I’m gonna gnocchi you out

I seem to be on a veritable roll this week with keeping this blog updated.  Go me for being either productive or not productive enough.  Das macht nichts (go on..you know you wanna look it up.  It means neither this/that doesn’t matter..My papa says it TONS!!!).  Whilst registering for the upcoming wedding I had made a mental reminder to ask for a gnocchi board because its insanely tedious to roll those little buggers out and then get the ridges with the back of a fork. And it reminded me that crap it’s Wednesday.  My normal dining partner had other plans and I had nothing to make for dinner.  Thank the Gods that the little corner store by my house has probably the most random things for sale.  Gustine’s Market.  If you’re a St. Louis resident that lives in South City I recommend you stop in and get a sample of wine and a Serendipity drumstick from the freezer section.  It’s amazing.  Plus the people are rather friendly so that’s a perk.

I never normally know ahead of time what I want for dinner when it’s just me cooking for myself. I’m perfectly content with cutting open an avocado and eating that for dinner; however my husband Kyle gets rather miffed if he realizes that I didn’t eat something that had some form of protein.  So when I got home I made a quick detour to Gustine’s Market and wandered the small tiny store and stumbled across the frozen gnocchi.  Now normally I make my own but with it being already 6 pm and me having not really the motivation to make homemade pasta I opted to go with one at least made locally.  Maria & Son’s.  I’m not ashamed.  Hey I’m pretty sure Gordan Ramsey at one point in his career has opted for something made by someone else in the name of saving time.  Don’t you shame me!

So off I go home with my tiny bag of perfectly rolled, frozen potato dumplings when I catch a whiff of what the neighbors were cooking.  I love my neighborhood.  It’s so…aromatic.  Coconut, cumin, curry powder.  Mmmmm Thai food and as we all know I am a sucker for a good Thai dish. And if you didn’t know, you know now.  Curry, gnocchi, I knew damn well I had sugar snap peas in my garden as well as some mushrooms and a ton of fresh basil.  The only question was, did I have all the ingredients to make my own curry slurry.  More then likely yes but did I want to take the time to make one from scratch?  Eeeeeeh Wednesday night, worked 12 hours at my primary job the answer to that was a no so this was a quick no fuss no muss idea.  And the results were awesome.

image000001Now I’ll never be one of this individuals that just use a pre made mix as is.  I always feel that it can be more of a “homemade” dish if you doctor it up some and while I was going to use a pre made curry paste the aromatics would be all me.  Now when a recipe calls for say 2 cloves of garlic minced I take that as a “suggestion” and always double it.  Never be stingy on the garlic as it is your friend.  So to my pre made paste I added my own aromatics.  Sweated the paste off with some onion till fragrant and then added the curry paste (red) and toasting it off.  I find toasting the paste adds an additional depth of flavor.  Kind of like when you toast tomato paste.  It helps deepen and concentrate the flavors, plus as I’ve gotten older I find I need bolder flavors in order to really appreciate my food.  More spice to counter balance the fact my taste buds over the course of the years have committed ritual seppuku to the God of Time.  Toss in some coconut milk and whatever vegetables you want and let them bubble away on low till your pasta/rice/chicken/whatever else you’re pairing it is with is cooked.  If you are going to use root vegetables I recommend parboiling them first or you will be waiting for a while for them to get soft and nothing says “this is….tasty o.0” like biting into a hard chunk of potato..Mmmmmm starchy..yeah no.  Sadly though albeit normal for me, by the time dinner was done cooking I wasn’t hungry but hey at least I have lunch for tomorrow (now today cause I’m a Time Lord and I can bend space

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Now for the meat…or rather meatless portion of the post.  The actual recipe.  I kind of made it up as I went along but here’s the gist of it.  You will need the following for a serving for two individuals.

  • 5 cloves garlic crushed and rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon grass
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thai chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriender
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white/yellow onion sliced thin and diced\
  • 2 tablespoons pre made curry paste (I use Mai Ploy-Massaman Curry Paste)
  • 12 oz coconut milk (milk not cream..dont make the same mistake I’ve made…before)
  • vegetable add ins:  I used baby bellas and peas 
  • pasta/gnocchi/whatever you are doing this with
  • chopped fresh basil

Take all ingredients and place into a mortar and pestle and pound away whilst thinking about that person who spurned you back when you were younger.  Or the fact that you’re favorite sportsball team isn’t doing well this season.  Goooo Sportsball!.  If you do not have a mortar and pestle whirl it away in a food processor/magic bullet/ninja/etc. Place in a small dish and put it to the side to allow it to rest.

In a medium sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute onions.  We want to achieve a little bit of the Maillard reaction (browning) to allow the inherent sweetness of the vegetable to show up.  This also allows the enzymes and amino acids found in the onion to change at the molecular level as to help stave off any potential threat of turning the garlic in the aromatics a blue green.  This occurs because of a chemical reaction between the enzymes/amino acids and the acidity in the garlic when the two items meet and mingle.  FOR SCIENCE!!!!.  Once you’ve achieved the desired level of browning add your aromatics and let them mingle until they become fragrant.  This should take only about 1 minute.  Any longer and you run the risk of burning your garlic and that can provide a rather acrid note to the dish.

