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.

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Then, we kill the both of them, without much compunction. As many may already know, I respectfully disagree with M. Gandhi, who was assassinated by a person repeatedly in late January, 1948. To an omnivore, occasionally slaying lamb, pork, beef, poultry or fish (provided one butchers head to tail) seems almost natural, commonplace — foodstuff for hungry mouths. So, lambs are somewhat beloved. Humans however, despite recent and past stats, should prove off limits to early deaths with little regret.

For instance, the Srbosjek was the term for the cutthroat, originally agricultural knife made for wheat sheaf cutting, which was used to kill prisoners in Croatian concentration camps during WW II. It was likely adopted to execute millions by the Ustase (Insurgence) having the upper part made of leather, designed to be worn with the thumb going through the hole, so that only the blade protruded from the hand. It had a curved, long knife with a sharp edge on the concave side. (Think box cutter.) There were even evil competitions to see just how many Serbian, Jewish and Gypsy throats could be slit with a single knife in a night. Their whole bodies then lie lifeless in a nameless, unmarked, mass grave.

A fascist Italian and Nazi German puppet government was installed under the guise of lawyer, Ante Pavelić, in around 1941.  Brutal genocide existed, what is often now called in a sanitized version, “ethnic cleansing, of Orthodox Serbian Christians for over a century…held most markedly under Nazi domination, anti-semitism, racism, and anti-catholicism. Terror reigned, and Pope Pius XII’s controversial response, despite the papacy’s detailed knowledge of the industrialized murders, was to turn a blind eye to these heinous crimes — certainly as it pertained to the victims. Neutrality, platitudes and often silence from the papacy met atrocities. The Pontiff could simply have done much more.

This post makes little mention of the vast number of Serbians that were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism during the war. Then, there were the barbarities of gas ovens and showers which perpetrated persecution via The Holocaust or Final Solution, and now American gun violence.

For shame, y’all.

LAMB SHOULDER

1 whole bone-in lamb shoulder, about 8-10 lbs

3 or so fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled & slightly smashed
3/4 C light brown sugar
1/2 C sea salt
1/2 C espresso beans, well ground
2 T black pepper, freshly ground
2 T oregano, ground in hand
1 bay leaf
1 T sage
2 T cumin seeds, roasted and well ground
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated
1 T cayenne pepper

Mantou (Chinese steamed buns), potato rolls, egg buns, even tortillas (warmed)

Place the lamb on a foil covered, rimmed sheet pan and set aside.

Rub the lamb with peeled garlic cloves.  Combine the brown sugar, sea salt, espresso beans, black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, sage, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne in a glass mixing bowl and combine well. There should be about 2+ cups total.

Use the dry rub to coat all sides of the lamb, carefully massaging the mix into the meat’s cracks and crevices.

To set up a grill for smoking, leave half of the grill free of coals for wood chips.

Place the lamb onto a smoker or grill and cook, maintaining a temperature between 225-250 degrees F, replenishing wood chips as needed.

After about 4 hours, begin to check on the lamb every 20 minutes or so. You should be able to tear off a chunk of the meat readily.  The internal meat temperature, measured in a thick part not touching bone, will reach about 185-190 degrees F with the process taking up to 6 hours.

Remove the lamb to a clean rimmed sheet pan and set aside, covered, to rest. Then, using two forks or your clean fingers, pull apart the lamb shoulder into smaller pieces for sandwiches.

Garnishes
Lime wedges
Cornichons, sliced
Red onions, peeled and minced
Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Radishes, thinly sliced
Avocados, peeled and sliced
Chipotle crema
Salsa fresca

‘Tis an ill cook who cannot lick his own fingers.
~William Shakespeare

Breasts may receive all the attention. But, boring breasts candidly need a rest. On the other hand (so to speak), thighs should take home the praise in terms of sublime flavor, savory succulence, delectable simplicity, forgiveness, and even economy. Dark meated, myoglobin rich, luxurious thighs are the shit — sweet temptresses, in my humble. Plus, ’tis the season for figs.

