|Photo l Michael Persico|
|Homemade gnocchi with pesto, spinach and Parmigiano|
Eating a bowl of fluffy gnocchi, simply sauced with pesto or sage in brown butter,ï¿½ is the equivalent of falling into a soft feather bed.ï¿½ Easy to do and easy to enjoy, but to actually make that feather bed you've got to kill a whole lot of geese and get pretty messy.ï¿½ The analogous pitfalls and time requirements of hand-making pasta has kept me from attempting those feathery pillows until now, when I went on the hunt for the Ultimate Gnocchi Recipe.ï¿½ Prescriptions for perfect pasta abound on the Web; the Food Network came up high offering versions from Emeril Lagasse (who starts with mashed potatoes) and Mario Batali (who has you par-cook the things and hold them in oil until service). ï¿½ï¿½ Further research turned up dozens of other, slightly less corporate sources.
The first method that stood out came from Anna Maria Volpi, a native of Italy who provides step-by-step instructions (with photos) for classic Gnocchi Patate.ï¿½ Her version is as traditional as it gets, boiling the potatoes in their skins and incorporating only flour and salt into the dough (the egg is optional) to create a super-light and incidentally vegan dumpling.
Executing Volpi's recipe resulted in puffed, airy dumplings that came at the expense of a difficut-to-work, crumbly dough.ï¿½ These boiled potato, egg-free vegan gnocchi worked best when cut intoï¿½ 1" pieces from a 3/4" rolled dowel of dough.
The second recipe worth using originates at The Italian Dish, a blog devoted to simple recipe/photo guides to classic Italian preparations.ï¿½ The Italian Dish bakes their Russet potatoes instead of boiling, mixing drier riced potatoes with eggs and flour. This egg-enriched dough held together better and was easier to work with.ï¿½ The gnocchi were also stiffer and took to their sautï¿½ without tearing, without sacrificing the fluff and bite of a quality gnoccho (singluar of gnocchi).
Gnocchi made in a large batch can be frozen and used later, by placing freshly cut gnocchi on a floured cloth on a baking sheet and freezing for 20 minutes.ï¿½ Partially frozen gnocchi can then be transferred to a freezer bag and stored for up to one month.ï¿½ To serve, add gnocchi straight from the freezer to vigorously boiling water until they float.ï¿½ Add gnocchi to sautï¿½ pan containing warmed sauce of your choice; toss to combine sauce with gnocchi.ï¿½ Serve hot, immediately.
To make successful vegan, traditional gnocchi, follow Anna Maria Volpi's technique, which can be modified by using baked potatoes instead of boiled.ï¿½ Bake the 2 lbs. of Russet potatoes for 65 minutes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, then proceed with the recipe as usual, omitting eggs.
To make successful egg and potato gnocchi, follow The Italian Dish's recipe.ï¿½ Bake 1.5 lbs. of Russet potatoes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 65 minutes, until tender to the fork.ï¿½ Be cautious peeling potatoes of their skin; steam released from under the skin can burn you badly.
|Steve Poses is on a mission.|
In 1973, when Steve Poses opened Frog at 16th and Spruce (in the space now known as Monk's Cafï¿½), Philadelphia's culinary landscape was a virtual wasteland.ï¿½ Poses, along with Georges Perrier, whom he worked with at La Panetiï¿½re (in the space now known as Vetri), gently introduced French cuisine to the city and ignited the Restaurant Renaissance in Philadelphia.ï¿½ Frog Commissary Catering was launched in 1976 and is still hosting events today, bringing Poses' grand total to fifteen million guests served and over 15,000 events catered.
Now the restaurateur and cookbook author (The Frog Commissary Cookbook, Camino Books) is on a mission: to increase home entertaining by 10 percent.ï¿½ He's dead serious.ï¿½ In pursuit of this goal, he has published a new guide to home entertaining for all skill levels, complete with a companion Web site full of tips, recipes and organizational strategies set to turn the most dedicated reservation-maker into a veritable Martha Stewart.
