to taste.   What ever your kick!