In my 8th week of cooking at home without a single repetition, an old friend from junior school dared me to go vegetarian for a whole week. Challenge accepted. Dinner is served.
Eating gnocchi is a lot like a water slide. They both go down easily and once you take the first plunge – you never want to stop. And while most menus predictably resort to a basil pesto as the perfect gnocchi partner, I prefer using asparagus for a refreshing twist. See if you agree.
- 2 lbs potatoes, boiled in their skins until tender
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup oil
Allow the boiled potatoes to cool slightly, then peel and rice the potatoes. Spread the riced potatoes out on a sheet pan to cool completely.
In a mixing bowl, mix egg and ricotta together, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Place the cooled, riced potatoes into a separate bowl and add the egg ricotta mixture.
Gradually add the flour to the potato mixture, stopping when the dough is tender and pliable.
Working in sections, roll the gnocchi dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Then cut into 1 inch pieces. Using the back of a floured dinner fork, place the right side of each gnocchi on the fork and roll down the fork to imprint the tines into the dough. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and working in batches with an ice bath on the side, blanch gnocchi till they float to the surface of the water. Remove from the pot and transfer into ice bath.
Once chilled (just) remove gnocchi from the ice bath and place a single layer on a sheet pan until all the gnocchi have been blanched.
Place a large sautee pan over medium heat. Add the oil and then add the gnocchi when the oil starts to ripple. Sautee gnocchi in batches, tossing to coat and allowing to brown.
Place a sheet pan and keep in a low oven until all the gnocchi have been sauteed. Serves 4.
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
- 1 clove garlic, or more to taste
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil, or more as desired
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly.
Transfer the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and gradually add the remaining oil and a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste, pulse one last time, and serve over pasta, fish or chicken (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day).
If you’re an incurable Tapas enthusiast like me, you’re probably also a big fan of Patatas Bravas. Every time I eat them, I swear to myself that someday I’m going to make an entire meal of Spain’s crispiest potatoes with an infinite amount of those delectable yellow and orange sauces. And that’s exactly what happened this week.
PATATAS BRAVAS WITH TWO SAUCES
For the potatoes:
- 2 pounds yellow-fleshed or russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 tblspn Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 head garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
For the Salsa Brava:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon pimentón dulce, (or use sweet paprika)
- 1 teaspoon pimentón picante, (or use 1/4 tsp cayenne)
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- Kosher salt
For the Allioli:
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put potato chunks in a large bowl, season with salt and toss to coat. Leave for a few minutes to let potatoes absorb salt. Add olive oil and unpeeled garlic cloves and toss to coat well.
Transfer potatoes, garlic cloves and oil to a large cast-iron skillet or heavy roasting pan. Make sure to have potatoes in a single layer without crowding. (If necessary, use two pans.) There should be a good 1/4-inch oil in the bottom of the pan. Add more if required.
Place pan in oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until potato chunks are well browned on the bottom. With a metal spatula, turn chunks over. Reduce heat to 400 degrees, and continue roasting until potatoes are well browned and crisp, about another 25 to 30 minutes.
While potatoes are roasting, make the two sauces: For the salsa brava, put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and let sizzle without browning, then stir in flour and let mixture sizzle. Stir in tomato paste, pimentón dulce and pimentón picante, then add chicken broth gradually, stirring well as the sauce thickens. Bring to a gentle simmer, add vinegar and cook for 5 minutes until the sauce has a gravylike consistency, but isn’t too thick. Thin with a little more broth or water, if necessary. Season with salt to taste.
For the allioli, whisk egg yolk and garlic together in a small bowl. Add oil a few drops at a time, whisking vigorously with each addition. As the sauce thickens, add olive oil a teaspoon at a time. If the aioli gets too thick, whisk in 1 tablespoon water, then continue to whisk in remaining oil. The finished sauce should have the consistency of softly whipped cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When potatoes are ready, use spatula to transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to blot, then to a warm serving dish. Serve warm with the two sauces. Serves 2.
I was going to make a Ratatouille, but that would have been far too predictable. So instead I made this Summer Squash Gratin which might look cute and cuddly, but thanks to the Gruyere and leeks, has a honkin’ blast of flavor you don’t see coming.
