Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jan 18, Potato Gnocchi (Gnocchi di patate)

I've been waiting so long for this morning! I finally have some free time and I bought DOP Italian gorgonzola cheese on Friday.  I have plenty of Italian flour (farina 00) in my cupboard. Total time to prepare: 2 hours, but that includes the one hour needed to cook two large potatoes. I halved the recipe, since I'm only cooking for myself. I will freeze the majority of the gnocchi, uncooked.

Thoroughly work the dough with your hands for a few minutes. Knead it as you would for making bread. Sift in flour as needed, until the dough stays together and is not sticky. Form a rectangle.

Cut off a 1 inch slice. Roll the slice with hands on a floured work surface until you have a bread stick sized oblong. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces, flour lightly again. Press pieces along a fork's tines or use a wooden gnocchi form. Save formed gnocchi to a floured cookie sheet. Gnocchi should not touch each other.

Test the first batch. 

My Roman Italian maestro, Michelle Scotto suggests this:

--When in doubt, use less flour, rather than error with too much flour.
--Test your first batch.
--Boil some water.  Toss in three gnocchi.
--Watch to see if they float to the surface quickly, without falling apart.
--Taste test.  They should not be gummy or sticky.
--If all is well, continue forming the gnocchi or adjust as needed.

Continue forming the gnocchi, until the 'loaf' has been consumed.

I am fortunate to have a package of Italian butter, a gift from my friend Joanne. 

Remove cooked gnocchi from boiling water, using a slotted spoon. It's all right to take a little of the cooking water with them into the sauce pan, which already contains your cooked sauce. Simmer them for a minute in the sauce, tossing them gently. Pictured is a serving for one. I could have eaten more!

The results were YUMMY. I consulted with Marta in Cremona this morning because it's been a year since I've eaten these with my family there. I had no point of reference for sauce for just one person. I used too much butter for the sauce. The ratio should be 1 to 3 for butter/gorgonzola cheese. Marta also writes that one can use a little whole milk, in place of butter, for the sauce. I'm self critical and I see my gnocchi did not have a consistent size. I was just too excited and worked too fast, eager to eat them right away. Gnocchi are very forgiving, as long as one does not use too much flour.

I had 40 g of farina leftover, once all the gnocchi were rolled.   The flour called for, while measured precisely for the recipe, is only meant to give the cook an indication of how much flour one might need.  Some of the measured flour was used to dust the working surface and the finished rolled gnocchi.

Potato Gnocchi

1 kilo russet potatoes  (1000 grams)
300 g flour (Farina 00)
1 egg  (for 1/2 recipe, use only the yolk)
pinch salt

Add the unpeeled russet potatoes to a large pan, filled with plenty of cool water.
Bring the water to a boil and cook for about 1 hour.  The potatoes should not split open.  Test for tenderness with a sharp knife.
Let the potatoes cool slightly, then peel.
With a ricer, push the still warm potatoes through, forming a mound on your working space.
Add the beaten egg to the mound.
Sift over the mound 1/3 of the flour.
Work the dough for just a few minutes.  Add flour as needed, until the dough stays together and is not sticky. You should have about 1/3 of the flour left.

Form the dough into a small bread shaped rectangle.

Repeat this process:
Cut off a 1 inch slice.  Roll the slice with hands on a floured surface until you have a bread stick sized oblong.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces, flour lightly again.  Press pieces along a fork's tines or use a wooden gnocchi form. Save formed gnocchi to a floured cookie sheet.  Gnocchi should not touch each other.  May be frozen after all gnocchi have been formed.

When ready to serve the gnocchi, have a prepared a sauce prepared.

Boil the gnocchi in abundant salted water, cooking for only a minute, until they float to the surface. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer into the pan which contains the cooked sauce. Simmer gnocchi with sauce for 1 minute.  Plate and serve immediately.

12-20 gnocchi per person.

