Pea and stinging nettle gnudi

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for being away a bit long from my blog and not to be sharing new recipes with you. I have been very busy with moving and finishing my raw vegan studies at Matthew Kenney Culinary. But now I am back!

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Probably those of you following me on Instagram, saw that I found an urban gardening plot very close to our new home in Encino, California. It is called Sepulveda Garden Center. It is a spacious community garden with hundreds of plots of flowers & plants maintained by local residents. I had my friend @farmerkelley to visit the plot today and even she was soooo impressed!!! And that is a big thing because she does farming, gardening for a living!!! On the hottest day of this year, in 97F we just never wanted to stop exploring the gardens… And Kelley has her own garden, grows beautiful edible produce for chefs in Los Angeles. Still, again, she was impressed….

So back to my story about the pea tendrils…. Last week when I discovered the place, I saw people cutting out their pea full of tendrils and leaves!!!

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If you never tasted pea tendrils, you may not know what you are missing out…… Imagine eating crunchy lettuce that tastes the most delicate, sweet pea! (not the not edible sweet pea flower!!! but real, spring pea that is sweet. ) So insanely delicious, not to mention its beauty, how stunning it looks in salads and other dishes. So when I saw that some people are not aware of what they are throwing out, of course, I had to say hello 🙂 and suggest them not to do this next time:) 🙂 :)… So hopefully when they cut their peas back in the future, they will take the tendrils and blossoms home and eat them…. Until then with their permission I took some home. And of course I could never stop thinking, what to do with them, how to show you their beauty, and how to use them to highlight everything they have to offer. The only way to do it if the dish is all about them. Peas. Different textures, but same flavor. I also picked some stinging nettle (using a plastic bag;) during one of my walks. Stinging nettle is another spring messenger and has to be blanched to lose its stinging ability, and then it can be handled without gloves. This weed is true to its name for sure! Stinging! It is full of nutrients and really good to make tea, soups, sauces, oils.

So I decided to make a vegan gnudi using blanched peas and stinging nettle. Gnudi traditionally is made with ricotta, so I made my own almond one to replace it. I didn’t want to cook the gnudi, and the almond ricotta, blanched peas and nettle had the perfect texture to hold. If you want you can also try adding some flax meal or almond flour to the mix. I knew that I will add the pea tendrils and blossoms with a touch of lemon juice, to bring more pea flavor and crunch to the soft gnudi. So now the only thing I needed some cream to bathe that gnudi in. I decided to use almond milk because I didn’t want a different nut profile to introduce.

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To make a flavorful crema, I braised some fennel and blended with almond milk and meyer lemon zest juice. The dish is fresh, vibrant, full of springy pea flavor with lemon essence and it is also an easy one to make.

I really hope you will try either making this whole dish or at least just use it as a flavor or technique inspiration in your own translation!

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ENJOY!

Ingredients ( serves 4 )

  • 1 C  blanched peas
  • 1/4 C blanched stinging nettle
  • 1 C almond ricotta
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 2 small fennel bulbs or 1 big fennel bulb sliced
  • olive oil
  • zest of 1 meyer lemon
  • salt, black pepper
  • optional cayenne and ground nutmeg
  • meyer lemon juice to taste
  • pea tendrils and blossoms and/or blanched peas
  • fennel fronds

Instructions

  1. How to blanch peas and stinging nettle? Bring a very big pot of water to the boil. Add salt so the water so it tastes like sea. (it doesn’t mean your pea will be salty- because you blanch for a very short period, but the beautiful green color will be retained!) Prepare another big bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes in it. Working in batches blanch your vegetables only for a minute, and add only as much vegetable to the boiling water so that you don’t lose boiling. It might be a bit tricky, but the result is very different! So once you blanched the peas/nettle, immediately transfer it into ice cold water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain well and dry it on a paper towel.
  2. How to make almond ricotta? Soak almond overnight. Next day remove the peels. Add almond with enough water to blend into a ricotta like texture in a food processor and process it. Do not use blender, that will make it into cream/milk. Add water bit by bit so you don’t get a loose cheese. Once you are happy with texture, add nutritional yeast, salt and a few drops of lemon juice. Then flavor with a smashed garlic clove or garlic powder if you want it. The nutritional yeast content is very subjective. For 1 C of almond use at least 1 tablespoon, and keep tasting it to achieve the cheese-y like flavor you like. Nutritional yeast is good for you, so don’t hold it back! 🙂
  3. To make the gnudi add blanched peas, blanched stinging nettle and almond ricotta in a food processor. Process it to keep a good structure, see on my close shots of the gnudi. I left the gnudi tasting very fresh and spring, so didn’t add anything else to it. I decided to shape them into quenelles with the help of two small teaspoons. If you don’t want to do that, you can simply make small balls. But the two spoon way of making quennels is so easy, and it looks beautiful with this dish.
  4. To make the crema first I sautéed the sliced fennel on a tablespoon of olive oil. Added a little bit of water (you can add stock), covered and cooked on very low heat until soft. Once cooked, in a high speed blender I blended the fennel and almond milk. Start adding little milk and add more bit by bit to make sure the sauce is not getting too thin. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper, meyer lemon zest, meyer lemon juice, touch of cayenne and the optional ground nutmeg.
  5. Drizzle pea tendrils, blossoms and blanched peas with olive oil and and meyer lemon juice. (my plating doesn’t have added blanched peas, but it is really good to add!)
  6. To plate, place a swirl of the crema on a shallow plate, arrange gnudi quenelles or balls alongside the swirl and arrange the pea tendril and blossoms and the peas, if you add that too, so that they form a close unity.

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ENJOY!

Kabocha and shrimp risotto with toasted pumpkin seeds

Risotto facts

Some people are scared of risotto, some just think it is too much of a hassle. You should not feel any of these.  If you understand what happens when making risotto you will never again have problems with making the perfect one.

So risotto is an Italian dish where you need to cook the rice into a creamy consistency. The rice is cooked with wine, stock and at the end creamed some sort of dairy product. The rice has to be cooked, but still needs crunch in the middle, so it is al dente. At the same time the risotto is creamy. So how to achieve this?

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  1. Use rice specifically used for making risotto, that is a medium grain variety, fairly large and can tolerate the unique cooking method that removes starch from the rice surface so that it thickens the cooking liquid into a creamy consistency.  The most well known type is Arborio, anywhere outside Italy. There are some other varieties too, such as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, but these are not very easy to get hold of.
  2. Make sure you have everything prepared in advance. Chopped, measured, cleaned or pre cooked on a tray. From start to finish a risotto will need 30 minutes of your undivided attention. There is also a method where you can precook the risotto to about 90%, lay out on a tray to cool quickly, (stop cooking) refrigerate and finish it off  in 10 minutes when your guests arrived. (I will explain this method later)
  3. Use right size of pot, meaning for the amount of rice. The pot should not be too big compared to the amount of rice, because you will add too much liquid.
  4. Preheat any liquid to boiling! you will be using for cooking the risotto, such as stock, broth. Also have boiling water ready, in case you run out of stock and the rice still needs liquid to be cooked. This is imperative. The liquid has to be hot constantly, so when you add it to the rice, it will not stop the cooking.
  5. Always add liquid in small amounts, just barely cover rice, and stir constantly. This might sound too much of work, but actually stirring constantly means that the rice grains are subject to constant friction, rubbing off the softened parts constantly, so they can become part of the liquid. If you only let it cook, this particles will not be part of the cooking process, you will just rub off everything in one go, at the end, when you stir it.

Kabocha and shrimp risotto

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I decided to use this winter squash variety because of its texture and not too sweet flavor. Kabocha turns into a creamy dream once it is blended. Shrimp goes really well with risotto in general and it is also a classic pairing with this squash.

The squash will be added to the risotto in two different ways. We will roast and puree half of the kabocha and dice and cook the other half.

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Instructions

First prepare everything

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  1. Peel, deseed kabocha, cut in half. Cut one of the halves into big chunks and roast them on a tray in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend to a smooth puree with just the necessary amount of stock, you need for blending. Dice the other half into small cubes. Blanch them in salted boiling water until they are just cooked. Do not overcook, they will fall apart. Immediately drop them in ice water to stop cooking and drain.
  2. In a small amount of vegetable oil deep fry sage leaves. You will need 3-5 on each plate.
  3. Cut each shrimp into bite sizes. Pan sear them on butter, olive oil, seasoned with salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  4. Toast pumpkin seeds and set aside.
  5. Chop the shallots very finely.
  6. Cut very finely pancetta too.
  7. Measure rice and get it ready.
  8. Measure wine and stock and bring stock to a simmer and keep it warm.
  9. Prep rest of ingredients on a tray: olive oil, butter, fresh sage leaves, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mascarpone.

Cooking instructions

  1. Heat olive oil and butter.
  2. Add pancetta, render fat so it becomes crispy.
  3. Add shallots, sweat for a few minutes.
  4. Add rice, stirring constantly and toast for a minute.
  5. Add wine, stirring constantly until it cooked down and almost absorbed fully.
  6. Start adding hot stock. Always add just as much to cover rice, stir constantly and add another ladle only when it is absorbed. Keep doing until rice is al dente,  about 20 minutes.
  7. additional step for later consumption: If you want to keep risotto and serve it at a later stage, stop cooking, lay risotto on a tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate until next day. When reheating, add some more stock, stir, let it absorb and finish it off as below.
  8. Mix in kabocha puree and mascarpone and add diced squash and shrimp.
  9. Season with salt, ground black pepper and cayenne.
  10. Adjust texture with a little bit of stock if needed.
  11. Plate risotto in a deep bowl, topped with fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Don’t forget about a glass of light chardonnay! 😉

Enjoy!

Ingredients (yields 4)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 big shallot or 2 smaller ones
  • 4 slices of pancetta, cut into fine pieces
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tablespoon of mascarpone
  • 1 cup of roasted kabocha puree
  • 1 1/2 cup of diced, cooked kabocha
  • 1 lb of shrimp, cleaned, cut and pan seared on little olive oil and butter
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • vegetable oil for deep frying sage leaves
  • sage leaves
  • optional micro greens

Spaghetti squash with mushroom cashew alfredo, brussels and hazelnuts

I was not really thinking about putting this dish on my blog. When I came up with the recipe, it was really all about the textures and look in my mind. And eventually it turned out to be a very flavorful dish. When my husband came home in the evening, tasted it, and I heard “hmmmmm it is very interesting and yummy”, I knew I had to share it with you. Bear in mind, he is not vegan. Not even vegetarian… Also the dish is very easy to make, so I thought to share.

This dish is all about the fall produce available at the moment at the market.It also has a very classic combination of mushrooms, hazelnuts, cream, brussels sprouts. So good togeher.  The “spaghetti” of the dish is simply roasted spaghetti squash. The cashew Alfredo sauce made richer with the umami flavor of sautéed mushrooms. Quickly blanched brussels leaves and toasted hazelnut to finish off the dish. I used those fall colors of the marigold petals, not only to make the dish look prettier, but the petals’ peppery flavor goes so well with the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • fresh rosemary strings
  • salt, black pepper, olive oil for roasting the squash
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashew
  • almond milk (just as much to get a sauce consistency
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 minced garlic bulbs
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice to taste
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of a mix of chopped parsley and chive
  • brussels sprouts taken into leaves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 marigold flower
  • some micro greens

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Instructions:

  1. Cut one medium size spaghetti squash in half. Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt, ground black pepper and put one rosemary string and 3 garlic cloves in each halves. Put on a baking tray and bake at 420F for about 40 minutes.
  2. Check with a fork and if the spaghetti strands fall off easily, it is done. Carefully scrape out the spaghettis 🙂  with the fork, set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime in a blender blend  1/2 cup of soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, minced garlic with enough almond milk to get the texture of sauce.
  4. Add the sautéed mushrooms and chopped herbs, blend together.
  5. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Blend together.
  6. Blanch the brussels sprouts leaves in rapidly boiling, very salty water for 1 minute. Quickly drain and drop in ice water, to stop cooking and retain color.
  7. Plate spaghetti squash and drizzle with the sauce, top with brussels leaves, chopped hazelnut, marigold leaves and some micro herbs.

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ENJOY!!!

Summery spinach and herb gnudi

 

Last year I attended a farm to table bootcamp at the Culinary Institute of America, in St Helena, Napa Valley. It was a really great experience that taught me a lot about sustainable farming and wine making. I also got to spend every day at the CIA kitchen, cooking farm fresh, California produce driven dishes. Coming out of this program I have a definite favorite recipe that I am ready to share with you. I have cooked it so many times and each and every time I am totally in love with the flavors. I always make it with roasted tomato beurre blanc but I realize this might be a bit too much of work for most of you. Hence, I came up with my own recipe that allows you to make it quicker and achieve a very similar taste. Also this recipe uses lardons. If you want to keep the dish vegetarian just remove the lardons and use some very strong, good quality smoked salt and it will bring  some smoky flavor to the plate 🙂

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First you will make a dough for the gnudi with sauteed spinach and fresh herbs, then cook the corn and roast the tomatoes. Before serving fry some lardons and sage in butter, cook the gnudi and transfer everything into a skillet.

