Monday, September 28, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, I made the Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (ClassicItal, p522), the recipe that I had intended to make with last week's pork loin for Cooking Italy. (Used a "forest mix" of dried 'shrooms, rather than only cêpes and didn't follow Hazan's instructions from cooking them in the soaking liquid. Next time ...) According to the book, it would need only about half an hour in the oven. Only after I started it did I realize that 1) there's no way that 1/4" thick potatoes will cook in 30 minutes and 2) it was too late to wait for these to be ready. So, I made a pot of trio rice while dealing with some turkey escalopes, and figured we'd have some flied lice if the potatoes should happen to get done. (Actually some flied lice sounds pretty good --> on the list.) The turkey escalopes I just S&P'd and floured and browned in butter and olive oil. When they were done, I made a sauce of some mushroom soaking liquid and cream and milk. And some peas on the side. Then we finished off the bread pudding. (Sometimes we make that go for six servings. Not this time.)

During the day Tuesday, I made pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry) for the freezer. For dinner, while yesterday's potatoes were warming in the oven, I sautéed some duck aiguillettes (comparable to chicken tenderloins), then made a nice pan sauce with vermouth and apple cider vinegar and chopped prunes. Shredded Zucchini (MW@Home), old standard, on the side. And some goat cheese for afters. Nice dinner.

Shopping Wednesday morning. Bought some plums to make apple-plum butter with the apples we found, then saw a quince. So I'll make two batches of apple-X butter soon, and freeze one of them. There was also sweet corn in the shop. And incredibly cheap salmon (500g for €4.50), so we'll have salmon two days in a row.

Wednesday evening Ed bbq'd the salmon for Grilled Salmon with Mustard-Yogurt Sauce (MC). We had corn-on-the-cob -- yum! -- and the leftover broccoli-feta pie. Pavé Affiné for afters. I made all the sauce, so we'll have that with something later in the week.

Thursday, more salmon, Salmon-Leek Soup (MC) and a big salad.

Friday morning, I made some apple-quince butter with our "found" apples (reinette-looking) and a quince from the store. It was quite hard and took a long time to soften. Sample tasted fine. Can't get in the mood for making the mousse somehow.

For dinner we had Tuna Spaghetti (MC) without the zucchini. And a salad of mâche and some of the leftover mustard-yogurt sauce. More Pavé Affiné, and then some fresh strawberries.

Saturday's dinner was Omelette with Cheese, Leeks, and Cauliflower (MC), sort of. Not enough leeks, so added a potato. Added some chopped red bell pepper from the freezer, so it wasn't such a white meal. Used pyramid chevre ipv cheddar. There was more filling than a proper omelette really needs, but it was quite tasty. Simple salad with the rest of the mâche and the rest of the mustard-yogurt sauce. A bit of St Maure, then used up the rest of the strawberries with Balsamic Strawberry Soup (MC).

Sunday we grilled merguez de volaille. Made Marinated Vegetable Salad (MC) to use up more of the cauliflower (Ed asks that the third night is not tomorrow!) and Potato and Green Bean Salad (MC) to use the haricots verts we bought impulsively and more of the potatoes. A very nice, summery dinner, and possibly the last bbq of the year.

Rumination #1: My way of cooking has changed a lot since we moved here. Although shopping in NL doesn't offer the variety that's available in the US, there's is still much more of a choice than we have here. Probably this is because we're living in the country, rather than in the Big City. Also I'm trying to by more "local" foods and skip the imported ones. (Like I skipped the lovely asparagus from Peru at the shop last week.) I'm cooking less "ethnic" foods because the ingredients are not available. Instead of making a menu plan for the week and buying to suit that, I tend to buy (or overbuy) whatever looks good at the shops and market and make up dinner from that. Cheap salmon this week meant two nights of salmon. Broccoli looked good. Cauliflower. Haricots verts. This more impromptu cooking style is a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm trying.

Rumination #2: I'm really feeling not much like cooking of late, not sure why. Can get excited about the Italian chocolate mousse at all. Well, it was the September bonus, so I guess I don't need to worry about it. Sahni's besan dumplings in yogurt sauce sounds good, and besan needs to be used up, having just passed its expiration date, but it all seems too much work. What's this about?