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This is listed as a spicy curry paste so if your tastes are more mellow and calm you can by all means use the green curry paste or yellow.  This is all based off your personal preference.  I like spicy food but I am not biased in any sense of the word.  Add in your curry paste and allow it to toast.  How do you know if it’s toasting?  It will take on a deeper darker hue of red.  This only takes about a minute and a half max and you want to watch it to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Switch your spatula for a whisk and incorporate your coconut milk into your paste.  Add your mushrooms and let simmer on a medium low while you prepare your pasta/rice.  If it becomes to thin by all means thin with a little vegetable stock or even some white wine, water, a little more coconut milk or some half and half.  Add your peas at the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Nothing worse then mushy peas.  Top with fresh chopped basil and serve in warmed bowls

There ya go.  Total time depending on what you’re having with it no more then an hour if doing chicken or less then 25 if doing pasta with shrimp.  I opted to keep this a vegetarian dish but did have poached shrimp on the side for my protein.  Not to shabby for a Wednesday and goes to show that premade doesn’t always have to be boring as long as you add your own little twist to it.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Inside the pages of the Gastronomicon-Warm Mushroom Salad

With spring upon us and the ebbing cold weather our grocery stores are seeing the arrivals of the first spring harvest of vegetables.  This is an opportune time to indulge in a post winter fat gaining cleanse and clean out our stomachs, our arteries and our bowels.  I myself am extremely excited at the notion that this year is my first year at attempting urban farming.  Living in the heart of the St Louis it is difficult to locate a space large enough to plant a small vegetable garden.  I am lucky enough to live next to my parents who have a back yard that is just perfect for a small garden bed.  Plus with the abundant excess of milk crates found at local gas stations, grocery stores and flea markets I also am able to do small scale container planting on my own back porch.

It seems that every spring I have a tendency to shake off the shackles of MEAT!!! and don the garbs of vegetarianism.  I dont know exactly what it is about spring that just makes me want to enjoy a plate of greens over a burger.  More then likely its the impending onset of summer and having  lived in a non AC apartment for the majority of my adult life the idea of a hot kitchen is not appealing.  This year will be no different even though I now have central air and an apartment that keeps cool I still wont want to spend any extended amounts of time in the kitchen.  So to the veggies I go with the gusto and reverberant joy of a squirrel to horde away for the next six to seven months the bounty of my garden and the local farmers markets.

One of the things about eating vegetarian is having enough of a variety to ensure that you are maintaining your nutritional needs each day.  That means vitamins, proteins and minerals OH MY!!!!  One thing I struggled with initially during my 3 year stint as a vegetarian following my bariatric surgery was protein.  I never seemed to get enough protein.  I also wasn’t as adventurous with my cooking so my diet was rather limited.  Now, the second time around I have read up and resourced more in depth what is need to one ensure i don’t become malnourished and 2 that I don’t hit any stalls with weight loss due to protein deficiency.  So before venturing into the world of vegetarianism please consult a registered dietician to ensure that you are not causing harm to yourself as you start your path to a healthier meat free/reduced meat diet.

Warm Mushroom Salad with mixed Greens 

This is a simple herbaceous salad that offers amazing mouth feel to those who are just starting out on the veggie brick road.  Mushrooms are often called the steaks of the fungus world because they offer enough of textural difference and “meaty” taste that they can often be subbed out in many of your meat recipes like stroganoff, sloppy joes, meatloaf, burgers.  The one thing I enjoy most about mushrooms are the fact that they are high in minerals.  One such important nutrient is selenium. While meat, seafood, grains, and nuts have excellent levels of the mineral, mushrooms are the only produce that have high levels of it, so they are especially important to include in your diet if you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. I.e they are good eats and should be considered a stable in your diet plan. Now to the recipe which hey is the main reason why you are here right?

  • 8-10 oz your choice mushrooms {with the exception of white button mushrooms.  Think shiitake, portobello, oyster.  The meatier the better)
  • 1/2 diced white/yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced to a paste
  • greens: can be any lettuce, dark green, leafy green you want!
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons favorite crumbled cheese (feta, goat, bleu, etc.) or shaved Parmesan 
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • croustini (optional)
  • prosciutto (optional)

In a medium sized fry skillet heat on medium heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  We are going to dismiss the myth that the addition of olive oil will help increase the smoke factor of butter.  Rubbish.  Regardless of the addition of oil at 375 degrees evaporation of water in the butter occurs causing the release of butter fats and milk proteins which can cause smoking.  The addition of oil personally just imparts an additional depth of flavor.  You can choose to omit this if necessary.  Once butter is melted and foaming add your mushrooms and onion and toss to coat.  Allow this to sweat for around 5 minutes until onions start to become translucent in color and then add 1 teaspoon of salt.  We don’t necessarily want to saute the vegetables as we dont want to impart any additional coloring. Then add the garlic paste and gently fold in.  Once you begin to smell garlic allow to sweat for an additional minute while you make your dressing.

In a medium non-reactive bowl (preferably glass) add your lemon juice (fresh squeezed preferably-juice those yellow orbs of love!!!!) and your salt and pepper and then slowly whisk in your olive oil to create an emulsion, or you can place it all in a jar, seal and shake the fuck out of it!!!! Work out those frustrations plus your biceps at the same time 🙂  In a separate bowl add your greens, micro greens, dandelion leaves and slowly pour the dressing along the circumference of the bowl.  This allows the ability to allow the dressing to go to the bottom of the bowl giving you the opportunity to gently coat your greens.  We don’t want them swimming in dressing so be gentle with this.  Once dressed sprinkle with another teaspoon of sea salt and cracked black pepper before transferring to serving dishes.

Divide your greens into two bowls and top with your mushrooms.  At this point you will add whatever cheese you like or if you are wanting to add an additional protein, thin slices of prosciutto.  I enjoy a chèvre (goat cheese) with mine but it’s your personal preference.  Pair it up with a couple slices of toasted croustini rubbed with raw garlic and enjoy.  This dish can be served as the salad course or the main entree and can be paired with your choice of white wine either dry or sweet or paired with a rose.

One of the interesting experiences I had with this salad was that before I was able to enjoy it I smelled beef stroganoff.  It was the most surreal thing and the meatiness of the oyster mushrooms satisfied the craving I had for beef.  I hope you enjoy making this and eating it with your family as I did 🙂