Wonderful Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

June 20, 2013

Stopped by a farmer's stand this morning and found such beautiful spinach I couldn't resist buying it. And, mostly because I was doing my best to avoid work, I decided to make a lovely little lunch.

What should I call these? Gnudi? Dumplings? Gnocchi?  Not quite sure.  What they are is delicate and very delicious.

 Spinach Gnocchi

a scant pound of spinach (14 ounces would be fine)

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of very finely chopped onion. 

1 heaping cup of ricotta – drained if watery

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 egg yolks

½ cup flour; you may need 2-4 more tablespoons

zest of one lemon

Grating of fresh nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste 

Wash the spinach well and remove thick stems. Blanch quickly in boiling salted water.  Drain; when the spinach is cool, squeeze it dry with your hands. Dry it again; you want as little liquid as possible in the spinach. Then chop it.

Put the butter in a large skillet and add the onion, cooking for about 5 minutes until it is fragrant and golden. Add the spinach and stir about, just to combine. Taste for seasoning and allow to cool.

Consider the ricotta; is it watery?  Drain it well.  Then add the Parmesan, egg yolks, lemon zest and nutmeg.  Fold in a half cup of flour; if it’s still loose, add up another quarter cup to firm up the batter.

 Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt., and reduce heat to a rolling simmer. Use two spoons to form dumplings and drop into water.

Poach 8-9 dumplings at a time, for about 3 minutes or until they float to the surface of the water. 

You now have a couple of options.  You can scoop them out and serve them naked, with just a bit of melted butter on top.  You can serve them with a simple tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Or you can take them one step farther, and make a gratin out of them in the following fashion:

Scoop the dumplings into a buttered baking dish and drizzle them with melted butter and a sprinkling of grated cheese.  Put them in preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until they’re lightly browned and the cheese has melted.

This should make an extremely satisfying lunch (or supper) for four people. 


 

 

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A Great American Vinegar – and a Great Mint Sauce

June 19, 2013

I've just fallen in love with an American vinegar, and I'm starting to put it into everything I cook. Shelburne Apple Company Cider vinegar makes just about everything taste better. I love it in salad dressings, where it's full, gentle flavor enhances every leaf of lettuce. But yesterday, as I was standing in the outdoor shower, where the fresh mint has taken over, I wondered what the vinegar would do to mint sauce. It was wonderful: served with lamb, it made the meat sing. 

Fresh Mint Sauce

Gather a cup of mint leaves, wash them and chop them coarsely, enjoying the lovely scent.  Toss the mint with a couple tablespoons of sugar and pour a half cup of boiling water over them.  Mix in a half cup of good cider vinegar and let it stand for a couple of hours to allow  the flavors to develop.

This will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. But in my house it doesn’t last that long. The leftovers makes great drinking vinegar; simply stir a couple of tablespoons into a glass of soda water for an incredibly refreshing drink.  

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Are French Fries Old Hat?

June 16, 2013

Had dinner at Michael White’s new steakhouse, Costata the other night. The food was astonishingly good: lots of raw seafood to start (I was especially taken with the sardines), a revelatory spaghetti con vongole, and a gorgeously marbled rib eye with the longest bone I’ve ever seen.  

But what really blew me away were the potatoes: small whole ones that were smashed and then fried, making the whole notion of traditional French fries seem utterly old-fashioned. Crisp on the outside, they were creamy inside, with the wonderful tang of lemon.  I loved them. And today, to celebrate Father’s Day, I'm going to do my best to recreate them. Here's what I'm planning.

Crisp, Lemony Baby Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400. 

Put two pounds of baby potatoes (they use Red Bliss, but I used Yukon Golds) in a skillet or a pot, add three cups of chicken stock that contains the zest of one lemon and a couple cloves of garlic. (The stock may not cover the potatoes.) Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 8 minutes.  

Drain, reserving lemon zest.  

Put them on a sheet pan that is liberally covered with olive oil. Gently flatten each potato, using the back of a chef’s knife, a rolling pin or a small skillet. Drizzle with olive oil and the zest from the chicken stock  and roast for about forty minutes, until the potatoes are so crisp they crackle when you take a bite.

Sprinkle with sea salt, and if you really want to gild the lily, shower them with grated Parmesan cheese. 

Serves 4.

 

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World’s Best Pancakes

January 18, 2013

The first rule of pancakes: Don’t use a mix. Let me repeat that: Don’t use a mix. It saves no time, it tastes no good – and it costs more money. 

Pancake Rule Two: Don’t even think about using inferior maple syrup. A good pancake deserves the very best.

Pancake Rule Three: Don’t skimp. I know my recipe, below, has a lot of butter, but where pancakes are concerned, more is always more. 

Pancake Rule Four: You can always put anything you want into your pancakes. Blueberries, chocolate chips, pumpkin puree… use your imagination. But when pancakes are this good, you probably won’t want to.

Here’s my basic recipe.  I’ve made this so often that I can pull it together in under a minute. After you’ve done it a few times you’ll be able to do that too. This is not diet food, but I promise that these pancakes will make your family very, very happy.  

Melt a stick of butter.  Whisk together a cup of milk, 2 large eggs and a tablespoon of vegetable oil, then add the butter.

In a small bowl whisk a cup of flour with 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 4 teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of salt.  Whisk that into the milk mixture just until its combined.  Add a bit more milk if you think it’s too thick. 

Skim a good pan with butter or oil and start pouring in some batter. The size is up to you; sometimes I make them tiny for children, sometimes I make them ludicrously large. Watch as the bubbles appear in the batter, grow larger, and then pop and vanish.  When they’ve all popped, carefully flip the pancake and cook the other side.  

Rush the pancakes to the table as each one is finished. You want them hot, sweet, salty and a little bit crisp. You want the memory to linger with your family as they move through their day. 

 

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James Beards’ Onion Ring Sandwiches

January 5, 2013

In my experience these are pretty much a love or hate proposition.  If you love onions as much as I do, they're a huge hit.  They're also very pretty, very easy, and a surprise to most people when you set them out with drinks.

Onion Rings

1 loaf brioche or challah, cut into 1/4 inch slices

mayonnaise

4 small onions, very thinly sliced into rounds

sea salt

1 cup chopped fresh parsley 

Cut 1 1/2 inch circles out of the brioche slices with a cookie cutter. 

Slather mayonnaise on the little circles. 

Sprinkle with salt. 

Place a circle of onion on a circle of bread and sandwich it between a second piece of bread. 

Roll the edge of the sandwich in the mayonnaise and then the  parsley.

Hold it together with a fancy toothpick.

 

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