Pumpkin Gnocchi, Venetian Style

With all these posts about great restaurant dining, I think it is time I pointed out that I still love to cook, too.  Last weekend we had our grandsons staying over for two days, and Saturday we went to the local orchard/farm around the corner for a wagon ride and picking our own pumpkins.  I kept a couple of small ones for culinary purposes.

pumpkin on counter

A few days later I decided to partner with Barbara (her dough handling skills are much better than mine) to make pumpkin gnocchi for the two of us for dinner.  Turning to one of the most beautiful and interesting of my cookbooks, Venetian Taste by Adam Tihany, I found a fascinating way to make them in his recipe:

Pumpkin Gnocchi-2

I did the prep work and then let Barbara turn it into a dough of the right texture.  Then, through the magic of iPhone 6, I did a short video of Barbara cutting the dough as it exited the pastry bag into the simmering water:

In the meantime I picked some fresh sage leaves and cooked them until crisp in good olive oil, to provide a fragrant and tasty simple dressing.  Served with a green salad and a few savory treats — marinated artichokes, homemade dill pickles, spicy pickled chard ribs, etc., the meal was a great success.  The wine, Villa Creek’s 2013 white, Grenache Blanc/Roussane, was a very good pairing.

standing over pot squeeze and cut-2 bowl of gnocchi gnocchi with fried sage leaves gnocchi with fried sage leaves and cheese


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Three Summer Days in NY’s West Village

A couple of times a year, I make it into NYC for a few days of friends, food, wine, and shopping.  It also gives me a chance to experience life briefly as a local in one of the many neighborhoods that make up the City.  This time I found a perfect airbnb location in the West Village, which provided an ideal base for dinners and visits with friends Jeremy, Dan and Charisse, and Jan, while also walking 4-5 miles a day.

The first night Jeremy and I finally ate at Mario Batali’s Babbo Restaurant.  I felt very lucky to get a table in prime time that evening, and the restaurant lived up to its exalted reputation.  I could not resist the seafood specialties like octopus and sardines, nor the excellent Sicilian wine.

Jeremy at Babbo Babbo sardines-2 Babbo octopus-2

That afternoon, after arriving in the city on the Limoliner bus, I wandered around the neighborhood looking for a late lunch/snack.  The streets were full of visual character, so I snapped several shots, and then I found a tiny but very tasty Israeli falafel shop, Taim.  I had stumbled upon a real gem and enjoyed the falafel sandwich considerably.

dooorway 245 doorway #2 elegant West 13th St Schleppers Moving & Storage affordable housing? Jackson Square and West 13th St taim bag Taim kitchen taim falafel pita

The next day I visited Jan in Brooklyn, then returned to Manhattan to shop at BuonItalia, and had the pleasure of meeting Dan and Charisse for dinner at an outstanding Greek restaurant, Snack Taverna, back in the West Village.  We shared some dishes and ordered others just for ourselves.  My favorites included the Saganaki — made with kefalotyri cheese dusted in flour and sautéed, some braised greens with lemon, and grilled Portobello mushrooms.  They also had the Estate Argyros Assyrtiko from Santorini, my favorite wine from the best producer on the island.  The newly-betrothed couple looked great and were lots of fun, as always.

Snack Taverna is busy Dan & Charisse at Snack Taverna table Greek meal-2 Snack Taverna bill

Two more meals – one dinner and lunch the next day — completed the trip.  Jan suggested an old-style, unassuming, but totally authentic Campania restaurant in NoLita: Balloto.  Charisse was traveling so Dan joined me, and we feasted on the Neapolitan food, under the watchful eye of the passionate and genuine owner, Emilio.

clientele at Ballato crostino at Ballato chicken parm at Ballato Puttanesca at Ballato Dan at Ballato

octopus at Ballato

Don’t worry; the Chicken Parmesan was for Dan.

For my last lunch I walked a few blocks from the apartment to eat at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market restaurant in the Meatpacking District.  I had two dishes: Spicy Mushroom Noodles and Wok-Seared Sriracha-Spiked Rainbow Chard.  Extremely flavorful and satisfyingly spicy, they made a fine lunch along with a glass of Albarino.

