Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roasted Beet Malfatti & Creamy Roquefort Sauce

I'm so happy to be doing another group post with Argentine flavor! The last time, we tackled a national specialty - the alfajor. This challenge is no easier and is just as emblematic. We're cooking gnocchi! Maybe gnocchi doesn't sound very Argentine to you, but this dish is actually so Argentine that it has its own day of the month. Each time the 29th rolls around you're sure to see restaurants full of diners with plates of gnocchi (or ñoquis, as they're known here). Why? Because it's Dia de los Ñoquis, or Gnocchi Day. Just as with the US, Argentina is a country of immigrants and this dish is strong reminder of European influence.

"Ñoqui" is also a slang word (from lunfardo) that is used to refer to someone who expects to get paid without actually doing any work. Think immigration office. (Ha! I probably shouldn't say that since I'm still waiting for my DNI to arrive.)

So, however you want to look at it,  happy pasta day or happy lazy day. Let's all forget work and eat pasta!

Here's what my fellow bloggers are making for Gnocchi Day:
I really did attempt to make gnocchi but, as usual, I just don't have the patience for this dish and I ended up with malfatti (bigger gnocchi). Beet is not a traditional gnocchi flavor but I had to try something different -- and pink, apparently.

Roasted Beet Malfatti
Recipe seems to originally be from Bon Appetit. Also see Eat a Beet and The Fifth Tine
  • 3 small beets (of which you will use 3/4 cup, grated)
  • 450 grams (1lb) ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded
  • ~3/4 teaspoon salt (original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon)
  • Pepper to taste (a few twists for me)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, divided + crap loads more for rolling
Wrap beets in tinfoil and roast at 200C/400F until tender 45-55 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes and peel skins off. Coarsely shred and measure out 3/4 cup and place in a large bowl. Stir in ricotta, egg, cheese, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of flour -- it will look like that big pink blob, pictured above. At this point you're suppose to either lightly shape and roll into a log (which would be super long if you tried to do the whole thing) or roll each individual gnocchi in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. My dough soaked up all the flour on the counter and then asked for more. In total, I probably incorporated 1 1/2 cups into the dough and used another 1/2 cup just for rolling into logs, which I did in a few batches. This lead to malfatti. 

Anyway, cut one-inch pieces of the dough log to form each gnocchi. You're suppose to roll along a gnocchi board or fork to get those classic indentations, but this dough was too wet to roll so I just pressed it with a floured fork. I noticed that one of the other recipes just left the pieces as balls. Anyway, get it to whatever shape you can and then line them up on a baking sheet. I then popped them into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and they came out easier to handle.

Creamy Roquefort Sauce
  •  Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 big clove garlic, minced
  • 28g (2T) butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Pinch nutmeg & dried thyme
  • 120 grams Roquefort or blue cheese, crumbled
Saute garlic in oil for one minute, add butter and melt. Add flour constantly whisking to create a roux and cook for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly while whisking to keep lumps from forming. (This never works for me in a pan that's not non-stick, so I add part of the liquid until it's warm and then remove to a bowl and whisk like crazy until dissolved, then return to the pan and continue adding liquid.) Stir in sour cream until melted. Once sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add nutmeg, herbs and cheese and stir until melted. Taste and season with salt, if desired. (I went with a roux-based sauce instead of cream because of all the cheese in this recipe, but it would probably be amazing too.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in gnocchi in batches so that the pot doesn't get too crowded. Cook for 4 minutes - or until they float to the surface plus an additional minute. Remove from the water into the sauce. 

Don't stir it around too much or your sauce will turn pink. Whoops! Garnish with a handful of toasted walnuts and additional cheese. This recipe is quite rich so I used reduced-fat ricotta and sour cream. I'm not sure the ricotta was the best idea, as it was quite grainy - you may want to go with full-fat. Also, many ricotta gnocchi recipes suggest draining the ricotta and I would try that for this recipe too - perhaps it wouldn't require so much flour.

In the end, it was quite heavy but Guille loved it. He said it reminded him of when his mom would make gnocchi when he was younger. And she only makes it every 5 years. Smart lady. Gnocchi is exhausting...and now I'm going off to act like a ñoqui.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lentil and Tofu Curry

Lentil and Tofu Curry
adapted from appetite for china
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water (or use part veggie stock)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 block of tofu (about 250 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper, optional
  • ~1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • chopped cilantro to garnish, optional
  • brown rice and plain yogurt to serve
Saute onion and garlic with a pinch of salt in a swirl of olive oil over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes, add ginger and stir. Add lentils and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut tofu into cubes and gently press between paper towels to remove excess moisture. In a wok or skillet, heat a Tablespoon of oil over medium heat and gentle stir fry (after adding tofu, don't touch it for about 2 minutes to allow it to slightly brown, then stir). Add curry, cumin, cayenne (to your preference) and salt - cook for another 1 to 2 minutes then stir in spinach and allow to wilt, about 1 minute. Add mixture to the lentils and simmer for 5 minutes to meld flavors. Add more spices, as needed. Serve with brown rice and plain yogurt. 

Heads Up! The "natural" flavor of the La Serenisima brand of Greek yogurt, Griego, is not actually plain, it's sweetened. So don't put it on this dish! Also, it's not actually Greek yogurt as it is thickened with cream instead of just being extra-strained like real Greek yogurt. Man! Why do we have to get the fake versions of everything?! Also, the Danone (aka Dannon) logo is also on this yogurt, so don't go blaming Argentine industry alone. If you're trying to eat healthy and wholesome, GOOD LUCK! Also, if you think that the US is alone in it's struggle with obesity, read this post by Katie at Seashells & Sunflowers