Archive | April, 2011

I Heart – Gnocchi Edition

30 Apr

Gnocchi (pronounced “nee-YOCK-ee”), little dumplings made out of potato, semolina or ricotta, are one of my favorite things in the world.  The potato variety, especially.  If prepared properly, the texture of the dumplings is firm and satisfying.  The light potato flavor gives it a subtle sweetness.  With a meat sauce or pesto – absolutely delicious.

Typically, if you are making gnocchi, it is sensible to prepare in advance.  At the least, you should be sure you have all the ingredients before you begin.  Yesterday around 4 in the afternoon, I spotted two russet potatoes in our pantry and decided to make gnocchi.  I made them sort of haphazardly as I watched the Royal Wedding out of the corner of my eye.  I suppose I could have paid more attention (I will point out things that could have been done differently), but, overall, it turned out OK.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients:

4-5 Yukon Gold or 2-3 Russet Potatoes (I used Russet but the Yukon Gold potatoes are better – they are more buttery and rich in flavor)

Flour (you will need lots of it – just keep the bag out)

Homemade tomato sauce or pesto

Parmesan cheese

Salt

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water.  In the meantime, wash the skin of the potatoes thoroughly to get the dirt and whatever else off.  Boil potatoes in water until tender all the way through.  (Due to the pomp and circumstance of the Royal Wedding, I peeled my potatoes without thinking.  You shouldn’t peel them before boiling because they will absorb too much water.  If you make that same mistake, cut them in half and dry them well with a towel when you pull them out of the water.)

Using a fork, gently peel the skin off of the boiled, tender potatoes.  Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl.

(If you don’t have a potato ricer, mash the potatoes thoroughly with a fork and spread the mashed potatoes out on a large piece of parchment paper.  Tape the parchment to your counter so it doesn’t slide around.  Roll a wine bottle like a rolling pin over the potatoes until they are smooth – you don’t want any lumps in the potatoes.  Long story short, just buy a ricer.)Add a cup or so of flour to the bowl with the potatoes.With your hands, slowly incorporate the flour into the potatoes as if you are making a bread dough.Add additional flour and continue incorporating until the mixture easily forms into a ball and is not sticky.  While you don’t want to over-flour, if your dough is sticky the gnocchi will never turn out.Heavily flour a large cutting board.  Taking handful-sized pieces of dough at a time, roll the dough out on the cutting board into long ropes, approximately 3/4 of an inch around.  Continue until the entire dough is formed into long ropes.With a sharp knife, cut the ropes into 1/2 inch little squares, or pillows.  Continue until you have cut out all your gnocchi.  As you cut out the gnocchi, remove them to a plate.  Sprinkle flour generously on the plate and on the gnocchi to be sure they don’t stick together.Gently drop the gnocchi in salted, slow boiling water.  Stir the water gently once to be sure the gnocchi are not sticking together.  The gnocchi are done when they float to the top of the boiling water.  Using a slotted spoon, strain well and remove the gnocchi from the water.

Serve immediately with tomato sauce (gnocchi are traditionally served with a meat sauce – I had a small piece of filet mignon in the freezer so I cut it into small pieces, quickly seared it and added it to a simple tomato sauce, which is kind of random, but it tasted good) or pesto.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.This plus Friday Night Lights equals best day of the week.

Make Your Own Massage – Or Just Get One

29 Apr

I don’t understand people who don’t like massages.  They must be a little ill and just don’t know it yet.  I am obsessed.  If I could get a massage every morning, I would.  Abe says “no way.”  Bummer.  Instead, I just use a rolling pin.  If you lie down on it (on carpet) and roll it into your back, it is nearly as good.     If you are up for a real massage, here are some my favorite places to get massages:

Chicago: Urban Oasis

Highlights: Quiet, minimalistic space in the middle of a super busy street in the Gold Coast.  Amazing massage therapists.  The best products (used during massages, in the bathrooms and to buy when you are checking out).  Perfect name – it really is.

