Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge #1 Ricotta Gnocchi

I'm really excited to be getting in on the ground floor of the newly formed Daring Cooks group! It's a spin off of the Daring Bakers who have a monthly baking challenge. Imagine all of the fun stuff I will get to cook and I won't miss a single opportunity to challenge myself to try new and exciting dishes. First up is definitely one I've never tried or even eaten! ~Ricotta Gnocchi~ I barely know how to pronounce it. Thank goodness for a recent Olive Garden commercial where the waiter serves up some Gnocchi soup. Even Randy learned how to pronounce it!! I did have the opportunity to visit Italy during my college years...but being on a college student's budget I didn't really get to venture too far into the gastronomic arena. Lots of bread and salami and maybe some pizza thrown in. I do recall an exceptional grilled cheese type sandwich I had in Venice. So Gnocchi was no where on my menu and I really don't recall ever seeing it on the menu at the Italian restaurants I ate at growing up. But now it seems I hear about it everywhere! Even Olive Garden commercials. :-) So high time I give it a try. I have bought and tried the potato version recently, but homemade and ricotta....definitely not.

I've been thinking about this gnocchi since first reading what the challenge would be, but let the date creep up on me. I stayed home sick today...terrible cold! So I was hoping and praying I had all of the ingredients. Survey of the fridge told me that I was one very essential ingredient short. The ricotta I had was well past its use by in the trash it went. In the forums where the Daring Cook challenge is posted there were a few homemade ricotta recipes that people had shared and they looked easy enough so I figured I'd give it a try. I used this recipe with very good success and I promise you it won't be the last time I make homemade ricotta. So I really got two challenges in one!

Fresh, Homemade Ricotta

From Gourmet, April 2006

1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Separately, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl. Measure out the lemon juice and set it aside.

Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent scalding. Once the mixture has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently with the spatula — quickly, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, turning down the heat slightly so it stays at a simmer but doesn’t reach a hard, rolling boil. Stir with the spatula after about 1 minute, then let it sit another minute until it looks like most of the liquid has separated into curds and whey.

Drain the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl, and let it drain at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.

I wish I had a picture of the cheese itself, but I was pretty anxious to get the main recipe started and forgot to get my camera out. This produced a pretty dry cheese..which is a good thing when using in a gnocchi recipe. I drained it for probably 2 hours tops.

The main recipe was chosen by Creampuff and it comes from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. WhenI printed it out, it was 5 pages long..very detailed and with pictures. So I'm not going to copy the whole thing here. I will give you the Reader's Digest condensed version with my additions. You can check out the original on Creampuff's blog. I halved the original recipe because the ricotta only made 1 cup and I didn't think to double it.

Garlic Chive Ricotta Gnocchi with Oyster Mushroom Browned Butter Sauce
Printable Recipe

For the gnocchi:

1/2 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (1 cups)
1 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
3 garlic chives, snipped into very small pieces
lemon zest, a couple of pinches
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated (I ended up using shredded because it's what I had)-although I halved the recipe I left this in it's original amount.
¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt), pepper
2-3 Tablespoons flour
More flour for forming the gnocchi

For the sauce:

1-2 cups roughly chopped oyster mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste

Step 1: Drain your ricotta in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or coffee filters like I used. Very wet ricottas should be drained over night. My ricotta was dry and only required 2 hours but apparently wet ricotta can be the doom of ricotta gnocchi, so heed this warning.

Step 2: Making the dough
To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon. As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible. I did push mine through a strainer. Add the lightly beaten egg to the mashed ricotta. Melt the tablespoon of butter and add it to the ricotta mixture along with. Add in lemon zest, garlic chives, parmesan, salt and pepper. Beat all the ingredients together very well. At this point I added a small amount of flour (2-3 Tablespoons) based on comments I'd read regarding other's experience with the recipe. You want the dough to be slighty sticky but not wet.

Step 3: Forming the Gnocchi
After watching a video on making gnocchi I chose a method where you roll the dough into logs then cut your pieces rather than forming one at a time using a small bit of the dough.

I then made light fork marks in each piece (don't mash) so that the sauce had something to rest in. You can also make a slight indention with your finger to make a little bowl.

