Ricotta Gnocchi with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I had one of those days today. A day where I needed to supervise my wife as she needed some long awaited dental work. Not a cavity filling, but more on the surgery side. As it was a challenging day of managing a heavily drugged wife, and a ever so demanding three year old, I found a way to make us all calm down and come to peace.

Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe

After hearing the doctor basically state that my wife had to eat soft food for up to four days, I immediately lost track of them telling me how she is going to feel, what she is going to need for pain, and other expectations. I had soft food on my mind! I know it sounds selfish of me, especially after sitting in an overheated waiting room for over two hours with my three year old being as carefree as most three year olds are (dancing, singing, needing to run, and arguing about candy), but I found comfort in hearing things about food. So soft food. I really thought that we could leave the office and get a Kopp’s cheeseburger as it was right next door, but I couldn’t do that to my wife who walked out of the place, feeling really intoxicated, literally laughing, and her ‘dead weight’ hanging on my should, knees wobbling. As entertaining as it was, I felt really sorry for her, and wanted to give her something really comforting when she awoke from her painful and drunken sleep.

Sure, I could have quickly whipped up some really killer mashed potatoes, or some nice matzo ball soup, but I have really had dumplings on my mind. I have actually been thinking of pierogi for some time, but as I know my wife loves Italian food, I immediately thought of gnocchi. Sure, I immediately thought of potato gnocchi, but that quickly got pushed aside when I skimmed the refrigerator and found Ricotta cheese. I already had my herbs and other basic ingredients, so I was ready to go. As my wife slept, I quickly moved on making a great dish for a wonderful person. Later tonight, she stated how great the dish was, and I was actually thinking she wanted more. She will have to wait, as more are in the freezer.

Enough said. Let’s get started.

Ricotta Gnocchi:

  • 1 16 oz whole-milk ricotta, drained
  • 3 slices of regular white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan reggiano, grated

Creamy Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 14 oz of diced tomatoes, puree in blender
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

The goal is to get as much moister out of the ricotta cheese as possible. You do this by placing in a mesh strainer, and line it with a coffee filter if you have it. Cover the cheese, place in the refrigerator, and let this rest and drain for about 45 minutes. During this time, feel free to prep your basil, parsley, puree the tomatoes, and get your breadcrumbs made.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Place the three slices of bread onto a baking sheet, and place in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Remove from the tray, and let cool before pulsing these down in a food processor, or, placing in a bag, and mashing them into fine crumbs. Your call, depending on how you are feeling during this time.

Get a large bowl out, and remove the ricotta cheese from the strainer, placing it in the bowl. Add in the egg, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil, and combine to get a smooth mix. Add in the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and flour. Combine to make a nice dough. Keep in mind, due to the creaminess of the cheese, the dough is a bit soft, not too firm. If it is too sticky, add in a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time.

I found that six tablespoons is just the right amount.  You can test this out by forming into a small ball, and make sure it does not stick too severely to your hands. Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This stiffens the dough a bit and will help you with the next process.

During this time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. At the same time, get your larger, 12 inch skillet out, and get your sauce moving along. Multitasking. Got to love it.

Once your water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, a simmer, as you don’t want to kill your gnocchi, meaning you don’t want them to disintegrate, or fall apart on you.

To make the sauce, bring your skillet up to medium heat. Add in your olive oil. Toss in your garlic, and cook for about a minute, being careful not to burn. Add in the tomato puree, the salt, sugar, and pepper. Mix well, then add in your basil and cream, mixing again. Cover and remove from the heat.

Now, gnocchi rolling time. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Grab a small chunk, and roll into a the size of a lime. Get a working surface ready, and some more flour. Sprinkle your board with a bit of flour, and heck, get your hands ready as well. Put the ball on the surface, and roll it out into a log, not too thin though, about 3/4 inch. Once it is roped out, get a knife and cut about a 3/4 inch pieces. Continue this process with your remaining dough.

Now this recipe probably makes about 60-75 gnocchi, so if you are only serving a couple, you can place your remaining items on a sheet, place in the freezer to harden, then place in a ziplock bag, and bag in the freezer.

To cook, place the gnocchi into the simmering water. They drop to the bottom, then in about 30 seconds, they begin to float to the top. Remember now, that you are dealing with some fragile ingredients, basically soft cheese and flour, meaning, it doesn’t take long at all to cook. Once they pop to the top, cook for about 2 more minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the skillet of warm and wonderful tomato and cream sauce. Give the skillet a nice shake to cover the gnocchi and plate up, or continue to cook your remaining gnocchi, repeating the process and go family style.

Enjoy. Truly comforting, and truly easy to make.

Stuffed Jalapenos

I love jalapeno peppers. Fresh or pickled. These are typically found in my vegetable bowl on any given day of the week. I put them in a lot of different things such as soup, omelets, or stir-frys. As I do often, I shopped at the local Latino market, El Rey, gathering limes, avocado, chicken pieces, and fruit, but one thing caught my attention this time, and that was the jalapeno peppers. These were fresh, and big. I could not resist, and so I picked up a half a dozen of so, thinking that I would make jalapeno poppers. So, the following day, I stared at the jalapeno peppers, still admiring how great they looked, and thought about the poppers, but I did not want to fry anything. Strange as that might sound, I still thought of stuffing the peppers, and so it happened. Stuffed Jalapenos, or what I like to call Jalapeno Boats.

Stuffed Jalapenos Recipe

I was already making my kids thin cutlets of chicken, cooked in a bit of olive oil, so I decided to make a bit more so I could finely dice, and stuff into the jalapeno, making a great appetizer, or for that matter a nice meal. Enough said, lets get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large, fresh jalapenos, seeds, veins, and stem removed
  • Mix of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese
  • Chicken breast cutlet, cooked and diced
  • Scallions, chopped (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)

Begin my slicing the jalapeno length-wise, being very careful not to cut through the otherside. My fingers are a bit big, so I was being careful, and used a chopstick to remove not only the seeds from the inside but also the veins which pack a ton of heat. This is typically known as the capsaicin. Once these are removed, you are pretty much good to go on the stuffing. To a small bowl, add your diced chicken and cheeses, and mix well.

Preheat your oven for 425 degrees.

Begin using the mixture and carefully stuff eat pepper, stuffing them to the top as they will fall down a bit. If you have left over cheese and chicken, reserve, and mid-way through cooking, stuff them again, making sure you have a loaded jalapeno boat.

Add these to a foil lined baking sheet, and cook for roughly 15 minutes. I keep on eye on them, as I still like a little bit of a crunch to my pepper. You will know if you are really cooking the pepper when it begins to soften and darken in color.

Once they are cooked to your liking, remove them from the oven, and let them sit for about five minutes as you want the cheese to cool off a bit before biting into them.

Top with scallions, and a cilantro leaf for garnish.  Like I said, these are great for appetizers, or you can make a meal out of them, serving with a side of guacamole, sour cream, or nice salad.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

Corn Bread with Cheddar Cheese and Jalapeno PeppersCorn muffins are a real treat. I typically make the standard corn bread, sliced in squares, and serve with dishes like barbecue, but on my most recent take on Jambalaya, I wanted something that would stand up not only in spice, but sweetness as well.

These corn muffins are the perfect blend of that mild bite from the jalapeno pepper, seeded of course, and the cheddar adds something to the texture of the muffin, that will keep you wanting more. This recipe is really easy to make, only takes minutes to prepare, and you can have warm muffins on the table in no time.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded

Get two bowls ready, one for your wet ingredients, and one for your dry ingredients. In your first bowl, add the eggs and honey, and beat really well. In your other bowl,  sift in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Add the egg mixture, the diced jalapeno, and the cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients, and mix really well, making sure there are no dry lumps in the bowl.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Get your muffin pan ready, and spray with cooking spray, or lightly grease with butter. Add the batter to each muffin tray and place in the oven for around 28 minutes. Remove from the oven, and carefully remove the corn muffins to your serving tray.

Serve with a side of honey, drizzling more on top for that added sweetness. Enjoy.

Enchiladas Verdes

My wife and I love enchiladas. We consider it somewhat like the Mexican lasagna. Instead of noodles you have fresh corn tortillas, however you still have the cheese, the sauce, and the meat filling. My standard enchilada, or enchilada rojo (I will call it that because of the red sauce) is really good, and is typically stuffed with shredded chicken, onion, cheese, and more. This time around, I was not going down the route of the enchilada rojo, but that of the enchilada verde. This enchilada is topped with my salsa verde, and is a must make for a different take on the enchilada. Let’s just say it was quiet at the table last night, which always means that the comfort was there. Let’s get it started.

Enchiladas Verdes Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, boiled in water, then shredded (reserve 1/4 cup of chicken water)
  • Package of fresh corn tortillas
  • Salsa Verde (make ahead of time), add in the reserved chicken water
  • Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded

Begin by boiling the chicken breasts. Depending on the size, this will only take about 20 minutes or so. As the chicken is cooking, skim any of the foam from the water and remove. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the chicken water after the chicken has completely cooked. Remove the chicken and let cool for a few minutes. Shred the chicken with two forks and place in a large boil. Add in about 1 cup of the shredded cheese.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To your baking dish, add about a cup of the salsa verde sauce. Microwave the tortillas for about a minute until they are soft. You can also go the authentic route and heat up vegetable oil, and give the tortillas a quick oil bath (I do this for the enchiladas rojos).

Take a heaping spoonful of the chicken and cheese mixture and add to the tortilla. Roll and fold and place seam side down in the pan. Continue this process with all of the tortillas and chicken mixture. Cover the top of the tortillas with the salsa verde. Cover with the cheese.

Cook in the 350 degree oven for roghly 40 minutes until the sauce is nice an bubbly and the cheese is completely melted. Let stand for about five minutes to let everything settle. Serve with avocado and a nice green salad.

How do you prefer your enchiladas?