The squirrels are eating my garden. I finally get all of herbs and flowers acclimated to being outside and am able to leave them out full time, wake up the next day and my sunflowers are missing their heads, my rosemary has shriveled down to little stems poking through the soil, my zinnias resemble matchsticks more than lovely little blossoms waiting to show their glory….
…I hate squirrels. The only plant they seem to dislike – or perhaps they left that one behind for me to use, knowing how much I love it – is my basil. I still have a nice bunch of basil and the only one eating those leaves is me!
Needless to say perhaps, but basil has been a major player in most of my cooking these days. So Italian has become prominent. This weeks Sunday became more important when our dinner guests – one of my best friends Shane and her boyfriend Mike – informed us that they will be moving back to the West coast….in JULY! Talk about shock!
With a hint of sadness, but also excitement for new beginnings, Shane and I prepared fresh Gnocchi (gluten-free) – a feat neither of us had attempted before and were surprised at how simple it really is.
For the Gnocchi:
2 lbs whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
¾ cup white rice flour
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca flour
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake the potatoes – slice into them or poke with a fork to vent. I stuck them into a muffin tin to prevent from rolling – and my cookie sheet was dirty… when your fork poke in easily and pulls out easily them taters is ready!
Scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl (you can mash the potatoes by hand and fluff them up a bit with a fork if you don’t have a potato rice – this way will make them more dense and less pillowy.) Don’t burn yourself, but it’s easier/better to use them warm.
Add the flours, yolks and a pinch of salt. Mix everything until a ball can be formed – don’t over mix! Form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes, this lets it come together and rest before working with the dough.
Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Grab a small handful of dough and roll it out gently with your hands – you want ‘snakes’ a little more than half an inch thick.
Cut the snakes of dough into pieces about one inch long, they’ll resemble little thumbs. Gently push a finger into the middle of each gnocchi and place on a parchment-lined surface/plate/tray.
To Cook the Gnocchi:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently drop the gnocchi, a few at a time, into the water. As soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, draining well. Transfer them directly into your sauce. Toss in the sauce and sprinkle the fresh basil (damn squirrels) over the top. And eat!
Yet again as a sauce I used my roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic, and smushed them to further release the juices and create more of a sauce.
Dump six pints of cherry tomatoes into a
pan – or multiple pans as there should only be one layer of tomatoes,
otherwise they don’t roast properly. Peel two heads of garlic and cut
each piece in half. Push each
piece of garlic down into the tomatoes, generously pour olive oil over
the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the 400′ F oven.
These take about 20-25 minutes. You want the tomatoes to pop and release
their juices and have the juices almost start to burn, the tomatoes
should just start take on a nice char. Transfer to a bowl and smash with a fork.
For the green section of this meal I made a cucumber salad with peas, mint, chili, lemon, and feta cheese. Fresh and Summery this ”salad” was a crowd pleaser – even Paul liked it, and he hates peas!
Cucumber with Minted Peas:
Two Cucumbers – hothouse would probably work, but I used regular
1 bag of Frozen Peas – thawed in a bowl of hot water
1 generous handful of Fresh Mint – cut into ribbons
1 Lemon – just the juice
1/3 cup of feta – the solid kind and crumble it yourself
½ Green Serrano Chili – minced
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Peel the cucumbers and cut off the ends. Using either a veggie peeler or a mandolin shave the cucumber lengthwise into wide ribbons. Drain the peas and add to the cucumber ribbons. Add all but the cheese and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Add the feta just before serving.
Of course after eating something so overtly green you need to have a little something sweet. and finally having a good amount of time to get things done left me with enough time to make some dessert.
Cookies. Loaded Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies to be precise. Gluten-free. Sweet. Salty. Chewy. Crunchy. Amazing.
These cookies were an experiment. An adaptation of my Grandma’s double chocolate oatmeal cookies – which are also amazing, but completely different.
Loaded Oatmeal Cookies:
The Basic Batter:
1 cup gluten-free Oat Flour
1 stick of Butter – room temperature
½ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup White Sugar
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Coarse Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 cup gluten-free rolled Oats
¾ cup Chocolate Chips
¾ cup Pecans
¾ cup Dried Currents
¾ cup Dried Tart Cherries – tart cherries are clutch in this one
1) Preheat the oven to 350’ (f)
2) Whip Butter
3) Add sugar and vanilla- cream into butter
4) Add egg to mixture
5) Separate bowl- combine flour soda salt cinnamon
6) Slowly add flour mix to butter mix
7) Stir in oats, and the adjustables – these are the ingredients to play with, i.e. different fruit, nuts, or whatever you think would work (I have a plan to try an oatmeal chocolate bacon cookie)
8) Cover the batter and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes – especially if it’s warm in your kitchen, this is really important. Form into 1-1 1/2’’ balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheets leaving about 3’’ between cookies. Gently press each ball into the sheet to prevent rolling as they begin to cook.
9) Bake on parchment just till edges are brown – approx 5-8 minutes* – the middle will look a little undercooked, not raw, but a finger poke will not show a firm cookie.
10) Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before moving. They need this time to solidify and almost dry out so that they don’t crumble when you pick them up.
*I’ve noticed that these cookies may take longer depending on the humidity. This week was very humid and the cookies took more like 12 minutes per batch.
Baking isn’t really my forte, which is why I love these cookies. You almost can’t mess them up!
If I had to give this week a theme it would be something along the lines of ‘simple ingredients plus a little extra love/effort equals a whole lotta goodness’. Or something a bit more eloquent….’shrug’ you know what I mean.
Until next week.