THIGHS WITH PAPPARDELLE, FETA AND FIGS

4-6 boneless chicken thighs, free range

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
White pepper, a pinch
Cayenne pepper, a pinch
Fresh rosemary leaves, diced
Fresh thyme leaves
Fresh sage leaves, diced
3-4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Extra virgin olive oil, to just cover

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh, garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

3/4 C feta cheese
1/2 C capers, drained

Thyme leaves
1/2 C red wine
10 fresh figs (whether Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Kadota or Calimyrna), diced
1 1/2 T local honey

Artisanal pappardelle

Bring a large, heavy pot of water to a rolling boil and then liberally add sea salt.

Place the chicken between a thick wooden cutting board and plastic wrap. Firmly yet gently pound each thigh until thinner but also uniform in thickness. Season with salt and black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage and garlic. Cover with some olive oil and place the chicken in a large ziploc bag for about 2 hours, turning a couple of times.

Remove chicken and discard marinating garlic. Add two pads of butter, a touch of olive oil and smashed garlic to a large, heavy skillet and once sizzling, but not brown, discard garlic and add chicken thighs and saute about 5 minutes per side. Early on the second side, add the feta until it becomes warm at least and tent well or place in a low preheated oven. Right before serving thighs, add capers.

Then, to the same skillet add red wine, figs, and later honey until cooked. Meanwhile, cook artisanal pappardelle noodles for until tender, about 3 minutes, in boiling water. Carefully strain through a colander.

Serve chicken thighs plus feta and capers over pappardelle with cooked figs on the side on plates. (Feel free to eat the thighs with your fingers.)

Dew Evaporates
And all our world is dew…so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.

~Issa

Ukiyo-e 浮世絵 is a stunning art form that conceives an evanescent world, a fleeting beauty divorced from the mundane — a genre of Japanese mass produced woodblock prints for commoners in the seclusive Edo period. The polychromatic images depict romantic vistas, transient tales, street scenes, kabuki motifs, comely courtesans, bawdy brothels and even shun-ga (erotica). Life’s momentary insights from shadows and dreams.

Each ukiyo-e image was a collaborative effort: a publisher who coordinated the artisans and marketed the works; an artist who plotted and inked the design on paper; a carver who meticulously chiseled the images, now pasted to a series of woodblocks; and a printer who applied pigments to the woodblocks and printed each color on exquisite handmade paper. Reproductions, sometimes numbering in the thousands, could be made until the carvings on the woodblocks became overly worn.

While a rambling discourse on beloved sushi or sashimi in earlier Japanese culture may seem in order, it is hanukkah so…

POTATO AND TURNIP LATKES

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 large turnip, peeled, quartered and shredded
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled, quartered and shredded

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 T fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 C duck fat, plus more as needed

Place the vegetables in a strainer over a large bowl and allow liquid to drain. Set reserved liquid aside and allow starch to sink to the bottom. Gingerly pour liquid from the bowl, reserving the milky residue (potato starch) and discard the clearer, watery stuff. Transfer potatoes back to bowl with the starch.

Beat together the eggs, flour, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in another bowl until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the vegetables and mix until evenly combined.

Heat duck fat in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.

Form some “silver dollar pancakes” and carefully place one in the hot fat to test for temperature — the fat should immediately bubble around the edges. Cook until golden brown, turning once, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove them from the pan and taste, adjusting the seasoning as needed.

Form more potato patties and place them in the hot fat without overcrowding. Fry (undisturbed) until the latkes hold together and become golden brown, again about 3-4 minutes per side. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Remove to a paper towel lined platter and continue frying more latkes until done.

Nosh on them semi-hot or preferably closing in on room temp. If you are even a touch unfamiliar, you will wonder where in the hell these divine spuds have been for all these years.

Oh, Baby! Artichokes

September 16, 2011

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.