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer's Guide to Cooking and Entertaining is now available exclusively on Poses' Web site in hardcover ($39.95) and paperback ($29.95) editions, both of which include access to the companion Web site. The book is packed with over 400 recipes, organized by course, as well as the methods that have made Poses such a successful caterer.
Pick up a signed first edition when Poses visits the Free Library (1901 Vine St.) on Thursday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. for a free talk featuring his new book.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
This simple, filling soup is like the edible translation of a crispy fall day.ï¿½ In addition to being inexpensive and healthy, my vegan version omits all of the butter and cream that make restaurant versions delicious but fatty.
I tested two methods of roasting the butternut squash: peeling the whole squash and cutting it into chunks before roasting, and slicing the unpeeled squash in half and roasting it cut-side up, both in a 400 degree oven.ï¿½ The peel-and-chunk method emerged as the winner for both speed (the chunks of squash roasted twice as fast as the squash halves) and ease (scooping flaming hot squash into a stockpot without bringing the tough skin along for the ride was painful and annoying).
You will need a blender or food processor for the recipe; I also pressed my pureed soup through a mesh strainer to further refine the texture.
Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
serves four to six
Go Get This:
Two medium-sized butternut squash
Several glugs extra-virgin olive oil
One large red onion or two medium onions
Three stalks celery
1 tbsp. Salt
Smoked black pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste
1 tsp. garam masala or curry spice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
16 oz. vegetable stock
Thyme, for garnish
Now Do This:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the squashes.ï¿½ Slice each squash in half lengthways.ï¿½ Scoop out and discard squash guts and seeds.
Cut squash into 1-inch chunks and lay in a single layer in a metal or glass baking dish.ï¿½ Pour a glug of olive oil over squash chunks.ï¿½ Season generously with salt, smoked black pepper and nutmeg. Stir everything around to coat.
Place uncovered dish in oven.ï¿½ Roast 25-35 minutes, until squash is tender. It will give easily when pierced with a fork when it is done.
When squash has been in oven for about fifteen minutes, peel and chop your onion and carrot.ï¿½ Chop the celery, discarding the leaves and tough white root ends.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat another few glugs of olive oil overï¿½ medium-high heat.ï¿½ When oil is hot and shimmering, add onions, carrot and celery to pot.ï¿½ Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and slightly colored.ï¿½ Reduce heat to low.
Once squash is cooked, add it and all its oil to the stockpot.ï¿½ Turn heat up.ï¿½ Add garam masala, cider vinegar and vegetable stock.ï¿½ Use a potato masher to break squash down.ï¿½ Bring the whole thing up to the boil and let it boil for a minute.
Turn heat off under pot.
Carefully (this is HOT) and working in batches, add mixture to a food processor or blender.ï¿½ If you have an immersion or stick blender, you can use it right in the pot.ï¿½ Puree mixture until smooth.
Place a mesh strainer or china cap over a large metal or glass bowl or pot.ï¿½ Working in batches, press the puree through the strainer with the back of a wooden spoon.ï¿½ Set solids left in the strainer aside; they can be used to enrich mashed veggies or pasta sauce.
Taste your strained soup for seasoning; add more salt, pepper, garam masala or vinegar to taste.ï¿½ Serve hot, garnished with stripped thyme leaves.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Face it, summer is gone. The college students are back reveling in each others' company after a long sexless summer and Sundays are owned by football games and their associated mass consumption.ï¿½ That makes it time for a totally trashy, yet super-seasonal treat: Jell-O shots.
You had them in college out of tiny Dixie cups and loved it, admit it. Since nowadays it's declassï¿½ to show up at any intimate gathering of friends empty-handed, mix up a batch of these wiggly, boozy gems to make a guaranteed unforgettable impression.ï¿½ Someone else will pick up the cheese and pinto grigio, trust me.
