Monday, November 29, 2010

Quick & Easy: Gnocchi with Alfredo Sauce

I've never been a pasta person. I skip spaghetti, pass on the lasagna, ignore ravioli... I don't even partake of macaroni and cheese. I'm a texture eater: I don't like anything too squishy, or slimy, or chewy, or grainy, or chunky. Something about pasta has always turned me off. And not only the texture of pasta, but the tomato sauce. In high school, on a school trip to Europe that included Spain, France, and Italy, I lied on my permission slip and wrote that I was allergic to tomatoes. So for the entire trip, while my classmates enjoyed authentic Italian pasta that was probably more delicious than anything I'll ever eat again, I was served white pizza. As my French teacher told a waiter when I tried to order grilled cheese off the kids' menu, "Elle est tres difficile."

I like to think I've grown out of my picky-ness, at least somewhat. At my friend Rachel's house last summer, I actually put some of the gnocchi and red sauce on my plate. Just a little bit, and I made sure to cover it with a pound of parmesan cheese. To my surprise, I liked it! Squishy little potato balls, and I went back for seconds.

So now gnocchi is the one pasta I know how to make. And it's incredibly easy: add the gnocchi to a pot of salted, boiling water. When they start to float, they're done. The end! Even I can do it. I can even open a jar of pasta sauce to eat it with. Unless, when I go to the fridge to grab the jar, it turns out the jar expired in April 2010. So what do you do when you have cooked gnocchi and no pasta sauce? Make alfredo! We had on hand some heavy cream, some butter, garlic, and of course the parmesean cheese. That's basically all alfredo sauce is. Combine the ingredients until it tastes good, then eat. Yum!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soup Season

It's cold. And we're the kind of people the hold out as long as possible to turn the heat on; not because we're of sturdy Norse stock or because of some perverse pride, but for the oh-so-humble reason of: we're cheap.

So what does one do when sticking to a budget but trying to stay warm? Soup! We've been on a soup kick for about a month now. It started on our vacation to Cape Cod back in October. We love the Cape in the fall. The scenery is beautiful, and there's hardly anybody around to spoil it. Even though we were on a vacation, we were still watching our wallets and trying to balance going out to eat with cooking at home. Enter this Garlic Soup recipe from Tasty Kitchen.

In the end, it tasted more like a slightly-garlicky, blended version of French Onion soup. It was tasty, but next time we'll be doubling the garlic. Colin and I are lucky to have each other, because it's important in a relationship to have equal levels of garlic tolerance. And ours are high :).

Garlic Soup


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup Onions, Thinly Sliced
12 cloves Peeled Garlic, Smashed
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 quart Chicken Stock
1 leaf Bay
2 cups French Bread, Torn Into Pieces*
¾ cups Heavy Cream
½ cups Shredded Gruyere (or sharp white cheddar, if you're on a budget like us)
    *note - the color of your bread will determine the color of your soup. French bread is not required. I used some homemade Sally Lunn bread so my soup came out medium brown rather than a lighter tan.
4 servings

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 10 -12 minutes; the onion and garlic will begin to caramelize. 

2. Add the wine, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock and bay leaf.
3. Bring to a boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the bread and allow the soup to sit without heat for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
4. In batches, pour the soup into the blender and puree until smooth. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. As each batch is pureed, pour into another pot. (Or, if you're lucky, use your immersion blender). Keep warm over low heat. Garnish with the cheese (if desired).

Serving alternative: Colin Version
Colin like chunky soups. So, I didn't blend the entire batch. He go half blended, half un-blended, topped with extra bread.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Lots. of. apples.

Colin and I participated in the fall tradition of apple-picking this year, and came home with 72 apples.

What does one do with 72 apples? Have an apple-themed dinner party of course! On the menu: apple cider (natch), alcoholic and non-, provided by our friend Stefanie; apple and bacon polenta; apple crisp (made by Colin from his mother's recipe); and fried chicken made by Sean and salad made by his girlfriend Laura.

Baked Polenta with Apples, Gruyere, and Bacon

6 cups chicken stock
1 1/3 cups uncooked polenta
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
4 slices thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon butter
2 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

A baking-dish full, easily 8+ servings
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Bring the 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the polenta is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in the thyme.

3. In a second pan, cook the bacon until desired texture is reached. Remove from the pan, pat dry of excess grease, and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the butter to the pan over medium high heat until it begins to brown. Add the apples and saute until tender, about 9 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT cheese; stir to blend.

4. Add apple mixture, the bacon and one cup of the cheese to the polenta. Stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to a 13×9x2 inch oval dish (or something of similar capacity) that has been greased or coated with cooking spray. Top mixture with remaining cheese.

5. Bake until cheese is golden, about 30 minutes.

recipe from The Pink Apron

And what do you do when, even after all that, you still have 50 apples left? Apple butter! Apple butter is so simple, especially when using a crock pot. All it is is cooked-down applesauce. And all applesauce is is cooked down apples! Maybe add a little brown sugar or cinnamon, if that's your thing.

Just let it cook, stirring occasionally, until a wooden spoon can stand up on its own.

Then spread on homemade bread and enjoy.