Ingredients (yields 4)

  • 1 cup of blanched, chopped spinach
  • 2 tbsp of mixed chopped fines herbs  (chive, parsley, chevril)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of ricotta
  • 3/4 cup of all purpose flour (and some more for the rolling)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 corns
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup lardon (smoked thick bacon)
  • cold butter
  • 10-15 sage leaves both chiffonaded and in whole
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt, black pepper

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 Instructions

  • Blanch the spinach in boiling, heavily salted water for just a few seconds. Immediately transfer into a big bowl of iced water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain and squeeze out all the water. Then chop the spinach very well.
  • Chop some chive, parsley and chevril to have enough of at least 3 teaspoon of chopped herbs. More is better.
  • In a big bowl mix 2 egg yolks, ricotta, chopped spinach and herbs, parmesan and season with salt and black pepper. Let it rest in the fridge until you are ready with the remaining components.
  • Place the cherry tomatoes in a baking dish (so you can save the juice), drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt. Roast the tomatoes at 450F until they start to fall apart. Be careful not to over roast, so they are still juicy!
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the corns. Rinse them with cold water and keep them in warm water. When you are ready to use it, cut the corns off the kernels.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter and lardons in a skillet and pan roast the lardons . Add the sage and the minced shallot and sautee them for a few minutes, keeping an eye on it, not the burn the onions. Add the cherry tomatoes and when everything is very hot, add the vinegar and make sure you keep it on high heat and carefully stirring for a minute, to cook down the vinegar a touch. Finally add the corn kernels that you cut off the corn.

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  • In the meantime bring salted water to a boil for cooking the gnudi.
  • Place the gnudi dough on a very well floured surface. Divide it into 3-4 manageable portions. Roll each mixture into a rope shape, (about 1 inch in diameter) adding as much flour as needed to be able to JUST work with it! Not more because you will end up with a hard, chewy, floury gnudi.
  • Dust your hands with flour and start cutting the gnudis with a bench knife (about 3/4 inch long). You can transfer the gnudi from the floured board in the boiling water.
  • Cook gnudi for 2-3 minutes. They will come to surface very quickly, you will need to cook a bit more than that.
  • Drain the cooked gnudi and immediately transfer into the skillet with the warm sage lardon mix. Add tomatotes and corn kernels. Carefully mix everything so it covered fully in the sage butter and also some juice that the cherry tomatoes are releasing.
  • Serve with fresh, tiny herb leaves of sage and chevril and/or chopped chives.

ENJOY!

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Lemon basil pasta with baked salmon

I have been making this pasta for about 20 years….. I am sure everyone coming to us for dinner had this at some point :).  It is an amazingly flavorful dish which is the direct result of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and basil. The sauce itself is something like a cross between a pesto and vinaigrette. You don’t need to cook it, you can make it in advance and just pour over the freshly cooked pasta and everything comes to life.

You can serve it just as it is or with a piece of baked fish, just as I did. It is really good with salmon and also great with grilled shrimp.

 

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How to adjust this dish to suit any kinds of dietary requirements?

You can make the dish with any kind of pasta. We tried with many different ones and I think linguine is the best, a good quality, whole grain kind, that has a great texture and sauce can stick to it. But feel free to use whatever your preference. If you have dietary requirements, you can buy gluten free pasta or make it with zucchini spirals, just like this.

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If you don’t eat seafood, you can add fennel. Shave a fennel into very thin slices and braise it in olive oil, a little bit of white wine, salt and pepper. Finally add to the pasta.

And for vegans, in this picture I made it raw and vegan. I used all the ingredients of the sauce as detailed below but didn’t add butter. Instead of the parmigiano region I prepared this dish with a vegan pine nut parmesan.

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The basic ingredients of the sauce, that will determine the flavor profile is lemon, basil and garlic.

Your lemon should be organic, not waxed because you will use the zest too. Both basil and garlic has to be fresh and very good quality.

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If you decide to make the pasta with baked salmon, the easiest way to bake it “en papillote”. This means in parchment paper. This cooking method is really great for fish. Put the fish on a piece of parchment, season with salt, pepper, a few lemon slices, fennel fonds and wrap the paper into a parcel, twisting the paper on both ends, to close it and it will hold the moisture and steam the fish.

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Lemon basil pasta ingredients and instructions (yields 4 )

  • your choice and amount of pasta
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 4 tbsp melted but not hot butter
  • big bunch (4 oz) of fresh basil, chopped both finely and bigger pieces (you can chop it in food processor, but I prefer the texture of handcut)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (first zest it and then squeeze the juice)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 tsp chili flakes (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
  • about 1/2 cup of fresh, grated parmigiano-reggiano (use as much so it will make the sauce thick)
  • salt, black pepper to taste

Mix ingredients in the order of appearance in a big enough bowl that can accommodate the pasta too! If you let this stand, it will get thicker and harden, but don’t worry. The steaming hot pasta will liquify it. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it, save a little bit of cooking water, and mix pasta with this sauce immediately. If you feel it is not saucy enough, you can add a little bit of cooking water and mix thoroughly.

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Serve pasta with torn pieces of salmon,  fresh fennel fonds, a few tiny basil leaves and a slice of baked lemon. Grate some fresh parmesan on top. ENJOY!