Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Fridge Full of Food-- Coconut Fish Curry


It is all in the title! The baby is here and I will be gone in a few days. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of diapers and ditties. Between spending time with the family and singing the Wheels on the Bus to my oh-so-cute niece the days have flown by. Before I leave I want to fill the freezer with goodies so Neale and Jen can be with the babies instead of in the kitchen. 

So we take in the farmer's market with its sumptuous vegetable displays. I walk through rows and rows of rainbow chard, lacinto kale and settle for two pounds of fava beans. My eyes widen when I am asked to pay $2. I must look incredulous but I feel really smug at my good deal. I cannot pass up squash blossoms even though I have some growing in my veggie patch at home. I walk towards the overabundant fruit. Donut peaches, strawberries and white peaches find their way into my satchel. We buy tamales for lunch. I settle on poblano and corn, but snack my way through pork mole and chorizo. They are amazing, fresh masa with spicy fillings. A good lunch jackpot. Any farmer's market on the West Coast is a treasure waiting to be mined! My eyes are bigger than my bag, but I manage to fill my carry-on with fruit, veggies and bread!!

This city by the bay is always a cornucopia of delights. The fog rolls in across the bay, painting the sky purple, lavender, pink and brown. Eucalyptus perfumes the parks. Sandwich shop lines are out the door. Tourist-centric tandem bikes, segway tours, anachronistic double decker buses give the city a Tower of Babel atmosphere. Restaurants that make you salivate before the food gets to your table. Food trucks earn a decent living. Bread tastes like manna from heaven. Light-as-air pastries comport French-Asian flavors. Fruit tastes the way it should. I can extol this city's virtues till kingdom come.

At home I wash, rinse and put away produce. I sprinkle some salt and turmeric on the fish and keep the red snapper aside. I plan to make many little dishes so the parents can defrost and dine. I start with a beef pullao. Caramelized onions, tomatoes and spices along with ground beef make the kitchen sing. Rice steams. I chop some cabbage and corn for a stir fry. A Southwestern spiced pork roasts in the oven. Shephard's Pie sits beside the pork. Chicken marinates in soy sauce. Black-eyed peas bubble alongside cumin spiced potatoes. Between all four burners and the oven the kitchen is flaming hot!


Coconut Fish Curry
Makes 4 servings


1 pound Red Snapper ( about 3 filets )
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 large Onion
3 cloves Garlic
2 coins Ginger
1 green Chile
5 Curry leaves
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon Tumeric powder
1 can Coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Garam masala
Cilantro to garnish


Cut the fish filets into thirds, pieces about 2 inches wide. Wash well and pat dry.

Rub turmeric and salt into the fish and keep aside for 10 minutes.


Peel and finely chop onion.

Slice garlic.

Slit the green chile down the middle so you have two long pieces of chile.

Heat oil in a saucepan. 

Add mustards seeds and curry leaves to hot oil. Watch out. There will be spluttering seeds! You could use a splatter guard. But if you have all your ingredients ready it goes real fast.

Add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté  for 3  minutes.


Add turmeric to onions along with coconut milk and salt.

Bring coconut milk to a slow boil for 2 to 3 minutes.


Add the fish to milk and gently bring to a simmer. Let fish simmer for 5 minutes at least. 

Sprinkle Garam masala and cilantro over fish and serve with rice. And papad as we do!



NOTES

Any firm fish filets could be substituted. 

The curry keeps well in the fridge for upto 3 days. It's a good make-ahead dish.



The freezer and fridge are well stocked. It is hotter than hell here. Very unusual for the Bay Area. The two year old chows down on her bowl of pasta and shrimp. I make an unusual choice for dinner--- a beer and a salad!!! Shauna calls it a "college girl" dinner. It doesn't quite have the same connotations though! But it is a refreshing antidote to a hot meal.


I won't miss the ten-second-apart foghorns that wake we in the morning. I will miss the beautiful bay vistas we see driving in the city. I won't miss the cold windy foggy walks to the park. I will miss people-watching from my window perch. I will miss my wonderful niece. I will miss her baby babble and amusing antics. I will miss watching her savor all the goodies in the fridge. She does have a refined palate!!! Most of all I will miss her hugs and kisses. I truly am leaving my heart here in San Francisco.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Smiles and Sides to Savor-- Golden Beets, Corn Salsa and Swiss Chard





I'm visiting my favorite city by the bay. Not as a tourist but a girl Friday. A new baby is due any day and I get to bond with Neale and Jen's almost-two year old Anjali. Cute as a button, full of giggles and smiles and in the words of my ma in law Pam, eats like a Trojan!!