Gorgonzola Sauce

DOP Italian Gorgonzola
Butter or whole milk 

Use 1 generous Tablespoon per serving, DOP Italian Gorgonzola.
Melt very gently in a skillet pan. You may thin the sauce with a little butter or whole milk.  Only a small amount of butter should be added,  in the ratio of 1:3 or less.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jan 10, 2015 Cooking with Pamela Sheldon Johns in San Diego

For a year, I have anticipated and looked forward to attending another cooking class with Pamela Sheldon Johns, during one of her infrequent trips from her home Poggio Etrusco in Tuscany to California. 

January 10 arrived and I was ready to make the drive from Long Beach to San Diego, California.  I left home at 7.30 am.  Traffic is always an unknown factor here and I did not want to be late for the 11.00 start time.  The drive was pleasant with only a little light rain in Orange County.  I arrived in San Diego at 9.30.  I had plenty of time to take a walk around the block and then read an Italian novel in my car.  It was warm and sunny.  I waited for others to arrive and walked in with them. 

Today's class is entitled Tuscan Peasant Cooking

Pinzimonio, crudite with olive oil dip;
Crostini dello Cortile , Crostini topped with organic chicken livers;
Pici Aglione con le Briciole, Hand-rolled pasta with spicy tomato garlic sauce and toasted bread crumbs;
Involtini di Maiale, Pork Rolls Stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach;
Polenta di Mais, Corn Polenta; Baked Pumpkin;
Mele al Forno, Amaretti stuffed Baked Apples

We participants so enjoyed seeing Pamela standing right there in front of us.  As is the custom with my Italian family, I brought her flowers. The class location was a beautiful home, with an overlook of Mission Bay.

Holli, our class hostess was still busy at work, even as we arrived.  Her fantastic kitchen was perfectly organized, with each recipe's ingredients already set aside.  Above, the pasta for Pici waits for its turn to be presented.

A few of Pamela's many books grace the table! The lovely ambiance of this gorgeous home reminds me so much of Italy.  The placement of the books and the recipe ingredients all resemble works of art.

The class begins with brief introduction about "Italian" cooking.  Really, there is no such thing as Italian cooking.  Between 1861 and 1871 the Italian states underwent unification to create the Italy we now know.  Even today, each region is loyal to its own recipe versions.  The word campanilismo is the Italian word signifying the pride and allegiance to one's own town or bell tower.

Regional cooking is also influenced by its past invaders and its climatic conditions. Today, healthy eating is very important in Italy.  Books have been written on olive oil production and how to properly bring the olive to the bottle as oil.  In the spring of 2014, Pamela attended a prestigious International EVOO Course at Garda Lake.  She is a now an Olive Oil taste expert.  She and her husband produce Certified Organic Olive Oil at their Montepulciano estate.

This year, the Italian olive harvest was devastated by both weather and a fly, which lays its eggs inside the olive. Many Italian farmers up and down the peninsula lost their entire crops due to the "worm."  Expect the price of olive oil to increase soon.

In Italy as well as in Europe, genetically modified foods (GMOs) are not allowed to be sold. GMOs did help to save lives, but the process has changed the flavor of many foods.  Now, instead of eating healthy, we in the USA need to add sauces to make food taste better.  It is now legal to purchase Italian non-GMO seeds from the Internet.  Organic foods are worth the added expense to stay healthy, in her opinion.

Crostini dello Cortile

Several of us expressed a real dislike for liver, recalling childhood experiences of our mothers fixing liver and onions.  But we were BRAVE and willing to taste this new way of eating liver.  Reaction:  This was fabulous!  Not even close to our past memories of liver.

 Pinzimonio with Herbed Salt and Olive Oil

 Pici with Aglione Sauce and Briciole

The commercial version of Pici!


For some dishes, toasted bread crumbs with a bit of herbed salt, takes the place of grated cheese.

 Involtini di Maile
 (Pork rolls stuffed with ricotta & spinach)

Start with a pork loin, which is transformed into something beautiful and delicious.

 Polenta and Cicoria in Padella
 (Polenta served with Black Kale)

The presentation on this was fabulous! Note the Briciole.

 Fried Sage Leaves

 Zucca al forno
Baked Winter Squash

 Mele al Forno
Baked Apples

~~.~ And then we enjoyed the bounty ~.~~

With a book signing and group picture, we said goodbye.