Have you ever discovered a really delicious dish at a restaurant, savored every last bite, and then spent the next few hours/days/weeks/months thinking about it, craving it, and wishing you knew how to make it just as good (if not better!) at home?
Have you ever caved in, dragged a loved one to breakfast/lunch/dinner, and gone back to said restaurant for justonemorebite, only to find out those fools have sold to new management and your beloved dish is no longer on the menu? Well, I’ve gotta tell you – it hurts. It hurts bad.
This is that dish.
I stumbled across it on a date with my husband in San Diego’s Little Italy several years ago, and have never really been able to get it out of my head. How did they make those gnocchi so soft, so delicate? How did they manage to make their sauce so rich and creamy, yet so light? What culinary trickery was this, and how oh how could I be trained in their ways?
Then it was gone. All gone. I was left with a profound feeling of loss that is difficult to articulate. It turns out that was just hunger, but man I was disappointed. I began scouring the Internet for gnocchi recipes, and was instantly intimidated. You want me to do what with a potato?! It wasn’t until I stumbled across this version made with ricotta and flour that I got up the nerve to get my gnocchi on.
I don’t know what I was so afraid of! This brilliant recipe is both delicious and actually really easy, if you’re not afraid to get your hands a little dirty (or doughy, to be exact!). Paired with toasted walnuts and a simple, dreamy Gorgonzola sauce, this gnocchi is a perfect, incredibly tasty copy of that dish in San Diego. Phew!
What are some of your favorite restaurant dishes that you’d love to recreate at home?
RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH TOASTED WALNUT-GORGONZOLA SAUCE
3 to 4 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese (not creamy or dolce)
6 tbsp freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, to serve
To make the gnocchi:
Place ricotta, flour, salt, egg and Parmagiano cheese in a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir well, until a wet dough forms.
Turn dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead until it feels pliable and smooth (approximately 2 to 3 minutes).
Divide dough into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a long rope the approximate width of your index finger, stretching as you roll (it’s okay if the ropes rip, as you’ll be cutting them into small pieces in the next step).
Cut ropes into 1-inch pieces. Using a fork turned upside down, gently press the tines into each piece (this will later help the sauce cling to the gnocchi).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.
[You’re not finished with the gnocchi yet, but this is a good time to turn to the sauce for a moment!]
To make the sauce:
If not yet toasted, place the walnuts in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 3 minutes (if walnuts are already toasted, skip this step). Set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the walnuts and saute for two minutes. Add the cream, Gorgonzola, 3 tablespoons Parmagiano cheese, salt and pepper, stirring well to combine. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for approximately 4 to 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
[Now, back to the gnocchi!]
While the sauce is thickening, carefully drop gnocchi into the boiling water. They will immediately sink to the bottom, but within 2 minutes will start floating to the water’s surface. At this point, your gnocchi is DONE – immediately remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, transfer to the simmering sauce, and toss to coat.
Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped parsley and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmagiano cheese, and serve immediately.
Every once in a blue moon, my baking takes a decidedly healthy turn – and boy oh boy, am I glad it did today! These baked zucchini “fries” are so crispy and flavorful, I would gladly eat them in place of the potato variety (and that’s really saying something, considering my deep love of all things potato!). They’re a great vegetable option for finicky kids, picky spouses, or those looking to shed fat and calories without sacrificing great taste. I ate every bit of cheesy breading that ended up on the aluminum foil after baking, and I bet you will too – enjoy!
TIP: The key to crisp “fries” in this recipe – and in others using vegetables with high water content, such as squash, eggplant, or cucumbers – is disgorging (or degorging). This involves sprinkling the sliced surface of the zucchini with salt, waiting approximately 15-20 minutes, then rinsing and patting dry. The salt causes the excess water inside the zucchini to expel through osmosis, thus preventing sogginess in the final product. Don’t forget the rinse and pat dry, however, to avoid needlessly salty “fries”!
Polenta – a dish made of yellow or white cornmeal boiled in water or stock into a thick, solidified porridge – is a popular cooking staple throughout central Europe, particularly northern Italy, France, and Switzerland. While I’d eaten it on a handful of occasions in the United States – usually at an Italian restaurant – I’d never before cooked with polenta until giving this recipe a try. I was pleasantly surprised – its remarkably easy to prepare and can be formed and set into virtually any shape. It doesn’t have a great deal of flavor on its own, but with the addition of a flavorful stock or cheese, polenta is a wonderful base for meat stews, seafood, or vegetables.
This colorful wee tart – recipe courtesy of The View from Great Island – was a huge hit in our household! The tomatoes were delicious – a bit reminiscent of a chunky bruschetta topping – and looked absolutely beautiful arranged atop the bright yellow polenta base. My husband – who usually grumbles his way through anything vegetarian – ate 3/4 of the tart on his own. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is!
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnishing
1 generous pint multicolored cherry tomatoes
1 medium heirloom tomato
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
10 large basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
Bring the water, milk and salt to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot. Slowly add in the polenta, stirring to avoid lumps. Lower the heat and let it cook gently for about 15 minutes. You will have to stir it most of the time. I like to use a silicone spatula. Be careful because the polenta with splatter as it bubbles, and it’s hot.
Take it off the heat and add the butter and the cheese. Mix well. Add some fresh cracked black pepper, and then taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
Pour the polenta into a greased 9″ springform pan or tart dish. (Note: I ended up using only 3/4 of the polenta, as I didn’t want my tart to be too thick.) Smooth it out quickly so the top is level. The polenta will begin to set up immediately. Let the polenta cool.
Meanwhile, make the tomato topping. Do this no more than one hour before you want to serve the tart. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half. You can cut the larger ones in wedges, and leave the very tiniest ones whole. Chop the regular sized tomato in small chunks. Put them in a bowl with all the juices and add the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature to allow the juices to flow and mingle for up to an hour. Just before you are ready to put the tart together, chop the basil and add it to the tomatoes. (Note: don’t do this earlier, as the basil may turn dark)
Just before you are ready to serve it, spoon the tomatoes and their juices on top of the polenta. Garnish with any remaining basil leaves and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.
Slice with a sharp knife and serve with more cheese.
I’ve been looking for a tasty appetizer recipe to share on this blog for a while, and this recipe is definitely a new favorite. Bite sized, easy to prepare, a really nice combination of flavors – yum!!
This recipe is featured in my go-to barbecue guide, Homestyle Barbecue, and is probably best prepared on a barbecue grill plate or flat plate, as instructed. But if you don’t have one, never fear – truth is, I don’t either! I popped these in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for approximately 10 minutes, and they turned out perfectly. Enjoy!
PARMA HAM, FETA AND HERB-STUFFED MUSHROOMS
Yields: 8 bite-sized appetizers
8 large flat field mushrooms, rinsed well and patted dry
5 ounces Parma ham, finely chopped
3.5 ounces fresh feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, set caps aside, and finely chop the stalks. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped stalks, Parma ham, crumbled feta, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and oregano. Stir well and season with freshly ground black pepper. Add a small amount of water to hold the mixture together.
Divide the mixture among the mushroom cups and brush lightly with olive oil.
Cook on a hot, lightly oiled barbecue grill plate or flat plate, filling side up, for about 3 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and steam for 2 minutes. Or, as an alternative, bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for 8-10 minutes.