Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

Even though I grew up in an Italian household, I have never been a huge fan of pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I love the filled pastas – tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni, etc. but just regular ‘ol pasta…meh. However, when it comes to gnocchi, I just can’t get enough of it. Maybe that is because I have always loved potatoes, and those soft pillows that just soak in the sauce, have always been irresistible to me.

When I became gluten-free, my pasta options reduced significantly. Pasta is such a quick and easy meal to prepare when you don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen as you would like, and it is so easy to dress up with veggies, meats, cheeses and various sauces. Plus my husband, born and raised in Italy grew up eating it 2 times a day.  Like Roberto always says, you can eat pasta twice a day your whole life and never get bored of it because of all the various ways it can be prepared.  I can’t say I agree, but I do enjoy the convenience of it once in a while. Commercially I can get corn pasta, in two shapes – spaghetti and elbows. That is fine, but sometimes you want something a little different!

(The First Attempt)

For New Year’s Eve 2011, when my step-daughter Gwen was visiting, we decided to try our hand at homemade gnocchi. I made a big mistake and mixed it in the food processor the first time. It turned out kind of gummy, but was still pretty good. We made the gnocchi gluten-free by using potatoes and potato starch. However, for me, the consistency was still too gummy – it wasn’t just the fault of the food processor.

Gwen was visiting again last week and wanted to make gnocchi again, this time instead of the potato starch, I suggested we use gluten-free oat flour. This made the gnocchi much more like I remember – a bit firmer and toothsome. We served it with a tomato sauce that Gwen and Roberto made on New Year’s Eve – it made a lot, so we froze the leftovers.

I also like these gnocchi served with brown butter cream sauce with truffle oil. When Roberto and I were in San Gimignano, in Tuscany, almost 2 years ago, we had the most amazing truffle gnocchi, and since then, I have been dreaming about it. The version we make at home comes pretty darn close!

Tonight we are going to have the leftovers with butter, peas and prosciutto. Like I said, so versatile!

Making homemade gnocchi is very easy and straightforward and much less time consuming than other types of homemade pasta. Since we have made it a few times, we no longer use a recipe, but this is a good starter recipe from Italian: The Definitive Professional Guide to Italian Ingredients and Cooking Techniques, Including 300 Step-by-step Recipes..

A note about the book – this book includes all the Italian classics, and has detailed process pictures as well. Roberto loves this cookbook because everything we have made from it turns out like an Italian in Italy made it.

Gnocchi di Patate


INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs waxy potatoes, scrubbed
1 TBS sea salt
2 – 2 1/2 cups of flour (we use gluten-free oat flour)
2 TBS butter

METHOD:

Place the un-peeled potatoes in a large pot of salted water, Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart. Drain, and peel the potatoes as soon as possible, while they are still hot.

On a work surface spread out a layer of flour. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher directly onto the flour. You can also use a food mill or ricer if you have those.  Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with about half of the remaining flour and mix lightly. Begin to knead the dough, drawing in more flour as you knead.  Keep doing this until the dough is light to the touch, no longer sticky or moist, and can be rolled easily. Do not overwork the dough, or the gnocchi will become too heavy.

Divide the dough into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a snake about ¾ inch thick, and cut the dough into ¾ inch long pieces.  Hold an ordinary table fork, with long tines sideways.  Once by one press and roll the gnocchi onto your thumb, making ridges on one side and a depression from your thumb on the other side.

Bring large pan of salted water to boil. Then drop about ½ the gnocchi in.  When the gnocchi rise to the top, after about 3-4 minutes they are done. Scoop them out, allow them to drain and place in a serving bowl. Dot them with butter.  Keep warm while remaining gnocchi are cooking. AS soon as they are done, stir in with other gnocchi and more butter. Then serve with extra butter and Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce or any other sauce you wish.

Serves 4-6

Let’s Get Cultured! Filmjölk!