~Luis Buñuel

While memory is often altered to suit self and others (as if life then stands explained), we carry our youth through life. Our early impressions doggedly remain, however spun later to placate others. Sometimes correcting unjust misperceptions or often simply revising the past to fit the present. Thankfully, food has stasis and lacks this kind of delusion. Food adorns a plate honestly without demand or compromise, and sometimes even dominates conversation, imagination. I have been smitten by these green thistles since childhood…at first infatuation, then a torrid tryst and finally an abiding love that has perservered. And at least with artichokes you can rinse and carve away the bitterness.

Despite the misnomer, luscious baby artichokes are not infants. Rather, they are fully mature perennials that grow closer to the ground than their rotund partners, sheltered by fronds overhead which effectively stunts their growth. Artichokes are meticulously planted and harvested by hand. At full blossom, the plants spread to some 6 feet in diameter and reach a height of 3-4 feet. The fields are maintained in perennial culture for some 5-10 years with each cropping cycle launched by cutting back the tops several inches below the soil to stimulate development of new shoots. Sometimes called “stumping,” this is timed to initiate a new harvest.

These tender baby morsels are coveted by chefs thanks to their ease of prep and plating beauty, whether sautéed, roasted, braised, grilled, steamed, or fried. Unlike with larger globes, the inner fuzzy choke does not develop making the plant almost fully edible.

Usually available throughout the year they have a peak spring season, and then a smaller crop is reaped in autumn. Select small, tightly closed, firm, heavy, evenly green artichokes. Avoid dry looking thistles that are browning or too open or gaping.

SAUTEED BABY ARTICHOKES WITH HERBS

Juice of 1 lemon
Cold water
12 baby artichokes

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 fresh sage leaves
1/4 C fresh tarragon leaves, loosely packed
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
Small pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Sea salt
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated
1 T capers (optional)

Rinse the artichokes under cold water. This will remove the natural thin film that can give the choke a bitter taste. Then, snap off the outer layer of leaves until you reach the pale, yellow-green layer of petals—sort of half-green at the top and half-yellow at the bottom. Trim off the stem and pare all remaining dark green areas from bases as they can prove bitter. Cut about 1/2″ off the tops of the artichokes and then cut them in half lengthwise.

To prevent browning, soak the trimmed artichokes in cold water acidulated with lemon or vinegar. This also loosens dirt that may have settled between the leaves. Drain the artichokes well and press between kitchen or paper towels to remove most of the water.

Place a heavy, large sauté pan over medium high heat, then add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. (Please be aware that the water residue will cause spatter when the artichokes are added to the hot oil.)

Add the artichokes in batches to the heated olive oil and toss quickly to sear. Add the garlic, herbs, red pepper flakes, black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the artichokes are tender, caramelized and slightly crisp at the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Do not burn the garlic—it should be light golden. Season with salt, very lightly sprinkle with grated parmigiano-reggiano, and strew with a few capers.

Herbs & Capers

July 9, 2011

The mind is its own place.

I began to write about how this week Colts tight end John Mackey died from frontal temporal dementia the result of multiple cerebral trauma; how cyclist Chris Horner suffered a severe concussion from a Tour crash on a narrow, ditched road forcing his confused withdrawal; how over decades hundreds of thousands of now forgotten soldiers have sustained grave head injuries, coming home afoot or in boxes. All of that rattled gray matter. The altered consciousness, amnesia, flashbacks, dizziness, seizures, ringing ears, double vision, skewed dreams, agonized psyches, malaise, deprived sleep, anxiety, woeful depression…and more. So much more than a dismissive “shake it off” or simplistic alert + oriented x 3.

Instead, my memory safely drifted to sunflowers. During a recent stage in Normandie, the peloton swept by a field teeming with these flowering heads. But, the yellow radiant blooms were turned away, shyly shunning the cameras. Yet somehow, almost bewitchingly, the brain adjusted and turned the hidden lemon flowers toward the mind’s eye. Despite reality, my mind embraced a yellow pallette.

