Fast Potato Gnocci

Making potato gnocci can be fast if you cook your potatoes using a microwave. Microwaving the potatoes not only speeds the process up, but also results in drier potatoes and more robust dough. This is a “fast”, condensed version of the recipe found here.

Ingredients

  • About 2lbs of starchy potatoes, e.g. Russets
  • 1-1 1/2 dry cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg

Steps

  1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes up into 1/2-inch slices, but cut the larger pieces to match the size of the smaller ones. This helps cook them uniformly.
  2. Transfer potatoes into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until fork-tender. Cook on high in 2-minute intervals, stirring occasionally – it should take about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Press the potatoes through a ricer once cool enough to handle. A strainer or sieve will work equally well.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the egg and salt.
  5. Once the potatoes and eggs are well combined, mix in the flour. Start with 1 cup, and work your way up, lightly kneading until the dough stays together in a ball and holds its shape. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.
  6. If cooking immediately, begin heating a large pot of water. You want it to be boiling vigorously when cooking your gnocci.
  7. Dust a cutting board or similar work surface and a baking sheet (to hold the finished gnocci) with flour. Have some extra flour to the side to replenish as you work.
  8. Take a good handful of dough, and roll it out into a 3/4 inch-thick noodle.
  9. Cut the noodle into 3/4 inch pillows. To shape, take a fork, and place the pillow on the tines. Press the pillow into the tines with your thumb, and pull away towards the points of the tines. The dough should curl up onto your fingers, and you should get a cylinder with the characteristic indentations. Place the gnocci onto the baking sheet.
  10. Once the water is boiling, drop the gnocci in. Lightly stir to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the bottom of the pot and to each other. The gnocci will begin to float as they cook through. Once one is floating, let it cook for another minute, then fish it out of the water and into a colander. You may want to toss them with oil (or with the sauce you were planning to eat them with) to prevent them from sticking together.

Notes

  • Note that the potatoes can get very (read: scalding) hot as they cook.
  • While mixing the dough, keep the kneading to a minimal, as too much will develop the gluten and toughen the dough (or conversely, knead it more, if you like it to be chewier).
  • The shaping is mostly cosmetic, but for an idea of how to roll the gnocci, take a look at this video.
  • Contrary to what some people think, microwaving the food is neither harmful, nor will it degrade the nutritional value of the food, any more than other forms of cooking.
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Yeast pancakes – review, link, and (modified) recipe.

The other day I gave this yeast pancake recipe a try. The recipe followed duly makes a light but bready pancake that’s a bit on the savoury side.

Here are some notes from my first attempt at any recipe calling for fermentation. A recipe modified based on these observations are at the end of this post.

  • The recipe omits the fact that the milk should be warm. An incorrect temperature might prevent your batter from rising. It’s pretty easy to heat it up to the desired temperature of 120-130F/48-54C, by microwaving in 30 second intervals and measuring the temperature. It should take about 2-3 minutes.
  • Fast-rise dry yeast is different from regular dry yeast. Regular yeast needs to be activated first by adding to a warm liquid. The fast-rise yeast can simply be mixed in with the dry ingredients, and calls for a higher temperature for the added liquid than regular yeast.
  • The bubbles produced by the yeast tend to collect on the top. This results in batter being lighter and foamier at the top, and denser at the bottom. It would probably be good to redistribute the bubbles by gently folding the batter after it finishes rising.
  • If you are worried about the temperature like I was, heat the milk closer to 130F/54C, and add the eggs and butter into the milk before adding it to the dry ingredients.

Overall, this seems like a good beginner’s recipe for yeast pancakes, where the only things to watch out for are the temperature of the liquid being added, and the freshness of the yeast. As a side-note, doubling the sugar from two to four teaspoons mellows the savoriness quite a bit. It might also give the yeast more sugar to work with (more sugar and warm = more active yeast and bubbling, and fluffier batter).

And now, for a modified, half-sized recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/8 cup melted butter or oil
  • 1/4 oz fast-rise yeast – this is usually 1 packet of the yeast sold in packets
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Steps

  1. In a large bowl (with at least 8 cups volume), combine the dry ingredients. Make sure that they are mixed together well.
  2. Combine the eggs, vanilla, and oil.
  3. Heat the milk to the target temperature of 120-130F/48-54C. This can be done by microwaving the milk in a mug for about 1.5 to 2 minutes, checking in 30 second intervals.
  4. Add the egg mixture and warm milk to the dry ingredients. Mix well until smooth.
  5. Let the bowl sit in a warm place for 30 minutes, covered with a cloth or paper towel (something breathable – yeast needs oxygen).
  6. Once the batter has risen, gently fold together so that it is a uniform consistency.
  7. Make pancakes as you would with usual batter.

The recipe is fairly easy to modify – for example, you can add some almond butter or similar to the egg mixture at step 2 for almond pancakes, or cocoa to the dry ingredients at step 1.

A roasted pumpkin soup.

This is a vegetarian pumpkin soup. Roasting brings out the sweet and savory flavors and a creaminess in the squash. I use Japanese squash for the soup, although I imagine that it works just as well with other starchy squashes and pumpkins (or maybe even chestnut).

