Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hand Rolled Cavatelli

     Being your average twenty-something year old culinary school graduate, I'm stuck between two interests that I hold very dear to me; eating gourmet food and saving money. Because of this dilemma, I eat lots and lots of fresh pasta. For any budget-oriented foodie, learning to make fresh pasta is a godsend. With a few cheap ingredients(flour, eggs, time) anyone can make a restaurant-worthy meal any night of the week. Cavatelli are a traditional Italian pasta that are hand formed and are said to look like 'little sea shells' although I don't see the resemblance. In my opinion, they are the perfect hand formed pasta. Their deep ridges soak up any sauce, making them extremely versatile and textural; they're thick enough to maintain an al dente texture when cooked yet not so thick that they're doughy; and best of all, they don't require any expensive machines or a huge investment of time. All you need to form them is a cavatelli board (also referred to as a gnocchi board or gargonelli board).
     The first skill that needs to be mastered is the dough, and with a simple ratio and a little practice, it's pretty simple. My favorite ratio when making pasta dough is 100 grams of flour to one egg. Almost every source online or in books will begin their pasta dough recipes with something like "make a mound of flour on a wooden tabletop and create a well in the center." While effective as a method of forming dough, this is an extremely messy technique and often discourages beginners because of the amount of practice it requires to avoid spilling egg on the floor. Instead, I make my pasta dough using an identical method, but in a large bowl with a flat bottom. This allows ample room to mix the dough just as I would on a table, but catches any run-off egg and incorporates it back into the dough.
     Form a mound of dough and create a well in the center and add the egg, one tsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Beat the egg thoroughly with a fork and slowly incorporate the flour until it starts to look like a crumbly mess and can no longer be mixed with a fork. Knead the mixture with your hands until all of the flour is completely incorporated and a loose dough is formed. On a table top, continue kneading for ten minutes, until the dough is very smooth. You shouldn't need much flour during the kneading and the dough should be moist but not sticky at all. form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for thirty minutes.
     After thirty minutes, unwrap the dough. when you poke it with your finger, it should leave a dent and not spring back. This means that the gluten has relaxed. To form cavatelli, start by rolling the dough out with your palms into a long, thin rope, then use a sharp knife to cut it into small pieces.
     The pieces of dough can stick together, so it's a good idea to lightly flour the dough, your cavatelli board and the surface you'll be putting the finished cavatelli on. Take one piece of dough, place it on the cavatelli board and push down and foreward with your thumb to flatten the dough and roll it into a cylinder that is imprinted with the ridged pattern of the board.


For those who prefer a video demonstration

video
and once more in Slo-mo

video


Your finished product should look something like this
Now all you need to do is boil them in water for 5-10 minutes and serve them with your favorite sauce.
Hand-rolled cavatelli with vermont sharp cheddar, provolone and toasted panko (A.K.A. Super cheesy mac 'n' cheese)


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Persimmon (7-course tasting)

     Since its opening in 2005, Persimmon has been receiving praise from both local and national press. After making reservations for a seven-course tasting on a Saturday night, I decided to ask some of my friends and fellow members of the local food community about Persimmon, and anyone who had been told me with certainty that, a tasting at Persimmon was simply the best meal in Rhode Island. Ever since the first time I spoke with Chef Champe Speidel about Persimmon, for an interview with The Bay magazine, I had been wanting to try the highly revered tasting menu at Persimmon, and was ecstatic to finally have a chance to do so. The drive to Persimmon is scenic and tranquil, especially in the winter when the trees along the quaint streets of Bristol are whimsically decorated with Christmas lights, and the relaxing thirty minute trip felt like the calm before an inevitable, edible storm.
     When we arrived, we were pleased with the chic-yet-comfortable atmosphere inside. The room was small and cozy, but felt appropriate for a high end meal with low lighting and ample room between tables. Throughout the meal, our service was impeccable, never allowing our water glasses to become less than half full and clearing each course nearly the moment we finished, and we even received a visit from Lisa Speidel, Co-owner and wife of Chef Speidel, to introduce herself and check on our meal. At Persimmon's sister location, Persimmon Provisions, Chef Speidel breaks down whole animals and sells high end meat and poultry, so I was expecting to have a meal heavy in animal protein, but received the opposite. Throughout the entire meal, there were only a few bites of meat, and each one had been very carefully thought out and meticulously prepared, showcasing an endless respect for the ingredients used.
     The first course of the menu was a series of canapes, starting with a deviled quail egg with sturgeon caviar.
 This was an excellent bite to start the meal, encompassing a large part of Chef Speidel's cooking style: start with amazing ingredients; prepare them with careful and concise technique and allow the natural flavors to shine. The contrast between creamy egg and salty caviar was wonderful.
The deviled egg was followed by a bucatini cracker with salmon roe and dashi mousse. I love the concept of using pasta to make a cracker, and the execution was flawless. The cracker was crispy and light, and the dashi and salmon roe added both moisture and flavor. I also liked the stone slab that it was plated on

