Friday, October 31, 2008

For Halloween: Pumpkin gnocchi with ginger cream sauce and shiitake mushrooms

Kind of a last-minute improvisation.

For the gnocchi:

1 c. cooked, pureed pumpkin
1 c. flour, plus more as needed
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until mixed evenly into a dough. It won't ever become smooth enough to knead, just mix until it comes together into a ball.

Dust the counter liberally with flour, divide the dough into pieces and roll/shape each piece into a 1/2" thick rope (I kept the dough fairly wet, which made it difficult to roll but fairly easy to shape).

Using dough scraper or knife, cut each rope into 1" chunks, turn each chunk a half turn (they will have been flattened by the cutting), and slightly flatten (in the other direction) with tines of a fork. Put all on a baking sheet, and place in freezer.

(I was only making dinner for three tonight, so I only ended up using a little over half of the gnocchi, and saving the rest in a bag once frozen)

For the ginger cream sauce with shiitake mushrooms

1 TBSP butter
1-2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes then drained and chopped
good pour of cream (maybe 1/4 cup?)

Once the gnocchi are in the freezer, soak the shiitake in boiling water for 30 minutes (you can also probably use fresh shiitakes, they'll just take a little more time in the fry-pan). Drain, pouring the soaking water through a coffee filter and reserving for another use. Mince up the ginger.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil.

When water is approaching boiling, heat butter in large fry-pan over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted, add ginger and stir to coat.

Once water is boiling, add gnocchi (from freezer) to boiling water.

Add mushrooms to fry-pan, cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat.

Add cream to fry-pan and heat until bubbly. If sauce gets too thick, add spoonfuls of pasta-cooking water.

As gnocchi begin to float to the top of the pot, remove with slotted spoon and place directly in cream sauce and toss to coat. Continue until all gnocchi have come to top of water. If sauce in fry-pan is too thick, thin with a little pasta-cooking water.

Salt to taste.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fruits of autumn

This weekend, our neighbors gave us a big bag of pears from their tree, in various states of ripeness, so I spent a portion of Sunday afternoon coring and peeling the most almost-ripe of them to make pear-apple-sauce:

6 small-to-mediumish pears
4 small apples (I used granny smith)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves

Peel and core the fruits, chop into smallish pieces. Combine with other ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, then mash with a potato masher. If overly watery, turn up the heat a bit and cook uncovered until reduced to applesauce-ish consistency. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves.

* * *

I was in a crepe-y mood on Sunday, I guess — I made regular, sweet crepes for breakfast and then savory buckwheat crepes for dinner (using the recipes in my prized 1997 edition Joy of Cooking). For the kids, I made "crepesadillas" — crepes folded in half and filled with cheddar cheese, baked in a griddle until the cheese melted.

Also over the weekend, I decided to go through the freezer and pull out everything I'd frozen from the, ahem, 2007 growing season (some vegetable soups, frozen pumpkin puree, etc.). I also found a couple of chicken livers, tossed in the freezer when I'd roasted a whole chicken but not had time or inclination to cook the livers. Not enough to justify making paté — so to fill the crepes (for the adults) I kind of deconstructed my paté recipe:

Chicken Liver and Apple Filling for Buckwheat Crepes

1 apple
2-3 chicken livers
several fresh sage leaves
butter (about 2 TBSP)
flour, salt and pepper for dredging
splash of brandy
cream (I think I used about 1/4 cup)

Chop chicken livers into smallish pieces and dredge in combination of flour, salt and pepper.

Heat about 1 TBSP butter in small sauté pan and cook apples until soft. Remove to a bowl.

Add a little more butter to the pan, then sauté chicken livers and sage leaves (choppped) for 1-2 minutes, until browned on all sides.

Deglaze pan with a little brandy, then add cream. Cook for 30-60 seconds, remove livers to bowl with apples, and reduce cream to sauce-like consistency (another 1-2 minutes)

Add a little of the sauce to the apples and livers, toss well, and fill 4 crepes with the mixture. Drizzle remaining sauce over crepes.

* * *

For desert, I reheated about half of the pear-apple-sauce in a small saucepan with a splash of vanilla extract and a generous chunk of butter; when warm and the butter melted, I served plain to the kids and with a dollop of whole-milk yogurt and garnished with 1 raspberry apiece (the last from our garden this season) for the adults.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Buildings and people

I'm not actually surprised that this Bill Ayers stuff is getting play, but, I mean, come on. The guy is a professor of education for cryin' out loud. Sure, he blew up a few statues and stuff in the 60s*, but at least he wasn't dropping napalm on children...

*(the Weather Underground explicitly avoided any bombings that might hurt people, though being bumbling confused middle-class kids they managed to kill a few of themselves by accident)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Always pleasant when someone does something competent

I have infinite faith in the ability of the Democratic Party to lose, and am highly skeptical about many things about Obama (including the competency — let alone vision — of his campaign), so it's nice to see that they've actually put together a nice documentary piece about McCain's involvement in the Savings & Loan debacle of the 80's. You can see it here on Shirin and Sameer's blog, or you could probably find it on the Obama website if you're willing to brave that level of electioneering.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The grassroots left on the crisis

"Now is the time to develop a promote a vision of an economic system that does not exploit and does not lead to these global crises. This is what our communities deserve."

The truly amazing thing

Last night I dreamt that I was travelling with a friend and we were staying with a rich, older woman in my home town. She owned an imposing, three-story Victorian home that looked out over the park with the old locomotive in it, a park in between the only two one-way streets in town which often in my dreamscapes turns into a grand mall. She believed approvingly that my home town was "socialist" — a belief that only rich liberals could persist in.

I was woken up in the middle of the night and looked out the third-story window to see my friend getting into the car and I thought maybe driving off, but really just bringing in some forgotten items. I got up and helped out and with my trained parent's eye for small things left behind helped make sure it all got safely into the house.

* * *

In real life I woke up after that dream and had a bit of insomnia and thought about the connection between authenticity and colonialism, the powerful searching for "authentic" experiences in the lives of the less powerful.

* * *

The truly amazing thing about us is that we can heal. I suppose we wouldn't have gotten through evolution without the ability to make new skin cells and other cells and other repairs, but still. Every scar is an act of creativity.