Monday, November 24, 2008

fall's here; soup's on

If there’s one thing I really love around this time, it’s soup. Even living in season-challenged South Florida, chilly days come around and they long to be taken advantage of! This means a big pot of hearty soup simmering away on the stove. This means throwing anything and everything into a pot, covering it up with some stock, and making a comforting masterpiece.
Soup is the idea of comfort, the idea of warmth. Soup is one of the earliest memories I have with my grandparents. It’s something my mom used to sneak in some vegetables. It’s the perfect companion for a fall day.
The great thing about soup is that there is never a set anything. It’s a big pot of everything you want, everything you have, everything you need to use up. It will cook away and turn into a bowl of happiness.
The type of happiness that can always be associated with fall. Because fall is, after all, the reminder that the holidays are coming, the new weather settling in, the dusting off of jackets, and the revival of soup.

Beef & Vegetable Soup
1 lb top round steak
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 can diced tomatoes, optional
1 qt chicken stock
1-2 bay leaves

other options: just about any veggie you want.

1. Heat up olive oil in pot until almost smoking hot. Meanwhile, cut steak into ½ inch cubes. Drop into oil and season with salt and pepper. Brown.
2. Remove meat and toss in garlic, onion, celery, and carrots. Bring down heat and saute for a minute. Add in potatoes and saute for a minute or two more.
3. Add tomatoes, stock, and bay leaves and drop down to a medium simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender.
4. Serve up with a nice piece of garlic toast.

Simple and oh-so-delicious.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

oh, gnocchi!

There’s a little tradition in Argentina. One that involves eating gnocchi the 29th of every month for good luck.
Homemade gnocchi of course.
Gnocchi - like risotto, really - is so hard to get made right.
Listen, if I want a gummy mess I’ll go to the corner store and pick up a pack of gum. This is gnocchi we’re talking about: light and fluffy potato dumplings that are shaped like little pillows for a reason, don’t you think?
We’re talking a necessity for fluffy and soft, delicate and smooth.
And when it comes down to it there is no reason you shouldn’t take some time out to make it yourself.
This little recipe? Around 30 minutes to make. I could compete with Rachel Ray if I wanna go there (...and I particularly don’t..).
I use both sweet and russet potatoes because I like the texture I get from the mix of both. Just the right consistency.
The trick is to not overwork the dough. Don’t fuss with it. But let’s be honest: don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty either.
I guarantee it’ll be better than any gnocchi you ever bought.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
in a simple tomato sauce

1 lb sweet potatoes
1 lb russet potatoes
1 egg
about 1 cup flour (possibly more)

simple tomato sauce:
olive oil/butter
garlic, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
salt, pepper
fresh basil, chopped

1. Peel and dice potatoes. Throw into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook til fork-tender.
2. Drain and return to pot to evaporate as much water as possible. The drier the potatoes, the less flour you will need.
3. Mash and cool.
4. Once cool, get a pot of water on to boil and heat up olive oil and butter in a separate pot.
5. Saute garlic and onion until tender and deglaze the pan with wine. Reduce wine down to a glaze and add in tomatoes. Reduce heat to a simmer and season to taste.
6. Take cooled, mashed potatoes and mix in the egg. Once mixed in, add in the flour. Start with ½ cup and continue to add in a little at a time until you get a very soft, but pliable dough. Depending on moisture, you may need only a little or a good bit.
7. On a floured surface, take a ball of dough and roll out into a rope. Cut off 1-inch pieces and drop into boiling, salted water. Continue to do this until all dough is will get pretty gooey and messy.
8. Keep an eye on the gnocchi in the water: once they float, they are done. Remove from water and drop right into sauce. Add in basil and the end and fold in gently.

A good hunk of bread complements this meal rather fabulously, too.
Oh, and good luck.