Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nudie Gnudi

Nudie Gnudi

Not Nudie Gnudi

Unlike never nudes, I've had gnudi experiences. My first was at Picholine. It was restaurant week years ago (not my normal lunch destination obvs) and I had never tried gnudi before. That is just so sad because I had to wait so long to discover how delicious they are, in a way that gnocchi (it's little potato cousin) often aren't. Instead of being little pillows of heaven, if they aren't made well, gnocchi can be little starch grenades. However, the Picholine gnudi were light and fluffy and amazing. Fast forward to the opening of The Spotted Pig and the crazy delicious sheep's milk ricotta gnudi that are served there. Whoa. There's no reason to order anything else. Except the burger. Check please! Valet, bring my ambulance around.

It's not like I was obsessing over gnudi last week out of the blue, which wouldn't be unlike me, but it was while reading my weekly Food & Wine e-newsletter that I spied a recipe for a batch of spinach gnudi. And that was it. I bought my ingredients and got to work! While I may not be able to exactly replicate the perfection that I've had in restaurants (yet!), this rendition is pretty darn good...and super tasty and easy to make. I think some fresh basil might be a nice addition, or a lathering in a simple brown butter. And just to show how on trend I am, check out this article
in the NY Times today!

Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi

(Adapted from Food & Wine)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups spinach, stems discarded
2 pounds fresh ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups all-purpose flour

All-purpose tomato sauce
4 tablespoons butter, optional

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and stir over until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop it.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a stand mixer, combine the spinach with the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and mix on medium-low speed until blended. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low between additions, until just incorporated.

3. Add about one-fourth of the gnudi dough to a large, resealable plastic bag. With scissors, cut a 1/2-inch corner from the bag. Working over the boiling water, squeeze the dough through the corner opening and use a knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces as it is squeezed out. Cook the gnudi over moderately high heat until firm, about 3 minutes. (They will drop to the bottom of the pot and then float to the surface as they cook.) With a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the gnudi to a platter. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Heat the tomato sauce and stir in the butter, if desired. Carefully transfer the gnudi to the tomato sauce and stir lightly to heat through. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve at once, passing more Parmesan at the table. Serves 6 - 8. This recipe can be halved and works perfectly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lock, Stock, and Barrels

This past weekend I made my maiden voyage to the North Fork of Long Island while on a field trip with my wine class, or rather a couple of peeps from my wine class. (I could have brought friends!) The educational emphasis was on viticulture and vitification because that is the unit that we are currently studying, but let's face it, it was also about tasting and buying wine.

We started out at Paumanok Winery, then moved on to Lenz Winery, both smallish but quite well established wineries making delicious wine in Long Island. (No, it's not an oxymoron, though it certainly could be.) We ended up capping off the day with a trip to a goat cheese farm called Catapano Dairy Farm to buy some delicious goat cheese and then finally ended up at Briermere Farms where several peeps stood in line to buy one of their abundant pie selections. I just bought some beets to roast up to go with my bevy of goat cheese (lavender-honey and plain chevre). All in all it was a pretty fabulous day.

Yep. With 30-some-odd wineries (vs. just a couple in the South Fork) the North Fork is synonymous with wine country.

An example of the trellising/pruning technique called replacement cane pruning. I won't bore you with the details that I have to know about this. Gnarly. Harvest was just completed a few days ago, hence, no grapes.

Hello, Cabernet Franc.

Extra barrels just waiting to be used.

A Lenz Gerwürztraminer just after fermentation. Cloudy yet delicious, but not quite as Gerwzy (my word) or clear as it has yet to become.

Paumanok Winery on a lazy October afternoon.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Here's a recipe from The Ski House Cookbook in case you ever have an excess of goat cheese, and eating it with a spoon just won't do.

2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 ounces goat cheese
6 - 9 ounces baby greens

Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
Whisk together:
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Extra virgin olive oil

1. In a small bowl mix the bread crumbs, pepper, thyme, and parsley. In another small bowl whisk the egg with the salt and mustard.

2. Cut the goat cheese into 4 equal pieces and form into disks about 3/4” thick. Roll the disks in the egg wash and then in the bread crumb mixture, pressing the crumbs gently into the cheese to coat. Place the disks on a small baking sheet and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the cheese from the freezer and brush the tops lightly with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

4. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with a goat cheese round. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rosemary + Chocolate + Olive Oil = Dessert

It must be the chill in the air that makes me want to bake everyday, at least that's my excuse. Even after my trip to Eataly, land of savory goodness, I managed to find a way to bake with my new olive oil. I've been reading about using olive oil for baking for quite a while, but had never actually made an attempt. It was time. This rosemary-chocolate tea cake recipe is the perfect vehicle for venturing into the world of sweet and savory all at once. I don't particularly love super sweet desserts, but thought that this recipe could use a tiny touch more sugar, and maybe a touch more chocolate (everything tastes better with more chocolate, obvs). I also substituted whole wheat flour for spelt flour...because I didn't have any and was too lazy to go out and buy some. Since this cake is not overly sweet, you could consider it more of a breakfast treat than dessert, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Hey, they say that olive oil and dark chocolate are good for you so this is my new breakfast of champions.

