Friday, 31 May 2013

Ricotta Squash Gnocchi with Sage Butter


These are lovely gnocchi made with butternut squash, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. I served them with a few sage leaves in a bit of butter and olive oil. You can prepare them all or freeze some for a later date. This is a nice recipe for gnocchi because they are easier to work with then the gnocchi made with potato. The ones with potato can become tough if you work the dough too much where these are more forgiving. They are a light and the sage complements the squash and Parmesan so well.

You will need:
  • 1 cup butternut squash - baked 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese - drained 1 hour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (plus up to another 1/4 cup to roll)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh sage leaves
  • more grated Parmesan for serving


Step 1: carefully slice squash in half with a heavy knife. Rub a bit of olive oil on both sides and bake for 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until soft.


Step 2: take ricotta and drain in sieve for at least 1 hour to remove some of the water.

Step 3: once squash is cool enough to handle scoop out 1 cup of the soft flesh. You can use a very small squash for this recipe and you can also freeze any leftover squash for another recipe.


Step 4: gather remaining ingredients. Grate Parmesan cheese, measure flour and salt and get out egg from fridge.


Step 5: in a large bowl mix squash, ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese, salt and 1 cup of flour.


Step 6: add remaining 1/2 cup of flour to counter and turn out mixture. Mix by hand to incorporate the remaining flour. I like to use a folding method since the dough is quite wet when you start. A pastry scraper also works well to  scrape up all the ingredients as you are working. If you need a bit more flour you can use up to an additional 1/4 cup or so more. This is a tender, soft dough you do not want it to be hard by adding too much flour. Place finished dough in a covered bowl for at least 1 hour in the fridge before rolling out. You will need some more flour for the counter.


Step 7: Divide dough into 4 and roll each into a long log. When you have the gnocchi the size you like  (mine are slightly larger than my thumb in thickness) slice off pieces with a knife. Place on a floured surface to avoid sticking. The dough is still a bit sticky and by using a sharp knife and basically cutting down and flicking the gnocchi you form enough of a ridge that you don't need to do anything else to them.



Step 8: In a pot of  rolling boiling salted water cook gnocchi until they float. Once they float cook another minute and remove with a slotted spoon.  The total time is around 3-4 minutes.

Step 9: Place boiled gnocchi in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil and a tbsp of butter to saute a few minutes. I also add a few sliced leaves of fresh sage. Let the gnocchi get a tiny hint of brown and plate.


Grate lots of Parmesan shavings, some salt and pepper and I have also made a simple salad of fresh spinach, onions and olive oil and tomato vinegar.










Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Carmelized Fennel and Onion Pizza


I am always willing to try something new on a pizza. This one has a base of Boursin which is a French type of cream cheese and carmelized fennel and onions. It is finished with some fennel fronds and a good drizzle of gorgeous exceptional extra virgin olive oil. I once again turned to my favorite Mandranova Nocellara and was not disappointed.

You will need:

Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 cups “00″ flour (if possible) if not use all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • olive oil to coat bowl while dough rises

  • 1 fennel bulb - sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil - Mandranova Nocellara
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 onion - sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil - Mandranova Nocellara
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt/pepper

  • 1/3 pkg Boursin cheese per pizza
  • mozzarella cheese - grated
  • Maldon - flaked sea salt
  •  a few tbsp fennel fronds
  • Mandranova  Nocellara extra virgin olive oil

Step 1: prepare dough. In a large bowl add water, yeast and honey. Stir and wait 5 minutes to activate yeast. Add flour and salt and mix in bowl until it becomes too stiff, then turn out all ingredients on to counter and knead 5 minutes until a nice smooth dough is formed. Add olive oil to the bowl and coat oil around dough and bowl. Cover and leave in fridge for 24 - 48 hours if possible or 2 hours on a counter. The longer rise gives the dough a nice chew and texture like good pizzaria pizza does.


Step 2: remove bottom of fennel and core. Slice fine. 

Step 3: clean onion and slice finely.


