Crisp Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus

My brother gave me one of the most thoughtful Christmas gifts last year: a copy of this beautiful Tasting Colorado cookbook. Every recipe is a popular dish from a Colorado restaurant, covering everything from fluffy biscuits to local mouthwatering steak. Not only did I wish I could stuff my face into every picture and eat the contents, but I’ve actually been to a few of the restaurants!

Although he’s a Boston native, Colorado stole my brother’s heart 10 years ago and he’s lived there ever since. I get a chance to visit him once or twice a year and for those of you who have never been add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and I’ve had some of my favorite dishes there.

While flipping through the cookbook and mopping drool from my mouth I was so excited to stumble upon this recipe from the restaurant Six89. Six89 closed in 2012 and their gnocchi salad disappeared along with it. Until now.

I cannot properly express in words the deliciousness of this dish. The crispy gnocchi together with the savory shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and nutty Parmesan is enough to have you going back for more. But when you add the shallot vinaigrette and leafy greens this meal becomes irresistible.

You can certainly use store-bought gnocchi to make this dish, but I highly recommend taking the extra time to tackle homemade gnocchi to experience the full potential of each mouthwatering bite.

Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 appetizer servings
Ingredients
for the gnocchi
  • 2 cups gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups asparagus, blanched and cut into 1” pieces
for the vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 4 cups baby field greens
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan, for serving
Directions
  1. Boil the gnocchi in a medium saucepan until they float to the top and are heated through, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the gnocchi until crispy and lightly browned.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium then add the shallots and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the asparagus slices and sauté until warmed through then remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
for the vinaigrette
  1. Combine the shallots, mustard, oregano and white wine vinegar. Whisk together well with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the gnocchi with 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Plate the gnocchi.
  2. Toss the baby field greens with some of the vinaigrette and place over the gnocchi. Top each plate with a generous serving of fresh grated Parmesan.

Recipe from Tasting Colorado:  Favorite Recipes from the Centennial State.

Homemade Goat Cheese Gnocchi

Making homemade gnocchi had been on my bucket list of things to conquer in the kitchen for quite some time now. These delicate pillows of pasta are one of Matt’s and my go-to orders while out to eat, but I was putting off making them from scratch.

Giada had assured me countless times how simple gnocchi are to create. I would watch Giada quickly whip up a perfect batch in her gorgeous, sunny kitchen and think to myself, “Giada even pronounces gnocchi perfectly, of course she thinks it’s simple!”

Well, my friends, I am here as a novice gnocchi-pronouncer and gnocchi-creator to let you know that in fact it is that simple. Sure there are fair amount of steps between the boiling, mashing, cooling, kneading and what-not, but once you have the process down you’ll have fresh gnocchi on the table in no time.

The most difficult part was the shaping with the fork tines, but I never have much patience for beautifying foods so I decided to leave them as is. I’m here to eat it not take a picture! Actually, I am, but I much prefer the eating part.

So conquer your kitchen fears and give homemade gnocchi a try! What are some things on your kitchen bucket list?

Homemade Goat Cheese Gnocchi
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds potatoes, preferably Russets
  • 11 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup Parmesan, grated
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano (or ½ cup fresh, chopped)
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
  2. Scrub and dry the potatoes then pierce each potato with a fork 5-6 times. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes. The potatoes are done when you can easily pierce with a fork or knife. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel then grate them into a large mixing bowl. Alternatively, you can accomplish this with a potato ricer.
  3. Add the goat cheese, Parmesan, oregano, eggs, flour, salt and pepper to the large mixing bowl and mix until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Lightly flour a cutting board or smooth surface and knead the dough until it is smooth. Shape the dough into a large ball or mound and place a kitchen towel overtop. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile start shaping the gnocchi. Using about ¼ cup of dough at a time, and leaving the kitchen towel over the rest, shape the dough into a long rope about ½” thick, as pictured above. Using a sharp non-serrated knife or an icing spatula, cut the dough rope into 1” pieces. Place the pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet.
  6. When you have a small batch ready to be boiled (I boiled about ½ cookie sheet worth at a time), carefully place the gnocchi into the prepared boiling water. When they float to the top, about 3-5 minutes, remove with a large slotted spoon and serve.
Notes
*If you don’t have cake flour, for each cup you measure out of all-purpose flour remove 2 tablespoons before putting in the recipe.
*I simply pressed the gnocchi instead of the traditional ridge shape, but a quick Google search of shaping gnocchi will lead you to plenty of videos showing the traditional technique.
*If you are not eating the gnocchi right away, follow these instructions after placing in the boiling water:
1. When they float to the top, about 3-5 minutes, remove with a large slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water. Drain into a colander and let cold water run over the gnocchi in the colander. Let drain.
2. Remove to a large container and lightly toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi until they are all cooked. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Recipe from Spring 2008 issue of Edible Aspen.

S’mores Cupcakes

Ever since coming across the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe I have been creating as many variations as my waistline can afford for me to make. I am determined to try every variety I can imagine. The reason all my cupcake creations tend to have this chocolate base is 1- chocolate is superior, 2- I still haven’t found a vanilla cupcake recipe I love and 3- the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe is just so, perfect, that I can’t imagine anything tasting any better.

So with that said, now that summer is approaching there is one dessert lingering on everyone’s mind: s’mores. Lemon & Mocha has brought you s’mores fudge and now, s’mores cupcakes. These photos were taken quite some time ago before Matt and I had our groove down and I hope to update them in the future, but I couldn’t wait any longer to post this face-stuffingly-delicious recipe.