I have been making my own yogurt for about two years now and so far filmjölk, a Swedish countertop cultured yogurt is my favorite. There are several reasons why, the first is the absolute breeze it is to make. You don’t need any special equipment. To make your first batch all you need is the bacteria culture, some milk and cream and a clean mason jar. That’s it. It takes just 24 hours to culture and less than 5 minutes to mix up. It really can’t be easier to make artisan, organic yogurt at home for literally a fraction of the price of store-bought yogurt. This is a great example of a product you can make at home for so little cash and effort that you literally can’t afford not to make it yourself.

Another and equally important reason I love it is for the taste. Many people describe filmjölk as yogurt with more of a “cheese-like” flavor. In Norway it is known as kulturmelk – translation, cultured milk. But it is not like American buttermilk; it is thicker and has more of a yogurt taste, although I find it to be sweeter and less sour than yogurt in general. Filmjölk is similar to cultured buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt in consistency, but fermented by different bacterium, Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides, giving it a different taste than other cultured dairy products and giving filmjölk its characteristic consistency – thinner than yogurt, but a bit thicker than buttermilk or kefir.

Forms of filmjölk have probably been around since Viking times, but the first written records of it are from the 18th century.  Still a long history, which makes sense since Northern Europeans, especially Scandinavians have a long history with dairy animals and before refrigeration the need to culture and preserve dairy was a necessity of life.

Due to its non-committal flavor it can be used in a variety of ways from sweet to savory. We usually eat it for dessert with homemade granola. But I also use it as a substitute for sour cream, or even regular cream as a component to a creamy pasta sauce, or on top of beans and rice. If I don’t have any quark about, filmjölk can be used in its place.

In order to make my filmjölk thicker, I add about ½ cup of heavy cream to the full fat milk. Once your first batch it made, you just save some of the filmjölk to make subsequent batches. I usually save about ½ cup from my batches, and mix the subsequent batches in a 24 oz. mason jar using Vermont made Stafford Organic Creamery un-homogenized Creamline milk and heavy cream. I get my filmjölk cultures from Cultures for Health.

Make some today! This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday! Link up and share your tips and recipes for living a simple life.

Homemade Granola

We enjoy dessert almost every night, here on the homestead. The most typical one being homemade yogurt, usually Filmjölk (Swedish counter-top cultured yogurt) with mix-ins. Look for a recipe for Filmjölk coming up later this week. Mix-ins are usually dried or freeze dried fruit, pumpkin puree, nut butters, cocoa nibs and either maple or goat’s milk cajeta stirred in for a little sweetness. Personally I also like a liberal dusting of cinnamon on top!

We also like granola. But good granola can be very expensive, and usually any store-bought granola, even the organic varieties, contain sweeteners and oils that I try to stay away from. So after many months of thinking about making my own, I finally did, and it was awesome!

I looked at several different granola recipes, and settled on this one from Passionate Homemaking, however I did not end up mixing in any extra fruits even though I meant to. I think this calls for a next time! However for my next batch, I am going to use some muesli that I have instead of just plain oats, so that I can get the added crunch and benefit of the seeds and other grains that are in there and then of course add some coconut, which we both love.

This granola was deliciously crunchy and very satisfying and really easy to make!

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups kefir or cultured buttermilk (yogurt often produces a very tart flavor, unless you are skipping the soaking step)
1-2 cups water (use only as much as needed to produce a moist consistency for soaking)
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup (I increased the sweetener just a tad from the original, and I think it was almost perfect – so flex as you desire!)
1 tsp sea salt
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vanilla extract

EXTRAS:
1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or chopped pumpkin seeds (I used the pumpkin seeds!)
1/4 cup minced dried figs (optional)
1 cup nuts (optional) – chopped almonds is wonderful!
1 cup dried apples, chopped

METHOD:

Mix oats with the melted butter and oil, kefir and water in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and/or plate and allow to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours. After the soaking time, preheat the oven to 200° F (93° C).

Place honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla in a glass measuring cup in a small pot of warm water on the stove. Bring water to a gentle simmer, stirring honey mixture, until honey becomes thin.