I wanted to forgo the traditional sleeve of non-recyclable plastic cups that typically contain the Jell-O shots, so I made mine in mini muffin tins.ï¿½ You can also easily use ordinary ice-cube trays; unmold the Jell-O shots right before you intend to consume them by dipping the underside of the trays in warm water for just five seconds.ï¿½ The warm water will melt the outer layer of Jell-O and the shots will slip right out.
With more than 20 Jell-O flavors available, the pairing possibilities are endless. I had a few inches of Old Overholt rye sloshing around in the bottom of the bottle, so that got matched with peach gelatin.ï¿½ A cup out of a bottle of Stoli Oranj met with cranberry Jell-O.ï¿½ Others I'd like to try: Malibu coconut rum with pineapple Jell-O, bourbon with apricot, tequila with Eagles green lime gelatin or vanilla vodka with lemon.
After the jump, a so-easy-a-college-sophomore-can-do-it method for Jell-O shots, made sans wasteful plastic cups.ï¿½ Click here for a 50-cents-off coupon.
Basic Jell-O Shot Method
adapted from the back of the Jell-O box
recipe yields approximately 48 shots
Go Get This:
2 boxes your favorite Jell-O flavors
2 liquid cups of your favorite booze
Mini muffin tins, ice-cube trays or shot glasses
Now Do This:
Since variety is the spice of life, use two different flavors of Jell-O.ï¿½ This recipe is for making one packet at a time.ï¿½ Repeat all steps with second packet and clean tools so as not to contaminate your flavors.
Assemble all your tools before beginning:ï¿½ a liquid measuring cup, your bottles of booze, packets of Jell-O, mini muffin tins or ice cube trays, a fork or whisk and bowl.ï¿½ Clear a space in your refrigerator for the filled trays.
Fill a small pot with water and place on the stove to boil.
Dump the packet of Jell-O powder into a bowl.
When the water is boiling, measure out one cup of boiling water.ï¿½ Pour this into the bowl with the Jell-O powder and stir with a fork or whisk at least one minute, until Jell-O is totally dissolved and mixture has thickened somewhat.
Measure out one cup of booze and pour that into Jell-O mixture. Stir with fork until mixture is blended thoroughly.
Transfer Jell-O mixture to a container with a spout (I used my large glass measuring cup).ï¿½ Pour the mixture into the mini muffin tin or ice cube trays.ï¿½ Do not overfill.
Refrigerate at least four hours until firm.
Unmold Jell-O shots just before serving by dipping the underside of the trays in warm water for just five seconds.ï¿½ Jell-O shots will slip out easily.
My friend Travis Douglas currently works at sustainable architecture firm Re:Vision, in Manayunk (winner, Best of Philly 2009, Best Green Architecture), but before he constructed enviro-houses, he built cakes. The man spent a year and a half as a pastry cook at Metropolitan Bakery, baked at the High Point Cafï¿½ in Mt. Airy when it first opened, and put in three months at Pasion!, which he noted had "really creative desserts."
Though his paycheck is no longer made from sugar and egg whites, Travis brought this incredible chocolate angel food cake drizzled with chocolate ganache to a recent dinner party. The cake was airy and light but had an intense cocoa flavor; we gilded the lily with sliced local peaches and organic vanilla ice cream.
His original recipe, after the jump.
Travis Douglas' Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache
In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment:
20 egg whites
1/2 T cream of tartar
1ï¿½ 1/4 Cï¿½ sugar
In a large bowl:
1/2 C + 1 T cocoa
1/4 C + 2 T hot water (more if necessary)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
In a small bowl:
1 C + 1 T flour
1/4ï¿½ tsp + 1/8 tsp coarse salt
3/4 C + 3 T sugar
Whisk egg whites til frothy (I think that I use 4 or 5 speed on kitchen aid)
Add cream of tartar
Whisk till stiff peaks (there is a danger of over-beating)
Slowly rain in sugar while whisking
Whisk till stiff peaks (there is virtually no danger of over-beating)
While it's whisking:
In a small bowl sift flour, sugar and salt together
In a large bowl combine cocoa, hot water, vanilla together to form like a melted chocolate
Fold 1/3 of egg whites and cocoa together in cocoa bowl with spatula
Sift flour mix in 4 additions into remaining 2/3 egg whites. Whisk it in.