Gooey marshmallow fluff oozes out of these cupcakes that are topped with chocolate ganache and a super fancy, but simple, graham-coated chocolate-dipped marshmallow. I definitely snuck a few of these on their own instead of topping all the cupcakes. :)

S'mores Cupcakes
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh hot coffee
for the filling and toppings
  • 12 ounces Marshmallow Fluff
  • ½ cup heavy cream, optional
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 24 marshmallows
  • ⅓ cup graham crackers crumbs, divided
  • 1 cup chocolate ganache
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together until combined. Line 2 cupcake pans with 24 paper liners. Place a tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture into each wrapper and press to evenly cover the bottom of the wrapper. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Once the mixture is combined add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract. Beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Carefully stir in the hot coffee until well combined. The batter will be extremely liquidy.
  6. Pour the batter evenly between the 24 paper liners over the pressed graham cracker mixture. Bake on the middle rack of an oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with no batter on it.
  7. Completely cool cupcakes on a wire rack before filling and topping.
for the filling and toppings
  1. Line a baking sheet or firm cutting board narrow enough to fit in your fridge with wax or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Using a cupcake corer, apple corer, or knife create a large cavity in the center of each cupcake. Reserve the top of the removed cupcake piece. Fill the cavity with 1-2 tablespoons of Marshmallow Fluff. If the Fluff is too thick to handle, whip it with some heavy cream, a couple tablespoons at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Place the top of the removed cupcake piece on top of the Fluff filling to seal the cupcake back up. Place the cupcakes in the fridge to chill.
  3. While the cupcakes are in the fridge melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. Once melted remove from the heat and stir in the vegetable oil until smooth. Dip half of each marshmallow in the chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet or cutting board. Sprinkle the dipped marshmallows with graham cracker crumbs before the chocolate sets. Place in the fridge to harden.
  4. Remove the cupcakes from the fridge and carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the chocolate ganache to coat it. Place a chocolate dipped marshmallow on each cupcakes before the ganache sets. Sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs, place it in the fridge for the ganache to harden.

Cake from Foodess.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I would be surprised if there is anyone who doesn’t have some sort of special memory related to chocolate chip cookies. They are just one of those foods that tend to remind you of home and comfort. My memory has to do with my grandma, as most of my food memories do. She was known throughout my family and friend group as having delicious chocolate chip cookies, so much in fact that they were dubbed “Babu Cookies.” (Side note: we call my grandma Babu, which is short for Babushka, or grandmother in Russian).

The best part was that there was always a batch of them somewhere in the house. Whether they were stocked in the freezer or a fresh batch was sitting warm and gooey on the cooling racks in the kitchen, Babu made sure we never were lacking chocolate chip cookies.

I have not been able to perfect the Babu cookie as I remember it, slightly cakey and chewy, and part of that is probably because the memories associated with some foods can tend to elevate them in your mind. So instead, I have taken a cue from Cook’s Illustrated, the know-it-all of baking science, and now make my own delicious chocolate chip cookies.

The inclusion of browning the butter and using mostly dark brown sugar gives the cookie a rich flavor, while the addition of an extra egg yolk lends to its chewy texture. Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips are a must and bring this cookie to a straight-up heavenly status.

I could eat the entire batch of these cookies, but Matt would never let me get away with not sharing. Even though it takes an enormous amount of willpower to not devour them as soon as they’re out of the oven, my favorite way to eat them is cold out of the fridge. So make these perfect chocolate chip cookies and make some food memories. Or at least make your tastebuds extremely happy.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Yield: 16 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and baking soda, then set aside.
  4. In a small skillet over medium-high heat melt 10 tablespoons of the butter. Keep cooking, making sure to continuously swirl the pan, until the butter is golden brown in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the browned butter into a large heatproof bowl. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until melted.
  5. Add the sugar, brown, salt and vanilla to the large bowl with the butter. Whisk until incorporated. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 more times to make the mixture thick and shiny. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be thick at this point so mixing in the chips will be a little hard, but do the best you can without over mixing.
  6. Use a medium cookie scoop to arrange dough balls, about 3 tablespoons each, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake the cookies one tray at a time on the middle rack for 10-14 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through the cooking time. Cookies are done when they are golden brown, puffy and the edges have just started to set, but the centers are soft. Once removed from the oven let cook on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then carefully remove to a cooling rack.

Recipe from May & June 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.

Turkey and Manchego Panini with Sun-dried Tomato Mayo

Sometimes I find myself craving a sandwich. There’s something so satisfying about a fresh deli sandwich loaded with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and of course mayonnaise. Recently, to conquer my craving I decided to take it one step further and make a panini. While still a sandwich, a panini takes it to a whole new level with a crunchy exterior and gooey melted cheese. The panini is the queen diva of sandwiches and this one certainly stands up with the best of them.

There are many stars of this panini and one is the Manchego cheese. Manchego is a firm Spanish cheese that tastes similar to monterey jack with an added nutty flavor. It complements the roast turkey, salty crunchy bacon and the delicious sun-dried tomato mayo. I don’t have a fancy panini contraption and it was still a cinch to make. All you need is a grill pan and another heavy pan to press the sandwich. If you don’t have a grill pan a regular frying pan will do the trick as well. Now please excuse me while I make another one and continue conquering my craving, which is now for this panini.

 
Yield: 1 sandwich
Ingredients
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces deli turkey breast, about 2-3 slices
  • 1 thin slice Manchego cheese
  • 2 strips cooked bacon
  • ¼ cup fresh spinach leaves
Directions
  1. Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil cooking spray, or heat 2 teaspoons olive oil.
  2. Make your sandwich by spreading 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato on each slice of bread. Add the turkey slices, Manchego cheese, bacon and spinach then close your sandwich. Place your sandwich on the grill pan or skillet and place a heavy pan on top of the sandwich to weigh it down.
  3. Cook the panini 3-4 minutes per side or until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted.