Saturday, November 30, 2013

Leftover Day

 Our annual leftover day celebration took an epic turn this year with 23 pajama clad folks in attendance yesterday.  When the the phone rang in the middle of the day Leif said, "I am not even answering that because everyone we know is here!"   We ate from a bountiful array of leftovers until we were about to burst and still managed to place a midnight pizza order to tide ourselves over until morning. We lounged on soft beds of pillows and blankets while watching six (yep, SIX) movies back-to-back. Leftover day is a lazy 12 hour affair and one of my absolute favorite traditions of the year!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013...

 As per usual, I woke up bright and early to prep the rolls for our holiday table and make sure the grill was ready to house the star of our holiday menu, but overall Thanksgiving 2013 was a relaxed and cozy affair. We were honored to fill our little dining room with the best of friends and beautiful family. The meal paid homage to the flavors of the season and kept our bellies full for hours on end.  The simple truth is we have a bounty of of things to be thankful for...not the least of which is love and turkey!

The Menu
Papa's Olive-Ya Tapenade
Grandma's Bloody Mary Shrimp Dip
Salt and Pepper Crusted Mesquite Grilled Turkey
Smoked Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Citrus Dressing
Spinach, Artichoke and Brie Stuffing
Simple Herb Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter
Fried Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers
Roasted Beets with Pear Puree, Toasted Almonds, Goat Cheese, Chives
Roasted Cauliflower with Date, Pumpkin Seed Butter
All Butter Herb Rolls
Cider Punch
Ed's Pies

Thanksgiving 2013: Dish of theDay

 A Thanksgiving dinner is tricky to pull off because everything has to be done at the same time, but that doesn't mean you have to cut corners to get it done.  I actually challenged myself to make gnocchi for the very first time this Thanksgiving and boy am I glad I did. I won't say it was a simple task, but my efforts were rewarded with a decent texture and memorable flavor-at first I thought they looked a little like circus peanuts, but when I cooked the gnocchi their orange hue intensified and reflected the spirit of the season perfectly.  Go on...give 'em a try!
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter- adapted from Food Network
Don't expect this recipe to be exact.  I had to work my way through it making some pretty heavy adjustments the whole way through.  Most importantly, I froze the uncooked gnocchi in single layers on parchment lined baking sheets before transferring the pasta to a Ziploc freezer bag.  I boiled them from frozen-about 8 minutes per batch.  I could not imagine prepping these little buggers at the last minute.

For the Gnocchi:
2 pounds sweet potatoes
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup for the work surface-this is where I lost faith in this recipe-maybe my sweet potatoes were particularly wet, but whoa! I used at least double the amount of flour this called for.  Subsequently I mixed in an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and tossed in some extra salt.

For the Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
20 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I increased my butter to 1 Cup and adjusted quantities accordingly. I swapped out the black pepper in favor of red pepper flakes and the resulting butter was crazy good.  I finished the platter with some grey salts.

For the Gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pierce the sweet potato with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large measuring cup to make sure the sweet potatoes measure about 2 cups. Transfer the mashed sweet potatoes back to the large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and blend until well mixed. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough in a ball on the work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.

For the Brown Butter sauce: While the gnocchi are cooking melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the sage leaves. Continue to cook, swirling the butter occasionally, until the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Careful, the mixture will bubble up. Gently stir the mixture. When the bubbles subside, toss the cooked gnocchi in the brown butter. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving dish and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tacos for a Milestone...

 This week-end I participated in a little foodie collaboration to celebrate a 50th birthday!  The build your own tostada, torta and taco bar was a huge hit with the birthday boy and all his guests.  My friend, Rich piled his smoker full of meats and I created " just a few" home-made garnishes to round out the buffet.   The combinations were endless!  

Monday, November 11, 2013

In the Dining Room...

Thanks to the ever so talented H. McGinley for capturing one of my most recent dinner parties.  
I love seeing the evening through her eyes almost as much as I loved cooking for a remarkable group of friends.  I was particularly tickled that my amazing photographer guest was able to capture our 9th dinner guest; Little Lu likes to make her presence known.

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