Make sure to fold gently so that you don't beat too much of the "air" out of the egg whites ï¿½ they are essentially holding the rest of the ingredients in suspension.
Combine the two until color just "un-marbelizes."
Fill angel food pan 3/4 full (I don't oil or flour the pan). Take a knife and run it around through the batter a couple times to get out any large air bubbles from pouring (this is important).
Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Do NOT open that oven until an hour has past ï¿½ it will collapse. Cake is done if after an hour you press and it springs back and feels dry. It is OK for top to caramelize a little, so don't stress much about letting it go too long.
Immediately invert onto tabs of pan. Cake cools this way. Don't try to unmold until completely cool ï¿½ I always bake at night and wait til the next morning.
To unmold, my secret is I find the largest plastic lid that I can ï¿½ and cut the lip off.ï¿½ this will get cleaner results than any knife. Slide it between the cake and the pan and essentially roll it around.
Cover cake with chocolate ganache:
6 oz semi-sweet (half bag)
1/2 cup heavy cream
melt on bain marie
I probably made this look more complicated, because I was trying to give tips.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
You must act fast when faced with a surplus of fish. It doesn't happen often, but when the dinner guests don't touch a few fillets of cooked seafood, you have just a few options.
Fish soup, made with whatever aromatics you have on hand (onions, garlic, fennel, celery, carrot), fresh herbs, stock and a touch of cream is a gratifying use of leftovers. Break up cooked fish with a fork before adding it to the completed soup to heat through. Grill a few pieces of crusty bread for dipping and no one will guess this is a second-run meal.
Fishcakes are something I had never even desired to make, until the Tupperware full of lemon-butter cooked tilapia and mashed potatoes foisted on me by my stepmother actually demanded I give the humble cakes a try.
After flaking the cooked fish with a fork and combining them with grated onion, herbs and the mashed potatoes, I gently patted them into small cakes and gave them a dip in egg and breadcrumbs. Fried to a crisp exterior, the simple cakes were tender and surprisingly delicate. Their neutral flavor profile makes them a good match for a variety of partners: eggs, green salad, cocktail sauce and a soft roll, or The Philly Combo: two fishcakes and a split-grilled hot dog with raw onions and "Greek sauce" on a double-wide bun.
After the jump, learn how to turn yesterday's unloved fish into today's hot cake.
This is a proportional recipe; it can be adjusted to use up leftovers, no matter how little or how much you have.
Go Get This (out of the pantry and fridge):
Three parts cooked fish fillets, pin bones removed
One part mashed potatoes, cold
One part onion, grated on a box grater (or more, to taste)
Palmful of fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, chervil, parsley, tarragon, whatever you got; reduce amount to pinches if using dried herbs, which are much more intense)
Pinch dry mustard powder
Neutral-flavored oil, like canola
Now Do This:
In a bowl, flake the cooked fish with a fork into small-ish chunks. Don't pulverize it. Add the grated onion, mashed potatoes, dry mustard powder and herbs; gently mix with the fork to combine.
In a bowl, whisk the egg until yolk and white are combined. Pour breadcrumbs into a shallow, rimmed plate.
Gently pat the fish and potato mixture into small cakes. Remember, they should be thinner instead of thick, because you want to heat the cake through without making it tough or dried out. The primary ingredients are already cooked, so you are really just crisping the outside and warming the inside.
Dip each cake, first in the beaten egg wash and then the breadcrumbs to coat. Set aside on a plate.
Place a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add enough oil just to keep the cakes from sticking; a splash or two should do it.
When oil is shimmering, gently place fish cakes in pan. Fry on each side for 1-2 minutes, until brown and crisp. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.