SUMMER SQUASH GRATIN
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 small leeks (1/2 pound), white and tender green parts thinly sliced into rounds
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandolin
- 3 medium yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandolin
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup finely shredded Gruyère (about 2 ounces)
- 1 plum tomato, very thinly sliced crosswise
- Flaky sea salt and crusty bread, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425°.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Spread in a 9-inch round baking dish
Meanwhile, on 2 large baking sheets, spread the zucchini and yellow squash and brush with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the cheese and let sit until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Tightly roll 1 piece of zucchini and set it on the leeks in the center of the dish. Working outward from that center slice, continue rolling and coiling additional pieces of zucchini and yellow squash until you reach the edge of the baking dish. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then tuck in intervals between the zucchini and squash. Scrape any cheese off of the baking sheets and sprinkle on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the zucchini and squash are tender and browned in spots. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool slightly, then serve with crusty bread. Serves 4.
Chances are you’ve eaten a whole-roasted cauliflower at a restaurant many times before, but cooking it at home is a good and bad news story: The good news is that it’s as delicious as it looks with a crispy crust and a heart of gold, but the bad news is that your oven will need to undergo a major top-to-bottom spring cleaning session immediately thereafter. (Um…thanks to the anchovies, this sauce is vegetarian adjacent, but if you’re a purist, you can use pretty much anything from Green goddess to Romesco.)
WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
For the cauliflower:
- 1 large cauliflower
- Olive oil
For the sauce:
- ⅓ cup blanched almonds
- 6 to 10 anchovy fillets (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for basting
- 2 teaspoons wine vinegar (white or red), more to taste
- ½ cup coarsely chopped parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro or a combination
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven while you prepare the cauliflower: Place a heavy oven-proof skillet or a baking sheet in the oven and turn the heat to 375 degrees. Place a small pan of hot water on the floor of the oven, to create steam.
Break off and discard the outer leaves from the cauliflower. Cut off the bottom of the stem, and then use the tip of a small, sharp knife to cut off the leaves close to the stem. Carefully cut out the hard core of the cauliflower, near the bottom. Leave the main stem intact and make sure not to cut through any of the florets.
Rinse the cauliflower (leave the water clinging to the outside) and place on a work surface, core side up. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to rub over the cauliflower until evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
Place the cauliflower on the hot pan in the oven, core side down, and cook until very tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. During the cooking, baste 2 or 3 times with more olive oil. It should brown nicely. If you have a convection feature, use it toward the end of baking to brown the crust.
Make the sauce: In a small frying pan, toast nuts over low heat, shaking often, just until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Soak anchovies, if using, for 5 minutes in cool water. Rinse and set aside on paper towels.
In a food processor, combine almonds, anchovies, garlic and butter and pulse until smooth. Mix in oil, then vinegar. Mix in herbs and red pepper flakes, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
When cauliflower is tender, remove from the oven. (If desired, run it briefly under the broiler first to brown the surface; there is no need to do this if you used convection.)
Serve cauliflower in the skillet or from a serving plate. Cut into wedges and spoon sauce around each wedge. Serves 2 – 4 depending on the size of the cauliflower.
For several reasons I’d rather not get into, let’s just say that I have a “hot” kitchen. And so, when the weather heats up I tend to opt for room temperature dishes to stay cool. This hugely popular wheatberry salad is a great side-dish or an awesome meal on its own.
WHEATBERRY SALAD WITH ROASTED SQUASH
For the Squash:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, more as needed
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- 3 pounds winter squash, such as kabocha, carnival or butternut, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (leave the peels on or remove as desired)
For the Wheatberries:
- 1 ½ cups winter wheatberries
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
- 2 cups water, more if required.
For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, more to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
- 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare the squash: In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add squash and toss well to coat with the spiced oil. Lay the squash pieces out flat on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast squash until the bottoms are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully turn the pieces over and continue to roast until tender, another 10 to 20 minutes.
