Friday, April 09, 2010

Gnocchi alla Romana

My kitchen has been filled with flops recently. The latest was Gnocchi alla Romana from Heidi Swanson's cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. Boiled down to basics, you make a firm semolina-based dough that is cooled and then cut into rounds and baked. Firm being the key. It didn't go well. I was distracted and didn't heat the milk enough or cook the semolina enough. The semolina never became firm, it just remained a mushy pile of mush. I put it in the refrigerator hoping it would firm up overnight and we ordered a pizza.

Gnocchi alla romanaRound two: By the next evening, the dough was still a pile of mush. I threw the whole thing back in a pot and cooked it some more hoping it would thicken. I put it in the refrigerator to cool and, determined to have gnocchi alla Romana that night, I started a second batch using Mario Batali's recipe as a guide. I knew the recipe wasn't the problem and knew what I had done wrong, but still wanted some other guidance.

While I was doing this, the first batch was sitting in the fridge, all mushy and gooey. It never set. I took it out, scooped it by the handful and formed little balls, pressing them into disc-like rounds. I baked these according to the recipe and then baked the second batch that had actually worked properly. Both had their winning moments. I've combined what I liked about each here.

Roman-style Gnocchi: Gnocchi Alla Romana

Adapted from Mario Batali and Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking

3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
4 TB unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pans
1 1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus 1/2 cup
4 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Butter 1 cookie sheet with 3/4-inch sides and an 8x8" or slightly larger baking dish.

In a large saucepan, heat milk, butter and salt over medium-high heat until it is simmer steadily. It will froth up pretty quickly, so keep an eye on things and stir frequently. Gradually pour in the semolina in a thin stream, whisking vigorously, and cook for a minute or two until it thickens quite a bit and starts to separate from the sides of the pan, switching to a wooden spoon as it thickens. You want it to be quite thick so that it can be cut easily in a solid form once cool. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated cheese and 4 egg yolks. Mix well to combine, working quickly so the eggs don't set. Pour mixture onto the buttered cookie sheet and, using a spatula, spread to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Allow to cool 10 minutes or so. Semolina should be firm to the touch.

Using a biscuit cutter or water glass, cut 2- or 3-inch rounds out of semolina. Arrange them in the buttered baking dish so that each round is slightly overlapping the one before it. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake, covered with foil or a lid, for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more until top is deep golden brown. Remove and serve immediately with a marinara or sauce of your choice. I used Heidi Swanson's Bright Red Tomato Sauce as shown in this post.

Gnocchi alla romanaPlease don't be dissuaded by my failed attempts! It's actually quite easy and both recipes — and Heidi's cookbook in particular‚ are worth checking out.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring indie crafts show and tell…

Grab your cart and let's go, people — It's show time!

Crafty supermarket
I'm extremely excited to be headed to Cincinnati, Ohio next weekend for the Crafty Supermarket. It will be on Saturday, April 17, 2010 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. They've been doing previews of the vendors who will be there over on the Crafty Supermarket blog and I can't wait to check out so many makers that are new to me.

I've also been scoping out the city using the Design*Sponge Cincinnati guide and simply can not wait to do some wandering. Apparently it used to be called the "Paris of the Midwest," has tons of great architecture and was home to the awe-inspiring illustrator, Charley Harper. (His work is worthy of a post all its own, but in the meantime, check out the beautiful poster for the Art in the Park show below for some gorgeous Charley Harper-inspired design. It was designed by the lovely and talented Marcy Davy of All Things Grow). Let me know if you have any recommendations for me while i'm in Cincinnati — shops, sites, restaurants, etc. — I'd love to hear from you!

If you've never used the Design*Sponge guides, they're such a great resource. I found so many great restaurants and stores in the Wilmington, NC guide when my parents moved there last year, not to mention the amazing Detroit guide by Sweet Juniper that I still refer to for this area. And speaking of Detroit… If you're in the Detroit area next weekend, be sure to check out Handmade Detroit's Craft Revival Saturday, April 17 at the Loving Touch in Ferndale. I'm sad to be missing that one, but you should go for sure!

But wait, there's more, shoppers!

Flint Handmade spring craft market
I will also a vendor on May 1, 2010 at the Flint Handmade Spring Craft Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in — you guessed it — Flint! flintHANDMADE is a collective of crafters actively encouraging the community to support creative expression and commerce in Flint by making and purchasing local handmade goods — so come on out and purchase some local handmade goodness! The show will be in four buildings along S. Saginaw Street: The Lunch Studio, Brown Sugar Cafe, Wize Guys Pizza and The Loft. And if the weather is nice, there will be more vendors outside each location, too.

Ypsilanti Art in the Park
Later this spring, I'll be participating in the Art in the Park show in Ypsilanti, Saturday, May 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is a fundraiser for the Ypsilanti Senior Community Center and will host more than 25 artists at the 1015 N. Congress Street community center.

So if you're looking for that perfect pair of handmade earrings, a unique Mother's Day gift for Mom, a beautifully designed and hand-silkscreened tee or just something you won't find at the mall — come on out to these shows and support your local artists!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring is sprouting!

seeds sprouting
Hope everything's coming up roses for you today!!!
The seeds are sprouting around here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sunday drives and shoe trees

On Sunday the boy and I took a drive. In just ten minutes, you can be out of Ann Arbor onto dirt roads, farms whizzing by, acres upon acres of open fields or, deep into the woods with trees forming a canopy over the road. I love that. I also love this: A shoe tree of a different sort.

These photos don't even begin to capture how amazing and funny and crazy this is. It's on a road surrounded by farms. Some of the shoes are so high up. There must be hundreds of them. There are high heels and work boots, tennis shoes and flip flops.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Orange-Soy Braised Pork Ribs

Orange-Soy Braised pork ribs
While many of you were enjoying hot cross buns or a roast lamb Easter dinner yesterday, the boy and I were winging it to Asia — in our mouths at least! After obsessing over the best spareribs ever, I scooped up some country-style pork ribs on sale at the grocery. Obviously I don't know from ribs and though they were obviously bigger and fattier than spareribs, I thought I could still apply the same recipe with at least similar results. Not so. No good — quite awful in fact. Part of it I'm sure is the quality of the ribs we had the first go round since they were from Old Pine Farm, our meat CSA. But, this cut definitely calls for a wholly different approach. They came in a big old honkin' package and I had used half for the first attempt. But here's what turned out to be a really tasty solution for the second half we had. So now that I've completely turned you off of country-style ribs… you should try this, it's good. Really.

Orange-Soy Braised Pork Ribs
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2005
2 pounds country-style pork ribs
1 Tb olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tb finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Generous squirt Sriracha or other hot sauce

Separate ribs into individual pieces. Place in large stockpot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, skimming foam that rises to the surface. This will help remove much of the fat. Drain well in colander and pat dry.

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325°F.

Meanwhile, heat oil over moderate heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion is soft, 5-7 minutes. Stir in orange juice, soy sauce, sugar and pepper and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add Sriracha to taste. Place ribs in sauce, turning to coat, and cover. Braise ribs in oven until very tender and falling off the bones, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

If sauce seems fatty, remove meat and skim. Return meat to sauce and "pull" or shred with two forks. Serve with lots of jasmine rice to soak up the sauce.

I plan to stuff wonton wrappers with the leftovers tonight and steam them. Tasty!