Monday, April 23, 2012

Secretary's Week Gift

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I work in an office with many wonderful secretaries, who all help make things run smoothly.  Since I've been trying to cut down on my junk food intake, I'm trying to NOT give candy as thank you gifts.  And, because there are many secretaries, the cost of the gift needs to be small.  Really, its about showing your appreciation, not about the money.  So, here is a little gift tag I made up that will accompany a tasty, healthy orange and a classic knock knock joke!  You can find a PDF with 4 cards on one sheet on this link.

Show your secretary a bit of love this week!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gnocchi: A "souvenir" from my trip to Italy

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I had a birthday last week (a milestone b-day), that I spent by escaping my usual life and headed to France and Italy. One of the highlights was taking cooking lessons from my innkeeper in Florence. Awesome. So, don't be surprised if you see a couple more posts related to my fun in an Italian kitchen! The pics today are a mix of ones from my lesson in Italy and back in my own kitchen.

Note: Just FYI, the wine on the counter isn't mine...I can't tell you how many times folks in Italy shook their head at me not being interested in wine :)

Gnocchi are pretty simple to make and use ingredients that you most likely have in the house at all times. My adorable Italian cooking teacher, Vary, said that while the recipe is a good starting point, it can change based on the moisture content of the potatoes-so just keep an eye on it.

1 lb potatoes (about 3-4 potatoes)
3/4 C. flour
1 egg

I used white potatoes since that is what we used during my lesson in Italy. Leave the skins on and boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through. Drain, then use a paper towel to handle the potatoes while you peel them. You will need to use a potato ricer or cheese grater to get small, uniform bits of potato.

Make a pile of the potato bits and make a well in the middle. Crack an egg into the middle. Toss about 2/3 of the flour onto the top and start folding it all together (pulling the edges to the middle). When it starts to come together, use both hands to form a ball of dough-adding more flour if you need to.

You don't want to work it too much (the potatoes and flour will start creating too much gluten and I guess that makes for dense, heavy gnocchi). When you have a nice workable dough, form a log and divide it into 4-5 chunks.

Sprinkle the counter with more flour and roll each chunk of dough into a snake about 1/2" in diameter. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the snake into 1" long pillows. Repeat for the rest of the dough.

If you want to go super simple, you can stop now and get ready to cook the gnocchi--but if you want to make them "pretty" you need to roll each pillow against something for texture. The texture does help sauce cling (and you also create a "dimple" on the back, also good for holding more sauce). In Italy, we used the back of a cheese grater on the fine grate side. I also tried using the back of a regular dinner fork. At home, I use the edge of my pie dough cutter. You just pick up a pillow, gently press it against the tines with your thumb and roll it down gently. Press just hard enough to leave indentations. You kinda end up with a tube of gnocchi with texture on one side.

Cooking is lightning fast (so make sure your sauce is ready to go before you start cooking gnocchi). Boil a pot of water, add a generous amount of sea salt after it is boiling and then toss in some gnocchi--not so many that they clump all together--they need some space to move around. They will be done in 2 minutes-you'll know because they'll float to the top of the water.

Drain and serve with a sauce of your choice. You can freeze uncooked gnocchi to use later (don't try it with already cooked ones).


In Italy we made this one:

1 C. diced roma tomatoes
1 C. diced eggplant
2-3 green onions, sliced
1 T. sun dried tomatoes
1-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add everything except the sun dried tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the sun dried tomatoes. Serve over the gnocchi with Parmesan.

At home I tried this sauce:

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, sliced
1 c. diced tomatoes (I used canned since that is what I had)

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add everything except the tomatoes. Let cook for about 1-2 minutes until onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes.