Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I'm not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but they've redeemed themselves in my book for this use. While in Austin a few weeks ago I had some sweet potato gnocchi that were insanely delicious; they were fluffy and super buttery and rich. Then I got a couple sweet potatoes in my CSA box around Thanksgiving so set off to make my own sweet potato gnocchi.

I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes in my great-grandmother's gnocchi recipe and served them in a meat ragu which I'll also provide the recipe for here. Making everything is a big endeavor, but so worth it. I also discovered that the gnocchi in the meat ragu freezes quite well; just defrost and bake to before serving. As an easy alternative you can skip the meat ragu and toss the gnocchi in browned butter with fresh sage.


  • Meat ragu (recipe to follow)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • salt
  • approx 3 cups of AP flour 
  • 2-3 egg yolks
  • Parmesan, shredded
  1. Wash the sweet potatoes and piece a few times with a fork. Place in oven at 400 for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. 
  2. Cut lengthwise and remove insides from skin. Put potato through ricer to get smooth texture. 
  3. Place potato in large bowl and mix in melted butter and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
  4. To make dough, start by combining the potato with an equal amount of flour (So if you have 2 cups potato use 2 cups of flour). I used a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment and then dough hook, but you can use your hands too, but don't over mix. 
  5. Once flour and potato is combined add 1 egg yolk and mix until combined. Continue to add 1 egg yolk at a time until dough comes together. Usually it takes 2-3 yolks. The dough should be spongy and just dry enough to handle. You can add more flour if dough is too wet. 
  6. Place dough onto floured surface and shape into ball. Cut into 8ths so it's easy to handle.
  7. Take each piece of dough and roll into long 1 inch thick rope. Then off 1 inch long pieces from rope. Dust pieces of gnocchi with flour. Using your thumb, roll each piece across a gnocchi board or around a fork and place on dusted sheet pan. 
  8. Once all gnocchi are created, bring a large pot of salted water to rolling boil. Then gently place gnocchi into water in batches so they don't crowd and stick together. Cook for 4 minutes and taste gnocchi to make sure cooked properly and adjust cooking time if needed. Remove cooked gnocchi from water and place directly into warm sauce as others cook. 
  9. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan. Or refrigerate/freeze in sauce and reheat by baking in covered dish. 
Meat Ragu Ingredients:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt and pepepr
  • 2 tablspoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 cups red wine (Merlot, Zin, Sangiovese, etc)
  • 1-28oz can of tomato puree
  • 1-6oz can of tomato paste
  1. Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and garlic, season generously with salt and pepper and cook until begins to soften. 
  2. Add oregano and cook for 2 more minutes. 
  3. Add beef and sausage. Break up into small pieces and cook through. 
  4. Pour in wine, tomato sauce, and tomato puree, and mix to combine.
  5. Using immersion blender, puree only slightly (about half of sauce).
  6. Allow ragu to simmer for 2 hours. It should be thick, but if it thickens too much add a little water. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Peach Shortcake Cookies

I had lots of peaches that had finally ripened and, only being able to eat so many in one day, I set about on a quest to find a recipe to use them up. I didn't want to do a pie or crumble or crisp or anything else predictable. I came across a recipe for strawberry shortcake cookies. Like the classic dessert, but in portable to-go cookie form. Genius! I substituted my peaches for strawberries, made a couple of adjustments to the recipe, and I was rockin' and rollin'.

You should not confuse shortcake with the sponge cake often used (incorrectly) in "strawberry shortcake." Shortcake is more like a sweet biscuit and is leavened with baking powder. The dough is really easy to make; in fact, just as easy as any other cookie dough. You can use almost any fruit in this recipe: peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, etc, so get creative!


  • 3 cups chopped peaches (leave skin on) or any other fruit you want to use
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. 
  2. Toss fruit with 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside.
  3. Combine the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add in butter and mix with hands until it resembles course crumbs. Then stir in cream and vanilla. Finally, add fruit and mix together. 
  5. Drop dough (about 2 tablespoons) onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or use silmats, leaving 2 inches between cookies. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and edges are slightly crispy. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sticky Buns

Fluffy clouds of ooey-gooey deliciousness is the best way to describe these! The dough itself is rich, soft, and moist. But the highlight of the sticky buns, is the glaze: sweet carmelized sugar and slightly salty, it finds its way into all the crevices between layers of dough so every bite is like party that melts in your mouth. This is a sure way to impress so make these for on a special occasion or holiday for breakfast or dessert. I'm usually not a big fan of sweets, but these sticky buns are amazing. And when fresh out of the oven, they are to die for!

