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Gorgonzola and Pear Gnocchi (Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola e Pera)

November 20, 2010
Gnocci with Gorgonzola and Pears

Gnocci with Gorgonzola and Pears

Gnocchi alla gorgonzola e pera is actually a pretty common dish in the northern half of Italy; the kind of thing any restaurant that might be serving tourists would throw on (without regard to seasonality, local cuisine, etc), and while that might turn you off, it’s actually quite good. That said, I ate it several places in Florence, and am fairly certain I spotted it on other menus around the way.

I couldn’t find much on the history of this dish, so I think it’s more of a modern classic–prior to not-too-many-years-ago, most classic products of regions didn’t get transported or heavily used much in other regions. There was a time when gorgonzola is what you ate when you were in piedmonte; risotto is what you ate in Milan and in the far north, you ate potatoes in Alto Adige and maybe in Emilia-Romagna. Less so now, with the best of the best being desired by Italians everywhere loving food.

Gnocchi is, however, typical of Alto Adige (where potatoes are most common), and gorgonzola–if it is officially DOP gorgonzola–is from Piedmonte. For this dish, you’ll want to use the opposite of what you’d likely want to snack on in a cheese plate. You’ll use Gorgonzola Dolce, which is the young, “sweet” gorgonzola. As the cheese ages it becomes more “piquante” or spicy, hot. It’ll tickle your throat if it’s the wrong type for this job. If you don’t have a quality cheese chop that carries both and can point them out, look for gorgonzola (imported, not pre-crumbled) that has a more soft, creamy texture with less blue bits–that’s usually it.

For 3-4
3 oz gorgonzola dolce cheeese
1 ripe pear, diced
1 T butter
2 T flour
1 cup light vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk
fresh gnocchi*
salt, fresh ground pepper

Boil your water and have it ready. If you are using fresh gnocchi (which you could be!), they require VERY little cooking time, take what you think they take and cut it by half. Seconds! Otherwise, they’ll fall apart, and you’ll regret it.

Dice your pear, have your ingredients ready. You may or may not need slightly more or less veg stock & milk. Create a roux by heating the butter in a small sauce pan, until clear and stopped bubbling, medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until color darkens slightly, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and slowly add the vegetable stock, then the milk, until you get a mac-n-cheese type consistency, or slightly thinner. Add the gorgonzola and continue whisking until smooth.

Add the gnocchi to the water and cook; remove the gnocchi as soon as they float to the top of the pan using a slatted spoon or gnocchi paddle. Add the pear to the sauce and let it warm up, adding the gnocchi to the sauce and stirring gently to coat, with a large wooden spoon (don’t use metal, you’ll chop up the dumplings).

Add some salt and black pepper to taste, serve!

Fresh gnocchi makes a huge difference over the vaccu-packed kind you’ll find on the pasta isle. It’s much less dense and has the texture of a down pillow, collapsing in your mouth. I buy mine in bulk from Rainbow market or from Faletti Foods; both carry gnocchi by the bay area’s “Pasta Shop,” which lots of local stores retail products from.

appetizers condiments & pickles Fall fried lunch main courses Recipes salad dressings salads seafood

Salmon Cream Cheese Wontons & Spicy Persimmon Slaw

November 14, 2010
home made salmon cream cheese wontons

home made salmon cream cheese wontons

spicy persimmon cabbage salad

Inspired by Wild Ginger in Cambria, CA, these wontons are tasty, filling finger food; the slaw helps to cut the fat and is a nice fall accompaniment. They’re also a really convenient way to use up any leftover wonton skins and leftover salmon.

For 12-16 wontons

Square wonton skins
1/3 lb salmon, cooked (grilled, broiled, whatever)
1/4 C cream cheese (I prefer Gina Marie from Sierra Nevada Cheese Co)
1-2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1/8 tsp five spice powder
salt
lots of safflower/sunflower/other high eat oil for frying

Shred the salmon and mix with room temperature cream cheese. Add rice vinegar, five spice powder, and a pinch of salt to taste. Set aside for up to 2 hours or refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. Use 1T per wonton wrapper and moisten wrapper with spray bottle. Fold diagonally and seal, then bring end points together and seal. Fry at medium high heat, testing a piece of wonton skin first, until evenly golden.

Spicy Persimmon Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, chopped somewhat finely
1 persimmon, sliced thinly
2 tsp gochujang or other chili paste such as harissa
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt

Whisk gochujang, lime juice, cumin and salt; toss cabbage and persimmon in mixture and let set 10 minutes before serving, or up to 1 hour.

dinner Fall lunch main courses one-pan recipes Recipes San Francisco soups Winter

Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Chili

November 3, 2010
home made chili with rancho gordo heirloom beans

home made chili with rancho gordo heirloom beans

Delicious chili made from Rancho Gordo heirloom organic beans, adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

olive oil
2 large yellow or sweet onions, diced
1 T minced garlic
2 large carrots, cubed
1 cup dry pinquito beans
1 cup dry yellow-eye steuben heirloom beans (also rancho gordo but they aren’t selling them online! if you’re in SF try Rainbow’s bulk section)
3 lbs ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork (I used mostly beef/pork, but a little ground chicken too)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
4 T chili powder
1 T cumin (ground)
2 T paprika
1 T dry oregano
1 T chili flakes
16 oz tomatoes chopped or stewed/pureed (I use POMI)
2 C beef broth or veal stock
1/4 C cider vinegar

Garnish:
Cheddar cheese, grated
Red onion, diced

Serve with macaroni  OR bread

Beans: Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Do not soak more than 9 hours or they will probably burst. They may be mixed for soaking. Try to pre-cook ahead, but if not, start cooking the drained, rinsed, soaked beans in fresh water in a seperate pan as you begin making the chili. Cover and be sure they are cooking at at least a simmer, but not a boil. You want them tender before you add them to the chili at the end. They like to be cooked about an inch of water over the beans; just drain off the extra water if they’re cooked through.

Chili: In a soup pot or dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil or butter. When hot, add diced onions. Cook until almost translucent, at medium heat. Add the garlic & carrots, cooking another 2-3 minutes. Add the meat, and let it cook through.

While meat is cooking, dice your peppers and gather your other ingredients.

When meat is cooked, add all of the spices. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beef stock, and vinegar. You may wish to reserve additional beef stock in case you prefer looser chili. Prepare your garnishes. Add the drained, cooked beans to the chili and you may serve in 10 minutes (simmering) or any amount of time after. The longer it sits, the better; I like to put the lid back on the pan and let it cool down very slowly, so that the flavors meld.

Serve with cheddar and red onion on top.

dinner Fall lunch main courses pasta seafood

Matsutake Mushroom Gnocci with Watercress

October 31, 2010
matsutake gnocci with watercress

Preface: The only other context I’ve eaten matsutake is in dashi and in a quesadilla (a delicious quesadilla). I don’t think I would make this dish exactly the same next time; I think it would be better in more broth, without the creme fraiche, with egg noodles (Asian style). I used really good quality, fluffy, fresh gnocci for this dish and I think it was really competing with the matsutake, which is a shame because they should have been the feature of the dish.

matsutake gnocci with watercress

matsutake mushrooms cooking

Luckily, matsutakes had a bumper crop this year and they were only $20/lb. In SF, they can be found for $40 or more most years, so this was a really nice surprise last time I popped in at the Japanese market. Yesterday, I even saw them at Rainbow Foods!

I do think simmering the matsutakes in dashi (it was small amounts of mirin, soy sauce, sake, walnut oil and then a larger amount of straight up dashi–water infused with kombu and i-forget-the-name tuna flakes) worked well, I just would have made more of it next time and omitted the creme fraiche I added. The watercress also worked well. So go ahead and do that, and sub those gnocci for egg noodles and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a delicious meal.

Anyway, no recipe here since I won’t stand behind it, but thought you might learn from my experience.

appetizers Fall lunch Recipes soups Winter

French Onion Soup

October 24, 2010
home made french onion soup

home made french onion soup

french onion soup cooking in cast iron enameled pot

6 large onions of mixed variety (mostly sweet yellow, but mix in some shallots, white onions, vidalia, etc)
2 qts beef stock or veal stock
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tsp dried thyme or lots of fresh thyme
1 T butter
2 large beef short ribs (optional)
1/4 C white wine (optional)
lots of salt
nice bread
gruyere cheese

Slice your onions thinly;  if you have a mandolin use it to save time. Try to keep some longer strands along with some smaller ones.

Begin by melting the butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven at medium high heat, then (if using them) add the salted short ribs, browning on each side. When finished browning, remove ribs and set aside, add 1/4 C white wine to deglaze, (if you are not using ribs, continue here) then add the onions with 1-2 T kosher salt (a lot less if you are using iodized for some inexcusable reason) & the thyme, then reduce heat to medium low. Cook the onions at least 1 hour until limp and golden, and sweet to taste.

Add the ribs, stock, and bouillon cubes to the pot. Cover and cook at medium low or low for 1-2 hours. Remove ribs and seperate the meat, adding back to the pot in small pieces. Chop if necessary, removing large pieces of fat or other matter. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.

If you do not have ramekins or other fire-safe serving ware, you’ll want to prepare the bread separately. Heat the oven to 400, slice the bread and top with gruyere. Cook about 10 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Place on top of the soup when serving.

If you do have ramekins, add the soup to them, a piece of bread to fit the top, and top generously with grated gruyere cheese, placing under the flame of your broiler until bubbly and golden.