Rumination #3: I'm trying, but can't really get my head around the French way of serving a starter, main, and afters (cheese and/or dessert). This all makes a nice meal, and courses are typically smaller, so you're not stuffed, but a proper starter seems too much to manage. We often have salad as a second course, but somehow it's not the same.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pork Loin Braised in Milk Bolognese Style; Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style, p417

Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan, p504

This week I made two assignments in one meal (so next week I have a bit of a break with only the Italian chocolate mousse :-). I also included a potato dish, since I'm still working on the boxful that neighbors brought us from their garden. No starter and no dessert, the main course looked like this:
  • Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style, p417
  • Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan, p504
  • Pan-Roasted Diced Potatoes, p520
This was definitely a can't-believe-we-ate-the-whole-thing meal! Oink, oink!

Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style

This pork recipe has gotten excellent reviews and some beautiful photos from other Cooking Italy members. (Angela, our fearless leader, posts the recipes for all the Cooking Italy assignments at her blog. You can also find the other blogs at Cooking Italy.) The photos here won't be as good, but the dish was also well liked here. Both the meat and the sauce were delicious. It's very simple to make, but takes quite some time and, while your constant attendance is not required, you do need to be around to check on things.

Since we're not big meat eaters, dealing with the butcher, particularly in a foreign language, is always a challenge. I gathered up my best French and described to the butcher what I wanted in the way of porc and how I wanted it prepared. And it worked! The rib loin was just over 1 kilogram (2.2#). He detached the bones and tied the roast very tidily, and he even trimmed the bones.

(The 1 kilo weight included the weight of the bones. I'm wondering if Hazan didn't mean for the roast itself to be 2.5#, excluding the bones. If it includes the bones, then stretching about 2# of meat between six people seems a bit skimpy. Especially when it tastes so good!)

Although Hazan suggests that you cook the bones with the meat, she never actually tells you what to do with them. I added them to the browning roast and let them cook along with meat all the way through.

After the meat is browned, you add milk, simmer slowly until there are just brown clumpy bits remaining of the milk. Add more milk and repeat. The recipe asked for whole milk, but I used 2% and it seemed to work fine.

After the third addition and reduction of milk, the meat should be cooked at the sauce ready to finish off while the meat rests. Hazan has you deglaze the pan with a bit of water, but I wonder a splash of white wine or maybe apple cider wouldn't do the job just as well. Or maybe this would be gilding the lily?

Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan

I went to the market on Thursday thinking I'd make this dish if there was fennel. And there was! I was sure I hadn't seen it before. But maybe it's been there and didn't register, since this isn't one of our favorite veggies. But, there stood a box of fenouil, from which I chose two to bring home.

This is quite simple to make, and not bad for fennel. Not much to look at though.

Pan-Roasted Diced Potatoes

I thought about making Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (which I now see is on the course list for October:-), but decided it was too "fussy" to go with the pork and fennel. So I chose this recipe, and made some very good pan-fried pots.

It is a bit peculiar that the recipe title calls these potatoes "pan-roasted," since they're about as fried as can be. The potatoes are first fried until they are soft, then removed from the oil and allowed to cool. Then the oil is reheated and the potatoes fried again until they get a crispy, brown crust. Kind of refried potatoes. And very good. Indeed, the potatoes had a crispy outside and a soft inside. Since the initial cooking can be done ahead and the potatoes finished near serving time, this could be good for a larger meal. The potatoes took 15-20 minutes to finish off, but don't require much attention during that time beyond an occasional stir.

I used canola (colza) oil for the frying. It's not available in The Netherlands, and I've just recently discovered it here. I've used it for bits of things, but I won't use it again for frying like this. We both thought it added an odd taste.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tagliatelle with Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Cooking Italy Assignment
Bolognese Meat Sauce, p203
Tagliatelle, p136

This week it's another tempting tomato-based assignment that's gotten excellent reviews from course-mates. But it's not for this tomato-less household, unfortunately. (Visit Cooking Italy to admire this dish on other blogs.) Instead, I looked for another sauce that would go with the tagliatelle. In both her books that I have, Hazan says that Bolognese is the sauce to go with tagliatelle itself . I haven't found that she ever recommends another sauce for this pasta. In several recipes she recommends both fettucine, narrower than tagliatelle, and pappardelle, wider, but not tagliatelle itself -- tradition is tradition, after all! I finally settled on Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce (recipe below), which we really liked when I last made it ... almost exactly 10 years ago! (It will definitely come around sooner next time.)

