Nothing Beats Homemade Gnocchi
Being Irish with the DNA test to show I have no southern European genes, pasta came out of a box and the sauce from a jar growing up. Fresh pasta was unknown. In the late 70s and early 80s, my mom learned how to make tomato sauce and meatballs from our Italian-American neighbors who wanted to share their love of food with us. That was the beginning of the love of Italian food.
Fast forward 30 or so years, I got the nerve to make pasta. I have been making my own sauces for years so it shouldn’t be too much of a leap for me to make my own pasta. Gnocchi is a versatile pasta working with many different sauces and soups. It is a potato dumpling.
The Gnocchi Process
Gnocchi is easy to make if you follow the recipe. There is a process to this humble food. Make it a family affair getting kids in involved in making their dinner.
Here is the low down on making them:
- The potatoes are key. Boil them with their skins on until fork tender about 20 minutes. This helps the potato not to absorb access water. Remember dry potatoes are good and water potatoes are bad. Over-boiling the potatoes causes them to become mushy.
- Invest in a potato ricer. I wish I did. I mashed my potatoes and they weren’t fine enough leaving the gnocchi lumpy.
- When you go knead the dough, be careful not to over-knead. Also be careful at this point of adding flour. By adding too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
Maybe I will attempt to make another type of pasta.
Gnocchi Making in Photos
- - 2 1/2 lbs. of potato, approx. 4 lg. potatoes
- - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for working dough
- - 1/2 tsp. salt
- - 1 egg
- - Boil potatoes with their skins on a large pot with just enough water to cover them, boil potatoes with their skins on for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Don't over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.
- - Drain the potatoes well allowing them to cool in a colander.
- - Peel the potatoes removing any brown spots that might be below the skin.
- - Using a potato ricer, rice the peeled potatoes.
- - Mound riced potato on the middle of a wooden board or a clean, dry countertop. Top with flour.
- - Sprinkle with salt.
- - Make a well using your hands, scoop out the center of your mound.
- - Add the egg into the center of the well the beat the egg with a fork.
- - Incorporate ingredients using the fork, slowly start to pull in flour and potato to mix ingredients.
- - Begin to form the dough using your.
- - Knead the dough by pulling together ingredients and knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
- - Shape the dough into a long, wide rectangle for cutting.
- - Cut dough into 8-10 pieces, about 4 inches long.
- - Roll into ropes by gently pushing with fingers spread.
- - Cut dough ropes using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife into 1-inch pieces then cut ends at an angle.
- - Ridges or indents using a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.
- - Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top in a pot of boiling water for about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes.
A Fresh Classic Beef Bourguignon
Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon is simple and elegant
While I use my slow cooker year round, the fall and winter are the perfect times to use the slow cooker. And the perfect time for the French classic of bistros, Beef Bourguignon.
Let’s set the scene. Skies are gray. Leaves are turning. There is a chill in the wind. A small cozy kitchen with Glen Miller playing in the background. The well-worn apron is on and ready to cook this classic French dish made famous by the food superstar, Julia Childs to American audiences on her PBS Show.
The Classic Bistro Meal
I have made Beef Bourguignon the traditional way in a cast iron pot on the stove and oven. Given an opportunity to use my slow cooker allowing me the freedom of not having to watch the stove, I jump at it. I love a good slow cooker recipe. Especially when they have a bit of class to it. And what is classier than Beef Bourguignon? Basically, it is a beef stew made with carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, and fresh herbs. What makes it special is the use of red wine.
Making Beef Bourguignon
While I’m not a fan of slow cooker recipes where you have to do a prep cooking and prefer dump-and-go, since it is a Sunday, I decided to do a luxurious meal. Started my base for Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon with bacon. This is not for the faint of heart since the bacon fat is used in the recipe. Once the bacon is done then I removed and add the seasoned beef cubes searing them. Put the bacon and beef in the slow cooker. Pour in red wine working the nice bits leftover and reducing it then add beef broth, tomato sauce, and soy sauce. Blend that nicely then whisk in the flour. Allow the mixture to become thicker then pour over the bacon and beef. Add minced garlic, fresh thyme sprigs, carrots, mushrooms, and tiny potatoes. Give it a good stir. As a side, you could add pearl onions.
