Mishaps

Gnocchi with Leeks and Crispy Basil

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It’s been one of those “what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I have in the refrigerator / pantry today” kind of days.  But this recipe started out as an inspiration; an “a-ha!” moment, if you will.  For whatever reason, I was inspired to try to make gnocchi today (and by “today” I mean the same day that I’m writing this).  No idea why. . . I’ve never made gnocchi before. . . I don’t have a wise old Italian grandmother who can teach the wonders of making my own dumplings.  But I did have a bunch of leeks and a bushel of basil from the farmer’s (or is it farmers) market.  And I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, so it all made sense.  I could make a shepherd’s pie, but I have the day off so why not try something new?

Now I know that you’re not supposed to use mashed potatoes when making gnocchi, but how different can it be?  There’s just a little extra cream and butter, maybe some garlic. . . and there are probably some recipes out there that would add all that stuff in anyway.  The only problem that I had was my lack of a ricer or a food mill, which I totally recommend that you have if you make gnocchi a lot. . . or even a little, because I had to pass all this through a mesh strainer, which was a pain!

Being a novice at this is rather evident — I could not roll it out right, mainly because I was working with a too-big piece of dough (I altered the recipe to accommodate).  So that meant that the pieces I cut were huge, which also meant that I could not shape things right.  But with all those things incorrect, it still tasted pretty good.  Now I have gone to restaurants and had some bad gnocchi — too dense, too doughy, too bland.  Much to my surprise, these were pretty light, but probably could have used a little bit more salt — I thought the mashed potatoes were salty enough.

This is another one of those things that doesn’t have as exact measurements as I would like. I kept on adding flour to the dough since it was too wet (I assume from the mashed potatoes).  But something like that would probably happen if it’s too humid outside.  This is as close as I could get it.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for the dough and rolling
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • canola oil
  • zest of a lemon

1.  Into a large bowl, run the mashed potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or a sieve.  Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, salt, & pepper.  Mix the eggs with a fork, gradually adding some of the potatoes along the sides of the well.

2.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and using the fork mix to combine, being careful not to overmix.  The dough should be moist, but not wet or sticky.  If it is still wet, sprinkle flour over the top 1/4 c. at a time and work in gently.

3.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out the dough into a thin log, about an inch wide.  Cut the dough into 3/4 in pieces and dust with flour.  Roll the pieces over the tines of a fork.  Place the rolled pieces onto a sheet pan.

4.  Bring some water to a boil in a large stock pot.  When it comes to a boil,  generously salt the water with about 1 T. salt.  Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes; when they are done, they will float to the surface.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Prepare the crispy basil.

5.  In a small pan, put about an inch of canola oil on medium-high.  Pinch off the individual basil leaves.  Working in small batches, fry the basil in the oil; it should only take a couple of seconds.  Remove the leaves and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel.

6.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil into the drained stock pot (I didn’t want to dirty another pan).  Place on medium high and sauté the leeks.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  When tender, add the gnocchi and heat through.  Toss with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes — Alright so here’s a little history for you, for which I know you’ve been chomping at the bit.  Gnocchi is probably one of the oldest recipes out there, with some documentation dating back to the 1300s.  There is debate on the origin of the word, but most agree that it has its roots in the Middle East. . . Traditionally, this is one of those meals that help extend your budget, since you can make it from simple ingredients. . . You can make these ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator or maybe freeze them. . .

Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Happy Chocolate Chip Day!!! (or is it on May 15th?)  You should always have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Whether it’s something you that you develop on your own, or find something that you love, keep one in your baking arsenal.  Usually when we think of chocolate chip cookies, many of us think of the good ol’ Toll House cookie.  This recipe came about in 1937 at the Toll House Inn which was owned by Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband.  She wanted to make some of her favorite cookies for her guests but was missing a key ingredient.  But she did have on hand a semi-sweet chocolate bar (made by Nestlé) which she crumbled up and mixed into the dough.  She thought that the chocolate would melt and spread out into the mixture.  To her surprise, the chocolate held its shape which she thought was weird but decided to serve it anyway.  It was a big hit, and thus the Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie was born.  Now right on the bag of Toll House chocolate chips, it lists the date of origin at 1939.  That’s when Ruth and Nestlé settled into an agreement where she could get chocolate for life and Nestlé got to print the recipe on some of its packaging.  Here are a couple of links (here and here) that you should check out to find some additional info.  Exciting stuff!!!

On to some recipes.  Now everyone should be familiar with the tried and true Toll House Cookie recipe.  If not, just go check out a bag of Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chips.  Now I won’t be making those, but I did come up with a couple of recipes — Chocolate Chip Molé cookies  and Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Let’s talk about the latter one here.  The recipe isn’t too far from your basic cookie recipe, save for one step where I infuse some melted butter with the cardamom.  Not too complicated, right?.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

1.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the cardamom.  When melted, let simmer on the stove on low (if it is too high the butter will burn!) for about 30 minutes.  The cardamom should swell.  Set aside to cool and re-solidify.

2.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

3.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the cardamom butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix well until just combined.  Do not over mix!  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

5.  Drop cookies onto a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Eat up!

Notes — This does have a lower proportion of brown sugar when compared to other recipes.  I did this so that the cardamom could stand out and not be overpowered by the molasses in the brown sugar.  You can change this if you like. . . You may have noticed that the cookies in the pictures are a little bit dark.  There is a good reason for this.  I was out of brown sugar, so I tried to make my own which should just be some regular granulated sugar and some molasses.  Now I don’t know why I didn’t use a measuring cup, but I ended up putting waaaay too much molasses.  But the cookies still tasted great and you could still taste the cardamom throughout, just not as much as it should have.  Hence the previous “note”.  The second batch turned out better. . . You could try this with some other herbs / spices.  I’m sure cinnamon would be great in this or maybe some cloves.  Maybe some peppercorns to make a variation on pfeffernüssen.  Lemon peel and ginger sound good too!

Sugar Cookies, take #1

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Happy National Sugar Cookie Day!  So to celebrate, I made some sugar cookies.  Well, attempted, I should say.  These were supposed to be sugar cookies.  But these really didn’t turn out quite right.  It’s not that they tasted bad, but they didn’t taste like “cookies”.  I’d say that these were a lot closer to shortbread than to cookies.  The flavor and texture were good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

Just another work in progress.  So I won’t even bother with posting a recipe with this one.  But I will say that these had some coconut and whole wheat flour.  Maybe that was the problem.  Sometimes I just go and make some changes without thinking.  But again, cooking and baking is a process.  But sometimes I should just stick to the recipe!  Nevertheless, I am probably going to need to add more butter to this one.  Butter solves everything!

Of course, I had to use up some of my sanding sugars.  And here is my attempt at making them look pretty.

I will definitely have to retry this one.  Hopefully I can do this national holiday that honors one of our most beloved cookies some justice.  But at least I made some “whole wheat coconut shortbread“.