This pasta sauce recipe is handy because it can be made ahead almost to the end. To finish it's just a matter of reheating, adding cream, butter, and black pepper, and reducing the sauce a bit. Toss with pasta and cheese and you're done. The nice white mushrooms that I found at the market last Thursday were largely in good shape. At the grocery on Saturday I found some real cêpes/porcini, the first I've seen this year. I was still missing some 'shrooms, so I added some dried cêpes and shiitakes, the end of one jar and the start of another. I soaked these first in hot water, then drained. (The filtered soaking water is in the freezer to add to something that needs a bit of mushroom flavor.)

For the tagliatelle, I rolled the pasta sheets to 7 as for the fettucine. Having treated myself to a cutter for tagliatelle just before we moved, I cheated on this and didn't cut it by hand as Hazan directs. I'm pleased with myself that I can fairly consistently roll the pasta sheets to 7 now, but I can't say that I like the wider noodles done that thin. I think I'll stop at 6 the next time I make tagliatelle.

Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce

This recipe is from Marcella Cucina, by Marcella Hazan, p152.

3/4 pound fresh white cultivated mushrooms
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Suggested Pasta: homemade noodles: tonnarelli, pappardelle, fettucine

1. Rinse all the mushrooms quickly under fast-running water. Cut the white mushrooms from cap to stem into thing lengthwise slices. Detach and discard the hard shiitake stems, and slice the caps into thin crescents.

2. Put the olive oil and the chopped onion in a 12" saute pan, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking stirring, just until the garlic begins to release its scent, without letting it become colored any darker than a pale old.

3. Add the parsely, stir quickly once or twice, then add all the mushrooms. Add salt--do not be salt-shy if you don't want a bland-tasting sauce--turn over all ingredients a few times, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 10min or more until the liquid that the mushroom shed has simmered away.

4. Add the cream, butter, and liberal grindings of pepper to the pan, raise the heat to maximum force, and reduce the cream to half its original volume, stirring frequently.

5. When the pasta is tender but firm to the bite, drain it, and toss it immediately in a warm serving bowl with the mushroom sauce. Add the grated Parmesan, toss thoroughly to coat the pasta well, and serve at once.

Ahead-of-time Note: You can cook the sauce up to the end of step 3 sveveral hours in advance. Reaheat briefly before proceeding.

Making pasta. continued

This evening I made tagliatelle, again following Marcella Hazan's recipe. Some observations:
  • Other pasta recipes call for 1 cup flour, 1 egg, maybe 1 tablespoon of oil, and a bit of water as needed. Hazan has 1 cup flour and 2 eggs. How can this work with so much egg? Certainly it's not possible to make a "well" in 1 cup of flour that holds 2 large eggs. And I'm definitely adding quite a bit of flour, certainly over 1/2 cup and maybe pushing 1 whole cup, to make a dough that holds together and isn't too sticky. Puzzling.
  • Tonight I did the basic mixing and the start of the kneading in my largest stainless steel bowl. Once the dough was the right kind of texture I finished the kneading on the countertop. Although it's one extra dish to clean, the counter mess was much easier to clean up, since it was basically just loose flour.
  • I rolled the sheets to 7 again, using lots of flour to help out. After 6, I cut the sheets in half across, dredged in flour, then rolled at 7, feeding the cut edge in first. This worked quite well. Not sure I like the tagliatelle rolled so thin, though. The fettucine were better.
  • This was the first time I used my new tagliatelle cutter attachment for the pasta machine. It feels a bit different from the narrower ones. It seems to be more sensitive to the weight of the incoming pasta sheet, so you need to lift the sheet to keep the cutter from spinning its wheels.

This week in the kitchen

Monday was a Cooking Italy day. I made used my new cutters to make tagliatelle with Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Sauce (MarCuc, p152; MC). Really shouldn't let this recipe go so long without making it. Served with a simple salad of mâche with the dressing left from Pomiane's beets (amplified with a bit of oil and red wine vinegar).

Tuesday's starter was Grated Carrots with Sesame Seeds (MC). The main was a variation on Chicken Avocado (MC) accompanied by a salad of the leftover roasted pots & broc. (For the oven part, I topped the chick and avocado with rounds of goat cheese, rather than monkey jack. This was tasty, but a bit rich. Would be better to melt a small bit of another cheese, more jack-like, and then a dollop of the pyramid goat cheese rather than sour cream, which I skipped altogether this time.) Made the quickie low-fat Cinnamon Fluff cake for dessert.

