Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Gnocchi

I'll be honest.  I had never even heard of gnocchi until we moved to New York. And I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. But I have learned that it's absolutely delicious. I've been fortunate to test a variety of gnocchi, from plain old potato gnocchi with marinara sauce, to gnocchi with an incredible blue cheese sauce, to pumpkin and spinach gnocchi. It's easy to buy in the grocery stores up here, but it seems a bit overpriced....I mean really, it's potatoes and flour. So I decided it was time to try making it myself, from scratch.

I looked at a variety of recipes online (101 cookbooks, The Italian Dish, Epicurious, and some random blog by a girl named Christine)  and then mashed them altogether to come up with a game plan. From the onset, I could tell this was going to be an ordeal, so I decided to go ahead and double the recipe so that I'd have some leftover to freeze. This is the recipe I ended up with:

4 russet potatoes
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
a pinch of salt
additional flour for rolling

I boiled the potatoes for about 45 minutes, with the skin on as this was recommended in order to keep the potatoes dry - apparently gnocchi is finicky. I let the potatoes cool for a few minutes and then carefully removed the skin. Then I mashed them all up, stirred in the egg yolks, salt, and flour. That formed a nice dough that was actually very easy to work with, not sticky at all. I then rolled out the dough into long snake-like rolls one portion at a time and chopped them up into little gnocchi-size pieces with a Pampered Chef tool. This was my first time using this tool and I have no idea what it's purpose is, but it seemed like it would do the job. I was too lazy to make individual ridges in the gnocchi with a fork like some of the recipes called for, so I figured this PF tool would be good enough.

I took about half of the gnocchi, arranged it on a plate, and froze it for 15 minutes before moving it to a freezer bag. This way it wouldn't all stick together in the freezer.

To cook the gnocchi, I took about 20 pieces at a time and boiled them in salted water for about 5 minutes, and then moved on to the next batch. All of the recipes said that they will float to the top when they are ready or about a minute before they are done. Well, my buoyant little gnocchi floated to the top after about 1 I'm not sure what went wrong there.

Then the sauce. The sauce is important, and I couldn't decide on I made two. I made a mushroom and shallot sauce similar to the Epicurious recipe and bought a jar of Newman's Own vodka sauce as the backup.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. The gnocchi held together very nicely and the texture was perfect. It was quite a lot of work, though, so I'm glad that I have some in the freezer ready to go for next time. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Governor's Island

On Saturday we took our second trip to Governor's Island for our friend Cara's birthday. This year we opted to take the ferry from Brooklyn, which was great - I'm a sucker for free things. Instead of renting bikes this year, we just walked around the island and were able to take in a bit more - I'm also a sucker for reading historical and informational placards ha.

The island has seen many changes over the years from being one of the first settlements of the city, to a US army post, to a coastguard base, to a national monument.

On our walk, we met a man who had lived on the island when he was in elementary school while his father was in the Coast Guard. He was showing his wife and teenage daughter around, telling them about life there.  What an experience that must have been.

This year, some lucky high school students will have the opportunity to attend New York Harbor School in a renovated building on Governor's Island.

Personally,  I think it would be an ideal location for a college campus. The old military buildings built in the 30s are just beautiful and very reminiscent of university buildings.  And seriously, how awesome would it be to go to college on an island with views of the statue of liberty and the Manhattan skyline? Apparently NYU agreed with me...and have been in talks about a satellite campus on Governors Island...dangit, Chris, you went to grad school too soon!.


The island will be changing even more in the coming years, with plans to create a waterfront park and encourage development. I think great things can be done with this special place, but I sincerely hope that they preserve the historical landmarks and maintain the serenity of the island.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Menu - Week of August 8th

I'm starting to get lazy with the menu planning again, but here it is for this week:

Sunday: Spinach salad

Monday: Eggplant sandwich

Tuesday: Chickpea Chicken

Wednesday: Spinach Salad / Mozzarella Panini

Thursday: Dinner out and a movie

Friday: Veggie Bowls

Saturday: Homemade Gnocchi

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Along the Hudson

I work just a few blocks from the Hudson River, so when it's nice outside I like to walk over there with my lunch and a book and enjoy the sun and water.  After doing this for a while I got an itch to walk the entire length of Manhattan along the can be done (almost) entirely by walking either through a park, on a walking trail, or on a boardwalk. Some of the parks, such as Riverside, have been around forever.  But a lot of the amenities have been part of a recent effort to renovate the waterfront and make it more pedestrian friendly.

So one Saturday I took the subway up to 96th street, walked over to Riverside Park, and then walked down the island all the way to Battery Park.  Here are a few photos from my journey.

Riverside Park and a pretty sweet place to play little league baseball

The Intrepid and tennis courts at Hudson River Park

Free kayaking and an amazing view

Some kids playing ping pong in Battery Park City. The new ferry terminal, on the right, is just gorgeous.  Seriously, this picture looks like a rendering to me. 

I took a break to go inside the World Financial Center (yay public restrooms) and peeked at the progress on the World Trade Center Site.  The tower is coming along, albeit slowly

Pretty hydrangeas south of the WFC, and finally I'm able to see the Statue of Liberty!

Woohoo!  I made it to Battery Park and took the subway home with very tired feet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nutty Barley Bake

We tend to cook the same things over and over again so for the past few weeks we have been trying a couple of new recipes each week. We usually look for recipes either online or in magazines even though we have about a dozen cookbooks on our shelf.  Well, last week Chris found a great recipe in our Taste of Home cookbook, Nutty Barley Bake.

It's a really easy recipe, but quite flavorful, combining barley with onions, nuts (we used pine nuts and almonds) and beef broth. It's a very pretty meal too because the parsley and green onions rise to the top when it bakes...unfortunately we didn't take any pictures. We ate it as the main meal for dinner one night and then reheated the leftovers the next night as a side to chicken. Like most things, it tasted better the second day. I would definitely recommend the recipe and we'll likely make it again soon.

The recipe is available from the Taste of Home website here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Menu - Week of August 1st

For the most part, last week's menu planning was a success.  The only day we deviated from the plan was on Friday when we opted for Joe's pizza instead of Le P'tit.  Swell Season, the couple from the movie Once, was playing a free concert in Prospect Park and we didn't want to miss any of it, so  we took our slices of Joe's to the park.  Here is the plan for this week...with a couple of repeats:

Sunday: Salad (Same as last week - spinach, feta cheese, tomatoes, olives, capers, roasted red peppers, red onions, and chick peas.)

Monday: Pulled pork - cooked in the crockpot and served on rolls

Tuesday: Nutty barley bake - new recipe from The Taste of Home cookbook

Wednesday: Chicken stuffed with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and pesto

Thursday: Grilled cheese with bacon, avocado, and tomato

Friday: Dinner out at Le P'tit Paris Bistro (Since we didn't make it there last Friday)

Saturday: Bean Burritos