Monday, May 31, 2010

Spectacular Sauce

Tomato sauce could be called boring.
Or it could be called simple.

2 sm or 1 lg onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

5 + cloves garlic, chopped

Balsamic vinegar

3 dried chilies, crumbled

1 tsp fennel seed

1/2 oz.can tomatoes, chopped with juice


  1. Saute onions, shallot and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add balsamic, stir for a few seconds and add chiles and fennel seed. Saute until chili skins darken.

  2. Add tomatoes. Bring to a nice simmer and turn the heat down to low. Add Bragg's to taste (maybe about a tsp, but start less and work up). Cook, partially covered, until sauce thickens. Perhaps 20 min.

  3. Done and done.

One thing about tomato sauce is that you really need to add a little sugar to it to cut the acid in the tomatoes, but I don't like sweet tomato sauces and it can be hard to hit the right balance. In this case, the balsamic adds a little sweetness and a nice round flavor. Sugar tastes just sweet. Flat sweet. This is a nice interesting sweet. I like the added flavor of the shallots as well. It complicates the onions. Onions should be complicated to compensate for the simplicity of the sauce overall.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I heart gnocchi, and I've always been interested in trying different varieties. I've had them with basil in them, and that was good, so here's a pumpkin version. These is probably more of a fall dish, but I happen to have some pumpkin that I roasted and froze last fall. It tastes good to mix up the seasons when you can.

1 lb. pumpkin

1 lb. red potatoes

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 + flour

  1. Preheat oven to 400 and place potato(es) and pumpkin on baking sheet. Bake until soft, about 45 min. (I pre-baked my pumpkin and stuck it in the freezer. I can pretty much only find fresh pumpkins for sale during pumpkin season, so I try to stock up.)

  2. Peel potatoes and pumpkin while still hot. Let cool for several min and then push through a food mill or ricer. Neither? Me neither. I put mine through the food processor.

  3. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 c. flour and mix with your hands until you have a smooth dough. If sticky, add more flour, a little at a time. Don't knead or over-work. (I had to add significantly more flour than it seemed one would add if using potatoes alone. The pumpkin is moister, and requires more flour.)

  4. Take 1/4 of the dough and role into a snake about 1/2 in. in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4 in. wide. Role into balls or press with the tines of a fork and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour. Repeat until dough is all transformed into balls.

  5. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop gnocchi into the water about 10-20 at a time, depending on the size of your pot. When they rise to the surface, give em a count of twenty and they're done! Scoop out and place aside. Repeat until done. (sometimes they stick to the bottom, so you may want to give a quick stir if they seem to be down there for a long time.)

At this point, they're ready to sauce and eat, however, you can fancy it up by baking them in butter and cheese, or pan frying them. I choose the later. Just heat about a tbsp or 2 (enough to coat bottom) of olive oil in a frying pan and place gnocchi in a single layer over the bottom of the pan. Fry until they have begun to brown on the bottom, sauce and serve!

Sauce soon to follow . . .

Homemade Croutons

I'm not including measurements here - only very approx. - cuz this is a loose type of cooking. It's pretty forgiving, and easy to eyeball. So don't be afraid to take control.

Stale or not bread, cubed (half loaf)

Garlic, chopped (four cloves)

Rosemary, dry or fresh (1 tsp dried)

Ground sea salt (1 tsp)

Olive oil (2-3 tbsp)

Reminder: measurements are super approximate.
  1. Mix garlic, rosemary, sea salt and olive oil in a large bowl.
  2. Toss bread cubes in mixture until coated.
  3. Place on tin-foil covered baking sheet and bake at 350 until the bread and garlic are both brown and crisp.
I've experimented with adding the garlic later, so it doesn't risk burning. This is an option. But since I'm generally lazy, I prefer to put it in at the beginning and not have to mess with things once they're in the oven. If you keep an eye on it, you can avoid absolute burn, but you will end up with very crunchy garlic bits. I happen to like them this way. Everything is subjective.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomatillo Gazpacho

Look at that lovely pumpkin color! Not mud brown at all!

Lookit dem duckies!


10 tomatillos

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 jalapenos

2 sm or 1 lg onion, cut into rings

5-10 cloves garlic

Olive oil

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1 in. pieces

1 avocado, cubed

1-2 limes, juiced (about 3-8 tsp)


(1-2 c. veggie broth

Nutritional yeast

Flax seed oil)

  1. Place tomatillos, red pepper strips, jalapenos, onion rings and garlic on a baking sheet (covered in tinfoil for easy clean up). Drizzle olive oil over them and rub to coat. Bake at about 375 until tomatillos are soft and onions and peppers start to brown. Let cool until touchable.

  2. Remove tomatillo husks, peel garlic, peel red pepper, peel jalapenos. (When I did this the red pepper skins basically came right off but the jalapeno skin didn't. So I said fuck it, and it was fine.)

  3. Blend all vegetables plus lime juice in blender or food processor until smooth. Add Bragg's to taste. Add nutritional yeast and flax oil if desired.

  4. Add veggie broth to desired consistency, chill and serve!

serves 4

When I made this, I didn't add any broth because I didn't plan ahead and was too lazy to defrost my broth. I don't think you need it, but for consistency. Without, it tasted great, but sort of had the consistency of baby food. Just don't think about it and you're fine. But in the name of full disclosure and in the name of options for the experimentally-challenged, consider keeping some broth on hand.

The nutritional yeast and flax oil weren't really necessary for flavor – especially not the flax oil, which sort of tastes like crap – but for vegan nutritional optimization. Add if you like, as much as you like, but keep tasting, because both of these things could easily be overdone.

I served this soup with one large garlic crouton and some roasted garlic bits (to the point of crunchy) sprinkled on top, because I just so happened to have exactly two croutons left over from when I made them previously. It was pretty awesome, so I suggest recreating this as well, but it's not necessary.

Crouton recipe to come...