For Wednesday's dinner, I steamed a potato to add to the l/o eggplant-spinach curry. Worked quite well, might just do that always. There was quite a bit to eat, though, so we skipped dessert.

Thursday I made two small casserole dishes loosely following Broccoli and Feta Cheese Pie (MC). Those and salad made dinner.

Friday was another Cooking Italy day. I made the pork loin, accompanied by fennel and pan-fried potatoes. Yum.

Saturday Salmon with Spicy Cilantro Pepper Sauce (MC) from the bbq grill, with some boiled potatoes and a salad.

Sunday I made used some stale bread to make Double-Boiler Bread Pudding, thinking we have a simple meal of soup and dessert. But neither of us were hungry and it got too late to make soup, so I whizzed up an avocado with the leftover cilantro sauce and we had corn chips and carrot sticks for the main course, followed by the bread pudding. Not especially healthy, but fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Filling

Cooking Italy Assignment
Layered Crespelle with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Cheese, p270

This assignment looks really wonderful, a stack of crespelle (crêpes) interleaved with a simple tomato sauce, prosciutto, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Yum. But not for this tomato-less household, unfortunately. (See the other Cooking Italy blogs to be tantalized.) Instead I made the Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Filling (ClassicItal, p269).

This recipe is more or less cannelloni, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, prosciutto, Parmesan, and béchamel sauce. The filling was quite good, and I'd use this again to fill cannelloni or manicotti. Or, I might consider using store-bought crêpes to do the same thing.

Aside #1: The difference in cannelloni and manicotti refuses to stick in my brain. One is pasta sheets rolled like flat enchiladas, the other is tubes. Wikipedia says cannelloni are the sheets. I remembered the other way, but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? This crespelle recipe is very like cannelloni (or is it manicotti)? I'm puzzled that Hazan mentions neither of these, at least they're not in the index, since they are (or used to be) very common in the US experience of Italian food.

Now I remember why I haven't made crêpes in a good, long while. They're a nice way to dress up dinner (leftovers in crêpes :-), and easy to make, but time-consuming, whew! Hazan's recipe purportedly makes 16-18. I might have had 14 or 15, not sure what went wrong there, since they were quite nicely thin ones. Eighteen crêpes at almost 10 minutes each, that's a long time! Might be nice to do this while other things were happening in the kitchen.

Hazan's instructions for béchamel sauce (p 39, Salsa Balsamella) are quite good. This is the first time I've read about there being a point where you can start adding the milk is large globs, rather than dribble by dribble. Something I'd discovered myself by doing, but never read in a book.

The Baked Crespelle recipe gives instructions for using either fresh or frozen spinach. Not finding any fresh spinach at the store, I bought some frozen and proceeded to cook it as instructed. Then added sautéed onions, prosiutto, a good dose of grated Parmesan, and some béchamel sauce, along with a dab of nutmeg and two dabs of salt. A tasty combination.

Aside #2: I'm always puzzled why recipes call 1) for cooking frozen spinach, which has already been cooked — why not just thaw it?, and 2) for using whole-leaf spinach and chopping it — what's wrong with frozen chopped spinach?

Once all the crespelle were made, filling, saucing, cheesing, and baking them was a snap (I omitted the dabs of butter), and dinner was just minutes away. The stuffing should have filled all (16-18) of the crespelle and served 4-6. I managed to fill only 9, and we ate them all. I'm sure that was because we were starving by the time they came from the oven, and I'd planned to serve only a salad with them.

A photo might phollow (sorry :-) whenever our primary system, with the photo software, is back in action. It's having a very unhappy day today. Wish it well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, we went to get our new cat, Sophie, from Phoenix. Upon our return, I started a pot of chicken stock with the leftover roasted chicken bits. While that was simmering I did with my version of our latest Cooking Italy assignment. All with an inquisitive, new kitty underfoot.

Tuesday, I awoke to find the Mac out of disk and unable to boot following an attempt at a Mozy backup gone awry. We had lunch out (La Bellone) and sandwiches for dinner. I cooked broccoli stalks and a zucchini that wanted using in some of the chicken stock, puréed, and froze it for soup one of these days. Froze 2cups of chicken stock.