Step 4: in a saute pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar cook onions until carmelized. I start on high heat for 5 minutes, then turn to low for 5 minutes and then turn up again. You don't want to cook them too hot or they will burn.


Step 5:  cook the fennel the same way by adding the olive oil, salt, pepper, honey and balsamic vinegar.


Place both on a plate to cool. 


Step 6: divide your dough into 2 balls. On a sheet of parchment paper add a sprinkle of flour and roll out one of your pizzas until thin. Spread Boursin cheese on dough. (you can add a bit of milk or water to make it easier but, I just squish it on with my hands.


Step 7: add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, then your fennel and onions. 


Bake for 7-10 minutes on a pizza stone that has been heating in a 475 degree F oven for at least 20 minutes.  

Finish with a nice drizzle of Mandranova Nocellara extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a few fennel fronds. You might just be pleasantly surprised by this lovely combinations of vegetables.










Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Cod with Salsa Verde


White fish like cod or halibut etc. tastes great with this herb topping. It is also good on chicken or even a steak. You can grill the fish or bake it in the oven and spoon over the fresh herb, lemon and olive oil topping. Fresh, delicious and fast.

You will need:
  • 2 pieces of white fish - I like halibut or cod in this recipe
  • 3- 4 leaves fresh basil
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (fine)
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1 clove garlic - crushed
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 tsp fine lemon zest
  • drizzle of olive oil

Step 1: in a food processor add fresh basil, parsley, thyme, chives, lemon zest, lemon juice and capers. Puree and then scrape down the processor bowl. Turn on machine and slowly pour in olive oil until combined. Taste it and add salt and pepper to your taste. Set aside.


Step 2: you can bake fish however, I placed mine on a piece of foil that had an edge around it to prevent any spills. I crushed the garlic in a garlic press and sprinkled evenly over both pieces of fish. Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil and  a thin slice of lemon to each piece. 

Step 3: grill for a few minutes on high heat on each side. This fish took about 5 minutes in total to cook on the grill. I also like the grill because the house doesn't smell like fish.

Serve hot with a generous spoon of Salsa Verde (sauce green)  and a chunky salad. I made a simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil , salt and pepper.





Monday, 27 May 2013

Creamy Cauliflower Zucchini Soup

This is a hearty soup with zucchini, cauliflower and potato to give it creaminess without adding any cream or dairy. I save a small piece of the zucchini to grate on top along with a drizzle of olive oil to serve. Perfect for a rainy day.

You will need:

  • 1 leek - finely sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini - chopped into pieces - keep a piece to grate at the end 
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 3 garlic cloves - sliced in half
  • 1 small onion - chopped 
  • 1 small potato - peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • salt/pepper to taste



*keep 1/4 zucchini grated for topping


Step 1: chop leek, zucchini, cauliflower, garlic, onion and peel and chop potato.


Step 2: add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a pot and add all chopped vegetables, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently to avoid burning.  


Step 3: add 1 litre of chicken broth and Italian or Tuscan seasoning mix. 


Step 4: Bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are soft and cooked.


Step 5: carefully add contents to a blender. You may need to do this in batches but, my blender was fine pureeing it all at once. Remove the top plastic cap from the lid of the blender and place the lid with the hole back on the blender.  Place a thick kitchen towel over the hole in the lid and blend until smooth. Be very careful not to fill the blender too much because you don't want to have hot soup explode out of the blender. The open lid allows the steam to be released from the hot contents. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper. If you feel the soup is too thick you can add some water or more broth to thin it out.


Serve with some fresh grated zucchini and a drizzle of excellent extra virgin olive oil. It is a thick creamy soup without the added calories of cream.







Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Latkes


These little fritters are made with zucchini and sweet potato. They have a lovely flavour and taste and are great with  a bit of sour cream or yogurt. You need to make them little so that they are easy to flip because the sweet potato makes them stickier than a latke made with regular potatoes. Use a good non-stick pan and don't move them around once they are in the pan and they will be great.

You will need
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 medium) squeezed to remove some of the water
  • 1 cup grated sweet potato (1 small) 
  • 1/4 cup grated onion 
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • olive oil to fry
heat oven to 375 degrees F so you can serve them all at the same time - hot and crispy.

Step 1: grate zucchini, sweet potato (this is not a yam as most people mistake it for) and onion. Chop spring onion, crush garlic and grate cheese. Gather all your ingredients together.

Step 2: squeeze your zucchini in a paper towel to remove most of the water.



Step 3: mix all ingredients in a large bowl.


Step 4: drop 1 tbsp of mixture into hot olive oil and press lightly. Leave them alone to cook until the edges around each latke get very brown. Flip once and place on paper towel to absorb some of the oil. 


you can also place on a cookie sheet (I recommend using a sheet of parchment paper for easy clean up) and bake in a 375 degree F oven until they all get crispier. These latkes never get as crispy as the ones made with regular starchy potatoes but, they are delicious and a nice change in flavour.





Friday, 24 May 2013

Mushroom Strudel



I first had this when I was about sixteen. I was invited to a Vegetarian Passover dinner and this was served as the main course. I had forgotten all about it until recently when I was speaking to my sister and we remembered that meal. It is a great main or side and can be made with the mushrooms chunky or you can cook and then puree them to make it more like a mushroom pate. I am not a vegetarian and yet I still like to have some vegetarian meals throughout the week just because it is healthy and utterly delicious.

You will need:
  • 2 large portabello mushrooms
  • 6-8 porcini mushrooms
  • 6-8 white button mushrooms
  • a handful of dry mushrooms (mixed or any kind)
 = approx 4 cups chopped mushrooms - can be any variety you like
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion - chopped
  • olive oil and 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt/pepper
  • 4 tbsp sherry 
  • 4 sheets of thawed Phyllo dough 
  • 1/3 pkg of Boursin- French garlic cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • grated Parmesan
  • balsamic vinegar to drizzle

Step 1: clean and chop all your mushrooms. You can use any varieties you like. I like to remove the gills from the portabellos but, if you want to eat them go ahead. I brush the mushrooms or wipe with a damp cloth and slice them. Take a handful of dry mushrooms and soak in 1/2 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes to re-hydrate them. Then remove from water and chop. 

Step 2: chop garlic, thyme and onion. 


Step 3: In a large pan saute onions in olive oil and butter for 5 minutes until the edges just start to brown.


Step 4: add mushroom and continue to cook on medium/high heat to allow water to start to evaporate and the mushrooms to cook down for 5-7 minutes.


Step 5: add Dijon mustard, a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and the Sherry. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes until Sherry reduces and concentrates.  Taste and adjust seasonings. The mushrooms should have most of the liquid cooked out and they should be almost dry. Let cool completely.


Step 6: place a sheet of phyllo dough on your counter and brush with a bit of olive oil. You don't want to soak the dough but, a light brushing will keep the dough flaky while baking. You could use butter but, I will normally use olive oil because it's healthier and yummier. Place the next sheet on top and brush oil on continuing until you have done all sheets.


Step 7: crumble about 1/3 - 1/2 pkg of Boursin cheese (it's like a flaky cream cheese) Sprinkle evenly over dough. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over cheese and then place your cooled mushrooms over top. Leave and edge around the dough to allow a good seal when rolling up.



Step 8: I fold 3 edges and then roll up starting with the folded edge on the length side. I add a bit more oil to the last raw edge and seal closed. This is a version with the mushrooms chopped rough and cooked.


If you take those same mushrooms once cooked and puree them they make a sort of mushroom pate filling. Both are great!



Brush with more oil and bake in a 375 degree F oven for approximately 30 minutes or until browned and flaky. You need to eat this immediately after it comes out of the oven to enjoy the crunchy phyllo and warm mushroom filling. I served with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. These can also be made as individual purses. You can make an individual pocket with 1 sheet of phyllo and add it to a muffin tin for easy baking. Add a lovely salad and you have a great meal.