Rosemary & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

via The Catskill Kiwi via The Wednesday Chef via Good to the Grain

Olive oil, for the pan
3/4 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 - 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cacao), chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Rub a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan (or regular round cake pan) with olive oil.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the olive oil, milk, and rosemary and whisk again. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake can be eaten warm or cool. Once cooled the cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Carbon Dating

After a week of the world's worst cold I made a date with two of my besties, Chad and Ken, (Holla!) to enjoy a food extravaganza. The foodie destinations we visited have already been reviewed 80 million times (I've never said that I was cutting edge) so I was hoping our late showing would make for a more mellow experience since I can't stand crowds or lines or...people.

We brunched at The Breslin where I had the most amazing lamb burger with a side of thrice baked chips. had me at thrice.
(Oh, THAT'S why my jeans don't fit! Interesting.) We had some issues with the front of house but excused their general inadequacy after we ate.

Then we made our way over to Eataly. Yes, the original food and wine market is in Italy, but the way the lines formed around the block you'd think that Mario invented the place. Since I don't do lines, I took one look and got ready to run the other way. Fortunately I was with friends who aren't quite as fazed by such things. (Tip: If there's a line when you go, wait at the 23rd street entrance where it will be shorter. The Broadway entrance is bananas. Also, it only takes about 5 minutes to get in.) The place is pretty cool, though I can't imagine having an enjoyable meal there because it's loud and frenetic, not exactly the way I like to enjoy a glass of wine. I did manage to find some relative bargains hidden among the more upscale items. I bought some ground espresso for 6 bucks and a really nice bottle of olive oil for about 12. Plus the array of dried pasta is dizzying. At least now I know where to find those more unusual shapes.

A big motivating factor for our visit to Eataly was to pick up some guanciale, which is basically an unsmoked Italian bacon made from the jowls of the pig rather than the belly. It's a little harder to find than pancetta, so when we scored it we knew that carbonara was in our immediate future. This basic pasta is essentially a bacon, egg, and cheese (and pepper!) mixed into pasta rather than served fried on a roll. It's SO GOOD. There is some discrepancy about whether the name, carbonara, refers to a meal served to Italian coal workers (coal miner's spaghetti), or that it was originally made over charcoal grills, or that the abundance of black pepper simply resembles charcoal. Whatevs. It's delish. More importantly, I am suddenly realizing that this post is coinciding with the long awaited rescue of the trapped Chilean coal miners. Can you imagine being trapped underground for 69 days??? I certainly can not. And I can't believe their ability to keep it together and not go all Lord of the Flies on each other. They better get compensated for all of the book/screenplay/movie deals that most likely have been in the works for the past 52 days. That's it. Spaghetti alla Carbonara absolutely means Coal Miner's Spaghetti!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

1 pound dry spaghetti
1/2 pound guanciale (or pancetta or good bacon)
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated, plus more for serving
5 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti, according to package directions until tender yet al dente.

2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, cook the guanciale until it is crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the cooked spaghetti and add to the bowl, along with the guanciale, reserved fat, grated cheese, and a very generous amount of black pepper and toss until fully incorporated. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to the desired consistency. Season with more freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, and grate additional cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 4 generously.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't Speak

Since I've had laryngitis for the past few days you'd think that I could at least write a blog post...but you'd be wrong! I haven't been cooking OR going out to eat. I have nothing to say. Literally. But while I try to mend by ordering takeout and eating super spicy Thai soups like Tom Yum Goong, I figured that I could at least share my latest discovery: THE BEST COFFEE ON PLANET EARTH.

Macaron Cafe is an unassuming fabulous little place on a crappy block on West 36th street. (Actually I think there might be another location uptown too.) I discovered it when I needed to find some macarons for a photo shoot for work. Since my assistant and I trekked all the way over there from our office, we decided to treat ourselves to an iced coffee for the walk back. Now iced coffee may not be the best predictor of the quality of coffee, but it was outstanding nonetheless. And fully loaded. We were bouncing off the walls for the next 12 hours.

After that unexpected experience, I dragged another co-worker to Macaron Cafe after a recent photo shoot in the neighborhood. This time I ordered a cappuccino, and it was 5:00 pm. I thought that I should have some caffeine before my 3 hour wine class, naively thinking that my last experience with hyperactivity was a fluke. My friend had a sip, deemed it the best coffee she ever had, and agreed that she too would never sleep again when I called her after my class at 10:30 pm. Aha!

I'm not saying that this coffee is the best ever simply because of the caffeine. It's because of the flavor, the freshness, the perfection. The heightened alertness is simply a by-product. By the way, Macaron Cafe sells macarons too and they are delish, and super cute. (Don't they look like adorable little hamburgers??) My current fave is the caramel fleur de sel. Can't wait until I get better to actually taste food again!

Photos from

Caramel Fleur de Sel