Sticky buns are rolled pieces of rich, leavened dough that are compressed together into a baking loaf or pan which is lined with a sticky glaze. As it is baked, the glaze bubbles up and is absorbed into the buns, getting all in between the layers of dough. After cooling, the pan is turned upside-down so the glaze ends up on the top of the buns. You have to scale ingredients and there are many steps, but it is not hard. The final product will be well worth it!

Ingredients- Dough:
  • 4 oz butter (you can substitute 1-2 oz of butter for shortening to make dough easier to handle)
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 0.4 oz salt
  • 1 oz non-fat milk solids (dried milk)
  • 3 oz eggs
  • 8 oz water
  • 0.525 oz dry instant yeast (fast acting or rapid rise)
  • 1 lb bread flour
  • 4 oz cake flour
  • cinnamon-sugar
Ingredients- Glaze:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup toasted pecans (optional)
  1. Start by making the dough. Using a paddle in an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, and non fat milk solids. Then slowly add in the eggs, allowing them to incorporate before adding more. Next, add in the water. In a separate bowl, combine the yeast ad flours. Then add in the flour to form a dough. You can add a little more cake flour if dough is too loose. Switch to a dough hook and knead for 4 minutes.
  2. The dough will need to ferment for 1.5 to 2 hours at 75F. Be sure to cover it so it doesn’t dry out. While the dough is fermenting, make the glaze. Cream together all ingredients using a paddle in an electric mixer. Spread the glaze onto the bottom of a pan with tall sides (and sprinkle with pecans if using), such as a roasting pan, and cover.
  3. Once the dough is done fermenting, transfer it to a floured surface. Fold the dough 2-3 times. Then roll out into a rectangle. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll dough into log and cut into 8 even pieces. Place the rolls into the pan, resting on top of the glaze. Cover and let proof for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Glaze will be bubbly and buns will be browned.
  5. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and then turn pan over onto parchment paper.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Croxetti Con Sugo Blanco

You may have noticed that I haven't blogged much. I haven't given it up, but I've been focusing on find myself, culinarily speaking. I've spent a lot of time learning about regional Italian cooking and, in particular, researching the cuisine from the area where my great-grandmother, Gram, is from. I've got family from all over Italy, but I was close to Gram and when I think of comfort food, it's her cooking that comes to mind. Gram came from Grondola, which is a village within the commune of Pontremoli. It lies in the northeast corner of Tuscany (land of the peasant bean-eaters), near the borders of Liguria (where pesto hails from) and Emilia-Romagna (a gastronomic nirvana). Additionally, Pontremoli is where many trade routes over the Appenine mountains converged and it lies on the Via Francigena, an important pilgrimage route in medieval times. The cuisine of Grondola is centered around local ingredients, but is influenced by the heavy interaction with its neighbors throughout history.

Croxetti con sugo blanco is a simple, but delicious dish that makes me feel close to Gram. Croxetti is pasta shaped like large flat coins and have a coat of arms or ornate image stamped onto them. You probably won't find these at a supermarket, but can easily find them at an Italian specialty shop (like I did) or on the Internet. Croxetti cook up just like any other dried pasta and then the white sauce is made in a matter of seconds in a food possessor. It's similar to a creamy pesto, but uses marjoram rather than basil and not so much of it. 

  • 1 pound dried croxetti pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped marjoram
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish
  1. Melt butter over low heat and then remove to cool. 
  2. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, but do not overcook. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain. 
  3. Place into food processor the pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, milk, and marjoram. Add pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. Then slowly add the butter to prevent the sauce from creating a foam, continuing to blend. Season to taste. Sauce should be thick at this point.
  4. Thin the sauce with a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and then toss with the drained pasta. 
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with grated Parmesan. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sugar-Vanilla Clouds, aka Marshmallows

You have officially been warned. No store bought marshmallow can ever compare to these homemade marshmallows. They are ultra fluffy and light; you might as well be eating a cloud of sugar and vanilla! They will give your hot cocoa a special touch or just eat them alone (my husband does!). They even toast up nicely over a campfire and will make the most ooey-gooey s'more ever.