Los Angeles: Burke WilliamsHighlights: I love Santa Monica.  The interior of BW is a beautiful space and the spa runs well.  Very professional.  The bathrooms are really nice, too, with lots of fancy accessories.  And I like this smiley guy in the photo I borrowed from their website.

Portland: The Dragontree SpaHighlights: Soothing, warm tones in the decor.  Holistic (that is, whole person) treatment choices – from paraffin hand dips to foot baths to head massages – all before your massage begins!  I love that they serve tea on big comfy couches while you are waiting for your massage, too.

San Diego: Rancho Valencia Resort & SpaHighlights: The resort itself is incredible.  It is worth spending a night here – you will feel very special.  The massages begin in these dark-ish, quiet rooms.  When the massage is over, one wall of the room has been raised and you are looking out into a sunny garden.  Amazing.

I Am Not My Hair

27 Apr

India Arie via Fabi.  You have to listen.  I love this song and Fabi’s version is beautiful.

100 Posts

26 Apr

This past January, I watched an episode of Throw Down with Bobby Flay (while on the treadmill, naturally) featuring blogger Ree Drummond – The Pioneer Woman.  I had never heard of her (and the word “blogger” bugs my guts) but I looked her up later and kind of got sucked into her uber-personal, regular-gal blog about country cooking and photography and her cowboy husband and homeschooling her kids.  Her blog is pretty intriguing, actually, for some reason I can’t quite identify (millions of people agree, apparently – she is basically an empire at this point, with books, regular TV appearances, etc.).

A few days later, I saw Ali in San Diego and we talked a little about that – not The Pioneer Woman, per se, but the idea of creating something clever enough to generate that level of mass appeal.  It’s the Eat, Pray, Love-thing.  The conversation with Ali somehow led to a commitment to blog for one year – or 365 posts – just to see if I could.  That week, I started Professional Chicks.  And that’s the genesis of this.

With 100 posts down (and 265 to go), here are some of my favorites:

In Art, the post about a winter night at the MCA with Megan is a nice one.  I also love Shame That Tune – it’s so funny.  And Ali’s film, of course.

Fabi’s music posts – and this song about her wandering spirit, in particular – are among my favorites.

Two of my favorite food experiences of the year are in the same post about underground supper clubs.  Eating at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas was amazing, too.

From the recipes, the spinach and artichoke dip is probably my favorite.  If you need a simple tomato sauce recipe, this is a good go-to recipe.

In fashion, these homemade t-shirt and yarn scarves are kind of fun, as are Megan Greene’s rings.  The posts featuring the other kids at school are so great (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), too.  I love seeing how clothes are put together in creative ways.

I go back to this perfect day in San Diego all the time.  In Chicago, where theater is everything, you can’t go wrong with a night at the Steppenwolf or the American Theater Company.

Finally, I liked writing this post about the new Starbucks logo and Gertrude Stein.  Memory laden.

So that’s that for the first 100 posts.  Thanks so much for reading.

Oh and! – in honor of 100 episodes of 30 Rock, here is the most hilarious clip ever:

Bye.

Neapolitan Easter

25 Apr

Every Easter when we’re in San Diego we do a traditional Neapolitan breakfast, prepared in the days before Easter by Nonna, the tiniest grandma in the world.

A Neapolitan breakfast consists of homemade hot chocolate, braided sweet bread flavored with orange zest and almond, baked eggs and thinly sliced Italian salami.

Italian hot chocolate is thicker than American hot chocolate.  We thin it with milk or coffee.  It’s not overly sweet and has a rich cocoa aftertaste. Delicious.The bread – trecette, meaning “little braids” – is dense and sweet.  It is a cross between a scone and a sweet roll and is decorated with raw sugar and sprinkles for crunch.  The egg at the top of the bread is placed in the braid before baking – the result is a baked egg, the consistency of a hard boiled egg.The sweet bread and rich egg are really nice with the salty meat.This and the rain always mark the beginning of Easter (except if you are in San Diego where it really doesn’t rain).

Happy Spring

24 Apr

I Report, You Decide – Weather Edition

23 Apr

I.

II.

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