Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fire up the Grill!

Last night I grilled our entire dinner, and it made me long for the days of summer that still seem so far away. School is done for me next week, and I feel like the weather should be sunny and warming up, instead of windy and cold enough for a jacket. No matter what the weather is acting like, I'm going to start grilling as though it's warm outside.

This was a simple dinner, all based around the fact I had some Gorgonzola I wanted to use up. I grilled cremini mushrooms (on skewers), zucchini (cut into planks), and a red and yellow bell pepper. I sprinkled the veggies with a little Herbes de Provence, crumbled Gorgonzola, and a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I also grilled some chicken sausages from Trader Joes, and some slices of rosemary bread that I brushed with olive oil. The flavors were fresh, the colors were beautiful, and the dishes were almost non-existent. This is a dinner I'll repeat in various ways throughout the upcoming warm months. Does it feel like summer (or at least spring) where you are?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Tribute to my Inspiration (and some special gnocchi!)

You know the saying when it rains, it pours? It may sound cheesy, but it's the only way I can think of to describe my last few weeks. After the whirlwind trip to Colorado for my sister's wedding, I came home to Chicago and settled in for one last week of studying before my certification testing on Saturday. There were a few days of busy calm, and then on Thursday I got a phone call that shook my world up. My mom had been in a serious car accident on her way to the airport, and was being transported to a major hospital in Saint Louis. For a couple horrible hours we didn't know a lot, and Joe and I hopped in the car to go down to see her. It was nothing shy of a miracle, but she came out of it with a broken pelvis and some broken ribs. She's having surgery as I type this, and will hopefully be home before too long. She's going to be off her feet for at least 2-3 months from what the doctors told my dad, which means there is a long road to recovery ahead. We're all so thankful that it is a recovery, though, and everyone is ready to jump in and help however possible.

Now, what does this all have to do with food? Plenty! If you've read many of my previous posts, you've most likely noticed that my mom has had a huge impact on my cooking. She is an amazing cook, and I credit her for inspiring so much of what I do in the kitchen. We love sharing recipes back and forth, and I've been slowly gathering the recipes that define my childhood.

A couple months ago I read about gnocchi alla Romana, or Roman style gnocchi, on The Wednesday Chef blog. Luisa's recipe looked quite tasty, but there was only one recipe I'd use for gnocchi alla Romana-- my mom's recipe! This dish was always a staple when she hosted dinner parties, usually with pork terderloin and some nice veggies. The gnocchi were fluffy and cheesy, and just a little crisp around the edges. Luisa's post reminded me that I hadn't had this style of gnocchi in years, and I immediately emailed my mom to request the recipe.

The recipe sat in my in box for a couple months, mostly because I gave up meat for lent and couldn't picture eating this dish without some sort of meat on the side. Then, it sat in my in box for long enough I kind of forgot it was there. After my mom's accident I was thinking about her all the time, and I realized it was the perfect opportunity to finally make her gnocchi. It was as good as I remembered it, and I soaked up memories of my childhood as the smells and tastes of this dish came back to me.

Gnocchi Alla Romana
from my wonderful mom!

This is a combination of a couple of recipes and some research! Originally my recipe didn’t have an egg in it. But I noticed that most of them do so I experimented and I think this is the best.

2 cups milk (whole milk)
2 cups water
(some recipes use all milk but I think this is just fine. See what you think and let me know)
½ tsp. salt (or a bit more)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup semolina
1 egg
½ cup grated parmesan cheese.

Tear off a long sheet of foil and butter it well. Butter a 9x13 baking pan.

Combine milk, water, salt, and 4 Tbsp butter in saucepan and heat without boiling. When butter is melted, start stirring in the semolina. When all the semolina is in the pot, turn up the heat and bring to a slow boil, stirring. Cook, stirring, until smooth and very thick and stiff. Beat in egg.

Pour mixture out onto foil and smooth to a thickness of about ½ inch. Allow about an hour for it to set and cool.

Cut into 2” squares or rounds and place into butter dish, slightly overlapping. Dot with remaining 2Tbsp butter and sprinkle with ½ to ¾ cup parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350° until golden and bubbly – 50-60 mins.