  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice-cold water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • non-stick spray
  1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water. Have the whisk attachment standing by. 
  2. In a saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup ice-cold water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover, and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240F, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the heat. 
  3. Turn on the mixer to medium-low speed, and while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Then turn mixer to high speed and continue to whip until the mixture become thick and is luke-warm, about 12-15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. 
  4. Prepare the pan while the marshmallow is whipping. Combine the powdered sugar and corn starch in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into a 9x13 pan and toss around to coat evenly. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for use later.
  5. Once the marshmallow is done whipping pour it into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with the cornstarch mixture and reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit, uncovered, for 4 hours. 
  6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the cornstarch mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all side of each marshmallow with the remaining cornstarch mixture. 
  7. These are ready to serve, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Your Basic Deviled Egg

Deviled eggs is the food I look forward to the most at Easter time. This year my husband and I decided to stay home rather than visiting the family, but I won't go without the deviled eggs. The great thing is that you can make as many or as few as you like. If your making them for a large group you may want to make a couple dozen, but if you're making them just for yourself (as I'm doing this year) then you can make just a couple.

This is a super-basic deviled egg because it's the only kind I like. I hate when sweet relish is added or any other "creative ingredients" for that matter. But when you have such a basic recipe it has to be spot on. These actually earned me an A on a final in culinary school last year. First, you want to make sure you don't use really fresh eggs. As an egg ages, it starts to pull away from that membrane between the egg and shell, making it easier to peel once the egg is cooked. Second, you want to make sure you cook the eggs properly. Nobody likes rubbery egg whites or green yolks from overcooking.

How to make a proper hard-boiled egg.

  1. Bring eggs to room temperature by leaving them out for about an hour. 
  2. Place eggs in a pot and over them with tap water. 
  3. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. 
  4. Let boil for just 1 minute (no longer) and then turn off the heat. 
  5. Set a timer for 12 minutes. 
  6. At the end of 12 minutes, remove the eggs from the hot water and place in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process.
Your egg should look like this. The whites will be soft and the yolks yellow. 

How to make deviled eggs.
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • paprika, for garnish
  1. Peel eggs and cut in half length-wise. Remove the yolks and place them in a bowl. Set the whites aside. 
  2. To yolks, add mayo, Dijon, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add more salt to taste. 
  3. Put the yolk mixture into a piping bag with tip. If you don't have a piping bag, just use a zip lock bag with a corner cut off. Pipe the mixture in the egg whites. 
  4. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Refrigerate and serve once fully chilled. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mmmm... Meatballs and Spaghetti

Italians eat spaghetti. Italians eat meatballs. Italian do not, however, eat spaghetti and meatballs. That is an American invention and a splendid one at that.

My husband, Jimmy, and I had lunch at an Italian restaurant one day where Jimmy ordered their famous giant meatball (yes, just one as this thing was the size of a softball) with spaghetti. His meatball was bland and crumbly. I promised him that I would make him the best meatball he's ever had. And I did. Combining ground beef, pork, and pancetta, packs a huge punch of flavor. My meatballs are rich, moist, and far from bland. This recipe makes a lot of meatballs and is great for entertaining a large crowd. I love making meatball subs with the leftovers too!

Meatballs Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 6 oz pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2-28 oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sugar, to taste
  • grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 2 lbs spaghetti
  1. Start by making meatballs. Preheat oven to 400F and spray 2 baking sheets with non-stick spray or olive oil. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the Panko and milk, letting it sit for a few minutes and mash with a fork against the side of the bowl. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and fold everything together. 
  3. Roll into meatballs about the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheets. This will give you about 30-40 balls. Place in oven and set timer for 25 minutes. When meatballs are done, remove from the oven and reduce heat to 300F. 
  4. While meatballs are cooking, start on the sauce. In (very) large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions  with a couple pinches of salt until translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  5. Pour in the wine, tomatoes, and tomato paste, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Simmer for another 10 minutes. 
  6. Adjust taste using salt, pepper and sugar. Use a teaspoon of sugar at a time- this will deepen the flavor, but don't use too much. You can also add more oregano right now if you'd like. 
  7. Place the meatballs into the sauce and try to get them mostly covered with sauce. Cover pot with foil and place in the oven for 1 hour. 
  8. In separate pot, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions minus 1 minute. Drain the spaghetti and return to the pot. Stir in a little sauce from the meatballs. 
  9. To serve, place spaghetti on a plate and then top with 2-3 meatballs plus more sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan.