Archive | May, 2011

Pork-Free Post: Gluten-Free Gnocchi

23 May

Our latest CSA boxes have been a thing of beauty, filled with amazingly fresh and fabulous vegetables. This week we received more fava beans, something that I’ve eaten, but hadn’t really cooked too much. Despite being quite labor intensive, I’ve taken a liking to these guys. In fact, I discovered that the best way to get through shelling a huge bags worth is to watch an always exciting SF Giants game. Shelling and cheering, shelling and cheering. I sorta forgot what I was doing for a while.

I haven’t had gnocchi in years, and I have been so darn scared to try making them on my own, gluten-free. But as I’m becoming more comfortable with alternative flours, I thought I’d give it a go. I had the time……and some potatoes that desperately needed to be used. They’ve been staring at me in the kitchen with sad eyes for some time now.

I scoured the internet for some inspiration and found one from the SF Examiner that seemed to fit the bill.  I had all the ingredients on hand, so I gave it a go. Oh, with one exception – no xantham gum. I really don’t understand the whole idea that it is necessary in all GF recipes. Never once have I bought it, yet all my cakes, brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc. seem to turn out just fine with me and everyone else who tastes them. In fact, I was really excited when I saw Shauna from Gluten-Free Girl post up on Facebook the other day how it is totally unnecessary. While home alone this week I made the whole grain muffins from her site and they were fantastic.  My version used quinoa flour, oat flour, potato starch, rice flour, raisins, walnuts and dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Super tasty way to start the day.

Anyway, back to the gnocchi. Working with this dough was so easy. No problems with the dough breaking apart or sticking. Having never made gnocchi, I don’t know if I formed them correctly, but in the end, I don’t care because they tasted darn good! I asked Christian if they were close to real gnocchi and the answer was a firm “yes” – not only did they taste like real gnocchi, but the had the same texture as real gnocchi. I was incredibly happy that these were successful.

Foraging through my refrigerator that is overflowing with veggies, I decided that the gnocchi would be a great accompaniment to the fava beans, and that throwing in a little green garlic wouldn’t hurt. I love that stuff. To finish it off, I punched it up with some smoked salmon and a sauce with fresh thyme, white wine, butter and a touch of cream. Instead of just simply boiling the gnocchi and calling it a day, I decided to add another step and brown them in some butter, making the outside a little crispy. Uh, yeah, this was good. Really good.

I’m not including the whole recipe with the veggies and sauce since I kind of threw it together with no measurements. So below is a simple recipe for the gnocchi. The recipe serves about 3 people for a main course, probably about 6 for a smaller first course.

I also want to mention that my Recipes That Don’t Include Pork Shoulder section has been updated recently with more dishes, including some super gooey chocolaty brownies (gluten-free, of course) that are a must try. The boys at a recent poker night ate them right up.

Gluten-Free Gnocchi

  • 1 lb potatoes (I used a small white potato, but russets or other will do)
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and when oven is ready, place them directly on the rack and roast until soft (poke a knife through and if it goes through easily, they are done). Let cool until they can be handled. Cut each in half and scoop out the potato into a bowl, discarding the skins.

Mix the flour and starches in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mix the potato, salt and egg together. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing between additions. Keep adding until the dough holds together but is not sticky. You probably will not use all the flour, which should be reserved for dusting the work surface.

Sprinkle a wooden cutting board or other work surface with flour. Divide the dough into several rounds. Roll each round on the surface into ropes about 1″ wide, then cut into 1″ long pieces. Set aside and repeat with remaining dough. Using a fork, press each gnocchi piece onto the tines with your thumb – one side will have the tine marks, the other an indention from your thumb.

Transfer to a baking sheet and sprinkle with some flour mixture; let dry for about 15 minutes. If you are cooking right away, drop the gnocchi in salted water. Once they rise to the surface (which happens very quickly), continue cooking for another 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Remove and toss with some olive oil to prevent sticking. You may have to do this in batches.

You can also freeze the uncooked gnocchi – wrap tightly in foil to prevent freezer burn. When you want to eat them, drop the frozen gnocchi into boiling water – cooking time will be slightly longer than if fresh. Additionally, you can also freeze the boiled gnocchi (which I did, and they turned out just fine). Again, just throw into boiling water, or alternately, let defrost and brown in a pan with oil or butter.


Day Thirty: Pork Stew with Red Chiles

4 May

I’m pretty sure we can officially say that Tahoe has hit Spring. First beach bbq? Yep. Multiple days without wearing socks? Thankfully. No jacket required when outdoors? Check.  Cloudless vibrant blue skies? Oh yes. I couldn’t be happier. Unfortunately, May is notorious for switching from Spring to Winter in the blink of an eye and I’m hoping that this year is different – that we’ll be rewarded for surviving these past few months. Nobody knows, so for now, I’m enjoying the beautiful warmer days.

With the warmer weather brings different foods – more fresh vegetables and more grilling. I’m getting very excited to see what the CSA box has in store and what will be at the Farmer’s Market come June. However, with that said, there is still room for braised dishes every once in a while. This recipe is no exception. Despite being cooked low and slow for 8 hours in the slow cooker, the resulting product was fresh and bright, both in flavor and visually.

At first, when throwing all the ingredients in the slow cooker, it seems entirely bland and boring, even with the red chiles. But once that pork breaks down and all the flavors combine, along with the addition of lime juice, fresh cilantro and fresh jalepenos, the dish becomes magical. A beautiful plate with fresh greens and reds popping out (quite perfect for upcoming Cinco de Mayo, no?). The pork is enhanced by a spice from the red chiles that surprises you at the end and the tang from the fresh lime juice. The cloves offer a welcome warmth that serves a great backdrop for all the other flavors.

The inspiration for this dish came from the Yucatan Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime recipe I found on Food and Wine’s website. My version differs in a few ways: 1) I didn’t have fresh Ancho chiles, but instead used some dried New Mexico chiles I had in the pantry, 2) I opted to use canned, diced tomatoes in lieu of the fresh (I generally don’t like to use fresh tomatoes outside of tomato season), 3) I reduced the amount of liquid because of the canned tomatoes and use of the slow cooker, 4) I didn’t brown the meat, as I threw this together in the morning before I went to work, and 5) I added the lime juice at the end to impart a brighter citrus flavor.

Two comments on the substitutions. First is that the use of dried chiles most definitely produces a different flavor, as well as a different texture. Dried chiles result in more “chile skin” rather than chile flesh, as noted by Christian. I found the dish to be wonderful with my substitutions, and so did Christian, but since I haven’t made the original as written, I can’t make a true comparison. I also think browning the meat and not using the slow cooker could have added more richness, but I really don’t believe it would make or break the recipe. Since I wanted to throw it together before I left the house in the morning, I didn’t have time to go through the extra steps (or do the extra dishes).

This is a dish to try, no matter what season or temperature. It really would be perfect on a cold Winter night or a gorgeous Summer evening.

Pork Stew with Red Chiles

(Serves 4)

  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut in 2″ cubes
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes with juice (no salt added preferred)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 dried New Mexico chiles
  • 3 carrots, cut in 2″ pieces crosswise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 limes
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalepeno, sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring some water to boil over high heat; add the chiles and cook until softened. When done, remove chiles and slice open to discard seeds. Cut the chiles into thin strips.

Add all ingredients (pork through bay leaf) to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Set to low and cook 6 to 8 hours.

When stew is done, add the juice of 2 limes and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle portions of stew over steamed white rice, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and jalepeno slices.

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