Saturday, April 23, 2011

When in the North End....

In the last two days, my kitchen has been cooking up more Italian food than it has seen in the last two months.  I'm not sure why, but apparently I have some sort of Italian fever.  Maybe I just needed some creamy, cheesy, buttery, doughy deliciousness.  Or maybe it's a bit of pride for the adorable little neighborhood we live in.  But probably a combination of the two.
Thanks for the picture Kaitlin Rose.
Obviously, my "Italian" creations will never come close to what the little old Italian women can whip up down the street in their real Italian kitchens.  But hey, at least I can learn from them, or just eat their wonderful food whenever I feel it necessary.

So let's get to these Italian delights.  I have two recipes for you.  A mozzarella/prosciutto/fig spread/arugula/caramelized onions pizza, and sweet potato gnocchi with a gouda cheese sauce.  Hungry?  I don't want to give you an overwhelming amount, so I'm going to tell you about the gnocchi since we made it last night and it is still fresh in my mind.  However, I will post the pizza recipe soon because it was superb.  

Yesterday afternoon I was in the Chestnut Hill area so I ran over and picked up my good friend Joseph who goes to Boston College (and also just ran the Boston Marathon on Monday which is so impressive and cool) and we headed to the grocery store.  We already had the recipe picked out so we strolled the isles of Shaw's grabbing things here and there, as well as grabbing a few items for our upcoming camping trip this weekend in the beautiful Acadia National Park.  After the ingredients were purchased we came home to the North End and stopped at Monica's to grab some cheese.
My favorite place in the North End.

Joseph and I being the inexperienced gnocchi makers that we are, decided to ask the guys at Monica's for a few tips.  And being the culinary geniuses that they are, they gave us step by step directions to the perfect gnocchi.  So here it goes.

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 6 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 (approximately) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup Gouda cheese shredded

To start: Poke holes in the sweet potatoes and microwave 5-6 minutes per side or until tender.  Then scrape flesh into a bowl and mash.  Sorry there is no picture of the hole poking.  We failed.

 Grate all cheeses and set aside.
Once sweet potato is mashed, add egg and mix with fork.  Adding an egg was a tip from the guys at Monica's.  They are the best!
When the egg is well mixed into the sweet potato, add the ricotta, parmesan, brown sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Mash.  This is where the other tip comes in.  Once everything is well mixed, push it all to one side of the bowl.  Start with the same amount of flour that there is sweet potato.  Continue adding flour until you have a nice dough that isn't too sticky but also isn't dry. 
Those marathon running legs couldn't bare standing to mix.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces.  Flour surface and roll out into 20 inch long ropes.

 Cut the dough into pieces.

 Drop those bad boys into a boiling pot of water.  When they float to the top you know you've done it correctly!  And they are ready to come out.

Okay.  Now for the sauce.  The recipe that we sort of based this meal on, had quite a complicated way of making the sauce.  So we simplified a bit.  And also didn't take very many pictures of the sauce getting made.  Oops.
 Gouda, onions, flour, butter, sage, garlic, milk.
Saute the onion with the garlic and a little bit of butter until tender.  Then in a small sauce pot combine the milk, onion, garlic, and sage.  Heat for 5-10 minutes but do not boil.  While this is heating up, melt the remaining butter in a separate sauce pan.  When melted, add in flour.  Before combining these two things, skim out the onion and sage.  Whisk the milk mixture into the flour/butter mixture.  Let thicken (5-10 minutes).  Add cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.
 All done!

 Now...pour decadent cheese sauce over gnocchi.  Then...Eat.  Mmmm.

Sweet potato gnocchi with a gouda cheese sauce and Joseph's nearly famous salad.

And there it is.  Yummy food with great friends.  It was such a fun evening in the kitchen with Joseph.  Hopefully we will be back at it again soon!  And by the way....Don't forget to check out his blog that is full of food and other adventures.  What's Next Please?  

1 comment:

  1. My problem is that your food looks so delicious, but I want you to come to my house and cook it for me! Love the photos! :)


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