The third bite of our first course was a kombu-cured scallop with yuzu zest. I love uncooked scallops, and this was one of the best I've had. The addition of the yuzu was just enough for a citrusy fragrance, but not enough to make the scallop acidic and the cure was equally light, which I thought was perfect. With such beautiful scallops coming fresh out of the water here, it would have been a shame for any flavor to over power them, but this preparation was true to the delicate nature of the scallop.
  Next to arrive was a small quinelle of beef tartare with anchovy mayo. Tartare tends to be either extremely delicious, when prepared well, or totally off-putting, when prepared with poor technique or poor quality meat. As expected from a chef such as Speidel, who has had extensive experience working with beef as a butcher, this particular tartare was amazing. The beef had a nice sharp bite from shallots and garlic, and the anchovy mayo was salty and smooth. This was my favorite course of the evening, and I just barely resisted the urge to ask for a second portion. I don't eat a lot of red meat, and it is rare that a beef course is my favorite, but this small bite was absolutely sublime.
Our next bite was a small, spongey cake of green olives with a sunchoke purée and dehydrated olives. This dish was a nice display of both technique and flavor. The cake was light, yet moist and briney with the flavor of olives and the sunchoke puree was warm and creamy. I loved the tiny bits of dehydrated olives, which tasted like the savory version of a raisin.
The next bite to arrive was also one of the best of the evening. It was a crispy fried oyster with sauce ravigote and celery. The dredge was crunchy and the oyster inside was warm and buttery-tender. The sauce ravigote was executed perfectly and the small cubes of celery were, surprisingly, refreshing enough to balance out the richness of the oyster and the sauce. I found the addition of celery to be brilliant, and it is impressive to see that they managed to turn such a humble ingredient into something elegant.
The final course of our first course was a poached mussel with an edible shell. I've seen many modern chefs do things such as root vegetables in edible dirt, but this is the first time I've ever heard of a shellfish with an edible shell. The creativity here was great, and the flavors were as well. The shell was crunchy and sweet a great contrast to the salty poached mussel.
Our second course was a salad of roasted and smoked beets with house cured bacon, oranges, and goats' milk yogurt. The beets were still crunchy and they had a smokey-sweet flavor that set a good base for the rest of the dish. Although the ingredients all sound so different, everything came together well. The smokey flavor of the beets helped to tie the bacon in and the sweetness paired well with the oranges. The yogurt was a nice touch to mellow out all of the flavors and round off the dish.
The next course was a squid ink tagliatelle withParmesan cheese. With the exception of the canapés that made up the first course, this was the simplest, most straightforward dish we received all night. Serving something as simple as house made pasta with a light cream sauce and cheese as part of a tasting menu takes guts, because it is something so identifiable and transparent. In order for a dish like this to meet up to the standards of such a high-end meal, everything about it needs to be perfect, and it was. The pasta was made by very skilled, meticulous hands and was soft and silky. The Parmesan was rich and creamy, but the portion was tiny which worked to the advantage of the dish, because it was so rich. I grew up eating hand made pasta and have high standards for a good pasta dish, and this did not disappoint.
Next to arrive was octopus with scallops, chorizo and petit vegetables. Saying that both the scallops and the octopus were fork tender would be an understatement. The raw root vegetables had a nice crunch, rounding off the softness of the seafood and the chorizo gave the vinegary broth a nice spice. The broth that the seafood was in was acidic and powerful in flavor and was one of the single best components of the meal. This was a close second for my favorite course, and It would be worth making a trip to Persimmon just to order this dish when it's available on the a la carte menu.
The first of two meat courses was a veal sweetbread with apple, quince and date. A few minutes before this course came out of the kitchen, the entire dining room filled with the hearty scent of searing meat, and even after eating four courses, it made our mouths water. The sweetbread was velvety and savory, and the pairing of fruit was delicious and interesting. Each fruit was sweet, making them all pair with the sweetbread in the same manor, but each one had its' own nuances as well, making it fun to try first a bite of sweetbread and apple, then sweetbread and quince and finally sweetbread and date. This was a fun course to eat and portioned perfectly for something so sweet and savory.
Our last savory course was venison with roasted carrot purée and crispy potatoes. Had I not been told that this was venison, I wouldn't have known. While it had the flavor nuances of venison, it was not gamy or tough like venison in any way. The venison had a beautiful sear on it, and the tenderness suggested that it had been cooked sous vide before being seared. I loved the pairing of crispy, fried potatoes with the seared venison, and thought that it made the dish a very modern, elegant version of the classic steak frites found on French bistro menus.
Before our dessert course, we received a small amuse of mango sorbet with lemon grass broth. The sorbet was smooth and bright, and the milky, citrusy broth added some richness.

