Gnudi = Nude Morsels?

November 29, 2016

I was there to see beautiful naked women. So was everybody else. It is a common failing.
~Robert Heinlein

Well, it appears the title says all because gnudi are simply translated from the Italian language into nudity. (The word means just how it sounds in English — naked “pasta.”) Really, need one say more as you cavort about in nakedness together and then prep, serve, and gorge on fine fodder and perhaps have some quaff alongside. Sounds like a sublime day/evening.

Unlike their dumpling cousins gnocchi, gnudi are not made with potatoes, but with ricotta and semolina fused/buried overnight to create a more silky dish.

Ingenious, shrewd, perhaps sublimely lewd (thanks to The Spotted Pig, a gastropub in the West Village, NYC).

Gnudi

1 C fresh ricotta cheese
1 C parmigiano-reggiano, grated+
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolks, local
1 t nutmeg, grated
2 T fresh chives, minced

1/2 C all purpose flour
4 C semolina flour
3 T unsalted butter

12+ sage leaves
Parmgiano-Reggiano, grated
Black pepper, freshly ground
Capers, drained (optional)

Combine the first five (5) ingredients in a glass bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. The mixture should be airy, fluffy.

Fold in the 1/2 C of flour until it is combined with the ricotta mixture, adding more flour by the tablespoon if needed so that the mixture is not too sticky to roll into 1″-2″ or so oblong balls.

Roll the ricotta mixture into balls (dumpling shaped) and place in a glass dish that has 1/4″ of the semolina sprinkled on the bottom. When there is a layer, cover the balls completely with flour and begin another layer by way of wax or parchment paper. Finish by completely burying the ricotta balls in an even layer and transfer to the fridge and leave overnight, so the ricotta fuses with the semolina to form a delicate skin, leaving about 1″ or so between each.

Allow the gnudi to come to room temperature, and prepare the brown butter (otherwise known as beurre noisette). In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. When the butter solids begin to brown and the butter is foamy, add the sage leaves until the mix turns a nutty brown color.

Meanwhile, bring a well salted heavy pot of water to boil. Gently plop the gnudi into the boiling water. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or so. They do not need long to boil at all, then drain with a slotted spoon.

Place a heavy skillet over medium high heat and cook, shaking the pan and gently stirring the gnudi until the butter and pasta water emulsify into a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt.

Transfer gnudi and brown butter to deep bowls. Top with fried sage leaves and drizzle with browned butter. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano-reggiano, ground black pepper and strewn capers. Serve promptly.

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Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
~Oscar Wilde

From last year’s lucre alone, the often indifferent rich could have paid to feed the world’s famished, sometimes starving, children by some 160 times. In simple terms, they could flat eradicate poverty without pain, save relinquishing another yacht or vacation home.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the world’s wealthiest cumulatively grew $524 B richer last year. At the same time, hourly wages for most Americans are not growing much faster than the rate of inflation.

To add some more fat to the fire, consider that wages adjusted by inflation of nonsupervisory workers in the retail trade have fallen almost 30% since the early 70’s; while the national minimum wage was raised a few years ago, it is still seriously meager by historical standards, having consistently lagged well behind both inflation and average remuneration levels; since the late 70’s real wages for the bottom half of the work force have stagnated or fallen, while the incomes of the top 1 percent have nearly quadrupled; hiking the minimum wage has little or no adverse effect on employment, while significantly increasing workers’ earnings; the wage and benefit discrepancies and wealth inequalities between CEOs and workers are simply astonishing now; in the wealthiest nation on earth, many workers are still mired in poverty; the bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation adjusted wages since the early 70’s; in no state in this vast country can a minimum wage worker afford a two bedroom apartment working 40 hours per week. For shame.

Happy New Year. Oh, and a simple dip below.

RADICCHIO CON RICOTTA E GORGONZOLA

1 C whole milk ricotta
1/2 C gorgonzola
1/3 C parmigiano reggiano, grated
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
2 t fresh lemon juice
2 t thyme leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head treviso radicchio and/or endive, leaves separated
Thyme leaves, for garnish

In a glass bowl, stir together ricotta, gorgonzola, parmigiano reggiano, fennel, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with thyme leaves. Serve with radicchio and/or endive.

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary. ~William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?
~Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

This post is not intended to be overly didactic or pontific. That capricious punctuation mark that separates words large and small, the comma, does not lend itself to such stringencies. Commas have been used since ancient times, but the modern comma descended from a revered Italian printer, Aldus Manutius (1449-1515). He also laid claim to italic typeface and the ever underutilized semicolon. Before the comma, the oblique virgule (/) — still the French term for comma — denoted a natural pause in speech. While committing Greek masterpieces to type, Manutius dropped this inclined slash lower relative to the text lines and crafted a distinct dot with a gentle metaphorical curve tailing down to the left. The new mark acquired the name comma, a word derived from the Greek komma (κόμμα) which means “to cut off.”

