Thursday, June 4, 2009

Late May food success: Grated potato Gnocchi

(This post is dedicated to the Koo, who reads the Guardian, hates low carb living, likes my cooking, and has a big milestone tomorrow. Love you, J!)

I recently read how in England, young people don't seem to like the humble potato. The UK potato council, according to the Guardian, is worried that the older market is driving fresh potato consumption and fears this will have a negative economic impact. Potato consumption was about 120kg/person annually during the war, but now under 100kgs.
Poor humble but versatile and nutritious potato. I blame Atkins nonsense. But potatoes are really very good for you, and great during economic downturns. Delicious and cheap as chips. And not hard to make into delicious gnocchi, my favorite kind of pasta. Deb over at the Smitten Kitchen raved about the use of a standard kitchen grater for those of us lacking a potato ricer, so I gave it try. Worked beautifully.

2 lbs of potatoes, baked (about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, washed but not peeled, be sure to stab with fork a few times prior to baking. A fork should pass easily through when they're done)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 egg
1 teas of salt
I don't have a kitchen scale but I guestimated the weight of 2lbs of potatoes using a 2 lbs. bag of rice.

Let your potatos cool a bit and peel (I didn't because I was impatient and hungry). Grate your potatoes in a large bowl.
mound o' potatoes

After kneading

Next, divide the dough into 6 balls of equal size. Roll out each ball into a long snake, about 3/4" thick. Snakes

Here's the tricky part (not really). Next, use a sharp clean knife to cut the snakes into little bites. You may need to wipe down the knife after a few cutes (like with cutting sushi rolls). To make traditional gnocchi, use a fork to press in each little dumpling to create ridges. This helps keep the sauce in place and makes it look nice. You need to hold the dumpling and press the opposite end into the fork. It may stick, so have some flour ready to ease the "ridging" process.Ridges, up close. I did not ridge them all.

This is the moment of truth. Set a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Then drop one gnocchi into the water. If it sinks and then minutes later rises back up, you've done it successfull. If it disintegrates, start again. Basically, you don't have enough flour. (likely if you used too much potato). You want to avoid too much flour though. It because a pasty mess. Luckily, gnocchi dough is unfussy enough that mixing up all the dumplings again and adding flour doesn't mess up the texture, but this step is best done at the begining, not the end, of the gnocchi making process.

Serve with your favorite sauce. I like the puttanesca myself. With wine. This was later served with a big side of arugula and tomato salad.

Late May/ Early June food adventures and failures

Apologies for the gaps in updates. The middle of May since now has been a period of transition. My cat has moved in with me, and the blokey is visiting, so I've been trying to impress with culinary delights, but mostly I've been learning the extent of his patience. And I finished teaching those three classes and only have some grade complaints (always with these B+ students wanting As).

First a few of my "experiments"

Exhibit A: Asparagus Quiche of Good Intentions:
Why yes, the arugula and tomato salad with homemade vinagarette dressing is colorful and lovely. (method: wild rocket salad from Trader Joes, add quartered tomatoes, toss with about 1 1/2 Tbs of Olive Oil, 1 Tbs of Balsamic Vinagarette, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teas of pepper, some dried oregano). This is my summer go-to salad. It's even cheaper at the farmer's market stand at the Greenmarkets all over NY, but there hours are more limited.
But the quiche was a mistake. First, I tried to make my own "crust" following Betty Crocker's olive oil "pat in the pastry" single pie crust.
1& ½ cups, plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

Place flour, sugar and salt in a pie pan. Mix with fork until blended. In another bowl, add the vegetable oil and milk. Beat with a fork until creamy. Pour oil mixture over the flour mixture. Mix with the fork until moistened. With your fingers, pat the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan.

For the quice, I looked a bunch of recipes online. I mixed 5 eggs, 1/2 yogurt, 1/3 cup shredded romano cheese, sauteed onions, 12 oven roasted asparagus, 1 handful of wilted arugula, mixed it, layered some mozzerella slices on top, baked it at 425 for about 45 minutes. I expected a quivering, carmelized delicious pie, but it came out with a spongey, goopey mess. That blokey ate with no complaints, making some enthusiastic food noises along the way (bless him).
Lesson learned:
Quiches require real cream, and lots of cheese for substance (like 1 cup)
Less is more in terms of ingredients (you get a soggy quiche if you overdo the ingredients)
Simple arugula salad will cover up almost all salad woes.