Wednesday, it was Lentils and Potatoes with Curry (H2CEV, p600). Not bad for the small amount of effort involved. Served with mango chutney and lime pickle. (Made it with chick stock ipv veg stock.) Never made it to the boulanger, so made bread overnight, Bran 1 (BigGerman, p23). A pretty good whole wheat bran bread.

Thursday, we picked up our new dog from Phoenix, so we had a fast dinner of 4-cheese ravioli and pesto from the freezer, along with a big salad.

Friday, a favorite, Cold Beetroot with Cream (Pomiane, p180) for a starter. Then some pork chops, with sautéed potatoes, and steamed broccoli (with garlic slices in butter). Pork chops were a bit thinner than I thought and turned out a bit dry on the grillpan.

Saturday we were busy, catching up on shopping, hanging out with the new dog and cat, and trying (still) to get the Mac going. Thus a quick dinner, Scallops with Black Pepper Sauce (MC) over rice. The end of a bit of Camembert was afters.

Sunday morning we got the Mac going again -- hooray! -- then spent all the day getting things to right and got started with dinner too late to make pasta and sauce for Cooking Italy. Instead made Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Spinach Curry (MWSunday, p303) served over rice, which used up the end of yesterday's red bell pepper, plus a green bell pepper, plus some frozen spinach. Again with mango chutney and lime pickle and some raita (MJ1).

Monday, September 7, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Sunday morning I defrosted some kip filets and put them to "marinate" for Delicious Chicken Bits (p14, Q&E x1/2). After the Langlais concert in Lesignac, I finished these off, serving with Green Beans with Mushrooms (p86, Q&E x1/2) andTurmeric Rice (p100, Q&E x1/4). Didn't have enough frozen green beans, so topped these up with frozen peas; worked fine.

Monday I defrosted the pie crust in the freezer and made a tart of use-me-ups (broccoli, mushrooms, onions) with two eggs and a soft goat cheese pyramid. Not bad at all. Served with salad.

Tuesday I made onion bhaji (p20 Q&E, more or less) and the Fresh Green Chutney (p113 Q&E) with mint from the garden and the rest of the first box of cilantro. Had planned to follow this with the leftover broc-shroom tart, but neither of us were that hungry. Instead we had some cheese and then a mini-Magnum while we walked in the garden.

Wednesday, shopping. Tuna on sale, oh boy. Grilled Tuna Steak with Nectarine-Red Onion Relish (p103, Thrill); served with buttered orechette. Then Camembert, followed by some "napoleon" cookie/cakes bought on sale today that turned out to be pretty good. (Then we went out see the ISS and shuttle fly by.)

Bought more cilantro, still have still have two boxes to use.

Thursday was an easy night. Made a mess of guacamole to go with the leftover enchiladas.

Having Hazan's book in the kitchen for Cooking Italy, means I'm using it for other stuff too. Friday was Grilled Chicken all Diavola, Roman Style (p337, ClassicItal). Lacking time I did it under the broiler. For the first bit, I had the rack too close to the flame and the skin was burnt. We don't generally eat the skin, so this wasn't a problem. I put as much as possible of the crushed peppercorns under the chickie's skin on the breast and legs. It wasn't notably pittig from the peppercorns, but one tablespoon for a whole bird isn't that much. Served with polenta and leftover nectarine-red onion relish; salad for starter. We'll probably do this again on the bbq.

Saturday, I picked the meat from the chicken and made a dinner salad with rucola and a dressing with mayo, cilantro, lime, and some sauce from a jar of chipotles in adobo. Yum.

Sunday, another easy dinner — the leftover broccoi-shroom tart and another rucola salad. The crust is still nice, flakey and tasty. Amazing. Made a batch of apple-plum butter, since we're down to the dregs on the current jar. Our neighbors left a big box of potatoes on our doorstep, so that needs to be eaten in the next week or so.