Always adaptive and even idiosyncratic, textual rules have been historically lax for commas. Over time, comma protocol became more codified and emphasized consistency over tonality. For instance, commas have been used to separate independent clauses when a conjunction (e.g., and, but, or) is used in a compound sentence. With appositives and parenthetical phrases, commas are crucial. Serial commas have also been used to separate listed items before the word “and” in a sentence. While some grammarians have insisted upon a squiggle there, others have not.

How punctuation rules have changed over time sometimes appears a matter of whimsy. In recent years, rules of thumb seem to be fading and a more laissez-faire approach has returned. More rules tend to be broken than followed in modern prose. Commas are again being inserted by ear and seem more attuned to individual style and meter. When in doubt, sound it out and listen for natural pauses and rhythms.

This recipe aims to gently kindle the hsien, those altruistic souls who promote munificence. The givers, not always the financial ones though. I have a hunch they love pancakes (and openly dislike or feign subservience to Trumpsters, otherwise known as takers).

Homey stuff.

RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH MEYER LEMONS & BLUEBERRIES

2 C all purpose flour
3/4 C sugar
Small pinch of sea salt
1 t baking powder

4 egg yolks
1 C+ ricotta cheese
3/4 C whole milk
2 Meyer lemons, juiced
1 Meyer lemon, zested

4 egg whites
Pinch of sea salt

Butter
1 pint fresh blueberries

Pure maple syrup

Sift together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the egg yolks, ricotta, milk and lemon zest and juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir/fold until combined.

In another bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture, so the pancakes will be light and fluffy.

Preheat griddle or sauté pan.

Melt butter onto the preheated griddle, then spoon or ladle the batter onto the prepared griddle to desired size. When the pancake top shows bubbles and then holes, it is ready to flip. Sprinkle each pancake with a few blueberries and press down lightly. Then, flip the cakes and cook until the bottom is golden as well.

Serve on plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

Scrambled Eggs — An Art?

February 14, 2009

A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.
~Samuel Butler

So often we see abused plates of scrambled eggs—overcooked, hard, lumpy, devoid of life. Mastering simple scrambled eggs is more difficult than it may seem. I have even heard some chefs remark that they occasionally test new cooks by watching them prepare a plate of scrambled eggs. The perfect scrambled egg is a rare dish demanding a gentle, slow and low cooking process. The end product is all about texture.

Do not overwhip, but you must impart air to the eggs so they will be fluffy. The air bubbles in the liquid become coated with protein and the molecules uncoil (denature). When whisking, tilt the bowl so the whisk moves diagonally across the plane—the eggs should be well mixed, but not overly frothy. Overwhipping can unravel the protein molecules in the eggs.

According the venerable James Beard, using liberal amounts of butter is crucial. Also lodged somewhere in the recesses of my hippocampus is a chef’s hint that a very, very small pinch of cayenne pepper can “wake up” the eggs. As with such obscured memories, I do not remember the source of that truc.

It is essential to use low, gentle heat when cooking eggs, as egg protein begins to thicken at only 144°F, which allows them to toughen rapidly.  So, create tiny curds.

When the eggs are soft and shiny, remove from heat before they are too set as they will continue cooking. Remember the adage…“when eggs are done in the pan, they are overdone on the plate.”

SCRAMBLED EGGS

3-4 T butter
3 T cream cheese
6 fresh, organic, free range eggs, meaning the hens are raised on pastureland
1 T crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Small pinch of cayenne pepper, dried
Small pinch of white pepper, dried
Small pinches of herbes de provence and thyme, dried

Melt the butter and cream cheese in a heavy non-stick skillet. Combine the eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, herbes de provence and thyme and a dollop of crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream in a glass bowl and whisk briskly — just until the yolks and whites are combined.

Pour into the non-stick skillet, with the heat on low. With a wooden spatula, gently stir the egg mixture, lifting it up and over from the bottom as it thickens. Stir away from the sides and bottom of the pan toward the middle. Continue to stir until the desired texture (a mass of soft curds) is achieved. They thicken, dry out and toughen very quickly toward the end, so if you like them soft, fluffy and moist, remove them from the heat a little before they reach the desired texture—they will continue to cook after being removed from both the stovetop and the pan.

Pourboires:
Also known as the egg white, albumen accounts for about 2/3 of an egg’s liquid weight. It contains more than half the egg’s total protein, niacin, riboflavin, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur. The albumen consists of 4 alternating layers of differing consistencies. Egg white tends to thin out as an egg ages because its protein changes in character which is why fresh eggs sit up tall and firm in the pan while older ones tend to spread out.

Scrambled eggs have many faces, allowing for a variety of permutations and combinations with other ingredients. Consider adding cooked proscuitto, serrano ham or pancetta, chives, sliced sauteed mushrooms, diced sauteed chicken livers, ricotta cheese, goat cheese, barely wilted spinach, fresh tarragon or other herbs…the possibilities seem endless.

Finally, for an even creamier version, try 5 whole eggs coupled with 2 egg yolks.