Friday, September 12, 2008

Sam's gnocchi with tomato mozzarella artichoke sauce

My friend Sam is one of those talented people who can throw together ingredients without a recipe and create a masterpiece. Recently, she taught me how to make gnocchi, and she served it with a wonderful tomato mozzarella artichoke sauce. This was my attempt to recreate the dish. My gnocchi came out perfect, light and tender. My rendition of Sam's sauce, however, left a lot to be desired.

Sam's sauce goes something like this--a bit of your favorite spaghetti sauce, heated. Dice several small tomatoes and add to sauce. Add garlic, and fresh basil and oregano with a touch of rosemary. Drain and cut a can of artichoke hearts. Add to sauce. Chop fresh mozzarella and add to sauce. Serve. Our version is below. We're going to have to make it a few more times to get it tasting right. It'll be worth the effort. The dish Sam made for us was one of the best meals we've had.

2 lbs potatoes, boiled, peeled, and riced
1.5 C flour
Mix potatoes with flour until dough is workable. Roll into several thin logs. Slice into coin-shaped pieces. Press with fork. Put in boiling water and cook until pasta floats to the top.

2 cans tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1-3 cloves garlic, diced
fresh basil leaves
fresh oregano leaves
(or use Italian herb blend)
2-3 fist-sized balls of mozzarella, cut into chunks
1-2 cans artichokes, drained, and cut into chunks
5-8 roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
Briefly sautee garlic. Add tomato sauce and paste, with a bit of water. Add herbs and artichokes. When sauce is heated, add mozzarella. Allow to melt slightly. Serve.

apple-apple bread pudding

When I was looking for a base to make the rosemary hazelnut bread pudding, I decided on this one. On looking at the list of ingredients, I thought it would be a shame to use this just as a base when it sounded so good. So I made a batch of this, as well. The caramelized apples with the apple butter just melt in your mouth. I wish I had a piece right now.

apple-apple bread pudding (Baking, Dorie Greenspan)

caramelized apples 3 medium apples, peeled and cored (Dorie recommends Fujis or Galas; I used Granny Smith)
3 T butter
3 T sugar

12 oz. egg bread (I can never find brioche, so I used English toasting bread), sliced .5" thick
1 C spiced apple butter
3 C whole milk
1 C heavy cream
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
.75 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Butter a 9 x 13" baking pan, dust the inside with sugar, and tap out the excess. Line a larger roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels.

Cut each apple in half from top to bottom, cut each half lengthwise into 6-8 slices, and then cut each slice in half crosswise.

Put a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat, add the butter, and when it melts, sprinkle over the sugar. Cook the butter and sugar for a minute or so--you want the sugar to caramelize but not burn, so adjust the heat accordingly. Toss in the apple slices--don't worry if the caramel seizes and lumps, it will melt and smooth out as you work--and cook, carefully turning the apples once or twice, until they are tender but not soft, 3-5 minutes. They should be golden, and some might even be caramelized. Transfer the apples and the liquid to a plate.
(I tore my bread into pieces before staling it, rather than retaining the whole slices.) If your bread is not stale, spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and bake at 350 F to "stale" it for 10 minutes.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with the apple butter, then cut each slice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles. (I put my bread chunks and apple butter in a bowl and tossed them until they were coated.) Cover the bottom of the baking pan with half of the bread, arranging the triangles, buttered side up, so that they overlap slightly (don't worry about spaces between the slices). Spoon over the apples and their liquid and finish "the sandwich" with the rest of the bread.
Bring the milk and cream just to a boil.

Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat. (I skipped this step, as I couldn't find my roasting pan to be able to put my baking pan in it.) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and the .75 C sugar. Still whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture--this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining milk. Add the vanilla and whisk to blend. Rap the bowl against the counter to pop any bubbles that might have formed, then spoon off any foam that has risen to the top. Pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help it absorb the liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back-of-the-spoon treatment now and then, for about 30 minutes.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F.

Put the baking pan in the roasting pan, slide the setup into the oven and very carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake the pudding for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

The pudding can be served as is or dusted with confectioners' sugar just before serving. Or, if you want to give the pudding a little gloss, put about .5 C apple jelly in a small pot with a splash of water. Heat until the jelly liquefies, then brush a thin layer over the top of the pudding.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

the marzipan people

My sister asked me to help her make a cake for a class project last spring. B and I stayed up basically all night making people and scenery for the cake. These are a couple of the people I made. Their bodies are marzipan and their clothes are fondant. I was particularly proud of the man's curly hair (you can't really see it here, though). I got a kick out of making the woman--I had to give her tentacles to give the train of her skirt more volume.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This was another dish I ate at the Google cafe. I almost never cook beef--B and I both prefer chicken--but I enjoyed the tender meat with the flavor of the apricots so much I knew I had to have this again. I scoured the Internet until I found a similar-sounding recipe (although I may still beg our friend for the authentic Google recipe). Biltongmakers describes this as a "lovely" potjie. I couldn't agree more.

I did a little tweaking to the original recipe, and I'll do a little more next time. As we'd never heard of potjie before the Google trip, we didn't have a potjie pot. I just used a large pot. Next time, I'll use a crockpot. I left out the kidney because we're not kidney people. I also used a little under a pound of stew meat, because I didn't think about the math before I sent B to the store to buy the meat. If I used the proper amount of meat next time, I'll increase the amount of sauce, because I thought it was just perfect.

The recipe calls for the vegetables to be layered into the pot in the order the ingredients list gives them. This may work in a potjie pot, but it was not the best idea for a regular pot on the stove. I cooked our potjie for around an hour extra, and the cabbage still was not done. Next time, I'll cook the veggies in a more sensible order, adding them according to their individual cooking times. I also used fresh apricots, because our friend Z had just given us a bunch from her garden. I feel bad for using them in this dish, because they basically disintegrated. Occasionally, I would get a bite with a bit of apricot. They added a subtle flavor to the dish, but next time I'll use dried ones, so they'll hold up and give a more distinct flavor. I also omitted the sweet potatoes, because I don't like them. I may try them next time, though, as I thought that regular potatoes seemed out of place in this dish. Or maybe I'll just stir in some gnocchi before serving.
The recipe below is a combination of what I did last time and what I'm going to try next time, so the times may be a little off.

Beef and Veggies Potjie (adapted from
1 lb. stewing beef, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
125 ml dried apricots, soaked in water for 1 hour
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
6 small zucchini, sliced
250 ml cabbage, chopped
1 tomato, peeled and sliced
30 ml dried parsley30 ml cooking oil
black pepper to taste

the sauce
125 ml sherry (the recipe calls for sweet; I used dry)
125 ml soy sauce
5 ml black pepper
3 ml dry mustard
1 ml dry rosemary
1 ml dry thyme
1 cube beef stock
500 ml boiling water

Don't add salt; there's plenty in the soy sauce.

1. Heat the oil in the pot cook the meat till almost brown.
2. Add the onions and brown together.
3. Mix the sauce and add it to the pot.
4. Stir well, cover with the lid and simmer for 1.5 hours.
5. Add the cabbage and cook for 30-60 minutes.
6. Add the carrots and cook for 30 minutes.
7. Add the dried apricots and the remaining vegetables, sprinkling some pepper over the tomatoes, and simmer until vegetables are soft (30-60 min).

prep time: 15-30 min.
cooking time: 3 hrs 15 min.-4 hrs 15 min.