For the final course , I had a white chocolate semi-freddo that had a silky, luxurious texture. It was served with poached fruit including apples and tart cranberries which cut through the sweetness of the white chocolate. I was, however, already very full from the meal and would have been happy with a smaller portion. Our meal ended with some delicious petit-fours, including a house made peanut butter cup that was nothing like its store-bought counterpart.
     After hearing so much about Persimmon and talking to Champe Speidel about his unique cuisine, I had very high expectations for both the food and the service, and I was met by a meal that impressed. The blend of classical techniques and modern style made my meal at Persimmon an exciting dining experience.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving.. Quail?

     Thanksgiving week is finally upon us, and if you're in charge of the meal, things are about to get pretty hectic. Preparing any holiday meal can be tough, especially the biggest one of the year. I find that people often over complicate things by making too many dishes with too many steps, and if that's not something you do every day, it's going to be stressful. This year, a few of my friends and I will be having a small post-Thanksgiving celebration and we've decided to get together to cook the meal as well. Cooking with friends is always more fun than cooking alone, and the teamwork that it takes to put out a good meal is nothing short of bonding. We're keeping our meal pretty simple, and hopefully the recipes will inspire some ideas in your kitchen for this year's meal.
     Since there are only five of us celebrating, buying a turkey would just be too much food, and we wanted to change it up a bit, so we decided to roast some quail. Quail is mostly dark meat, and you'll need one or two per person, so if you're cooking for the whole family, I'd stick with a turkey. Many people think of quail as a luxury food, only served in high end restaurants, but they're actually fairly cheap and delicious. Rather than making mashed potatoes, we're going to add some texture by making a potato 'risotto,' and because no feast is complete without a salad, we'll also make a simple shaved fennel salad.

Crispy Roasted Quail with Potato 'Risotto' and Shaved Fennel

Yields enough for a five person meal
Ingredients:
Quail
 10 quail
2 bunches of thyme
10 large collard green leaves, cut into small chunks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

 Potato 'Risotto'
3 lbs waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or Red Bliss, diced into about 1/4 inch cubes
3 shallots, diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
chicken stock or water, as needed
1/4 cup heavy cream
grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Shaved Fennel
2 medium-large bulbs of fennel, shaved as thin as possible on a mandolin
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
Kosher salt, pepper, sugar, and thyme leaves, to taste

Quail
     Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. bring a large pot of water to a boil, and blanch your collard greens for about one minutes, then remove them into an ice bath. Once they are cool, transfer them to a bowl with the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Season the quail well with salt and pepper, and stuff the cavity with your collard greens. holding the drumsticks together, push the legs of each quail in towards the body to plump it up, then tie a piece of string, first around the drumsticks to hold them together, then around the body to keep the legs tucked in. This will promote even cooking and a nice shape to the finished bird. In an oven proof skillet, heat about 1/8 inch of cooking oil (I like to use avocado oil because of its high smoke point) and once it is hot, add your quail, breast side down. Once the skin on the breast is seared and crispy, flip your quail over, add the thyme branches to the pan, and transfer it to the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the quail from the oven and baste it with the juices in the pan. Transfer it back to the oven for another five minutes, or until t is cooked to your desired doneness.

Potato 'Risotto'
      In a large pan, at least a couple inches deep, heat a small amount of cooking oil and sauté the shallots. When they are soft, add the potatoes an
d season with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until most of them are nicely seared. Add enough stock to barely cover them, and cook, stirring frequently, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock, about 3 tablespoons at a time, waiting for each addition to dissipate before adding the next, until the potatoes are tender. To finish, add the cream, butter, and cheese. Taste and adjust your seasoning if necessary.

Shaved Fennel
     in a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the fennel and blend, tasting occasionally and adjusting seasoning, until the vinaigrette is frothy and emulsified. In a large bowl, toss the fennel with just enough vinaigrette to coat it. The rest of the vinaigrette can be saved in the fridge for further use.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Loie Fuller's

A review I wrote for the JWU Campus Herald:

   With the world of culinary arts so quickly becoming engulfed by modernist techniques, it's nice to escape the compressed beets, gelatinized vegetable purees and anything that's been dehydrated and rehydrated. Sometimes in order to really appreciate food, we need to take a step back from impressive techniques and treat our ingredients with respect. After all, when you're in Rhode Island and surrounded by hundreds of passionate local farmers, consistently delivering the absolute highest quality ingredients, why would you want to mask those natural flavors? Thomas Keller has said that the reason he opened Bouchon - his bistro style restaurant - is so that he would have a place to eat after a day of cooking at the French Laundry. Even the greatest chefs cannot deny that simple bistro style food - when prepared well - is a staple cuisine which is both comforting and exciting; something for every person to indulge in. Whether you're a food snob or an anti-foodie, bistro food is something that anyone with an appetite can appreciate. There are a few wonderful bistro style restaurants in Providence, and with classic dishes such as roasted Cornish hen and steak with pommes frites, Loie Fullers is one of the best.
   In 2007, Loie Fuller's opened it's doors on Westminster Street, and they've been delighting Providence diners ever since. On the inside, the décor is best described as elegant. With hand painted murals on every wall and a beautiful mosaic tile floor, the craftsmanship here is excellent. The dining room is pretty small, yet not quite as tiny as many of the newer restaurants that are popping up downtown (north, birch, Figidini, ect.), and the space is very comfortable. One other perk to this restaurant is that because it's out of the way of downtown, in an area where there is more space available, they do have their own parking lot, so those of us with cars don't have to worry about finding parking on the street.

Vegetables and Grits

   Our latest visit to Loie Fuller's was on a Sunday evening, and it was somewhat empty. On a busier night such as a Friday or Saturday, this place gets packed, and the wait for food can get pretty long, so I would suggest coming on a slower night. Our waitress was pleasant and happy to explain everything on the menu to us. She knew the menu pretty well, and the very few things that she didn't know offhand, she promptly went to the kitchen to find the answer. As well as having regular specials, the menu is always changing to suit the season based on what is available from local farms. Many of the ingredients used here come from local farms, and some even come from a farm which is owned by the head chef. To start, we ordered a bounty of appetizers, including the confit duck wings, which were both crispy and tender, tossed in a spicy, sweet sauce making them blissfully sticky and delicious. We also ordered the Loie Fuller plate which is a selection of artisan cheeses, cured meats, and olives; all of which were excellent, especially a particularly strong bleu cheese which had us in awe of it's sharp, full flavor. The polenta fries are another must-try appetizer, fried and crunchy with a smooth house made aioli, although the seasoning was a little uneven, and some fries were perfectly salted, while others lacked some seasoning.

Roasted Pork Loin
   For my entrée, I had the special, which was a roasted pork loin served atop fresh cornbread with a green chile salsa. As unusual as it was to have this type of meal offered in a bistro setting, I thought that having an occasional non-French dishes on special is a nice way for the chef to keep the menu interesting and show that his talent extends far past French bistro cooking. The portion was surprisingly large, and the pork was juicy and fresh. The salsa was quite spicy, and the cornbread, which was warm and fragrant, was made even more delicious by the pork drippings that soaked into it from sitting underneath the pork loin. Other entrees that we ordered included the roasted local Cornish hen, steak frites, and the grilled veggies with grits, all of which were very well executed in classical-French style.
   Overall, our meal at Loie Fuller's was excellent. With elegant décor, friendly service, and well executed bistro food, this is a lovely choice of restaurant for any occasion, whether you're taking out a date or just looking for comforting, tasty food.

Roasted Cornish Hen

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Husk Cherry Clafoutis with Cantaloupe and Cucumber Yogurt

     Every year, it seems as though summer is getting shorter and shorter. It still feels like it has only been a few weeks since the warm weather arrived, although it is already packing up it's belongings and preparing to slowly slip out of our grasp as fall washes over the East Coast. While the end of summer is a sad time for most, it is always a bittersweet time for me. Bitter, of course, because soon the glorious season of abundance will be gone, along with all of the light, crisp summer vegetables. However, it is also very sweet for a few reasons. First of all, the end of summer means that fall is almost here, and nothing is quite as nostalgic and quaint as the corn maze navigating, pumpkin picking, fire-side reading season of autumn. The second reason to love the end of summer isn't because of what is to come in the months ahead, but what is already here - husk cherries. These tiny husked fruit begin to pop up for a short time at farmers markets in New England towards the end of summer, and what a glorious short time it is.
   If you are not familiar with husk cherries, they look - at first glance - like miniature tomatillos, carefully wrapped in a delicate natural packaging, giving them a great presentation as an after-dinner-snack when entertaining guests. Although the husk isn't what makes this fruit so special. Once you unwrap a husk cherry, it is a small yellow cherry-tomato-looking thing with a very unique taste. Some people say that they taste like pineapples, while others compare them to mangos. To me, the flavor falls somewhere between a mango, a kumquat and a sweet, just picked tomato.
    Recently, I found some husk cherries at a farmers market, and I wasn't exactly sure what to do with them. While the idea of a chutney or tart sounded delicious, I couldn't help but feel like such a unique and rare fruit needs to be treated simply and left whole, so that it can be appreciated for exactly what it is. I eventually settled on a clafoutis-kind-of. A clafoutis is an old school rustic French dessert. The kind of thing that house wives have been making for ages. A traditional French clafoutis consists of cherries, which are placed in a baking pan and have a almond-flavored custard batter poured over them before being baked in the oven. This recipe differs from a traditional clafoutis in two ways. First, that we will be using husk cherries instead of cherries, and second, that we will be using vanilla extract to flavor the custard rather than almond extract. I personally find that the delicate flavor of vanilla does more to compliment the light sweetness of the husk cherries, although you can use almond extract if you prefer. This dessert tastes best when served still-warm with a spoonful of a cold cucumber and cantaloupe melon yogurt to offset the sweetness with tart and refreshing flavors.
 
 
Husk Cherry Clafoutis
1 Pint Husk Cherries
2 Large Eggs
2/3 Cups sugar
2/3 Tbsp Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
 
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a gratin dish or oven-safe pan and spread the husk cherries evenly throughout the bottom of the pan. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs along with the flour and sugar. When they are well beaten, add the milk and vanilla extract. Pour your custard batter into the baking dish, just enough to almost cover the husk cherries. Put the clafoutis in the oven until the top begins to brown and it is cooked through. A knife or fork - when inserted into the custard - should come out clean. While your clafoutis in baking, you can make this simple yogurt topping.
 
 
Cucumber Cantaloupe Yogurt
 
Plain yogurt(Preferably from a local artisan producer such as Narragansett Creamery)
Cucumber, finely diced
Cantaloupe, finely diced
 
 
You may have noticed that there are no quantities listed for these ingredients, and that is mostly because there really is no right or wrong way to make this. Add more or less of each ingredient as you would like. The cantaloupe adds sweetness; the cucumber adds a refreshing element and the yogurt adds a tart flavor, so keep that in mind when choosing your quantities. Of course, if it doesn't come out how you would like, then you can always add more of any ingredient, and if plain yogurt is too tart for you, feel tree to add some honey or agave nectar. To prepare the sauce, simply fold the cucumber and cantaloupe gently into the yogurt Be careful not to mix your yogurt too much or it will become thin and runny. To serve, wait for your clafoutis to cool to just above room temperature, use a spatula to scoop some onto a plate, and add a spoonful of the yogurt. This makes an excellent sweet treat for a summer afternoon spent sitting in the sun.
 
 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Gnocchi

     Ah, gnocchi (pronounced nyaw-kee): what fond memories I have of thee. If you are not familiar with gnocchi, you're missing out. These adorable little dumplings are a traditional Italian treat, made with either potato or ricotta cheese, boiled, and often seared in butter or tossed with an herby sauce. But, of course, my love for gnocchi goes far beyond their unique taste and texture. As with any true human-food-romance, I share a sort of emotional connection with this dish, and with the fact that each dumpling is completely different and tells its own story.

