My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.

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Beet Gnocchi with Chevre Cream Sauce 2

Posted on July 28, 2009 by crankycheryl

Good Vermont goat cheese about to dive into cream sauce.

Thank you friends and foodies for all the nice thoughts about our dinner, and support for saving our beloved strip of trees!

Oh, I cooked for three days and sweated and calculated and worried, and in the end CrankyGreg and I produced a three course plated dinner for 41 neighbors, friends and well-wishers.

The only thing we ran out of must have been the best thing, it seems to me, and so that’s the recipe I’ll post first.  I was so excited to make this as part of the big feast, even though I had to buy (local) beets since the ones in the cohousing garden remain kind of puny.

Z. has a current love affair with all things pink and purple, and I had chosen this with him in mind.  He squealed adorably when I showed them to him while I was making them, and could barely keep his tiny little hands off the tray of magenta balls of goo.

If only it kept this color after cooking.

Beet gnocchi dough: if only it kept this color after cooking.

I know:  you don’t have any plans to slave stoveside with steaming pans or fuss with handmade pasta.  I agree with you.  But you should do it anyway because this is so darn good.

Beet Gnocchi
From The Recipe Files
Serves 6

  • 1 medium or two small red beets, washed
  • 1 pound ricotta, set in cheesecloth-lined colander set in a bowl and allowed to drain for a day
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dredging
  • Chevre cream sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley for serving

Place clean beets with their skins on inside a baking dish with a snug-fitting cover. Bake in 450 degree oven until tender, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven, remove lid and let beets cool. Slip the skins off with your hands. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl on the large hole of a box grater. [I questioned grating rather than pureeing, but concluded that it may matter to have the extra structure that having shreds would provide.]  Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and freshly ground black pepper to the beets. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add 2/3 cup flour to the ricotta mixture and whisk together to mix. Set the mixture aside for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Can be made up to two days ahead.

While the gnocchi dough is resting, go ahead and make the Chevre Cream Sauce.

  • 2 T. butter
  • 4 T. unbleached flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. chevre, broken or sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and then slowly and thoroughly whisk in the flour.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and cream, beating thoroughly after each addition to prevent lumps.  Bring to a slow but steady boil, then turn down and simmer for one minute or until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and stir in goat cheese a little bit at a time.  Whisk, whisk, whisk until thoroughly melted and incorporated.  Add nutmeg, garlic and smoked paprika.  Place aside to keep warm while you form and cook the gnocchi.

Back to the gnocchi:  I’m writing in the instructions I followed for making them, but let me tell you that mine were really unattractive, like a platter of gizzards once cooked.  You surely are more dextrous than I am and will end up with something beautiful.  But just in case, here’s a link to alternate instructions for making them.

Our Dinner

Our Dinner

To form the gnochetti roll a walnut-sized piece of beet mixture into a nice [whatever] round. Drop it into the bowl of flour, carefully turning to coat all sides. Lay each dumpling on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly covered with flour. Continue forming the Gnochetti until all the mixture is gone.  Slip the gnocchi into a pot of gently simmering salted water [this is important since a big old energetic rolling boil can bubble your poor little dumpling to smithereens]. Wait until they float to the surface of the water and continue to cook for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water as they are done and place them on a serving platter.

When all are cooked and are on the platter top with the cream sauce and parsley and serve.

Epiphany Dinner Pictures 2

Posted on January 06, 2009 by crankycheryl

Next: An Epiphany 0

Posted on January 02, 2009 by crankycheryl

orangesSo my next turn cooking for our cohousing community is coming up on Tuesday, January 6.  And because I’ve seldom encountered a theme I don’t like, I’ve been researching traditional foods for the Epiphany.  (This is the “12th Day of Christmas,” the day that the three wise men are said to have arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus was born.)  I have found many cakes, often a type of fruit cake, but dinner menus have been much more difficult to come by.

At last, I stumbled onto a Tuscan Epiphany dinner menu here.   Keeping in mind that we’ll be cooking for a big gang of people, that we’re only supposed to spend $3.50 on food per adult, and that we’ve got plenty of vegetarians, I’m truncating this multi-course meal to:

  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi (a pasta course is naturally traditional for an Italian meal, but in American fashion it’ll just be part of the main course, plus the orange color represents gold and the sun)
  • Vegetarian Sausages (sausages represent abundance)
  • Broccoli Saute (broccoli’s bitterness has some apparent significance)
  • Oranges & Figs
  • For dessert, I was tempted by both a sweet foccacia called La Fugassa de la Befana, and Ciambella de Rei Magi – Three Wise Men Torte.    I like the sound of La Befana – a witchy character who leaves presents/charcoal in stockings on the Epiphany.  (She’s survived from older, pagan times – maybe an agriculture goddess, according to some sources.)  After searching through many, many funny translated Italian websites for a recipe, I at last found myself back at good old Recipezaar for this Befana Cake.

