Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms

I've been a Bon Appetit subscriber for longer than I can remember. Recently, there's been talk that Bon Appetit and its sister publication, Gourmet, may face reduced publishing schedules and "streamlining" due to a downturn in advertising revenues. This is a shame. I look forward to receiving Bon Appetit each month and I am frequently inspired by their recipes and photographs. 

Although I spend a good amount of time gaping at the photos, I realized that I rarely make any of the recipes. I mean, I mean to, but I just don't get around to it very often.  So, I've decided to make at least one Bon Appetit recipe a month as a sort of show of support. This month I made Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms.

This recipe had several things going for it as far as I was concerned. For one thing, I had just picked up a bunch of Swiss chard from my CSA and, for another, I have been making homemade ricotta cheese and this seemed like an ideal way to use it. But the gnudi were what really sold me on this recipe.

Gnudi (pronounced nudie) means naked in Italian and, true to their name, they're like ravioli filling without the pasta. I adore gnocchi and gnudi are gnocchish (is that a word?), but gnudi are made with ricotta cheese instead of potatoes and are more delicate and creamy than gnocchi.

Actually, gnudi are easier to make than gnocchi, although they do need to be refrigerated overnight, which makes this a plan-ahead recipe. The gnudi are served with sauteed mushrooms and a reduced chicken broth -- both easy to make -- although I probably should have reduced the broth more. Overall, though, this recipe was a tasty success and I plan to use it as a base to experiment with gnudi.  

Swiss Chard Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms
From Bon Appetit

Serves 6

1 pound Swiss chard, stem ends trimmed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup all purpose flour plus additional for shaping dumplings
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 shallots, thickly sliced
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as shiitake, chanterelle, and crimini), stems trimmed and reserved, caps thinly sliced
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt

To prepare gnudi:

1. Cut chard leaves from each side of center stem. Cut stems into matchstick-size strips. Cover and refrigerate stems for sauce.

2. Cook chard leaves in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain; cool. Squeeze chard leaves until very dry; place in processor. Using on/off turns, finely chop chard. Add ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, shallot, egg, coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg; process to blend. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup flour; stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate dough overnight.

To prepare broth:

1. In large saucepan, bring chicken broth, sliced shallots, and mushroom stems to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 35 to 40 minutes (after 40 minutes I still had more than 3 cups). Strain and discard solids. Return broth to saucepan. (The broth can be made 1 day ahead. Just cover and chill, then rewarm before continuing.)

2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add sliced mushroom caps. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until mushrooms are tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add reserved thinly sliced chard stems and sauté until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (The mushrooms and chard stems can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

3. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon some flour onto large plate. Working in batches, drop heaping teaspoonfuls gnudi dough onto plate with flour to form about 36 gnudi. Using floured hands, gently shape each into 1 1/2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick oval. Tap off excess flour; transfer gnudi to prepared baking sheet. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

4. Bring large wide pot of salted water to boil. Slide gnudi into pot; cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot broth. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

6. Divide mushrooms and chard stems among 6 bowls. Add broth, dividing equally (about 1/2 cup each). Using slotted spoon, divide gnudi among bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cherry Tomato & Three Cheeses Tart

Every year our garden has a "star," that one plant or group of plants that produces an abundance (or over abundance) of gorgeous vegetables. One year it was the bell pepper, we ate peppers stuffed every which way and ended up with jars of roasted, marinated peppers. Another year it was yellow squash. We snuck squash into nearly every dish we made and took squash wherever we went to give away.  Still another year, it was tomatillos -- they grew like weeds and I still can't figure out why they're priced in stores like some rare commodity.  Then there was the year of the Jerusalem artichokes. We had so many, my husband finally just refused to eat them.

This year our garden star is the cherry tomato. For the last three weeks, we've been harvesting about a pint a day of Sweet 100s, Yellow Pears and, my favorite, the orange Sun Gold cherry. These babies are so easy to use up. They make great snacks on their own; sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, and you've got a tasty pasta sauce. But I wanted to find other ways to use them, so came up with my borlotti bean salad and I made this appealing and delicious tart.

And it's so, so easy. I made it more complicated by making my own ricotta cheese (which is also easy and so good) using this recipe, and I suppose you could really do it up and make your own puff pastry, but I'm not there yet.