It's my turn to cook dinner and in San Francisco I am flooded with choices. Neale's fridge is laden with farmer's market booty. I find cherry tomatoes, rainbow chard and orange beets. Skirt steak lies in butcher paper, tonight's meat course. Though I am more excited for the sides. California veggies are the most flavorful. Especially locally grown greens. My trips here result in bagfuls of produce taken back to New York. But now I get a chance to cook and eat like a local. 

Beets, lightly coated with oil and wrapped in foil go into a hot oven. I chop some Swiss chard. Corn kernels are pan roasted. Steak is well seasoned. My prep work done, we indulge in a favorite family pastime-- twenty one card rummy.  Fortune doesn't favor me too well! Hopefully I will be luckier with dinner.


Golden Roasted Beets
Serves 4 people

2 medium to large Golden Beets
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Sea salt
Pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the beets and dry well.

Make two squares of aluminum foil.

Place a beet on each, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Gather ends of the foil and twist the tops to close.

Place on a sheet pan or oven proof dish and roast for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and cool.

Peel the skin. It should really slide off. If not, use a paring knife to remove the stubborn bits. 

Slice the beets 1/4 inch to 1/5 inch thick. 

Lay the slices in an attractive fashion on a plate. I like to make overlapping concentric circles.

Once again drizzle olive oil over the beets. 

Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.



Corn and Tomato Salsa
Makes 3 cups


2 ears of Corn
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Red Onion
1/4 cup Cilantro 
1/2 green Chile
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 Lime


Peel the outer corn leaves and remove the tassels.

Stand the corn upright on a plate and pare the kernels using a sharp knife. Watch out for flying corn!

Place a non-stick pan on a medium flame and dry roast corn kernels for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and cool.

Wash and cut cherry tomatoes in half. Place in a bowl.

Slice the red onion finely and add to tomatoes.

Chop the cilantro and chile finely and add to tomatoes and onions.

Add the cooled corn to tomatoes.

Season with salt.

Sprinkle juice of lime and stir to mix. 

Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Serve it cool.



Sautéed Swiss Chard
Makes 3 cups


1 bunch Rainbow Swiss Chard
1 tablespoon Olive oil
5 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Woostershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt


Cut the Swiss chard into large shreds and wash well. Use the stems too. Let the chard drip dry in the colander.

Peel and slice garlic.

Heat oil in a large saucepan.

Add the garlic and let it lightly brown.

Add the Swiss chard and salt. Cover with a lid and let the chard cook down for 3 to 5 minutes. Push down with a spoon.

Open the lid and add the Woostershire sauce.
Let the chard open braise for a minute more to let some of the liquid dry.

 Serve the chard hot.





The steak sizzles in a cast iron pan. Anjali tucks into well charred steak tidbits, beets and corn. Chard is not quite her cup of tea. We enthusiastically slice into steak. A triple portion of sides fill our plates. The simple taste of summer veggies is delightfully overwhelming. I enjoy watching the Gonsalves family put away this summer bounty immensely.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Corn Stories-- Poblano Stuffed Corn





Summer is here along with its mouthwatering bounty. I see tomatoes, beans, radishes and bushels of corn abound at farmers markets, roadside stands and even grocery stores. Corn is that quintessential summer veggie you buy in multitudes. The possibilities are endless. It's corn in soup, in stir frys and  salsas. Just shucked corn, dunked in boiling water for a few minutes, slathered with butter and salt, gives me a taste of summer in my mouth! Then again slow-roasted on the grill, with a lime, chile and salt rub, has the smokiness of the grill and that spicy, juicy pop of corn. You see where I'm going? Endless possibilities!

That slowly grilled corn reminds me of childhood treats we ate by the seaside. The bhuttawala or corn seller, sits with a portable, teeny, coal fired grill. As he twists and twirls corn cobs, fanning the flames, sparks flying around him. Imagine a dark, stormy sky. The promenade by the ocean, periodically splattered by the monsoon-churned ocean. The bhuttawala, hunched under his black umbrella. Cars pulling up, handing over rupee notes in exchange for roasted corn cobs. The delicious aroma of coal roasted food in small cars. The memory is overwhelming, a sensory walk through my childhood. For so many of us who grew up in India, the monsoon is a season filled with rainy days, puddles of brown muck to wade through and squelchy shoes. And yet we always find that silver lining. Corn was mainly available in the monsoon months. I'm talking about the days when crops were grown by season. These days you can buy most vegetable throughout the year. Though I think corn tastes best in summer.