HERB & CAPER SAUCE

1 C ciabatta or baguette, crusts removed, torn into pieces
3 T sherry or champagne vinegar

3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 C fresh flat leaf parsley
3 T basil leaves
1 t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t fresh sage leaves

4 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 egg yolk

1 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the bread and sherry or champagne vinegar, and toss together, and allow sit for 10 minutes or so

Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and add the garlic. Chop more finely, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you pulse the processor. Add the herbs to the processor, and pulse several times until contents are finely chopped. Add the bread, capers and egg yolk to the bowl, and pulse the processor on and off until well blended, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides again, then turn on and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle over grilled or roasted meats, fish, breads, and even pasta.

Savory (& Savvy) Pork

January 29, 2010

I will astonish Paris with an apple.
~Paul Cezanne

Although it serves well in other seasons, roast pork seems true winter fare. Affable victuals cooked with frosted panes and views of snowy roofs. But, wholly aside from the Rockwell images, pork is flat ambrosial…whether cured, roasted, seared, grilled or otherwise.

The venerable and ironically omnivorous domestic pig, Sus domesticus, is one of the more ancient species of livestock—dating back some 8,000 years. Pigs are even-toed ungulates: hoofed animals whose weight is spread evenly by more than one toe. Like ballerinas, ungulates use the tips of their hoofed toes to sustain their body weight while ambulating. Pigs, giraffes, rhinoceri, hippopotami, camels, moose, all en pointe.

Pigs happen to be one of the more socially adept and sage farm species. They are exceptionally adroit animals who adeptly grasp new routines, and their cognitive skills are almost unparalleled in the animal world. Pig acumen is damn awesome. They can cleverly jump hoops, stand and bow, utter linguinstic sounds on command, herd sheep, open cages, and play video games. The pig genome compares favorably with the human genome in many respects, especially with males.

Much like humans, pig teeth have an enamel coating which makes them stauncher and less vulnerable to disease. They masticate and ruminate their chow, having a digestive system that is similar to humans which cannot readily digest unground food. Think more of the swine in Snatch and less of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.

ROAST PORK LOIN WITH HERBS, APPLES & HONEY

3 lb boneless pork top loin roast, trimmed and tied
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and cut in slivers
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

6 medium leeks, whites only, halved lengthwise
Fresh thyme sprigs
Fresh rosemary sprigs
2 heads fresh, plump garlic, cut transversely
Extra virgin olive oil

4 apples, cored, peeled and cut into 6 slices each
4 T unsalted butter

1 C cognac or brandy
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
4 T unprocessed, organic honey

Preheat oven to 400 F

Fat side up, stud the pork roast with garlic slivers. Rub the surface first with softened butter and then liberally with salt, pepper, sage, thyme and rosemary. Cradle the pork on a rack in a heavy roasting pan. Strew the leeks, sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and halved garlic heads in the bottom of the pan, drizzled lightly with olive oil.

Roast until medium rare, about 1 hour, basting. During the last 20 minutes, bathe with cognac and apple cider vinegar and drizzle with honey. A thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F when the pork is medium rare. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, tent the pork loin with foil on a platter, and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind that when the roast is removed from the oven and is resting before carving, it will continue to cook some more, allowing the juices to come back to the center of the roast.

Remove and set aside the leeks, garlic, and herbs. Place pan on stove on medium high and reduce sauce, adding cognac, vinegar and honey to your liking. If you are not facing an appointment with your cardio specialist that week, even treat yourself to some heavy whipping cream on the finish. Reduce sauce until it thickens and coats a spoon.

In the meantime, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the apples in a single layer, and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 5-10 minutes. Drain, and tent with foil to keep warm.

To serve, remove and discard the string. Carve the pork into rather thick slices and serve with apples and leeks nestled alongside, drizzled with sauce.