No, no gnocchi…

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…



Homesick Cookies and Eggplant Bruschetta

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t like traveling without my husband.  Like, ever.  Especially not to a foreign country where English is barely spoken and I am meeting a massive amount of relatives that don’t speak English either.  But last week, I traveled to India–without Rakesh–for his cousin’s wedding.  Despite the language barrier and some room confusion (yes, I stayed in a one-bedroom hotel room with my in-laws for two awfully long nights), I actually had a lot of fun.

Although it was my third time being in India, and my fifth Indian wedding, I still appreciate being pawed at like a shiny new toy.  I actually enjoy being asked to have my picture taken with a mother and her baby, or being pulled into a large circle of dancing  to expose what little rhythm I posses. I met my mother-in-law’s six sisters and one brother, all of their children, and some of their children’s children.  I wore shimmering saris and glittering bangles.  I got to learn a little Hindi and try it out on Rakesh when I got home.  I say it was a big step for me.

Four days may not seem like a long time, but I missed home.  Rakesh seemed to miss my cooking more than anything else, because the same night, I was in the kitchen whipping up some tasty treats.  (Although I’m sure he enjoyed the freedom of watching college football all night without me screaming at him to, “Come to bed already! You have to work tomorrow!”)

Homesick Cookies Adapted (barely) from Barefoot Contessa

This recipe is derived from Ina’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies, but with a lot of changes.  First of all, there’s no raisins or pecans.  Secondly, I omitted half the sugar.  But I like the base of this recipe because the cookies come out just soooooo chewy!

  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool, then remove the thin shell.  The oils should cause the shell to release easily.  Chop nuts coarsely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.

Separately, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Add the oats, cherries, white chocolate, and hazelnuts.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Flatten slightly.  Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer the cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.  These make about 3 dozen, so be prepared to share!

Eggplant Bruschetta  Adapted (of course) from Smitten Kitchen

This is actually called “Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint” on the site, but it is basically bruschetta without the bread.  Which I love love (yes, love love)  so much that I ate the whole eggplant.  By myself.  Really, really fast.  So this is how I made it with just me eating it for lunch.  Although, if a person only eats two rounds, it would be 4 appetizer size servings. (Blush.)

  • 1 medium eggplant cut into 3/4 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium tomato seeded and diced
  • 3 yellow cherry tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 220C (450F).  Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil and arrange eggplant slices in a single layer.  Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper.  Roast, without disturbing, 15-20 minutes.  Flip each round–the undersides should be blistered and dark–then sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.  Return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together feta, capers, onion, tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  And salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange eggplant on a serving dish and scoop and spoonful of the tomato mixture on each slice.  It might be best to eat immediately, but they taste great at room temperature too.

Lamb gyros, a Labor of Love…

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.

Guilty as charged…

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!

After a busy week, naturally I missed just being at home.  I missed my kitchen. Not that I’m blaming anyone, I’m just saying.

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.

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