I find plenty of fresh corn at the farmers market. Most of the ears have their outer layers pulled away. The age old test to find a tender cob by piercing a corn kernel bothers me. Most corn grown in the United States is so tender. Well if it isn't, once you dunk it in a vat of hot water it will cook for sure! I don't bother with a kernel test. Fresh green husks and a lively brown tassel is cause enough for me to pile them in my shopping basket. I spy some shiny poblanos too. The mind whirls between vegetables. In go the chiles. Corn and poblanos. Like I said, endless possibilities.



Poblano Chiles stuffed with Corn
Makes 12 halves


6 Poblano chiles
2 teaspoons Olive oil
2 cloves of  Garlic
3 ears of Corn
3 stalks of Scallions
1/2 cup cooked Rice
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Cilantro
Monterey Jack cheese, either grated or in slices.


Wash and dry  poblanos. Cut them in half, lengthwise and remove seeds and inner white pith. 

Line a sheet pan with foil and place poblanos on the pan.


Shuck corn. Remove all the tassels. Holding the corn vertically on a plate, take a sharp knife and cut downwards to remove kernels. Do this with all the cobs. 

Trim and slice the scallions into thin rounds.

Peel and finely dice garlic cloves.

Roughly chop cilantro.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan.

When it shimmers add garlic and let it color for 30 seconds.

Add in the corn and sauté for 5 minutes. 

Mix in scallions, rice, cumin powder, salt and cilantro. Mix well so the spices are well distributed.



After a few minutes take the corn mixture off the flame and cool slightly.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mound the corn in the poblano halves. Divide the mixture between the halves. Press down firmly.


Top each poblano half with Monterey Jack cheese.


Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.


NOTES

You could make these ahead of time and reheat them for 5 to 7 minutes in a hot oven or even the microwave.

Be careful. Sometimes poblanos can pack a spicy punch. It's a lucky dip!

If you do not have cooked rice on hand, cooked potatoes are a handy substitute.




Today we have a southwestern meal. It's tortilla soup, followed by a roasted pork tenderloin. The corn stuffed chiles make an excellent side. Some of our taste buds get many a zing from the poblanos. The corn retains a firm crunch too. Next time it's roasted corn salsa. And it's only June!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Deserving Dad Fare--Sev Poori





A Father's Day food fest is in the works. This deserving father is being served his favorite snack for lunch--sev poori. Coincidently, my last blog entry mentions sev poori as part of the chaat genre. Good things come in pairs I guess. 

Growing up, we had sev poori at tea time. It truly is a Bombay phenomenon. Roadside vendors set up their stalls or carts by noon. The public gathers around them as their hands fly between mounds of potatoes, chutneys, pooris and sev. There was a special man across from my grandmother's house. She would send her stainless steel thalis to him as his pooris generally were delivered on large green leaves. We would wait for our treats as the old folks had tea on the dot of four pm. Thalis were placed in front of us. Fingers lifted small pooris right into drooling mouths. No utensils needed!!! And such will be the case with the deserving father too. He is very adept at eating sev poori..

I know to make a LARGE batch of pooris. It involves a lot of kneading ,rolling, cutting and frying. I have an able and willing helper, Shauna. I use a pasta attachment to roll the dough very thin. It works its magic and I have a hundred pooris in a snap. Who knew pasta rollers could be used for pooris ? Mine is a KitchenAid attachment.




Amazon has them at reasonable rates. They attach to the front of a KitchenAid stand mixer. My three piece rollers are eight years strong and  I love them. They are put to use frequently, mainly for pasta though!  This necessity is my mother-law Pam's invention. She uses a hand cranked pasta machine and taught me this neat shortcut! Rolling out really thin sheets of dough with a rolling pin, is hard work! Normally I use a small cookie cutter to press out pooris. I can't find mine, but I do unearth an ancient poori making contraption. You roll it over the dough and it form rounds as it passes over.


Ancient poori rolling contraption

But It doesn't work well at all!!! So I use the top of a lemonade bottle. Works just fine!