Cherry Tomato and Three Cheese Tart
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
About a pint of cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Chopped fresh basil, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Gently roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to even out. With a knife, score (don’t cut all the way through) a half inch border around the outside of the pastry as if making a frame. Place scored puff pastry on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet.

3. Drain any excess liquid from the ricotta cheese. In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, gorgonzola and pesto. Mix well. Spread cheese mixture evenly on puff pastry inside of border.

4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place cut side up, tightly side by side, inside border.  Drizzle tomatoes lightly with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and top with parmesan cheese. Brush 1/2-inch pastry border lightly with olive oil.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden. Let tart cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Serves 4

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

The "season" may be over here on Long Island, but as far as I'm concerned summer doesn't end until September 21. So, I'm still churning out ice cream (as if it needs to be summer to make ice cream...I think not.)

My latest ice cream inspiration is the fresh local peach.  These local peaches -- still available at farm stands -- are so juicy and sweet that I've been looking for any excuse to eat them.  I eat them with yogurt and honey for breakfast.  I conjured up a kind of upside down caramelized peach cheesecake and actually attempted to reproduce this dream dessert, which is, how can I say this, still a work in progress. And I made a few batches of peach ice cream.

I made a few batches, because I wanted the ice cream to be really peachy.  Several recipes I reviewed didn't use very many peaches or obscured the peaches with other flavors. I wanted pure peach and this recipe I concocted delivers.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pound peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum
Juice of one lemon

1. Whisk the the cream and milk together with the sugar in a saucepan and heat just until bubbles form around the edges.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks thoroughly. Temper with about a cup of hot cream mixture. Whisk then add back to the rest of the cream mixture.

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring steadily, until the custard reaches 170 degrees F and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Stir in the vanilla, cover and put in the fridge to cool overnight.

4. Remove pits from peaches and peel. Chop the half of the peaches into 1/4 inch pieces and puree the other half in a food processor or blender. Combine the pureed and chopped peaches, and stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar, rum, and lemon juice. Put in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly reduced and shiny. Refrigerate overnight.

5. Run the cream mixture through the ice cream machine for about 30 minutes. Toward the end, pour in the cold peach mixture or fold in by hand, if necessary. Freeze for at least four hours before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thai Fried Chicken

I not sure what inspired me to tackle a this recipe for Thai fried chicken. I can't remember the last time I fried a chicken or even ate fried chicken. I blame it on geography. I live in the northeast, where fried chicken isn't exactly as popular as it is in the south.  My mother never made it (about as close as she got was Shake n' Bake and that does not count) and growing up I don't recall my friends eating fried chicken at home.

Plus all that hot oil makes me nervous; I was convinced I'd knock over the frying pan and start a grease fire. And speaking of grease, fried chicken isn't particularly the first thing that comes to mind when I think about healthy, low calorie eating.

Nevertheless, I got over my phobias when I saw this article on the Atlantic Food Channel. It sounded so good: spicy, crunchy Thai fried chicken. And it was good, with a zippy, crisp, golden crust encircling juicy, perfectly cooked chicken. I made both thighs and legs, but I'll probably use just thighs next time. Some of the article's commentors found it difficult to find cilantro root and used more stems instead, but I often buy cilantro in the grocery store with the root attached and I'm pleased to discover they can be used. For dipping, I used A Taste of Thai's Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce (I couldn't find Sriracha sauce).

2 lbs. chicken, thighs, legs or wings
2 large cilantro roots, scraped clean and finely chopped
5 cilantro stems, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
7 tablespoons rice flour (I found rice flour made by Goya)
3/4 cup chicken
Oil for frying
Garlic Chili Pepper sauce, Sriracha sauce or Thai sweet chili sauce, for dipping

1. Place cilantro stems and roots and peppercorns in mortar and pestle and pound into a paste (or place in food processor to make paste). Add garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and keep pounding into a fine paste.

2. Put paste in large bowl, stir in fish sauce and chicken stock. Gradually add rice flour, stirring, to make a smooth wet batter.

3. Add chicken to batter, coat all pieces well and marinate in refridgerator overnight. (Can marinate for as little as two hours, but longer is better.)

4. Remove chicken from refridgerator and allow it to reach room temperature. Heat oil (I used canola) to 350 to 375 degrees F and fry chicken about 10 minutes each side until golden brown.