08 November 2015

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sausage and Thyme

Apple chunks, raisins, walnuts and a topping of sharp cheddar add a taste of autumn.
Last fall I was couch ridden, thanks to a painful leg injury. After several months of physical therapy followed by almost-daily workouts, I ventured into the kitchen to try my hand at meal preparation again.

I've made some incredibly tasty meals, mostly old favorites and comfort food, but I felt ready to tackle something new this fall.

Like hords of others, I love the seasonal flavor of pumpkin, and although I'm not ready for pumpkin spice everything, when I saw a package of pumpkin-potato gnocchi at the supermarket, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

It's not the easiest pasta to work with, as it happens.

I followed directions on the package. Pre-boil about five quarts of water, salt it, add gnocchi at full boil and continue two minutes after gnocchi rises to the surface, then drain.

I tasted. Bland. A bit paste-like. Perhaps I overcooked?

Now what?

Here's what I came up with:
  • 1/1 17/6-ounce package gnocchi
  • 2 medium or one very large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 links of apple-chicken sausage, sliced about a half-inch thick
  • 1 chopped apple, any variety, but choose one that holds up when heated
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/8 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • salt and pepper to taste (lightly on the pepper)
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Prepare and measure all ingredients in advance. With gnocchi, one must move fast to keep it from getting mushy.

While gnocchi is boiling, sauté onions until carmelized, adding sliced sausage, apple and thyme. Use a large skillet, so you can add gnocchi when thoroughly cooked. Lower heat, add walnuts and raisins, Stir gently, so as not to break open the gnocchi.

Serve with grated cheese on top.

A few things tips and things I learned:

  • Use onions, not shallots, for more robust flavor.
  • Undercook the gnocchi, just a bit.
  • Go light on the pepper. Just a dash.
  • Add more butter, if you wish.
  • Try a pinch of brown sugar at the very end.
  • Consider a healthy dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Thyme may be increased, according to individual tastes.
  • Pair with warm spinach salad and cornbread. Serve with hard cider.
I'm not sure I'll try this again. Too carb-y and tasteless on its own. But with some additions and some trial and error, the dish was good, especially with a side salad that added a bit of tartness and freshness.

Fall in Northeast Wisconsin, Part Two

A local park in early October.

Early fall farm market sign.

Saturday in October, downtown building.

Side yard on a Monday morning.

11 October 2015

Fall in Northeast Wisconsin

We harvested dozens of green tomatoes this week, but still have a few pole beans on the vine. There's one tiny eggplant left.

No hard freeze yet and its already the middle of October. The leaves are turning slowly this year and all signs point to a long and lingering fall.

The farm markets are winding down, in stark contrast to a decade ago when they peaked with gleaming pumpkins and squashes in brilliant hues at the end of October. There's not much of a pumpkin harvest this year, relatively speaking.

Our earlier tomatoes were mushy and tasteless, thanks to heavy rains in June. Later season tomatoes, especially the cherry variety had more zip. We made a huge bowl of salsa last week, and split it so I could add cilantro and my husband could go heavy-handed on the hotness.

I bought eggs, pumpkin, onions, carrots and freshly-ground coffee at the farm market this week and splurged on an apricot-orange scone with the faintest hint of almond. So good.

Happy October!

27 July 2015

Roasted Green Beans with Carrots, Onions and Honey

I firmly believe that good meals need not be complicated.

In fact, I have a three-items-on-the menu role. A savory with a compliment and a contrast. Simple meals, in my opinion, are more elegant.

A favorite here is roasted chicken with fresh French bread and a tossed salad.  More often than not, the starchy item is eliminated, and replaced with a vegetable side dish.

I would serve this simple side dish with pork and cole slaw (made with pineapple).

Roasted Green Beans with Carrots, Onions and Honey (serves two)
  • 1 cup trimmed green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup carrots, trimmed into slender, 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced or cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a medium sauce pan, bring about two cups of water to a boil. Add the beans and carrots and boil for two minutes. Remove vegetables and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking.

Grease a shallow casserole or pan. Add the vegetables, including the onions, and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Toss frequently during roasting.

I added butter and honey after roasting. The result was a sweet-salty side dish.

25 July 2015

Slim and Subtle: French Green Beans with Lemon and New Red Onions

Green beans are my go-to vegetable in summer, especially when fresh from the farm. I love their sweet, subtle-but-earthy taste, and I think they pair well with chicken and fish.

So I was delighted when one of my favorite growers asked me to try this summer's green beans, which include a lighter and more delicately-flavored French bean.

My husband grilled chicken and I made a classic tossed salad. The beans were the perfect side dish. I'm declaring this Green Bean Week at A Frenchtown Kitchen, and I'll have a variety of recipes to share over the next week.

I made only enough for two people at one meal, so double or triple the amounts to meet your needs.

French Green Beans with Lemon and New Red Onions

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and washed, and parboiled
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion or roasted-onion seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small early red onion, thinly sliced
  • Freshly-ground pink Himalayan salt to taste
  • Dash pepper

Slice the onion and set aside. Melt butter in small skillet. Add onion, along with parboiled beans, lemon juice, seasoning and sauté for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until onions turn brown and beans turn golden. Season.

Simple and delicious. Sometimes the best food is easy to prepare.

25 May 2015

Simple Red Potato Salad

Simple Red Potato Salad with Red Peppers
After a leg injury that left me sidelined for months, I am back in the kitchen.

On Memorial Day weekend, we had simple picnic foods, like lemon-roasted chicken with herbs and hamburgers.

It's been almost a year since I made potato salad. It's not difficult to make, but it is a multi-step process. Wash and boil the potatoes. Make hard-boiled eggs. Chop it all. Blend a dressing.

Easy when you can stand on both legs.

My husband loved it. I loved it. This one's a keeper. You can adjust the amount of ingredients, of course, to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.

Simple Red Potato Salad with Red Pepper (Serves 2-4)
  • 10-12 medium size red potatoes, boiled and chopped or sliced but not peeled
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced (use white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chives
  • Pink Himalayan salt and ground pepper - as desired
  • 2 Tablespoons Miracle Whip
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (I used Aldi's Burman's, which has a tangy, earthy taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grainy French mustard

I don't think I need to tell you what to do, do I? Just prepare the ingredients, toss, add dressing and toss some more.

The only thing - and this is important - is to chill all the salad ingredients ahead of time. They absorb less of the dressing when chilled. And chilling potatoes before you eat them supposedly lowers the GI index, or so I've read.

Optional ingredients include:
  • Chopped or slice black olives
  • Sweet peas
  • Celery
  • Chopped radishes
  • Sweet pickle relish
  • Dill
Potato salad is a blank canvas food. You can dress it up, or dress it down. But it does taste like summer, no matter what you do to it.

And, unofficially, summer has arrived.