September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I made a boo boo. Not that I never make mistakes or anything, but I was really disappointed in this one. I made a doughy gnocchi.
It’s not often that I indulge in a bowl of pasta–it’s hard for me to balance the guilt of a carbohydrate-filled meal–but gnocchi has a soft spot in my heart. I’ve seen it made on TV a dozen times, and it always looks so easy, so when I saw a recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a Butter Sage Sauce, I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to dive in, right? Roasted sweet potatoes mixed with autumnal spices, turned into pasta, then bathed in brown butter. Mmmmmmmmm…
Everything started out easy enough: roast potatoes, allow to cool, remove skin, place in food mill…oh, I don’t own a food mill. So I decided to grate the potatoes with a standard grater, but got frustrated with goopy hands. That’s when I made the ultimate mistake–I decided to use an immersion blender. Gnocchi is silky smooth, right? Big time boo boo. While I did end up with silky sweet potato puree, I also pulled out practically all of the water that is inside (and should stay inside) the potatoes. Naturally, this meant that I had to add more flour to get it the dough the right consistency. Maybe I should have taken a hint when I added the second cup of flour (when the recipe called for 1-1 1/2 cups), or even when the dough turned from a happy orange to a dilapidated brown–but alas, the light bulb above my head had not switched on yet. Don’t get me wrong, I was sure something went awry, but I couldn’t be sure without tasting it.
I continued to make the sauce and cook the gnocchi, assuring myself it couldn’t be that bad. Oh, but it was. And a real shame too because the brown butter sage sauce was heavenly. Rakesh, as kind as he is, decided to eat it with a massive amount of hot sauce. I couldn’t stomach it and threw it right into the garbage. Thank goodness for frozen pizza.
P.S. Apparently a grater would have worked just fine, if only I didn’t mind potato fingers…
September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I don’t like going to the butcher. Not in Dubai. Apart from the whole skinned goats hanging behind the counter, the fresh cow hearts, and mutton tongues in the display case, it’s just not something I fully understand or am very comfortable with. In Florida, you go to your butcher, ask what’s on special, order your meat, say how you want it cut, make some jokes, get cooking suggestions, give out recipes…it’s quite an affair. But here, it’s, well, challenging.
I learned this very early on when I ordered a boneless lamb shoulder. The butcher looked at me quizzically, shook his head and richly answered, “No, with bone.” Fortunately for me, You Tube has plenty of videos of deboning anything, right in your very own home. Occasionally, I get lucky, find lamb chops, rack of lamb, ground lamb, lamb kofta, and then I go lamb crazy and buy a kilo of each (yes, the metric system). This week it was lamb chops, so I decided to make lamb gyros just in time for Labor Day weekend!
Since I live on the 22nd floor of a balcony-less apartment building, actual grilling is out of the question–but my 15dhs Ikea grill pan worked perfectly for my chops, which I marinated over night. Combine that with some crazy silky homemade tzatziki sauce and I was in Mediterranean heaven.
Mediterranean Lamb Chops Adapted from Ina Garten
- 4 Lamb chops (4 oz each or 500 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups plain low fat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, whole
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- zest and juice from half a lemon
- salt and pepper
Tzatziki Sauce Adapted from Alton Brown
- 2 cups plain low fat yogurt
- 1 small cucumber, seeded and shredded
- 6 mint leaves, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Additionally, for the gyros assembly, I use thick arabic bread–much nicer than “pita” which tends to be flat and dry. Also cherry tomatoes, quartered and seeds removed, chopped red lettuce leaves, and sliced red onions. You could use olives if you like.
For the lamb marinade, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the lamb chops in a freezer bag, then pour the marinade on top. Seal the bag, and spread the chops out to ensure they are evenly coated with the mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Before grilling, remove the chops from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature. Prepare a grill pan on medium high heat and place the chops in for 6-7 minutes per side for medium chops. Remove from the pan and allow the meat to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
For the tzatziki, line a sieve with paper towels, then place the sieve over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and refrigerate for two hours. This will drain the water out of the yogurt and make it super thick. (I forgot it in the fridge over night, but it didn’t matter.) Place the shredded cucumber in a towel and squeeze all the liquid out. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. This should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Now to assemble the gyro, I grilled up the bread, spread two large dollops of tzatziki, piled on tomatoes, onions, lettuce, salt and pepper, followed by some sliced lamb. Then I ate it. Just like a Greek taco.
September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
I had one of those weeks. You know, the kind where nothing gets done. Laundry piles up, dust thickens, the fridge looks barren. I changed out of my pajamas only to put on a swimsuit. Rakesh had the week off because of Eid break, and my whole schedule got mixed up. Have you ever tried to clean your house around your husband? It’s nearly impossible.
Luckily, we escaped to Al Ain for a few days to be with my in-laws. We ate unlimited aloo dosas and shawarmas, went to see a Bollywood movie (with English subtitles), and did some yoga so as not to feel entirely lazy.
Then there was the pool party at Nasimi Beach Atlantis. Rakesh and I met up with some friends for drinks and swimming, but late in the evening, after a few Bullfrogs (a nasty blue concoction sold by the gallon), the smoke filled dance floor and reverberating house music had us chained for hours. We were only released after submitting to another call: McDonald’s!
So as if to say, “Let’s go all out. It’s vacation after all. I’ll worry about balance next week,” I wanted to make something bad. Something naughty. Something guilty. And, quite honestly, something that would allow me to hide in the kitchen with “busy work”. Zucchini and Ricotta Galette. Come on. A buttery, flaky, golden crust filled with cheese and garlic and beautiful bright green zucchini. Mmmmmmm. And as if to make it not-so-guilty guilt, a tomato salad to go along side. All is well in the world. Balance.
Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I found the recipe used more cheese than I liked, so I halved some of the filling. I like that zucchini flavor!
For the pastry:
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, chilled for 30 minutes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced and chilled
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
- 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves
For the glaze:
- 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water
To make the dough, sift together the flour and the salt, then sprinkle in the butter. Use a pastry blender to combine the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces are pea-sized. Separately, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, and ice water, then add to flour mixture. Mix with your hands until flour is absorbed, and you have a soft dough ball. It will be slightly sticky, but be careful not to over mix. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
To make the filling, spread zucchini over paper towels and sprinkle with salt to extract excess water. If you don’t do it now, your galette will be watery. Let sit for half and hour, then blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and olive oil. Separately, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic-olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 12 inch circle. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (there’s enough butter in the dough, trust me) or pie plate. Spread the cheese mixture evenly on the bottom, leaving a two-inch border. Arrange the zucchini on top, starting from the outside and circling inward. Drizzle the remaining garlic oil on top and fold the border of the pastry over the zucchini. The center will be open. Brush the crust with the egg wash. Now isn’t that pretty?
Bake the galette about 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden and the zucchini is wilted. The cheese will be puffed up, but deflates when cooled so don’t be disappointed. Let stand for five minutes then transfer to a serving dish. Serve warm or at room temperature. Nom nom nom.