There are many steps to sev poori and when you persevere the end result is delicious crispy treats . A little planning is advisable.These flat pooris topped with potato, onion, sev and chutneys, go like hot cakes


SEV POORI
Enough for 4 people

Pooris ( see recipe below)
3 Potatoes, boiled
1 small Red Onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup Cilantro
Kosher salt
1 Lime, cut in half
Green Chutney ( see recipe below)
Tamarind Chutney ( see recipe,below)
1 cup Sev ( chickpea flour vermicelli) 

Descriptive Sev 

Pooris
Makes about 100 pooris

1 cup Atta( whole wheat flour)
1 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup Water
Canola oil to fry pooris

Put atta, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. 

With the processor on, gradually add water till you have a thick dough. Pulse frequently. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl. Add water in 1/4 cup increments. The dough shouldn't be wet and sticky, rather dry and stiff.



Alternately make the dough by hand by mixing in water, gathering the dough into a cohesive ball and kneading it well till the dough is smooth.

Cover and keep aside for 1 hour.

If you are using a pasta roller attachment or a pasta machine, start at roller at 1. 

Divide the dough into 4 portions.


Take one portion and dust it with atta or flour.

Flatten dough a bit and push through the pasta roller once.



Change the roller setting to 2 and pass the dough through this setting.

Crank the setting to 3 and once again pass the dough through. You will see the dough becoming thinner with each pass.

Go to setting number 4 and pass the dough through. 

Go lower to setting number 5 and roll the dough through. 

The dough should be quite thin by now. Lay it flat on an atta-dusted surface.



If you do not have a pasta attachment or machine, roll out the dough using a rolling pin dusted with atta. Roll the dough very thin, almost 1/5 inch, and follow the steps below.

Using a small cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can. Lay them on a cookie sheet to dry out for 15 minutes.


Repeat with other 3 portions of dough. Gather up remaining dough, knead it together and repeat steps.

After the dough circles have dried for 15 minutes, prick them well with a fork.



Heat canola oil in wok or a frying pan. The oil should be at least 1 1/2 inches deep in the wok.

Wait till it heats. Test by dropping in a teeny bit of dough. It should rise to the surface instantly. You know then the oil is ready.

Fry 2 or 3 pooris at a time till they are golden brown. This takes about 3 minutes.

Drain onto a cookie rack with some paper beneath to catch the oil drips.

Finish frying all the pooris this way.


Green Chutney
Makes 1 cup

1 1/2 cups Cilantro
3 Green Chilis
3 cloves Garlic
2 thin slices Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Grind the above ingredients in a blender till they are well puréed. 

Keep in covered container in the fridge up to a week.




Tamarind Chutney 
 Makes 2 cups

1 cup Tamarind pulp
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Jaggery or Brown Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt.

Soak tamarind in water for 3 to 4 hours.

Squeeze pulp well and strain into a saucepan. You should have just the liquid. No pulp.

Add jaggery and salt and simmer on a medium flame for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Store in a glass jar or plastic container in the fridge for up to a month.





ASSEMBLING THE SEV POORI

Peel potatoes and cut them lengthwise in half. Slice each half into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Chop cilantro very fine.

Lay pooris out on a platter. I use a sheet pan. The more surface area, the more pooris will be eaten!

Top each poori with a half moon potato. 

Place a smidgen of onion on top of potato. 

Season lightly with salt.

Place a large pinch of sev on top of the onion.

The next topping a half a teaspoon of green chutney.

Follow that by half a teaspoon of tamarind chutney.

Sprinkle cilantro over all the pooris.

Drizzle a generous portion of sev all over pooris.

Squeeze some lime juice all over pooris.

Go ahead and eat this labor of love!


Notes

Sev is available at Patel Brothers or any Indian grocery store. It comes in different thicknesses. Use the very thin, vermicelli type. 

The above recipe is quite labor-intensive. Just buy pooris and chutneys from an Indian grocery store. They are quite good. I have on many occasions used store brands  when time is of the essence. 

Once made, sev pooris should be eaten in the next 10 minutes as the pooris get soggy and lose their crunch.



The deserving father sits with his prize-- sev poori. Kheema dogs made by Shauna via her blog complement the pooris. He eats well, plenty of elbow exercise for his right arm. I hope he saves room for his dinner treat, another favorite, short ribs with yucca fries!












Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Crackling Spinach aka Palak Chaat




On a recent trip to Washington DC, I am ardently persuaded to eat at Rasika. I am not inclined to eating in most Indian restaurants as their mainstays are either North Indian or South Indian food. It's either palak paneer or chicken chetinaad. And since both these cuisines come to life often in my kitchen I honestly am dubious about paying big bucks for this type of fare. But give me a restaurant that makes my favorite--- Indian fast food, or an obscure culinary creation that I cannot or will not make in my kitchen and I will go willingly. But Geets persuades me to look at the menu at Rasika. Excitement mounts as I can tick off a handful of intriguing Bombay favorites, especially my favorites- Chaat or fast food Indian style.

Chaat to me means small plates of bhelpuri (puffed rice with potatoes, spices and chutney), paani poori (small balls of fried dough filled with spice flavored water), ragda pattice (potato cutlets topped with masala lentils), vada pav (bread rolls with spicy potato filling), veggie sandwich (white bread layered with green chutney, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumber), dahi batata poori (small balls of fried dough stuffed with sprouted mung beans and potatoes, topped with yogurt and tamarind chutney), sev poori (flat discs of dough topped with potatoes,onions and spices) and much more. The list is exhaustive. Hmm, potatoes are featured prominently, or is it just my penchant for all things potatoes surfacing here? In actuality chaat is an Indian smorgasbord, tapas Bombay style, appetizers to graze on or make a meal of. These small plates sustain us at tea time, between meals and even as meals. These are street side snacks usually made by a man with a cart load of accoutrements. You walk up, place your order and wait for the banyan or banana leaf plate that holds your choice. The original food cart, if I may say so. Sadly I have given up eating these tasty delights by Indian roadsides. Americanized and too afraid of lurking germs, I look for cleaner venues, my sensibilities and stomach veering towards restaurants verses foodcart vendors.

The menu at Rasika is a road map of Bombay culinary delights. We eat patra in macchi (chutney-coated fish wrapped in a banana leaf). Next comes a malai seekh kebab followed by an uttapam studded with fava beans..I drool over this fat dosa-like pancake with my favorite favas.  Goat cheese kulchas melt in my mouth. Grilled paneer squares come bathed in a spicy green sauce. Our table is too small. We haul a chair over to accommodate our many plates. I say it isn't necessary as we finish the food as fast as it comes. The waiter's face suggests we order too much. Just to prove him wrong we lick the platters clean! Then we spy a mound of green in a bowl at the next table. It is demolished. We ask them if they like it. They nod ecstatically. Our waiter looks in askance as we enthusiastically order a bowl of green. The palak chaat is a revelation with each crunch. Battered and flash-fried spinach, drizzled with tamarind chutney, spiced yogurt, chopped onion, tomatoes and chaat masala.  Seriously good fried spinach! Each spoonful is a microcosym of sweet, spice, salt and crunch. Like the table next to us, the bowl is depleted too fast. This has to have been the best spinach I've eaten in long time. 

I have to make it as soon as I get home. I look online for a recipe, a benchmark. I find Matt Fuch's fuchsfoodie.blogspot.com/.../rasika-comes-to-wrong-end-of-red-line.html. This hilarious blog episode makes me see life on the flip side. I revel in his take on 'Jackson Palak 'chaat. Then I go about it my way.


Palak Chaat
For 2 hungry people


2 cups Baby Spinach
1 heaped tablespoon Chickpea flour( Besan)
2 to 3 tablespoons Water
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup Yogurt
A pinch of Kosher salt
3 tablespoons Tamarind chutney ( recipe below)
2 tablespoons chopped Red Onion 
2 tablespoons chopped Tomato
1 teaspoon Chaat Masala ( store-bought)

Spread spinach on paper towels and blot dry.

Whisk chickpea flour, water and salt in a bowl till all the lumps have dissolved. You should be left with a watery batter.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or deep saucepan. It should take 5 minutes on a medium high flame.


Drop a bit of batter to test hot oil. It should float to the surface immeadiately.

Dip a leaf in the batter and add to hot oil. The batter should be runny and barely coat the leaves. Refer to the above picture. Do this with at least 7 to 10 additional leaves. Let the leaves crisp up. Move them with a perforated spoon. Crisping should take 4 to 5 minutes. Drain them onto paper towels. Repeat with all the leaves.



Assemble the chaat by mounding spinach leaves on a platter. 

Drizzle ribbons of tamarind chutney all over spinach.

Spoon ribbons of yogurt over the leaves.

Top with chopped onion and tomatoes.

Lastly sprinkle chaat masala and eat immeadiately!





Tamarind Chutney

1 cup Tamarind pulp
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Jaggery or Brown Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt.

Soak tamarind in water for 3 to 4 hours.

Squeeze pulp well and strain into a saucepan. You should have just the liquid. No pulp.

Add jaggery and salt and simmer on a medium flame for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Store in a glass jar or plastic container in the fridge for up to a month.