Lay the pieces in a shallow layer of flour

Step 4: Cooking the Gnocchi and Sauce

At this point you should be prepared to eat soon (or refrigerate or freeze the gnocchi)! Coordinate so that your sauce is ready when the gnocchi come out of the water. For the sauce, brown butter and garlic in skillet then add mushrooms and cook down until mushrooms are beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a separate bowl but don't clean skillet. For the gnocchi, bring a large pot filled with water to boil. Drop the gnocchi one by one in the water. Once they float to the top cook them for 3-5 minutes. You may have to bump them off the bottom of the pot. As the gnocchi were done I added them to the hot skillet with a slotted spoon and quickly browned them. I served them with the mushrooms mixture on top and added more chives for a little color.

I'm not 100% sure, since I've never eaten them anywhere else, but I think these came out very good. Soft and fluffy...little pillows which is what their names means in Italian. It was a very nice thing to eat on a day when I felt very flo ho..comforting and warm. Plus it actually cooked up very very quickly. I can imagine if you had to cook for lots of people this could be a much longer process with all those tiny little balls. But still worth it!!

If you're interested in joining in on these fun challenges go check out the Daring Kitchen here for more information!

These days there is always something new happening in my yard. So I can't let the opportunity pass without sharing a little bouquet.

Unknown clematis

Store bought dahlia

Himalayan Blue Poppy (my second but probably not my last try with one of these!)

Yummy smelling Lilacs


Jayne said...

Suzy, great job on the gnocchi! Something I've wanted to try to make. And you even made the ricotta. Very impressive. Always love your garden shots!

Cynthia said...

Oh Suzy, the Himalayan Blue Poppy is so unique and gorgeous. I can see why it won't be the last . Love the dahlia ... And I can't pass a lilac bush without becoming nostalgic. Definitely the fragrance brings back lots of wonderful memories.

You did well... the ricotta gnocchi looks delicious and how impressive you even made your own ricotta. Good job.... glad you've joined the Daring Cooks ... gives us a chance to see lots of new recipes from you.

Audax said...

Beautiful work and good to hear that they were little clouds of yummmm (which thought so too). Great effort and very nice picture I like how you did the gnochhi much easier than the way suggested. Cheers from Audax in Australia

Anonymous said...

First off, I love the flavors. Secondly, I love how you used a fork to flatten and add texture to them without the old 'role over the fork' method. So creative and they look lovely and delicious!

Audax said...

Yes the fried lime infused gnocchi was very much like ricotta pancakes just very very small and lots more crisp. Thanks for the nice comments on my blog!

Anula said...

Your mix of tastes is great! and the gnocchi look so nice and neat :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Excellent job making gnocchi for the first time! Kudos on making you own ricotta too!

You sauce looks equally impressive too.
I love the blue poppy! What beautiful flowers!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful gnocchi! You've chosen an interesting way of forming the gnocchi. Well done and congratulations!

Cheri said...

I love that you put chives and lemon zest in your Gnocchi! It sounds so refreshing!

LegalAlien said...

Very nice decor, and beautiful flowers!

Christie's Corner said...

Came to comment on the gnocchi, got distracted by the blue poppy.... I'm in awe.

Love that you made your own ricotta. This seems to be the key. I must try making my own cheese, but if I do, I'm not sure I'll use it in gnocchi.

Margie said...

Your blog is beautiful and matches the color of your gnocchi with mushroom sauce on green plate perfectly. The mushroom sauce sounds fabulous, wish I thought of it. Also wish my garden looked like yours. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Barbara Bakes said...

I debated whether or not to make logs and create a design with a fork, but I chickened out. Great job!

Anonymous said...

This sauce sounds so delicious!

Dishesdone said...

You are a great daring cook :) the gnocchi looks delicious! and the flowers are beautiful! I can just smell those lilacs! Mine are here, too! Love this time of year! Especially your garden, such pretty flowers you always have!

Anonymous said...

Love the flavours you picked. Chives and lemon's both brilliant and wonderfully inspired, especially with the mushrooms.

Eat My Cake Now said...

Excellent idea with chives and lemon, this must be absolutely delicious! Great job!

Kathleen said...

A Daring's great!
And that gnocchi looks delicious..I haven't made it in a long time..and I love how you made your own ricotta! All this and sick to boot...
I want to try this!
Feel better, Suzy!

MaryMary said...

Oyster mushrooms...genius! And I'm so impressed with everyone who made their own ricotta--very ambitious. Looks fabulous!

Olga said...

great flower photos. Those lilacs look awesome.

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