Archive for the 'gnocchi' Category

11
Jan
11

Salt… – Part 1


As we are on the verge of a blizzard again (starting sometime this afternoon) and since salt will be used to melt the snow, it reminded me that we should look at its various types and their role in cooking. Salt is the oldest known spice, its flavor is versatile, it is a staple of cooks and bakers.

What’s Cooking America describes its uses:

Enhancing almost every dish, salt is added to breads, meats, fruits and vegetables to sauces and desserts.

Additionally, salt aids foods in a variety of ways like:

Preservation – helps protect against microorganisms, bacteria through dehydration and preventing growth of bacteria, which slows or prevents spoilage.

Texture Aid – in bread making, allows the dough to rise by giving helping the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide. In meats it improves tenderness and in cheeses it aids in consistency of the cheese and the hardness of the rind.

Binder – in processed meats it helps retain water which reduces the loss of meat when cooking.

Color Developer – in processed meats it helps obtain the desired color. It also helps create a golden crust for breads.

Fermentation Control – slows and controls the fermentation process in:

  • Pickling
  • Cheese production
  • Sauerkraut production
  • Summer sausage production

The Food Network, talks about the three main types:

Photo from: virtualweberbullet.com

What is the difference between kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt?

For the cook’s purposes, the main difference between salts is in their texture. Table salt’s fine granules dissolve quickly, making it the preferred salt of bakers. Sea salt and kosher salt possess larger, irregular grains that add a delightful crunch and hit of briny flavor when sprinkled on food at the last minute. Generally, savvy cooks prefer kosher salt when cooking, since its coarse texture is easier to take a pinch of when seasoning savory dishes.

Chemically there is little difference between kitchen salts. All are at least 97 1/2 percent sodium chloride. But there are significant differences in the provenance and processing of these salts.

Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits, and includes a small portion of calcium silicate, an anti-caking agent added to prevent clumping. It possesses very fine crystals and a sharp taste. Because of its fine grain a single teaspoon of table salt contains more salt than a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt.

Sea salt is harvested from evaporated seawater and receives little or no processing, leaving intact the minerals from the water it came from. These minerals flavor and color the salt slightly. However, because these salts are usually expensive, it is worth keeping in mind that they lose their unique flavor when cooked or dissolved.

Kosher salt takes its name from its use in the koshering process. It contains no preservatives and can be derived from either seawater or underground sources. Aside from being a great salt to keep within arm’s reach when you are cooking, it is particularly useful in preserving, because its large crystals draw moisture out of meats and other foods more effectively than other salts.

Since lately we’ve talking about cheese, I thought I should post here one of my favorite adapted Foodista pasta recipes, Potato Gnocchi with Walnut Sauce:

Potato Gnocchi with Walnut Sauce (Photo from: foodista.com)

Gnocchi Di Patate Con Salsa Di Noci (adapted)

Ingredients

  • 7 ozs walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 handful parsley leaves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch cracked black pepper
  • 1 dinner roll or slice of bread, crust removed
  • 1 cup milk
  • olive oil
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored yogurt
  • cream or half and half

Directions

  1. Put 7 ozs of walnuts, a clove of garlic a handful of parsley, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper in a food processor. Process until you have a rough paste. Then add a dinner roll or thick slice of bread, with the crust removed, soaked in milk and squeezed dry, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and tablespoon of unflavored yogurt. Start processing and, as the you process, add either milk, cream or ‘half-and-half’ through the funnel until the mixture forms a fairly smooth sauce.
  2. Take your gnocchi and boil them in well salted water until they come to the surface of the water. Transfer them from the water with a slotted spoon into a large bowl, add a generous dollop of the walnut sauce, some more grated cheese and, if you like–although some sources call it heresy–a nut of butter. Mix gently with a spatula, adding a bit of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if need be. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese for those who want it.

I’ve made this a few times and I can assure you it is absolutely delicious!

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!

CS

24
Oct
10

Pizza at Basil


Recently, this blog was chastised on chowhound.com for not having any photos of Basil‘s pizza in either of my reviews of this superb restaurant (here and here), even though its menu offers a full array of mouthwatering pizzas. I had to agree the particular commenter was absolutely right, which gave me the perfect excuse to return to Basil (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777) for the omitted shots. Ahhh, the things we do to keep our readers happy.

This past Thursday I made my way to the restaurant anticipating a superb pie. I entered their doors at 4:00pm to a front room overflowing with early diners, and was directed to the recently opened backroom. It’s a comfortable large room featuring two fireplaces that generate a warm and cozy atmosphere.

In spite of the early hour, there were some people there already. I ordered a Pizza Margherita a la Genovese, it came with home made mozzarella (made in house from  curd), fresh San Marzano tomatoes (most chefs consider these the world’s best for sauce) and pesto.

Pizza Margherita alla Genovese

Extreme closeup of the above...

I accompanied the pizza with a delightful glass of 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja. Made fully from Tempranillo grapes from old vines around the Spanish village of Haro, in La Rioja, this bright ruby red wine paired perfectly with the pizza, totally complementing and enhancing its taste; a marriage made in heaven.

As I finished this superbly made dish, I got to to speak to Basil’s new Italian Executive Chef, Andrea Milazzo.

After graduating from the very exacting culinary school in Alassio, in Italy’s Liguria region on the gulf of Genoa, – Savona Province, Chef Andrea went to work in Montecarlo for world famous Alain Ducasse’s Le Roi Louis XV restaurant at the Hotel de Paris (regularly listed on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List). After a while he left for Munich, Germany, where he operated his own establishment for 8 years.

A few weeks ago he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Basil. When you speak to Chef Andrea, his passion for food becomes all apparent. I asked him what is his main criteria in creating a new dish or a variation of an old classic, his quick response was: “I follow my senses!” To determine how good his senses are, I asked the Chef to prepare me a special dish – regardless of price – that I would take home; even I was unprepared for the resulting masterpiece…

Chef Andrea Milazzo dramatically flambeeing his special dish for The Kosher Scene

He made me Gnudi alla Toscana. Gnudi (nude) are close cousins to gnocchi but more tender. Whereas gnocchi are made from semolina, wheat flour, bread crumbs or potatoes, gnudi are made from Ricotta cheese.

Watching the Chef at work was like being a spectator at a George Balanchine choreographed ballet, the graceful, elegant and precise moves coupled with the facial expressions, all bespoke of truly inspired artistry at its highest levels.

Before starting the preparation of the dish, Chef Andrea had me inspect all the ingredients. Starting with the superbly aromatic in-house made truffle oil (truffles are infused for two weeks into pure Tuscan olive oil, the result is great scent and a very distinctive flavor), the fresh tomatoes, spinach and cheese all combined for a beautiful symphony of taste and aroma, well worth many an encore. Bravo Chef Andrea! Bravissimo!!!

CS

RELATED POSTS

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar

Breakfast at Basil

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?

Basil on Urbanspoon




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