Exhibit A (Photograph is from http://www.sallypasleyvargas.com, an absolutely wonderful food blog):
   Notice the shape of these dumplings, and the fork on the bottom right. Gnocchi have a unique ridged shape that, when home-made, must be done by hand with either a fork or a nifty little tool called a gnocchi board - but I prefer using a fork for a more rustic outcome, as well as a much more nostalgic experience. Now those ridges means that each and every single dumpling is handled individually, crimped by hand with a fork, and inspected by the gnocchi-artist for quality assurance. A plate of homemade gnocchi is special in a way that not many foods are, and that is that each single gnocchi on that plate is a little different, and that they were each made and shaped with a huge amount of time and love. Fresh gnocchi isn't a plate that can just be slapped together on your lunch break, but with a little time and a lot of care, you can create something truly amazing that will not only taste great, but it will make you feel great knowing that you crafted your dinner from scratch.
   For a long time, gnocchi was almost unheard of in the states, even on the east coast where "Italian" culture is pretty popular. I have vivid memories of going to "Italian" restaurants of the late 90's and asking for gnocchi, only to be met with a blank, confused stare by a waiter who had obviously never heard the word in his life. Also, I remember quite well one particularly amusing classroom moments during my first year of culinary school, involving a student who was assigned a recipe for gnocchi, and - having never heard the word - sounded it out as ga-noh-chee. He spent the first 30 minutes of class asking if anyone had ever heard of ga-noh-chee before someone finally explained what they were and how to pronounce them. He had changed majors by the end of the trimester. Now does that mean that they was impossible to find until recently? Of course not! It was just a bit of a scavenger hunt. Although that has changed, and gnocchi can be found at the tables of many rustic Italian restaurants and bistros today, but the obvious truth is that no restaurant gnocchi will ever compare to what you can make at home. For me, gnocchi are a great go-to item when I'm planning dinner for my family or friends. Not only does the flavor and craftsmanship impress, but many Italian friends have never seen or heard of this authentic dish, and there's no better feeling than introducing a friend to their new favorite food.

As previously stated, gnocchi can be made from either potato or ricotta cheese, so here are the recipes that I use for each dough.

Ricotta Gnocchi


2 cups ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
all-purpose flour as needed
1/2 stick unsalted butter
salt to taste

Potato Gnocchi

6 russet potatoes, baked, skinned and mashed (or some of last night's leftover mashed potatoes)
4 egg yolks
all-purpose flour as needed,
salt to taste


   For both dough recipes, start by combining all ingredients except flour in a bowl. Slowly add flour while mixing until a soft, somewhat sticky dough is formed. Once your dough is formed, you do not need to let it rest before forming your gnocchi. To form your gnocchi, simply take a handful of dough, and roll it out into a log, about 1/2 in or larger if you want bigger gnocchi. Using a knife, cut your dough log into pieces, depending on how large you want them to be. Now comes the fun part.
   

   Take one of your gnocchi and roll it into a ball between your hands. Then, roll it gently over the back of a well floured fork. You should end up with small oval dumplings with even ridges. Don't get discouraged if your first few gnocchi don't come out well. It takes some practice to learn the technique, but it's well worth the practice, and rolling gnocchi with your family or friends can be a fun social event before dinner. Once your gnocchi are formed, lay them out in a single layer on a floured surface. When you're ready to cook them, just drop them into a pot of salted boiling water. Unlike homemade pasta, fresh gnocchi will take a couple of minutes to fully cook through, and they can be doughy when not fully cooked.
   As for sauce, I like to keep it simple. Gnocchi go great with three things: butter, herbs and vegetables. I like to saute some herbs and garlic in a little butter while my gnocchi are cooking. When they're finished, I toss my gnocchi in the pan with the butter and let them get brown on one side. Be sure to do this in small batches to avoid over-crowding your pan. If you want to add vegetables, add them before the gnocchi to let them cook, or precook them and toss them in with your finished gnocchi.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary and Oven Roasted Beets

Potato Gnocchi with Basil, Chives and Pickled Radishes

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

birch

This is a short piece that I wrote for the JWU Campus Herald. Enjoy!


It all started with “Hello!;” the first tweet from @birchPVD, the Twitter moniker of soon-to-be restaurant, birch. Ben Sukle, nationally acclaimed chef, chef at Providence’s The Dorrance and Johnson & Wales University graduate, with his wife, Heidi, are opening a brilliant new restaurant at 200 Washington street (The space formerly occupied by Tini) which already has the whole food scene buzzing with anticipation. birch is set to open in mid June. 
Sukle is known for his unique approach to food, in which, not a single ingredient goes unnoticed. Ben puts time and passion into selecting the finest produce, meat and seafood from small, local farms and distributors. The menu at birch will focus on exactly that, with a small, a la carte menu which will be constantly changing with the seasons, and with ingredient availability. So far, 2013 has brought amazing restaurants to Providence, such as The Grange, and everyone is expecting to welcome birch as a perfect new member of the cities incredible, vibrant food scene. For more information, check out www.birchrestaurant.com or follow @birchPVD on Twitter.