(And for more interesting things about the holiday and its pagan origins, visit  here and here.)

I’ll report back with pictures and results.  And hopefully also with sore muscles from a vigorous workout to atone for more feasting.

Tracy’s Birthday Dinner 0

Posted on January 01, 2009 by crankycheryl

Tracy came over for her birthday dinner on December 26, which is of course crazy because we were all still full to the gills from the dumplingfest the day before.

But still, it was a birthday and an impromptu reason for more good food.  I’ll also admit I was titillated by the novelty of cooking a Grown Up Meal for people unlikely to whine about turning off the television, throw unwanted vegetables on the floor, or insist on more chocolate syrup in their milk Right Now!

So I was primed to do something civilized and nice for Tracy, who is vegetarian, likes pumpkin things, and especially loves sweet treats.  And I luckily had a stocked refrigerator what with the holiday cooking.  So I was able to put together:

Pumpkin (okay, butternut squash from the freezer) Gnocchi with Spicy Arugula Pesto
Arugula Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Chocolate Lava Cakes

This was a meal that has a lot of things I love to eat and to cook.  Gnocchi is something I enjoy because it’s pretty easy to make (if you don’t fret about perfection),  it’s rustic and hearty, and it’s still special.  Making it with pumpkin or squash adds a nice sweet  flavor and also lets me delude myself that it counts as a vegetable too (as opposed to the starchy and delicious potato gnocchi).

It’s a dish that suits me well as a cook, and one that’s helped me learn that you don’t have to create perfect food in order to provide great food.   My gnocchi are largely misshapen, of dramatically different sizes, completely imperfect, and clearly show that my culinary enthusiasm carries me farther that my prep and knife skills.  There’s a life lesson in here, right?

Anyway, also, arugula is one of my favorite greens because it’s so versatile.  You can use it as a salad, an herb, or a cooked green, which makes it forgiving if you let it sit in the crisper a minute past its prime … or if you let it get a little too big in the garden.  Or if you find yourself wanting to throw together a vibrant vegetarian feast.

Now for the recipes:

Pumpkin Gnocchi:

  • 3 c. pumpkin or squash puree (canned plain pumpkin is fine – but because it’s denser use a little less)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • sprinkle/grind of black pepper
  • 2 – 2 1/2 c. flour (You may need more depending on how much liquid is in the squash/pumpkin.  I used nearly 3 cups, and wished I had thought to drain the puree with a colander and cheesecloth first, but the results were great so don’t worry about precision here.)

To finish gnocchi:

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Arugula Pesto (below)
  • 2 T. (more or less) 1/2 and 1/2 or soy milk

Prepare the gnocchi:  Mix the egg yolks and the pumpkin in a large bowl.  Add in the salt, pepper and nutmeg, then knead in enough flour so that the dough is not sticky.  It should be like your average bread dough – add more squash or flour as needed.

Divide the mixture into three sections.  Roll each section into a long cigar shape about 1/2″ in diameter.  Cut the rolls into 1/2″ pieces and either:

  1. Gently pinch around each piece’s middle, or
  2. Press with the back of a fork so that the tines create some striations in the pasta (good for catching sauces).  There’s a trick that involves some sort of flippy roll thing that allegedly results in those perfect little crescents.  I’ve never mastered it, but I don’t think my gnocchi have suffered too greatly for it.

Refrigerate on a lightly floured pan until ready to cook.  (This is where I would stop to make the pesto.)

When ready to cook, place 1 T. of butter and 1 T. olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat.   Poach gnocchi in boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes, or until they float to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon to the waiting pan.  Stir in pesto gently but thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then 1/2 & 1/2 or soy milk and stir again.  Heat through and serve.

Arugula Pesto

In blender or food processor or whatever you like to use for such things, combine and process until smooth:

  • 3 c. arugula (leaves and smaller, thinner stems only)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts (I also mixed in some spicy pumpkin seeds I had around)
  • 3 peeled cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. hot sauce (I used Sriracha:  use what you like but not something too vinegar-y like Tabasco)

We  had this with the salad (about 6 cups of greens tossed with 1/2 t. maple syrup, 1/2 t. balsamic vinegar, 1 T. olive oil, sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, tossed then sprinkled with spicy pumpkin seeds), and followed it with chocolate lava cakes, which neither Tracy nor Crankygreg had ever tried.  These are the great little individual cakes that have a pool of molten chocolate inside them, as you probably know.   (Edited:  I found the recipe of someone who I used to think was just sort of mainstream, but have now learned is not only kind of old-fashioned in her cooking but has revealed herself to also be an oblivious racist and so I’ve taken out the link.  Ew.  But you can find lots of examples of the recipe if you search.)

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