Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Thanksgiving Week Hikes

I am thankful and very very full.  I spent the last 10 days hanging out with family and terrific friends and ate way too much good food.  

My Thanksgiving week began with a camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park.  Something about being in nature makes me hungry.  On my night to cook, we made marinated flank steak, rosemary garlic red potatoes, Brussels sprouts and apple salad, black beans and cocktails.  I brought a homemade German chocolate birthday cake because I believe everybody should have cake and beer in honor of their day! 
After climbing, we walked the Barker Dam Nature Trail.
The dam was constructed by early cattle ranchers in the 1900s.
On Thanksgiving Day I went for an early hike up Iron Mountain before heading over to my sister's for the feast.  This was my sister and her girlfriend's first time hosting Thanksgiving and as first timers do,  they planned for an over-abundance of food.  I filled half my plate with salad and thought I was being healthy, that was until dessert was served ... pumpkin pie and chocolate peanut butter squares.
Iron Mountain peak looking southeast.
Sierra Madre, or as Sara calls it "Mayberry," is a picturesque town near Pasadena and is the starting point for the Mt. Wilson trail which was established in April 1864.  The summit is 5,715 feet in elevation and a mere 7.0 miles from the trailhead.  Every spring Sierra Madre sponsors a trail race to the summit.  I think I'm in for that.  On a lovely Saturday morning, The Doctor Professor, the Mrs., Baby Emma, Jack Jack, Joe Frazier and myself set out for the first post appropriately named First Water. Afterwards, we lunched at Casa del Rey where I sucked down two margaritas and an afternoon nap ensued shortly thereafter.
First Water - Mt. Wilson
Sweet potato gnocchi to ward off Monday
morning blues.
 Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I am feeling a little melancholy and thought making a comfort food dish would help ease me into tomorrow.  

2 large sweet potatoes
1 1/2  to 2 cups gluten-free flour ( I used a mix of brown rice and quinoa flours)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup (I use Trader Joe's Grade B)
3-4 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade (big fancy word meaning to cut into thin strips)

Sweet potato gnocchi
1.  Bake the sweet potatoes in a 450° oven for 40 minutes.  Allow potatoes to cool completely before handling.
2.  In a large bowl use a hand-held potato masher  (a forks works just as well), mash the sweet potatoes until they are smooth.
3.  Then add the egg, parmesan cheese, cinnamon and salt/pepper  and about 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix with a spoon.  Once mixed well, knead until dough forms.  Then gradually add more flour until the dough is not sticky and can be rolled out.
4.  Using your hands divide the dough into four equal section and roll each section into a long thin strand (think rope diameter), then cut strands 1/2 inch pieces or pillows and with a fork from the top of pillow, press or roll down and away to form the classic gnocchi look.
5.  In a large pot bring water to a boil and gently add gnocchi.  Cook until they float to the top, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove with a mesh strainer and serve with maple syrup sage butter.
6.  While gnocchi is cooking, melt 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter is a saute pan.  Once the butter has melted, add maple syrup, sage and a bit of fresh ground pepper and pour over gnocchi and top with parmesan cheese.

To freeze the uncooked gnocchi, place "pillows" on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer.  Once gnocchi is frozen, transfer to plastic bag.  To cook frozen gnocchi follow the same cooking instructions above.

Sadly I cannot take credit for this beautiful dish or picture
but I imagine this is what mine would look like.  - Gourmet

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homemade Mozzarella and Da' Club

Me: Cheese Dick and Lady Julie, I'm ready to make more cheese, what about y'all? A blue perhaps?

Fred: CheeseBeeoch, I've been a little late replying, sorry. Was dealing with a raging cold all weekend and otha shee-ot.  I'm down to make some cheese m'lady.  Blue cheese would be rad.  I have some gouda doses in the freezer too.  No recipe, tho. CheeseDickie

CheeseDickie: yo yo YO CB, I've been in touch with the owner of Alesmith (he be makin cheese too) who told me about these foo-s.  I think we should branch out and make our own damn club just so we name our members.  String-cheese, Cheese-whiz, Queso-what?, etc. Then have meetings at different brewpubs-wine joints every month and sample our damn sheet-ot.  We gonna need a name and t-shirts. Cheese Dick out.

CheeseBeeoch:  Love it!  Our own club!! Let's do it!!  I'm already thinking that my Friday nights are cheese making nights since I'm a singleton. ... Re: Beer Week ... let's get something on the books so y'all can get a sitter, etc.  xoxoxo Cheese Beeoch out.

CD: Alright! Well we're going to need a name fo' Shawna fo' Da Club.  At some point we're going to need a Louise to join the club so that we can also have a Cheese Louise.  I see the names as being a driving force, if not the very reason, for Da Club.  #2 is cheese. #3 is beverage. ... I think we should plan our meetings to correspond with one of the thousands of beer and wine events going on each month ... if the tasks grow too large I will have to change my name to Big Cheese Dick and take on a Little Dick as as assistant.  Right now we only have a Dick and Bitch, so let's get crackin'. CD

CB: I'm peeing my pants right now. ... Re: Beer Week, my vote is for PPOB on Friday.  

Shawna: CD & CB, Friday night we could do the PP one and then Urge [later on..].  Cheesy Pleasy

CD: Cheese Dick and Baby Swiss are down with PPOB on Friday night.  What time are you making like toilet paper (& rolling out).  We were thinking about hitting it early 5:30pm or whatever ... easy cheesy .... I'm going to bring a lil' slice of homemade parm and my gray-ta to supplement that pizza pie. CD
Insalata caprese with homemade mozzarella and home grown basil.
My first venture into cheese making with Fred (aka Cheese Dick) was this easy 30 minute mozzarella, which is the perfect mate to home grown basil and tomatoes.  We convened on a summer Sunday afternoon and in no time had made not only mozzarella, but a sharp cheddar that would need to age a few months before we could taste it.
Fred aka Cheese Dick cutting the curd.
Curds after draining the whey.
"Processing" the mozzarella.
Quick 30 Minute Mozzarella
by The Greening of Gavin

1 gallon and a splash (4 litres) of whole milk 
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 teaspoon de-ionized salt (if you can find cheese salt - use that)
1/4 teaspoon rennet (where to buy cheese supplies in San Diego)
1 1/2 cup bottled water 

Stainless stock or soup pot
Microwave safe bowl
Slotted spoon

Step by step instructions here.

The original recipe and steps with pictures from Ricki Carroll here.

I encourage you to read Gavin's post and review both sets of instructions before beginning. Not because this is a difficult recipe or takes a long time to make, but because between the two of us - Cheese Dick and Cheese Bitch - we were a bit excited and our steps got out of sync a little bit.  The mozzarella still tasted better than anything store bought.

Me and "Cheese Dick" goofing around.
Best summer foods.