Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bread and Kale Gnocchi

During my recent vacations in Poland I did not cook at all but ate a lot. I enjoyed Polish food and most of all Polish bread. I think we have one of the best breads in the world and the richest variety of it.

In any Polish home it is almost religious to have plenty of bread in a bread box. But, because we are so obsessed with bread, we often buy too much of it. Then, on the next day, we cannot resist buying a new batch straight from the bakery, fresh and warm and this way we repeatedly end up with significant amounts of old bread which, although still good on the next day, cannot compete with the fresh one.

Unfortunately, we do not recycle bread, not even to feed animals. The only way then to use old bread is to cook with it. Today's recipe, which comes from the Italian cuisine where this gluten loaded delicacy is also very popular, is one of the great ideas how to recycle old bread. Not surprisingly, Italians being Italians use bread leftovers to make yet another variety of gnocchi.

For this particular recipe I used different types of old bread which I happened to have, mostly whole wheat and country style. Just to make it more healthy and nutritious I added kale, which also enriched the taste of my gnocchi, which can be served with butter or butter fried sage.

Bread and Kale Gnocchi

2 lb of one or two-day old bread, such as country style, cut into smaller chunks,
1/2 lb kale, preferably Tuscan,
3 eggs,
1/2 cup all purpose flour,
a pinch of nutmeg,
6 tbsp unsalted butter,
8-10 sage leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan.

1. Place bread in a large bowl and cover with milk. Let it soak for about an hour. Squeeze the milk well out and place the bread in a food processor.
2. Chop roughly kale and blanch it in a hot water. Drain well on the colander and add to the soaked bread. Puree all the ingredients until smooth.
3. Transfer the mixture to the large bowl. Sift in flour, add eggs, 1/3 cup Parmesan, salt and nutmeg. Mix well.

4. Bring to boiling a large pot of salted water. Scoop a portion of the mixture on a soup spoon and drop into a pot by dipping the spoon in boiling water. Let the gnocchi afloat and cook on a low temperature for about 4 minutes.

5. Drain the first batch of gnocchi and follow with the remaining batter.
6. To finish the dish, fry the butter in a small pot until it bubbles. Add sage leaves and fry them until crispy for about a minute. Pour the hot butter and sage on gnocchi and finish with Parmesan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Peach Crostata

Crostata is a type of Italian, rustic pie or tart. It is very easy to make, does not require any special baking pan or skills. I make mine in a food processor, which is even easier.

There are many crostata doughs. I have been often experimenting with a basic crostata base adding different types of flour or nuts and trying it with different toppings.

Crostata can be made with almost any seasonal fruit. Even those most juicy once like blueberries or raspberries are good since you can always add extra flour to absorb the juice.

Peach crostata made with local peaches has recently become my favorite crostata variety. Locally grown peaches are now wonderfully sweet and aromatic. For that particular crostata I make a base with whole wheat flour and finish my crostata with pistachios to add crunchiness.

So today, I offer you a summer peach crostata. When I serve it, straight from the oven, it often disappears before it even cools down completely.

Peach Crostata

6 peaches,
1/4 cup brown sugar,
1 tbsp all purpose flour,
2 tbsp pistachios (preferably Iranian, for their green color)
1 and 1/2 stick cold, unsalted butter,
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour,
1/2 cup wheat flour,
1/2 tsp salt,
1 tbsp sugar,
1/4 cup iced water.

1. Put both flours, salt, and 1 tbsp sugar in a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add butter cut into cubes and pulse again until crumbles form. Pour in iced water and run the engine until a smooth dough forms.
2. Place a dough between plastic foil and make a disc. Cool the dough for at least an hour.
3. Cut the peaches in halves, remove the stones and cut into thick slices.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out into a 16-inch large circle.
5. Mix brown sugar and flour and dust on top of the dough.
6. Arrange slices of peaches on top, leaving a two inches wide edge around. Sprinkle the top with pistachios.

7. Preheat oven to 400F.
8. Fold the edges on top of fruits and let the crostata chill in a refrigerator again, for 10-15 minutes.

9. Bake crostata for about 45 minutes until light gold and peaches bubble.
Cool down at serve.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cauliflower in a Herbs and Mustard Sauce

When I am in Poland I like my cauliflower to be cooked and served in a traditional Polish way, sprinkled with fried breadcrumbs and accompanied by a tomato and onion salad. But this dish tastes best in Poland where cauliflower and tomatoes taste different than here. So whenever I make a cauliflower here, I am always looking for a recipe that is not similar to that Polish dish.

Since this is a high season for a locally grown cauliflower I have been buying it more often at my local farmers market. Besides the traditional white ones, now they also come in yellow and purple varieties, which look even more appealing. Just recently, I tried two new cauliflower dishes from different cuisines. Today the first of them, coming from France.

This one is a simple dish with the cauliflower being cooked or roasted and finished with a traditional French sauce Gribiche. Gribiche is used with many cooked vegetable, mainly asparagus, green beans, and potatoes. Since it is slightly spicy thanks to mustard and cornichons it also tastes great on a cauliflower, which is rather bland. The dish can be made ahead and if you wish to serve it warm just roast it shortly in the oven and serve it immediately after cooking or serve as a cold appetiser or a salad.

Cauliflower with a Herbs and Mustard Sauce
(Serves four)

1 medium cauliflower (cooked until soft but firm, in water with a tbsp of salt and a tbsp of sugar),
2 hard boiled eggs,
1 tsp Dijon mustard,
1 garlic clove, minced,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1/4 cup light oil such a grape seeds,
1 tbsp capers,
4 small cornichons, cut in thick slices,
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, chopped,
1 tbsp flat leaved parsley, chopped,
2 tbsp chives, chopped,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place the cooked cauliflower in a large bowl,
2. In a bowl of food processor place eggs, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, and oil and run the engine until a smooth sauce forms.
3. Add capers, cornichons, parsley, and tarragon (leave the chives aside) and purée the sauce again.

4. Try the sauce and season it with salt and pepper according to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the hot or room temperature cauliflower.
5. Sprinkle the cauliflower with chopped chives and serve.