Didn't get my Cooking Italy assignment done this week. The spinach is defrosted, so it's crespelle for dinner tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Arrosticini Abruzzesi, Potato Gnocchi, Sgroppino

Cooking Italy Assignment
Arrosticini Abruzzesi, p83
Potato Gnocchi, p260
Sgroppino, p613

Playing catchup this week after vacation, so I combined several assignments into a Saturday's meal. This was the menu:
  • Starter
    • Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber, p55
    • Marinated Carrot Sticks, p56
  • Main
    • Arrosticini Abruzzesi - Skewered Marinated Lamb Tidbits, p83
    • Potato Gnocchi, p260
    • Butter and Sage Sauce, p192
  • Dessert
    • Sgroppino - Venetian Lemon and Strawberry "Slush" with Sparkling Wine, p613
The eggplant is the recipe I planned to make before when Ed threw away the draining eggplant strips. I made a half recipe and it very generously served two. The instructions for this recipe have one of my pet peeves in recipe writing — asking for "strips," but not giving enough dimensions — this time only asking for 1" wide strips. (Length? Depth?) I'd guess something like 1"x1/2"x2" would be OK. The strips I made were bigger and didn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the salad. Next time ... (Surprisingly, Hazan's instructions for roasting the eggplant were not especially good, odd since her instructions are generally quite clear. But I've done this fairly often, so it wasn't such a problem.) I seeded the cucumber, although the instructions don't specify this. Whatever, we liked the result. This would be a good veg dish for a potluck, a whole recipe or doubled, as needed, since it's not refrigeration-sensitive. You only need to stir in some salt just before it's served. Here it is served with the marinated carrots that I made again, just in case the eggplant didn't work:

Main: Arrosticini
Another winner of a recipe, easy and delicious. I bought a big hunk of lamb shoulder. Friday morning I cut off the strips for this recipe and chunked the rest for the freezer. This is yet another recipe asking for strips with a missing dimension — 1/2" wide and 2" long. And how thick should that be? My strips were as long as I could manage, in general, 1/2-3/4" wide, and as thin as I could manage. This worked out fine. In the end I used six short bamboo skewers and had about three strips of meat on each. (If you were serving these as munchies or as a starter, maybe two strips per skewer is fine.) The BBQ Chef had the night off, so I cooked these under the broiler. They were yummy!

Main: Potato Gnocchi and Butter and Sage Sauce
The assignment called for the gnocchi to be served with Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (p152), which I can imagine is a wonderful combination. Since we don't do tomatoes here, I looked for other sauces. Thought about the Gorgonzola Sauce (p194), but Ed's not a big fan and I've inflicted gorgonzola on him recently, so decided against it. In the end I chose the Butter and Sage Sauce, since butter is a Charente speciality and the garden is full of sage. These was an easy-peasy sauce, but we didn't especially like it with the gnocchi. Gorgonzola Sauce next time.

I was a bit nervous about making the gnocchi. Planning a main course for two, I made about a half recipe, about 3/4# potatoes and 3/4 cup flour (long ingredient list, this one ;-). But it took much more flour that to make a dough that stuck together. I didn't measure this, but guess it was at least 1 full cup. Kneaded for quite a while to get a fairly smooth dough, then rolled out in sausages and cut into bits. The fun part was the fork-flipping bit to make the grooves.

I love these pasta-like things that sink when you put them in the water and bob to the surface when they're done. At least, spaetzle is done when it comes to the surface. Gnocchi need to cook a bit longer, mine more than the 10 seconds Hazan suggests. I forgot to add the Parmesan at the end, so we ended up salting at the table.

Dessert: Sgroppino
In The Netherlands, prosecco was all the rage. We were served it several times when visiting friends and it was in every grocery we visited. Did I think to buy a bottle there? No. Did I find one in the shop once we got back to France? No. So I used Clairette de Die instead, which is a similar, sparkling wine.

This is a bit of work, nothing too hard, but it takes a bit of time. It's essentially lemon ice cream mixed with strawberry purée and prosecco just before serving. I made half a recipe, since there are only two and we'll have dessert a second night.

The lemon ice cream is nice and I might made this again all by itself. Start the ice cream with a lemon syrup made of lemon peel, juice, water and sugar. Remove the strips of peel and cool before making the ice cream. To serve, you whisk together the ice cream, puréed strawberries, and prosecco. I didn't follow the instructions carefully and just dumped them all together to whisk rather than beating in half the purée, half the wine, then the remaining purée and wine. It worked OK though. I did expect it to be more granular, but it was just frothy, fruity ice cream. (That's a dribble of purée smiling at you.)

Having ducked out of his bbq job, the Head Dishwasher took over at this point. He certainly had a lot to do! But he enjoyed the dinner, so didn't complain. He's very in favor of my continuing with Cooking Italy. :-)

Next week we do a layered crespelle dish. The assigned dish has tomato sauce so I'll find another variation.