Add the Wheatberries, salt and water to a saucepan and bring to a solid simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes, until the berries are soft but still chewy. Strain and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Add the cooked wheatberries and toss well, adding more oil or salt, or both, if needed.
To serve, spoon the wheatberries on a platter and top with the squash, feta, mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4.
If you scroll down a few blogs, you will see that I took a street food tour of Palermo a few months ago. But my very first meal in Sicily was pasta alla Norma. I’ll never forget the medley of flavors that were so much more than the sum of their simple parts. If you can’t find Ricotta Salata, you can always substitute with a hard feta.
PASTA ALLA NORMA
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves, mined or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
- 2 anchovy fillets, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound ziti, rigatoni, or penne
- 6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 ounces ricotta salata, shredded (a hard feta is a good substitute)
Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Line surface of large microwave-safe plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in an even layer over coffee filters; wipe out and reserve the bowl. Microwave eggplant on high power, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly.
Transfer eggplant to now-empty bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and toss gently to coat; discard coffee filters and reserve plate. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add eggplant and distribute in even layer. Cook, stirring or tossing every 1½ to 2 minutes (more frequent stirring may cause eggplant pieces to break apart), until well browned and fully tender, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer eggplant to now-empty plate and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes to now-empty but still-hot skillet and cook using residual heat so garlic doesn’t burn, stirring constantly, until fragrant and garlic becomes pale golden, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, return skillet to burner over medium-high heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 2 tablespoons salt and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.
While pasta is cooking, return eggplant to skillet with tomatoes and gently stir to incorporate. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring gently occasionally, until eggplant is heated through and flavors are blended, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir basil and extra-virgin olive oil into sauce; season to taste with salt. Add sauce to cooked pasta, adjusting consistency with reserved pasta cooking water so that sauce coats pasta. Serve immediately, sprinkled with ricotta salata. Serves 4.
In week IV, I bragged about how little stirring my sausage and pepper risotto required. This week I went all-in for the real deal. If you love the taste of sweet corn in spring, you’re going to love this immensely creamy, crunchy and surprisingly hearty dish.
For the Stock:
- 2 corn cobs (kernels removed and reserved for risotto)
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 celery rib, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- Dark green leaves from 1 leek (reserve white and light green parts for risotto)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
For the Risotto:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups raw corn kernels (from about 2 ears corn)
- 1/4 tsp saffron, crumbled
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced chives (optional)
For the stock:
Combine all ingredients with 6 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so liquid is simmering; cover pot and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Add enough water to bring liquid back up to 6 cups.
For the Risotto:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a wide, high-sided sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add rice and cook, stirring, until grains look slightly translucent.
Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until it has all been absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Add a ladle of hot corn stock to the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until rice has absorbed all of the stock. Continue cooking, adding ladles of stock whenever rice mixture looks dry and stirring continuously. When half the stock has been added, stir in corn and the saffron. Continue cooking until all of the stock is incorporated, corn is tender and rice is creamy and tender, about 30 to 40 minutes total.
Remove risotto from heat and stir in Parmesan and remaining tablespoon of butter. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Uncover risotto, stir vigorously and season to taste with salt and pepper. Immediately before serving, stir in the chives. Serves 4.
I improvised this dish from a little bistro in Montreal who must have had a surplus of goat cheese the week I was there, as every egg dish on their Sunday breakfast menu was paired with goat cheese. But hey, if it works…
POACHED PESTO EGGS
- 8 eggs
- 1/3 cup plain goat cheese
- 1 tblspn butter
- 1 tblspn prepared pesto, plus extra for garnish
- 4 slices brown bread
- baby lettuce leaves
- white vinegar
In a small bowl mash the goat cheese, butter and pesto into a well combined, smooth paste. Do not be tempted to add more pesto as it will kill the taste of the cheese.
Toast the bread. Spread the cheese mixture on the toasts. Layer a few baby greens over the cheese. Bring a deep pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a few splashes of white vinegar and poach the eggs for 2 – 4 minutes.
Layer 2 eggs onto each slice of toast and add a dot of pesto onto each egg. Serves 4.
Stay safe. Stay sane, but most importantly – stay at home!