Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gnochi con Funghi, Asparagus, and Mushrom Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese

I had a lot of fun creating this dinner, inspired by a meal I had at Gruppo Di Amici the other night.

For starters I served a Flame Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup. I started with four red bell peppers, which I halved, removing the stems and seeds. I roasted these in the broiler. Meanwhile I chopped up some onion and started sweating it in my soup pot, to which i added some sliced up garlic, and a potato, which i cut into small cubes.

When the Peppers where done, i removed the skins, chopped them up a bit and through it in the pot with the rest of the soup things. Next I added a few chopped up tomatoes (frozen from the garden last summer), and after everything was nice and happy in there I added enough veggie broth to more than cover everything, and I added some julienned Basil and other spices. I continued it all sizzling until it the potatoes were soft then took it off the heat.

After it cooled down a bit, I ran it all through the blender. This made for a nice smooth, thin soup. Light enough that it made a good starter for a big meal.

The Gnocchi con Funghi was by far the most time consuming part of this meal. I used several recipes, but mostly tried to follow the advice of Mario Batali in his Gnocchi recipe.

I began by boiling four large potatoes whole, 3 Russets and one large Red Potato. It took about forty five minutes for the Russet potatoes to cook through, and about fifty for the Red Potato. As soon as I took them out of the boiling water, i peeled them and mashed them.

Here's a fun trick for handling ridiculously hot things: Have a small bowl of ice water sitting on your counter and dip your hand in it for a while. I used this method to peel the hot potatoes. after a few seconds in the ice water, i could handle the potatoes for ten seconds or so, then back in the ice water.

To the bowl of mashed up boiled potato, i added a couple of cups of flour, and a couple of small eggs and a big pinch of salt. I first mixed the egg and flour together, and then mixed it in with the potato. I'm not quite sure how much flour I ended up using, it seems to matter a lot on the amount of moisture in the potatoes, so a recipe can never get it quite right, you've just got to learn to feel it.

After lightly kneading the gnocchi dough together, I rolled small baseball sized balls of dough into big long snakes about 3/4 inch in diameter, and cut those into about 1 inch little pieces. There are several different ideas on the internet about how gnocchi is supposed to look. I just made these little pillow shaped pieces, it's a little lacking in flair, but when you make home made gnocchi, that's pretty much already enough flair.

These little gnocchi guys only take about a minute to boil. Just throw a handful or so into a big pot of boiling water, and wait for them to float to the top. Once they float to the top, they're done. I removed mine to a big bowl and coated with some olive oil, then stuck them into the fridge to wait until I was ready for them.

I eventually heated up the gnocchi right before dinner in a skillet with some olive oil, and served them in a typical marinara sauce, with sliced mushrooms and sliced black olives, and chunks of Goat Cheese. The Goat Cheese and Mushrooms really went well with the flavor of the Gnocchi.

The other benefit of using the Goat Cheese and sliced Mushrooms in the Gnocchi is it helped bring the whole meal together, because on the side I served Mushroom Crostini with Goat Cheese.For the topping of this Crostini I chopped up and sauteed some Portabella Mushrooms with garlic in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. For the bread I used a normal french Baguette, sliced diagonally, with a little olive oil on it and toasted in the broiler. I topped each piece with a big spoonful of the mushroom mixture, and a couple slices of herbed goat cheese, and just before serving, i put it back in the broiler for a minute, which just started to bake the goat cheese.

The asparagus was served as whole spears. I cooked it in olive oil on high heat for about a minute, then put some salt and pepper on it and splashed some balsamic vinegar on there. Another minute later and it was nice and happy. I like Asparagus cooked at high heat, so it gets tender, but not limp. Also the kitchen just smells amazing when the balsamic vinegar hits the hot pan.

Finally, to end the meal I made a very basic, but quite tasty cake. I have no idea what to call this guy, so if anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment. The cake part of this was a very bland, basic cake recipe, which I cooked a little extra long to dry out a little. I made it about an inch and a half high, in a ten inch spring-form pan. After the cake had cooled, I spooned some strong coffee over the top, to let that soak into the cake (that's why i let the cake get a little dry).

The second layer that you see there is about an inch of whipped cream. When I made the whipped cream, I added Aromatic Bitters to it, so it had a great alcoholic flavor. And finally, I pitted and halved a bunch of cherries to put on the top. Voila. Cake.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Soups for 60

Here's a couple of soup recipes for larger groups.

Vegan White Chile for 60

8 pounds dry great white northern beans
1 jar better than bullion
16 ounces Earth Balance
5-6 large onions
4 pounds tomatillos
8 cups chopped grean chiles (canned is fine)
3 bricks of extra firm tofu
8 tablespoons ground cumin
8 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons black pepper
red pepper flakes
3 bunches of cilantro

I started by boiling a few gallons of water in a 6 gallon pot. The Great White Northerns took a little less than 2 hours to get to the amount of softness i wanted. When they did, I put in the salt to slow down the cooking of the beans, and I added the BTB as well. Next dice up the Onions and Chiles and Tomatillos, and put these into your pot with the rest of the seasonings. These all need to cook for at least half an hour, but letting the flavors meld together for longer only seems to help. Just a little while before serving this chile, I added the cilantro (chopped up), and the tofu, which i cut into little cubes. The tofu was probably very unnecessary, but if you like tofu, mmm. . .