Combine honey and oat mixtures, mixing to incorporate.

Spread mixture out over two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets (don’t use regular paper – I learned this lesson the hard way!). Bake for 2-4 hours, until granola is dry and crisp. Allow to cool in oven before removing to a container. It will get crisper at it cools. Once cool, add your extras, like dried fruits, etc. Makes 5 quarts of granola.

I also want to take this moment, as a rural homesteader to stand in solidarity with all my Urban Homesteader friends! Today is the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action! Recently the words “Urban Homesteading” were trade-marked by The Dervaes family of Pasadena, California. As you can imagine this action has created quite a stir on the internet by bloggers, writers and websites that also Urban Homestead or have Urban Homesteading as a title for their blog, or books, magazine articles, etc. Since the trademark, the Dervaes family has used their legal rights to have facebook pages taken down, as well as letters sent to bloggers that have also been using the words. Many of us feel that this family has co-opted a movement, and we don’t like it!  So today is a call to action! If you are an Urban Homesteader please share your story on your blog, and show that this is a movement, and not a trademark. Something that has been around even longer than the Dervaes family themselves! To learn more about the events surrounding this call to action, please check out these articles.

The Green Movement Trademarking Controversy

Dervaes Family Trademarks “Urban Homestead” Term: Legal Battle Follows

Chioggia Beet Salad

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Here is a quick but beautiful and romantic salad perfect for your Valentine’s Day celebration or any other romantic occasion. The beauty is in the freshness and color of the ingredients, naturally. Valentine’s Day menus typically focus around red foods, chocolate and other aphrodisiacs.

I don’t think there is anything more tantalizing than a warm beet salad, with creamy goat cheese and cranberry-balsamic compote to get your dinner started off right. The best thing about it is that it is quick so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, instead focusing on more important things!

Chioggia Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Cranberry-Balsamic Compote


INGREDIENTS:
2 giant organic Chioggia beets (the ones I had probably weighed 1 lb each), sliced into ¼ inch rounds
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt, pepper and herbs de Provence to season
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
Handful of fresh organic cranberries
Goat cheese (sheep milk feta would do nicely too) – quantity depends on your taste, but a nice hefty crumble between each layer is good.


METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sliced beets on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning (to your taste). Bake for about 35-40 minutes. You want the beets to be nice and roasted, but still soft.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, place the balsamic, wine and cranberries bring to a boil over medium heat and then lower heat and let simmer until it has reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, layer the beets, goat cheese and compote, in a stack until all has been used up. Serves 4

For dessert, why not try these quick and easy Dark Chocolate Covered StrawberriesSpicy Mayan Hot Cocoa or Raw Chocolate Pudding – each of these recipes take under 10 minutes to make!

Enjoy!

Balmoral Chicken the Delicious Answer to Leftover Haggis

It is a rare occasion, at least in most people’s households, to have leftover haggis. Well I found myself in this position recently after a very successful Burns Supper. Lucky for me, I have some awesome Caledonian friends and fellow bloggers that were able to help me out with this culinary quandary. My good friend Cat, who blogs at Kitty Cat’s Litertray explained to me that there are two popular ways to deal with the problem of leftover haggis – Haggis Pizza and Chicken Balmoral.

Now that I am 100% gluten-free and cannot enjoy my perfected sourdough spelt pizza right now, there has been very little pizza eaten in this house. As I mentioned in that post I have yet to find a delicious GF pizza crust…yet. So haggis pizza was clearly out.

Chicken Balmoral is a delicious dish, and really elevates haggis to a more modern culinary preparation. I actually feel very comfortable in saying that if you didn’t know it contained haggis, you would likely think you were eating a sausage stuffed chicken breast. The oats in the haggis are very creamy, and in this dish ads a bit of a “cheese vibe” to the stuffing. It is really a wonderful modern take on haggis, and I am pretty sure I enjoyed this dish when I was in Scotland many years ago as I was eating as much haggis as I could possibly stuff down my gullet.