Now the slow cooker recipe I had for this beef stew asked for red cooking wine. Honestly, I don’t know what cooking wine is nor do I care to use it. My philosophy of cooking, while I don’t drink wine or beer, is to use the real stuff. Nice red wine. I had a red Italian wine that did the trick. And do we think the French use cooking wine? Didn’t think so. They use table wine on hand. It also asked for chicken broth, I used beef broth instead. Both additions make it richer. More authentic to how the French would prepare it.
Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon is ready to slow cook to moist flavorful perfection. I added fresh thyme from my garden. Always add fresh when you have an opportunity. The broth is going to rich with the wine, broth, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and thyme. You may want to add a crusty baguette.
Looking for other slow cooker recipes, then visit Slow Cooker section.
Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon
- 5-6 slices bacon, cut into think slices
- 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut to 1 inch cubes
- 1 cup red wine, whatever red you have on hand works
- 2 cups beef bone broth
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
- Handful of fresh Thyme
- 5 Medium Carrots, sliced
- 1 pound tri-color baby potatoes
- 8 ounce fresh mushrooms, sliced
- fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- 1 In a large skillet cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Put bacon in slow cooker. Salt and pepper the beef and add to the skillet and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes. Transfer beef to the slow cooker.
- 2 Add the red wine to the skillet scraping down the brown bits on the side. Allow it to simmer and reduce and slowly add beef broth, and tomato sauce, and soy sauce. Slowly whisk in the flour. Add the sauce to the slow cooker.
- 3 Add garlic, thyme, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms to the slow cooker.
- 4 Give it a good stir.
- 5 Cook on low until beef is tender for 8-10 hours or high for 6-8.
- 6 Garnish with fresh parley.
Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole
One of my favorite vegetables is eggplant. I am always looking for new ways to cook eggplant. I can never eat enough of Turkish cuisine. It is one of the cuisines I hope to explore more of in the future to cook.
So when I came across Imam Bayildi or Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole, I had to make it. While this is a simple recipe, it is time-consuming. About an hour and a half so it isn’t a quick weekday meal, but a leisurely weekend one. Do not let the time scare you off, It is worth making it.
This dish is nice year round. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I have served it with hummus and pita or a cucumber salad. It also would go nicely with roasted or grilled meat.
Imam Bayildi Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole
- 2 pounds of medium-sized eggplant (I prefer Japanese eggplant, but Italian will do) thinly sliced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1-4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Dash of cinnamon
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 1 Preheat the oven to 350F.
- 2 Lightly salt the eggplant slices and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Pat the slices dry and set aside.
- 3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil.
- 4 .Pan fry the eggplant in batches over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add more oil as necessary between batches so the eggplant doesn't burn, but try not to have too heavy a hand - the pan just needs to be greased.
- 5. Remove the eggplant to a plate.
- 6. Add the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until soft.
- 7. Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant.
- 8 Add tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.
- 9. Spread a layer of tomato sauce in an oven proof casserole dish. Layer eggplant and sauce.
- 10. Cover with foil or casserole lid and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft and the sauce has reduced.
- 11. Let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
- 12. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.
One-Pot Chicken Dinner?
Looking for a one-pot dinner to serve on a cold winter’s night? Braised Chicken Tomato Red Lentils fits the bill. It is a healthy and hearty. And an easy dish to make within 45 mins. Doable on a busy weekday.
Since moving to Newport, Rhode Island, I have been focusing on my business which facilitated me to make sure my pantry and freezer are stocked fully for easy meals. I always have different kinds of onions, lentils, broth, spices, and chicken handy. Chicken defrosts in no time if you put in a bowl of cold water, so it is good to have it in the freezer as well as pork tenderloin, ground turkey, and fish/shrimp. And let us not forget about frozen veg.
What I like about this recipe is its simplicity. While ten ingredients may seem like a lot; it isn’t. Outside of the tomatoes, all are pantry items.
Enjoy this dish, Braised Chicken Tomato Lentils.
Braised Chicken Tomato Red Lentils
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1½ tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 2. Heat an ovenproof fry pan (or cast iron casserole) over medium/high heat adding a generous splash of olive oil.
- 3. Dry chicken breasts on both sides to remove excess moisture to ensure proper sear.
- 4. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides and add to the pan. Don't overfill the pan or the chicken will steam not sear.
- 5. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on both sides or until golden brown. Remove pieces and set aside.
- 6. Add onions, garlic, smoked paprika, and cumin. Stir for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions become transparent, but not browned.
- 7. Add lentils, stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, chili flakes, and chicken pieces. Bring to a boil.
- 8. Put into oven and bake without lid for 25 mins.
A fresh and simple meal: roasted vegetable hummus tart.
Folks have it in their minds that preparing good food has to be hard. Good food doesn’t have to be complex. Simple is just as good and often even better. We tend to overthink food. Yes, there are some recipes that complex in terms of techniques, tools, and/or ingredients, but for the most part, simpler is better. Making a veggie hummus tart for dinner. Simple, fresh ingredients.
There is nothing easier than making this roasted veggie hummus tart. All the ingredients are stars in this recipe. Start with simple, fresh ingredients you may have on hand. Chopped up some red peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and/or eggplant with some fresh chopped basil. Add olive oil with salt and pepper tossing. The end result is delicious roasted veg which will be the topping for the tart. Spread hummus – store bought or homemade – on the baked puff pastry then top with the roasted veg. Perfection. This dish can be served warm or cold.
I have tried a new recipe plug-in. Let me know if it works for your needs as a reader. Thanks!
Roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart Recipe
Roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
- 2-4 cups mixed chopped vegetables such as peppers, red onion, tomatoes, and zucchini
- 1 sheet of puff pastry (room temperature)
- 1 container plain hummus
- Preheat oven to 430F.
- Place chopped basil and vegetables in a bowl.
- Drizzle the oil over the vegetables and basil adding a dash of kosher salt and a few generous turns of the pepper grinder then toss.
- Spread the mixture on the medium roasting tray lined with foil roasting for 20-25 minutes.
- Prepare the puff pastry sheet by scoring an inch border around the sheet and prick the middle with a fork a few times to stop it puffing up too much.
- Cover with dish towel and place in the fridge until the roasted veg is done.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and top with the hummus, then top with the roast vegetables.
Seriously Not Your Granny’s Irish Beef Stew
Unless your granny puts beef and wine in her Irish beef stew. My Irish Granny would never have put alcohol in any food. OK maybe a drop of sherry in the trifle, but that’s about it. My Mom did not cook with alcohol, either. In fact, I honestly only know of Irish folks my age and younger who cook with beer or wine. Not my Mother or Granny’s generations.
What makes this stew special is two things. One is the use of Guinness stout and lots of it was well as wine. The second is marinating the beef overnight in stout, wine, garlic, and soy sauce. The beef is tender and very flavorful though folks eating it may need coffee and dessert before they leave or they may get a DUI.
Remember, Irish beef stew is not just for Saint Patrick’s Day, but a perfect Sunday slow cooker dinner a cold winter’s evening. As my Mom would say in her Irish accent, “It would warm the cockles of your heart.”
Irish Beef Stew Recipe
- 1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 2 bottles Guinness
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Better than Beef Bouillon
- 3 carrots, peeled & chopped
- 5-6 new potatoes quartered
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper & red pepper, to taste
- 1 bag of frozen peas
- Put soy sauce and garlic in a large freezer bag.
- Add beef then pour one of the stouts and wine over it.
- Seal bag tightly and squish the contents.
- Put in fridge to marinate overnight.
- Strain the juices of the bag into your crockpot keeping the meat separate.
- Sprinkle the meat and garlic with flour and toss to coat.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add the floured meat bits and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned on all sides.
- As the beef browns, stir together the tomato paste, remaining Guinness, garlic, and bouillon in the slow cooker until combined.
- Add the meat, carrots, potato, onion, bay leaves along with a good amount of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of red pepper.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Shortly before serving, stir in the peas and heat just until the peas are hot.