NOTES

I say eat immeadiately firstly because the spinach will lose its crispness after being doused with chutney and yogurt. Secondly because its so damn delicious and addictive I cant wait to dig my fork into the crispy pile!

The spinach leaves should be dry or else you will have to contend with oil splatter.

I used a wok but an electric fryer will also do.




Addictive, crispy, crunchy and very satisfying are enough descriptive synonyms.  For me a bowl of fried food is as welcome as a warm blanket on a cold day. The spiced green mound deposited at our lunch table, disappears in minutes. It is Rasika's jewel in the crown.The speed at which we eat forkfuls of crackling spinach is astonishing. We end that memorable meal with a guava kulfi popsicle. Hmmm that calls for some more experimenting!





















Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Great Balls of Cheese- Ricotta Gnudi




Italian cuisine is very popular in our house. Usually it is pasta that reigns supreme but today I make my favorite- gnudi. They are feather-light pillows of ricotta and spinach, dressed in a vibrant red tomato sauce. I found this recipe  over 20 years ago in the Dining section of the New York Times. I forget the name of the chef, who called the article Hen and Dumplings. If memory serves me right, this was his Italian riff on chicken and dumplings. The original recipe is labeled Ricotta Dumplings with Red Pepper Sauce. I follow the recipe to a point. Because red pepper sauce and I do not quite see eye to mouth. As for the dumplings, they look too blah, too plain white. So I tinker. The sauce I make is a quick tomato sauce. The dumplings are now doctored with spinach. And I am pleased . In fact I have been pleased for numerous years now. These savory floating islands Italian-style have graced my table often. 

I like fresh ricotta, especially the Trader Joe brand. I use frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry. The sauce is a snap to make. But when time is of the issue, a store-bought marinara works just as well. 

Gnudi have many aliases....Inside out ravioli. Cheese gnocchi. Cheese dumplings. All work, as the end result is a soft, tender ball of goodness, swimming in a sea of red sauce. 


Ricotta Gnudi with Tomato Sauce
Makes 15 to 20 small balls

Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon Olive oil
4 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Tomato paste
1 14 oz can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Oregano (dried or fresh)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Several grinds of Black pepper

Heat oil till warm.

Peel and gently crush the garlic and add to hot oil.

Add in tomato paste and sauté for a minute. 

Add tomatoes and seasonings.

Let the sauce come to boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mash in the tomato chunks to a smooth sauce.


Gnudi
6 cups water
12 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry of all water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Black pepper
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Flour or more if needed

Bring water to boil in a large pot. When it does, turn the heat down so the water is between a boil and a simmer, lightly bubbling.

Break the eggs in a bowl and whisk. 

Add in ricotta, spinach, salt, pepper and flour. Everything should be well melded.


The next part sounds tricky but really, it isn't. Drop one tablespoon of batter into simmering water as a test to see if the batter holds together in the water. Use two tablespoons .... one to scoop the batter and one to round it off quenelle-style and drop it into the water. I always do this inspite of making gnudi many times. It's better than adding a whole batch and watching it disintegrate in the water. Which has happened to me a few times. If you find the gnudi breaking apart, add a teaspoon of flour and try again. Mix well and drop another spoonful in the simmering water.

If all is well, then add batter by the tablespoonfuls. Try not to crowd the gnudi. Start with half the batter and repeat for the rest.

The gnudi will fall to the bottom of the pot initially, but when they are done they should rise to the surface and bob. This will take anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes depending on the warmth of the water. They might lose some body along the way as bits of ricotta and spinach do come undone.


Lift them out of the cloudy water with a spider or a perforated spatula, on to a plate and keep warm.

Repeat with the rest of the batter.

When you are ready to serve them, heat the tomato sauce and spoon a few ladles onto a broad platter. 

Arrange the gnudi on top of the sauce. Serve some sauce on the side for those who want more.



NOTES

 Gnudi can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200 degree F oven for 10 minutes.

When using frozen spinach, remember to squeeze ALL the water out. If you don't, chances are the batter will get watery as it sits. You will have to add in more flour and that makes for a dense gnudi.

Like I said, any red sauce will suffice. It's a personal choice. 

You could sprinkle gnudi with Parmesan cheese if desired.




I put away that yellowed piece of newsprint, forever enshrined in plastic, back into my pasta folder. Like a good friend in a distant land I will remember to visit in days to come. I do visit distant friends!!! The steaming platter smells divine. Splashes of red and white and green..colors of the Italian flag come to life on my plate.