Should have been a clue back then, of my Scottish lineage…

Chicken Balmoral is essentially chicken breast stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon – to keep it all together and drizzled with a whiskey cream sauce. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Yes indeed.

I found several recipes online, but this one, including a very helpful and instructional video is the one I followed.

I was in a bit of a rush when I made this, so I kind of winged the whiskey cream sauce. The only whiskey we have in this house are single malt scotches (I would say I am a bit of a budding connoisseur), so I used one of those, some butter, cream, salt and pepper. It was great, and I particularly enjoyed it the next day with the leftovers of this dinner, because I poured it over the leftover stuffed chicken and the neeps and tatties (aka “clapshot” ) the night before and it had the chance to sink in and saturate everything.

I am really enjoying my exploration into Scottish culture and history through the foods of that beautiful place in the world. I have found a lot of lovely dishes that are unique and tasty. I imagine this theme will continue on for quite a while!

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty!)

Let’s Get Cultured! Quark!

Quark is my new obsession. Even the name is fun to say! It is a fresh cheese traditionally made in Germany, which makes this another exploration into the foods of my ancestors (last week I was exploring my Scottish heritage with a traditional Burns Supper ).

Quark is one of the the oldest cheeses in Europe and has been enjoyed by Germanic people since at least the first century CE, when Roman author Tacitus described it in his writings. Tacitus kind of makes my blood boil, but I do like to imagine the Barbarian hoards sweeping through Europe with quark in their saddlebags. But what can I say, our little family are just berserkers at heart. Cheese, Barbarians…I am really starting to appreciate this lineage.

Back to the cheese: Quark comes in three types – a lower fat version called Magerquark, which can be used much in the same way as yogurt and viewed as a health food in Germany and Austria, a full fat version with added cream called Sahnequark or “cream quark” that is typically a base for a variety of many delicious desserts and then regular quark made with whole milk.

I first tasted quark a few months ago when I saw it at the store produced by Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. and quickly found many delicious uses for it. It is a bit pricey at almost $4 for a small tub. Once I realized this was going to be a staple for me, I decided to consult my favorite cheese making book, Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses to see if there was a recipe. To my delight I found a recipe on page 99, and discovered how easy it was to make using a buttermilk culture. A word about the book, if you are at all into making cultured dairy products, and don’t have this book, you should get it. For under $10 it is a real treasure trove of fantastic recipes, from really really easy, to artisanal and the instructions are very down to earth.

Be warned one recipe makes a lot of quark – so you want to make sure you have some ideas of what to do with it once it is made. I tried my hand at a no-bake cheesecake using agar-agar to create the right texture but it didn’t congeal and so I put it in the freezer and tonight we will have frozen quark cheesecake for dessert. I will keep working on a recipe though and post it once it has been perfected.

This is a very versatile cheese – you can use it like sour cream or yogurt. I like to put a dollop on homemade nachos, or add on top of a steaming bowl of beans and rice or tomato soup. For the sweet tooth, you can swirl with raw honey or maple syrup or fruit for a nice and satisfying dessert and I am sure it would be a good ingredient in a variety of cakes, muffins, pancakes and breads. This is an ingredient I will be experimenting with a lot now that we have it in such abundance.

I chose to make the full fat, cream added version of quark, and the texture is wonderfully creamy.
SAHNEQUARK INGREDIENTS:
1 gallon creamline milk
1 packet direct-set buttermilk starter
2-3 TBS heavy cream

METHOD:
Heat the milk to 88F, add the starter and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours or until set*
Ladle the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and drain overnight (with the colander still underneath). If the quark is too dry the next day add a few more TBS of cream to the finished cheese. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Makes 1-1/2 lbs of fresh quark.

*if you live in a colder climate or prepare this during winter be prepared to wait longer for the curds to thicken and develop. You basically want it to look like runny yogurt before moving on to the next steps.

This post is part of  Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop!