Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Tomato-Butter Sauce

Since my wife and I are foodies, our recent trip to Curacao included hitting one of the ten top ranked restaurants (according to Trip Advisor) each day we were there (we managed eight).

So when I came home, my first gourmet night was a little nerve-racking: How could I compete with the extraordinary dishes we had just experienced? I couldn’t disappoint my wife that soon after such a great culinary experience.

So I decided to make my own Gnudi and see what happened. Gnudi is basically “ravioli filling without the pasta,” according to Gotham Bldg Tavern (New York City) chef, Tommy Habetz (originator of this recipe). Turns out it was a hit with a fresh, tasty dough that soaked up the sauce perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 small onion, halved
1 bay leaf
pinch of crushed red pepper
one 28 ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes
salt
2 cups spinach, stems discarded
1 tub of fresh ricotta (apx 1.5-2lbs)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups all purpose flour

METHOD
1) In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic, onion, bay leaf and red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their  juices and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 2 and 1/2 cups (about 1, 1/2 hrs). Discard the garlic, onion and bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and keep warm. (If you desire, you can chop up the onion and put it back but Tommy prefers it sans-onion)

2) Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and stir over moderately high heat until wilted; transfer to a colander; let cool slightly. Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop it.

3) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a food processor, combine the spinach with the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and process until blended. Add the flour in 3 batches, pulsing between additions, until almost incorporated. Scrape the ngudi dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5-10 times, until smooth.

4) Add one-fourth of the gnudi dough to a large, resealable plastic bag; with scissors, cut a 1/2 inch corner from the bag. Working over the boiling water, squeeze the dough through the corner opening and use a knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces. Cook the gnudi over moderately high heat until firm, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or sire skimmer, transfer the gnudi to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5) Carefully transfer the gnudi to the tomato sauce and stir lightly to heat through. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve at once, passing more Parmesan at the table.

Pair with a fresh Tuscan white wine (this is a Tuscan dish), or a light Chardonnay.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

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Lemon Chicken Scallopini with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

In my bestselling novel, New York Fried, various international delegations visited the complex in Oswego, N.Y., to experience the new technology that would revolutionize internet around the world. While there, Chef Artichoke Hart (also an ex-CIA trainer), was tasked with feeding the visitors. His idea was to offer a traditional dish native to their country but with an American twist.

When the Italians came, this was the dish he prepared. Though later we find that some were indeed Sicilian, not Italian, the dish was still a big hit. The American twist? A creamy garlic sauce instead of a straight lemon sauce, and the incorporation of Sorrento’s famous lemon-based liqueur: limoncello.

INGREDIENTS (for 4 people)

FOR THE CHICKEN:
2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts, halved and smashed to 1/8 inch in depth
1 tspn garlic powder
1 tspn salt
cracked pepper
juice of half a lemon
4 tblsn flour

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 tbls butter
2 tspns olive or lemon-infused oil
1 medium sized brown onion
2 tbsn minced garlic (or 6-8 garlic, minced)
1 and 1/4 cup chicken broth (stock)
2/3 cup light cooking cream (I use 1/2 and 1/2)
1 tspn cornstarch mixe with 1 tbsn water
2-3 tbsns limoncello liqueur (lemon juice if liquor isn’t available)
2 tspn dried Italian mixed herbs
2 tbsns fresh parsley chopped
lemon wedges or slices to serve

METHOD

  1. Season chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice of half a lemon over each fillet, rubbing it into each fillet. (remember, you’ve already halved and smashed them so they are thin and wide) Add the flour to a shallow bowl and dredge each fillet in the flour; shake off excess and set aside.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet or non-stick pan over medium-high heat until butter has melted and pan is hot. Fry the chicken until golden on each side, cooked through and no longer pink (about 4-5 min). Transfer to a warming plate.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and fry until onion is translucent (about 3 min). Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add the broth. Season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook to reduce down slightly (about 6 min). Add in the cream and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer for about 5 min until it begins to thicken. (If the sauce is too runny for your liking, add the cornstarch/water mixture into the center of the pan and mix through fast to combine into the sauce. It will begin to thicken immediately).
  4. Pour in the limoncello (lemon juice), allow to simmer gently for a further minute to combine. Stir in the Italian herbs. Add the chicken back into the pan, cover with the sauce and serve over rice, pasta, steamed vegetables or noodles. Garnish with lemon slices or wedges and parsley.

Calories per serving: 228

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

Just what is a full English breakfast?

In the middle of New York Fried, Artichoke Hart is asked to prepare a full English breakfast for the visiting British dignitaries. It never happens because the British leave the party early but they had stayed, this is the recipe he would have used: (From one of my followers, “WishtoDish”)

click here for the recipe and to meet “WishtoDish”

 

Fish Tacos with Secret Sauce

So simple it’s ridiculous. Which begs the question “How can restaurants charge $13-15 for a dish that you can easily make yourself for a fraction of that price?”. Of course, we could gourmet it up by making our own “secret” sauce but why bother; the restaurants don’t. A good dill and lemon sauce (found in the fish dept) commonly used for salmon, is perfect as the flavouring for a yogurt-based sauce.
I’m not sure we’ll order this again in a restaurant; it simply costs too much for what it is. But man does it taste good!

INGREDIENTS

2 frozen haddock filets
4 soft tortillas
egg and panko breadcrumbs
Carrot, sliced into thin strips
Lettuce, sliced into thin strips
Spinach, sliced into thin strips,
red pepper, sliced into thin strips
scallions, sliced
2 tbsns dill and lemon dressing
1 tbsn plain greek yogurt
2 tbsns tarter sauce
2 cocktail tomatoes, sliced and diced into pieces
1″ strip of feta cheese (greek style) crumbled

METHOD

Thaw filets slightly (in order to cut in half), roll in egg, then breadcrumbs. Place in oven at 400 for 20 minutes. For the last 4 minutes, place the tortillas, wrapped in tin foil, in the oven.

Meanwhile, cut the carrot, lettuce, spinach, red pepper into thin strips.

When heated, lay out the tortillas and spread 1 tbsn each of tarter sauce along centre of each. Place cooked filet in centre. Top with all the strips, tomatoes and feta, and place in serving racks.

Heat up the dressing and yogurt gently to prevent curdling, add pepper to taste.

Pour “secret” sauce over tacos and serve with a salad.

Turkey scallopini in lemon sauce

This dish was inspired by our new friend, Chef Massimo Zingaro Fidale, on our recent visit to Italy. His simple but oh-so-delicious Veal Scallopini in Lemon Sauce was so tasty I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

However, as usual, I changed it; Canadianized it if you will. In my version, I use turkey scallopini and make the sauce a little heavier with the introduction of Greek yogurt. I also add a little twist with the use of Limoncello (brought home from Italy).  ‘Twas a totally new and mouth-watering experience.

INGREDIENTS

4 strips turkey scallopini
4 slices back bacon (pork loin)
2 tbsn sesame seed oil
2 tbsn plain greek yogurt
4 tbsn lemon juice
2 tbsn limoncello
1 tbsn capers (dried)
1/2 tsp fresh oregano (1/4 dried)
pepper to taste

METHOD

Brush turkey strips with lemon and saute over low heat in sesame seed oil, till browned both sides and white inside (about 4 min per side) then add the lemon and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cover.

Simultaneously saute the back bacon to desired crispness. Don’t burn as it will alter the taste of the dish immensely.

While these are cooking, slowly begin heating the yogurt and (very slowly) pour in the limoncello. It may curdle but keep mixing. Add the capers, oregano, and pepper.

Place turkey in centre of plate and pour remaining lemon juice over them. Then pour the sauce on top.

I served with roasted garlic potatoes and thin slices of fresh tomatoes from our garden.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

Veal with Olives and Grape Tomatoes

At this time of the year, I get an abundance of small grape tomatoes. They are delicious as a snack but I get so many, I have to think of dishes to prepare with them. (The larger tomatoes don’t ripen till late in August here).

This is one I hadn’t tried before and since we were in the mood for a little meat, worked out really well. The topping alone would be good on any meat.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
4 slices of top round of veal for scallopini
2 tsp oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp cold butter
1 cup grape tomatoes (halved)
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives (halved)
1/3 cup chopped parsley (fresh if possible; less if dried)

METHOD

Mix flour, salt and pepper in a large plastic food bag. Add veal, 1 piece at a time, and toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add veal and cook 4-5 minutes, turning once, until golden (center should be opaque). Remove to a warm plate.

Add wine to skillet; simmer 1 minute. Reduce heat to very low. Stir in butter until melted, then the tomatoes, olives and parsley. Spoon over cutlets.

I served with sauteed carrots and roasted small potatoes in rosemary.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

Honey roasted Rhubarb, Walnut, rocket and Feta Salad

When fresh Rhubarb arrives, my cooking brain insists that I make something. Since I’m not much of a dessert eater (I know, hard to believe from a cook), I look for side plates, appetizers, cocktail accompaniments, etc. This one is a true marvel since the honey, thyme and feta offset the sharp tangy taste of the rhubarb.

INGREDIENTS

2 stalks rhubarb
1 tbsp honey
1 tspn fresh thyme (you should have fresh available but 1/2 tspn dried works)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 small bag of mixed rocket and spinach leaves (I pull my leaves right of the Arugula plant in the yard)
1 small fennell bulb
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin lemon olive oil (or regular extra-virgin with a dash of lemon juice, if you don’t have it)
salt and pepper
2 tbsn feta cheese (the Greek version, not Canadian. As my son-in-law the Greek pointed out: “The difference is like night and day”

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200%
Cut the rhubarb into 3cm batons and lay on an oven tray. Drizzle with honey and thyme, and give it a mix around so the rhubarb is well coated. Bake for 6 minutes or until they are soft enough to bite. Sprinkle with walnuts, place tray back in the oven for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the balsamic vinegar with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the fennel and toss with the rocket and spinach leaves, add the salad dressing, then toss again.

To plate, place salad on the bottom, crumble feta cheese on top, gently place rhubarb on top and sprinkle withe the toasted walnuts.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.