Thursday, August 20, 2015

garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes





It has been a considerable time since I have been excited enough about what was on my plate to jump up from the table and grab the camera mid-meal. Our meal this evening was (as it commonly is) a bit of a gamble. You know, the kind of combination of what is in the larder that should be good but may not be in the end. Happily this was not only okay but pretty amazing. David (religiously underwhelmed and scrupulously reserved with praise) not only commented three times that "this is really...mmmmm, really good!" That may not sound like a high recommendation but trust me, it is :) He followed that with the advice that I should record this one. Combining that with Jonathon's regular complaint that I need to post some simple recipes that everyone can cook (he is "tired of waiting" lol) and I did grab the camera for a mid-meal mini-session. 

One would think with the plethora of recipes so readily accessible in various platforms that gambling with dinner is not only unnecessary but plain dumb. The problem is not a lack but rather a surfeit. I am fatigued by the shear abundance of choice - should I refer to a cookbook, or Pinterest, or one of my many 'favourite' blogs, or even Instagram for inspiration. Perhaps one of the collection of magazines piled in the ceramic hibachi next to the kitchen counter? It is somewhere around this point that I (mentally) throw my hands in the air and decide to make a "big salad" (it is summer after all and who wants to turn on the stove?) or resort to a tried and true and simple option. Or... gamble. With an unknown combination of what is on hand.

As what is on hand is most always a healthy assortment of vegetables and grains it really isn't a big gamble. It is hard to go too wrong. This gamble of garden harvest and gnocchetti paid off in a big way. I think it will slot very nicely into  the regular rotation of tried, true and simple.

I used some heavy cream in this but you could use half and half if you prefer. If you need a dairy-free option substituting reserved water from cooking the gnocchi would be a good bet. Make you own gnocchi if you like or choose a shelf-stable package from the market, include the Italian sausage or skip it for a meat-free meal. I stripped the kernels off fresh corn on the cob but feel free to use frozen if that works better for you. The rest is dead simple.

garden harvest gnocchetti with fresh corn and tomatoes

1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cobs of corn, stripped
1 large sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
500 gm package gnocchetti 
1/2 cup cream
3 good handfuls of baby spinach and arugula
a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan - about 1/3 cup
6-10 fresh basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter or ghee

Cook the gnocchetti in salted boiling water until they float. Drain and set aside.

Pour the olive oil and drop the butter or ghee into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add the sausage, crumbling it as it browns. When the sausage is almost cooked add the corn kernels and allow them to brown a bit, then toss in the cherry tomatoes. A few good twists of pepper and a flick or two of salt fits in well about now. Cook for only a couple of minutes then add the gnocchetti, tossing everything together. Drizzle the cream (or reserved pasta water) over the pasta mixture and toss again. Add the greens (spinach + arugula) and turn them into the mixture to wilt. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and some torn fresh basil leaves. Dinner is ready. That easy.





Sunday, August 9, 2015

salted cucumber ice cream


Having gotten out of the groove of blogging on a (semi) regular basis I find overcoming the accumulated inertia requires much more effort than I want to summon most of the time. The good book I am reading, the garden I am tending, the children I am loving, the friend I am with, the simple meal I am enjoying - all extend a much greater pull than getting back to the computer and making myself find the words to articulate thoughts, experiences and yes, even recipes. The instant gratification of Instagram and the over-abundance of newly minted nutritional experts sharing ever more ambitious and exotic recipes - and (semi-suspect) nutritional advice - have each in their own way pulled me further away from this place that I once found such joy in. But the very fact that this has been an endeavour that I did once so love has caused me to reconsider my absence. The original motivation to post here was to record memories, recipes, creations and experiences that were in some way significant to me, to offer those things to anyone who might be interested in sharing them with me but specifically to the people I know and love - those near and dear to me. As I have considered continuing or not, I have realized that my motivation and desire has remained consistent. It is all too easy to become caught up in quantifying who is reading my offerings and to assign value to the whole enterprise (including my thoughts) based on that, to fall prey to the competitive part of my nature and give away the joy of creating, considering and sharing. Although writing again feels an awful lot like trying to push a boulder uphill from a standstill, I find that I have a strong desire to get that boulder rolling. If I am the keeper of my stories, then I must share them or they are nothing but smoke and mirrors - vanishing in the mists of time. Those stories may not be of interest to the world at large but the world at large is not reading them nor I am I writing for that audience. This is for me - for my loved ones. I am not an expert anything, not a professional something-or-other; I do find living well a quest worth engaging in and one that brings me joy and fulfills my life. So take my stories and ideas in that light, understanding that I know that I know only a small part of what there is to know but that the pursuit of excellence and more knowledge is a good reason to push that boulder up the hill. To find joy in every new day, each new taste, and all the good and bad that seasons a life.

All that to explain why it has taken me three months to push the boulder far enough that I am finally sharing this ice cream recipe. As is the case so often when reading a recipe for something outside of the regular box, my initial thought was "huh! weird." But it is that very outside-the-box-ness that makes this ice cream so wonderful. It is intriguing and fresh and begs another taste and then another ten. It is also the most beautiful soft green in colour. If you like salted caramel ice cream then you will love this - it is all that with freshness on top. Persian cucumbers are a must in this recipe.

The original recipe is from Tasting Table. I scaled it down in volume so it will work in my ice cream freezer and changed the method so that it works if you do not have a juicer (as I do not). I have also included an alternative method that works if you have neither a juicer or an ice cream freezer. No excuses ice cream!

*disclaimer - this is neither dairy-free or sugar free, it is not health-food but it is free from preservatives and gluten and any unknown additives, so it is probably an awful to better for you than commercial ice cream. Just saying.

Here's to hoping I can overcome inertia and really get rolling again. This seems like a great place and way to start.

salted cucumber ice cream
(from Tasting Table with a few changes)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 Persian cucumbers, chopped
sea salt to taste - about 1 1/2 teaspoons

Put the chopped cucumbers into a blender container and process on high speed until liquified. Pour the result through a fine-mess strainer into a bowl. Measure 1/2 cup of the cucumber juice and set the remainder (if there is any) aside for a smoothie or whatever later. (The solids in the strainer can be put to the same purpose or discarded.)

Combine the cucumber juice, condensed milk, milk, cream, and salt in a bowl. Taste as you add the salt, starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more to taste - maybe more than you would initially think. Chill the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to allow the flavours to mature and to give your ice cream machine a solid chance for success.

Pour the mixture into the previously chilled (actually frozen - as in been in the freezer for a good 24 hours) bowl of your ice cream machine and spin until it looks like a good soft-serve ice cream - about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container (a loaf pan works very well), cover and freeze until the ice cream is firm, 2-3 hours. Serve and enjoy.

There is no reason that you cannot enjoy this straight from the spinning (soft-serve style). I like being able to scoop it into a pretty ball. And it is nice to not have to melt so quickly when served. But either way is fabulous.

Alternative method for no-churn ice cream: Mix the condensed milk, milk, cucumber juice, and sea salt. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Whip the heavy cream and fold the cucumber mixture and whipped cream together. Pour into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm - about 6 hours or overnight.