The soy sauce might make some folks double-take, but all it does is add to the savoriness, and doesn’t actually make anything taste like soy sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 kabocha (Japanese squash)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 US cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional)
  • 1 Tsp soy sauce
  • A few Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Minced parsley, and/or curry powder to taste

Step 1 of 2 (Roasting the squash)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up the squash into slices or cubes, add them to a baking tray, and coat them in vegetable oil.
  3. When the oven is done preheating, bake the squash for about 30-45 minutes, until they are tender and the edges start browning a bit.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Step 2 of 2 (The soup)

  1. Chop the onions and carrots (think mirepoix without celery).
  2. In a pan, melt butter into the oil, and saute the onions and carrots until translucent.
  3. Add the roasted squash chunks to the pan and crush them up until a chunky paste consistency.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and soy sauce. Add salt to taste.
  5. Simmer for five or ten minutes, breaking any chunks of squash apart (if desired).

Garnish with parsley and/or curry powder. The soup can be blended at the end for a smoother consistency.

A vegetarian chili.

Another open-ended one-pot recipe. Two cans of beans should work in place of the dried beans, but I haven’t tried. Step 1 might be best done the day before.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups of dried beans (any kind, or a mix, works), soaked overnight
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 cup mushrooms (button, shiitake, maitake/hen of the woods, etc.), chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • A chili kit of choice, or the list below
  • lime, scallions, and cheese for garnish, to taste

If not using a chili kit:

  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp or so thickener of choice (optional; some kind of starch or flour)

Steps

  1. simmer the beans in lightly salted water until tender, about 45-60 min. Reserve about 3 cups of the bean broth.
  2. fry minced garlic in oil
  3. saute onions and peppers with garlic once the latter begins to brown
  4. add tomato once onions and pepper become translucent and soft
  5. add tofu, mushrooms, and tomato paste once tomato is soft
  6. when everything is combined together, add spices, beans, and reserved broth.
  7. simmer for a few minutes, adjusting the thickness with water or thickener. If adding a thickener, it may have to be simmered for longer. At this point I sometimes add a cup of farro or quinoa, and say that it’s ready when that cooks.

Garnish and serve as you would regular chili.

A salad of carrot greens.

Carrot greens aren’t toxic like many people seem to believe, and in fact, are very much edible. It reminds me of a tougher version of parsley with a carrot background flavor. This is an improvised chopped salad inspired by tabbouleh.

Ingredients

  • A small bunch (1 cup’s worth) of carrot greens, just the leafy parts
  • 1/2 US cup parsley curly or flat leaf
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1 scallion, or 1/4 onion
  • 1/4 to 1 carrot, or enough for about 1/4 cup minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt, pepper, sumac to taste

Steps

  1. Remove the non-leafy parts of the stems of the carrot greens as they are tough
  2. Finely chop carrot greens, parsley, carrot, tomato, and scallions/onions to about the same size.
  3. Combine quinoa with the chopped ingredients
  4. Mix together oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sumac to make dressing to taste
  5. Add the dressing to the salad, and combine well
  6. Let rest in fridge for an hour or two

For a kick, add a clove of finely minced garlic.

A no-churn Earl Grey chocolate chip ice cream.

A no-churn Earl-Grey ice cream loosely based on this recipe and inspired by Smitten‘s Earl Grey chocolate chip ice cream.

The amount of cream to condensed milk can be calibrated depending on desired sweetness and firmness. I found the original recipe’s ratio to be a bit too sweet, and set too softly for my tastes, hence the very different proportions.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 US cups whipping cream
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 heaping Tbsps Earl Grey tea
  • 4 Tbsp chocolate shavings
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Steps

  1. Combine the tea leaves with the cream and barely simmer for 5 minutes. let cool and refrigerate until well-chilled.
  2. Strain cream into a well-chilled bowl sitting in an ice bath.
  3. Whip the cream until peaks form.
  4. Fold condensed milk and chocolate shavings (and vanilla, if adding) into the cream.
  5. Set in freezer for at least 6 hours, or until frozen.

A red wine lentil farro stew.

A one-pot lentil stew recipe. Soaking the lentils overnight makes them cook faster, but is not necessary.

Ingredients

  • 1.25 US cups dry lentils
  • 1 US cup farro, rinsed
  • 2-4 tomatoes, or enough for 1.5 cups chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 0.5 US cups parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 US cup dry red wine
  • 1 quart stock (vegetable, chicken, beef – anything works)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 heaping tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper, lemon to taste

Steps

  1. In a medium pot, fry the onions and garlic with oil, until onion is translucent.
  2. Add tomatoes to fried onions and garlic.
  3. Once tomatoes soften, add the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add lentils, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and stock. Add water or stock if the lentils aren’t covered.
  5. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until lentils are tender. Add some water if mixture gets too thick for your taste.
  6. At the 45 minute mark, add the farro.
  7. Simmer until the farro is tender, about 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, and serve with parsley, pepper, and/or a lemon wedge. The stew can be blended for a smoother soup.