Vegan Mushroom Bisque for 60

2.5 gallons water mixed with Better than Bullion
8-10 pounds of assorted mushrooms (I used white mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, portabellas, and oyster mushrooms)
5 large onions, cut into thin strips 1/2 - 1 inch long
16 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 3/4 cups of earth balance
3 3/4 cups flour
10 cans coconut milk
3 1/3 teaspoons salt
Vegan Worcestershire sauce

When I was in highschool I worked at a Panera Bread Company, and they had a soup called a Parisian Mushroom bisque, which was super good. This is my own attempt to clone that recipe, however, I think what made that soup really special, was it had Brie cheese in it (hence the Parisian part of the name). Since this is a vegan version of the soup, this soup is missing that element. Still, when i made it, though i felt it was missing that brie taste, no one else seemed to have that complaint.

I started by cutting all of my mushrooms into small soup sized pieces, as well as cutting up the onions and garlic. Meanwhile i had the water and better than bullion warming up in another 6 gallon pot. I put all of the mushrooms into the pot, along with the onions and garlic. I also added in the salt and coconut milk.

Then I made a Roux from the earth balance and flour. I cooked that together in a skillet until it started to brown, and then added it to the big pot. Bring that all to a boil to get it to thicken, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and use the Vegan Worcestershire sauce, the sriracha and the sherry to even out the flavors. I didn't measure at all how much I used, so you'll just have to play with it until it gets a good even flavor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fall Vegetable Bisque

Some people were asking about a recipe for a bisque that was served at our church's potluck meal this Sunday. This is very similar to another bisque that I posted here, except this time i used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash. So I've decided to call this "Fall Vegetable Bisque", because you can easily use sweet potatoes, yams, butternut squash, acorn squash, or even pumpkin, whatever has grown well that year, in your area.

This recipe is going to be fore 25 to 30 people. If you'd like a smaller recipe, use the butternut squash bisque recipe, or just divide this one.

I used:
10 medium to large sweet potatoes
4 large onions (yellow, red, white, whatever)
4 red bell peppers (red are the best flavor for this, but yellow or orange work, not green)
1 head of garlic
1 gallon of vegetable broth (i used water and vegetable BTB)
4 cans of coconut milk
cooking oil
chili powder
apple cider vinegar

Start off by heating the vegetable broth in a large pot. That takes a while to get up to boiling.

Then I took out all of my sweet potatoes, washed and peeled them (though you don't have to peel them, i suppose. Do what your heart tells you). Then I cut them into 1 inch cubes (doesn't need to be pretty, just get them into smaller pieces).

As soon as the broth is up to temperature, I put in the sweet potatoes. Meanwhile, chop up the onions and garlic and peppers. I like to caramelize the onions before adding them to the soup, and also brown the garlic, but that doesn't have to happen. If you do fry the onions first, i like to add some sriracha to the oil while they're cooking. I don't really know what this does for the soup, but it makes the kitchen smell really good. If you don't want to do that, just put a little sriracha in the soup at any other point.

To cook the onions and garlic in the same oil, at the same time, put the onions in first. Wait until they just start to brown along the edges, and then add the garlic. They'll both be ready at about the same time.

Once your onions and garlic are ready, throw that into your broth with the sweet potatoes. Also add in your red peppers now. That will all want to cook together for 10 - 15 minutes (you'll notice the sweet potatoes starting to fall apart as you stir it, this is a good sign that it's ready to be blended). While you're waiting for everything, add your salt and pepper, and spices. I like to put in chili powder, cumin, sriracha and apple cider vinegar. But feel free to experiment with what you like. Perhaps some red curry paste; or maybe go the Italian route with some basil and oregano (what the heck, throw in some more garlic too); or for a little Cajun flair, add some chili powder, cayenne pepper, a jalapeno and a healthy amount of thyme.

Once everything is soft enough, take it off the heat, and get out your blender. It takes a while if you only have a regular blender (like i do), if you've got one of those fancy hand blenders, or wand blenders, that must be nice. However you do it, get it to a nice smooth consistency.

After it's blended, i mix in the coconut milk, you can use other types of cream if you want. I love coconut milk. But use whatever you feel like.

That's it. Perhaps serve it with a nice grilled cheese sandwich (or if you want to be fancier, i served it with a grilled tomato basil and mozzarella sandwich).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Soft Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce

This make a super fancy meal, and has very little work involved.

I started about three hours before hand, with a couple quart jars of tomatoes we canned last year. Put those in a large sauce pan and started it boiling down. I mixed in some basil and oregano, some minced garlic, and some salt in pepper.

Two and a half hours later (and some occasional stirring), there was magically a pot of tomato sauce sitting on my stove.

Meanwhile we washed and cut up some lettuce and strawberries for a nice summer salad.

About ten minutes before supper time, drop in your eggs (we did one dozen, for seven people). They don't cook as fast as if you're poaching them in regular water, so after about ten minutes the yolks are still tasty. If you like you're eggs overcooked, go ahead and wait fifteen minutes and the yolks will be all solid.

That's basically all there is too it. We served it over garlic toast we made out of some tomato ciabatta we had lying around, and plated it with the strawberry salad.

fancy fancy.
We came across some hotdog buns, here at the house, so that sort of inspired me to try a little variation on these veggie fritters i've been making. Pictured above, i made some broccoli/yellow bell pepper dogs.

To do so, beat one egg, and a few tablespoons of flour. Steam broccoli for about five minutes, then cut into small chunks. Saute some yellow bell peppers in butter or olive oil, and again, chop into fairly small chunks. Then mix it all together.

I fried these in butter, in long hotdog shaped strips. To round them out, flip it before it's quite browned (you can come back and brown that side later). The side facing up will be flat, as it spread out against the pan. So using a spatula bend the sides down into a rounder shape.

Since we're in chicago, i had to do this dog up all fancy with tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, pickled jalepenos, mayo and mustard.

And since it's strawberry season, instead of chips or fries, i threw a pile of strawberries up in there.