Serve with a green salad, scrambled eggs or on a sandwich.
|Keith Haring pancakes, by Matteo Oliverio|
One of the best things about a physical copy of a cookbook is the illustrations. From breaking down a duck to how to truss a roast, there are some things that make so much more sense when illustrated instead of explained.
Recipelook.co.uk blogs for visual learners with their drawn-out recipes, ranging from elementary (baking a potato) to avant-garde (Keith Haring pancakes). The site's creators, Tom Ballhatchet and Amelie Labarthe, welcome submissions from those who can wrangle "a pan in one hand, and a pen in the other."
I'm sending in the visual version of one of my favorite Mark Bittman recipes, Grilled Eggplant Salad with Yogurt. Send your entry to email@example.com.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Slices of summer|
Sticking your entire face in a sticky wedge of icy-cool watermelon and competing with siblings to spit seeds the farthest is the essence of childhood in summer. Now that you have your own kitchen and a sharp knife to play with, you can enjoy all of the juicy flavor of watermelon with none of the mess and subsequent hosing-down.
Watermelon is rich in phyto-nutrients ï¿½ naturally occurring compounds that trigger healthy reactions in the body ï¿½ including lycopene, beta-carotene and citrulline. Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&Mï¿½s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, has studied watermelon extensively. His research indicates that enzymes in the body convert citrulline into the amino acid arginine, which has a relaxing effect on blood vessels ï¿½ the same effect as drugs like Viagra.
So not only is watermelon fun to eat, it could make the after-watermelon hosing off more fun than it was when you were seven.
To butcher a melon, lay a kitchen towel down on the counter, and place your cutting board on it to limit drips.ï¿½ Stand the watermelon up and slice it in half down its length. It's fine if one half is bigger than the other. Then place one half, cut side down, on the board, and slice it one-half to 1 inch thick. Lay each slice flat and cut the white rind away. Discard the rind, or remove the skin and make watermelon rind pickles ï¿½ try Fork owner Ellen Yin's recipe, here at Philly Mag.
Cube the flesh of the melon and chill in the fridge. To serve, toss with freshly torn or chiffonade basil; sprinkle with good sea salt, like Maldon.
|Photo | Jamie Chung, esquire.com
Modo Mio chef/owner Peter McAndrews' recipe for dear-God-that's-beautiful Sunday gravy is featured in Esquire's "How to Eat Like a Man Now" spread, focusing on meals that look and sound like the opposite of health food infinitely delicious. (Hey Pete, weren't you just in that mag in May?)
Being of Irish heritage and growing up in a household not quite culinarily diverse, I was often mystified by the food at the homes of my Italian-American friends in the neighborhood. As I learned to cook, I tried to replicate these mystical sauces, without much success. Then I married a second-generation Italian-American whose family brought this magnificent recipe over from the old country. Here's my version, best prepared as you drink a nice glass of red.
McAndrews' full recipe ï¿½ hot Italian sausage! meatballs! pork ribs! ï¿½ is right here.
Freshly returned from the wilds of Chicago and Mercat a la Planxa, new Amada chef de cuisine MacGregor Mann offered to show Team Meal Ticket a few of the restaurant's 11 new menu items. (Check him out in action above.) The plates are the restaurant's biggest menu change to date; you can get them a la carte or try a featured eight on La Mesa de Jose tasting menu ($55) that runs through August.
|Photo | Neal Santos
One of the simplest recipes, a Cordoban gazpacho called salmorejo (above), is featured in our food sidebar this week. But we didn't have enough room in print to include info on the gorgeous garnishes that elevate this soup from fresh and healthy to totally decadent ï¿½ we're talking diced hiramasa (buttery kingfish), serrano crisps, hard-boiled egg pressed through a chinois, strawberry paint, infant sorrel and black olive dust.
After the jump, try your hand (and blender) at Amada's official recipe just as we received it, including the methods for the salty serrano crisps and fluffy egg garnish.
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