Wok-Seared Chard Spicy Mushroom Noodles Spicy Market table

Now you know why I love New York, especially in small quantities.

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Summer’s Farmers Markets and Short Trips

The bounty from our local farmers markets improves every year.  This past summer I learned about making dill pickles — super easy and delicious.  Our CSA had an abundance of good pickling cucumbers, and I went to The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman for how to make real-deal dill pickles.  They came out good and crunchy.

pickles - dill recipe pickles

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One short trip Barbara and I made together was part of our extended 50th anniversary celebration, a visit to Woodstock, VT, with dinner at Osteria Pane e Salute.  This remarkable small restaurant, run by Deirdre Heekin and her husband, Caleb Barber, has been on my wish list ever since I tasted her superb La Garagista wines.  I have also read two of her books — An Unlikely Vineyard and Pane e Salute.

Friday night reservations were hard to come by, but I had called several weeks in advance and was able to book it.  Our hosts were extremely gracious, adjusting and choosing to meet our desires and preferences on the menu and the wines, and everything was delightful.  A few highlights included an orange and black olive thin-crust pizza (outstanding), a mini tasting bowl of risotto and pasta (I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, so she gave me a little of each), and the house-cured, home grown pork products, most especially the pancetta which made their rosé wine sing like the angels when tasted together.

dining room a few flowers il Casolare il Casolare-2 orange and olive pizza wine lineup pasta e risotto

We stayed at a beautiful inn nearby, 506 On The River, and the next day drove by some picturesque scenery, such as the famous (though unmarked) Jenne Farm — apparently the most photographed farm site in the country.  You can see why:

Jenne Farm

Later in the month I visited with our friend Laura, at her home in Cambridge.  We had a very good dinner at her local trattoria, Gran Gusto.  I was much impressed by a bowl of market tomatoes in her kitchen and by the Chitarra with Tomatoes and Pecorino in the restaurant.  A bottle of my favorite Mastroberardino single vineyard Greco di Tufo brought it all together very nicely.

Laura's tomatoes Chitarra with tomatoes and pecorino I0005148_MastroberardinoNovaSerraGrecodiTufoBS


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A La Plancha

If you ever have the desire to make a vegetarian/vegan pasta dish with meaty flavor and texture, worthy of a good red wine, you might try the pasta dish I made for dinner tonight:  Gigli with King Trumpet and Oyster Mushrooms Grilled a la Plancha.

First a little terminology: a La Plancha, Spanish, for grilled on a metal plate.  Next Gigli, a pasta in the shape of a bellflower, in this case, from Naples, and organic.  Also known as Campanelle, it is delicious with a variety of sauces.

Last week I was shopping at Russo’s — always a treat.  I was able to find 0.57 lbs. of gorgeous Oyster Mushrooms and 1/2 lb. package of King Trumpets, for a grand total of a little over $6.  Tonight I had no idea what to make for dinner, so I finally decided to grill the mushrooms on a cast aluminum griddle, heated at very high temperatures on my gas grill.  The King Trumpets were sliced in half or thirds, depending on thickness, and tossed with olive oil, sea salt (Slovenian), pepper, and Pimenton.  When those were well-browned on both sides, I did the same with slices of the Oyster Mushrooms, omitting the Pimenton but adding Garlic Granules. Finally, I cut two thick slices of a Vidalia Onion, and grilled those on each side until tender.  The onion was chopped up and added to the pasta, mushrooms, more olive oil and salt, and a little of the pasta water.

This was topped with some good grated Pecorino (not Romano)  served with a 2011 Barbera d’Asti by Michelle Chiarlo, and indeed, the flavors were rich enough to go with a good Brunello or Morellino di Scansano as well.


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Additional Springtime Discoveries

Here are some additional meals this Spring.  New combinations abound and provided great pleasure.

Spaghetti with Colatura, Cherry Tomatoes and Haricots Verts

La Valle cherry tomatoes can pasta in the dish with green beans-2 Harlots & Ruffians

Catalan Eggplant and Peppers; Roasted Potatoes with Onions and Flowering Chives;  Spinach and Baby Shiitakes

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New Vegetable Cookbook gave us some fine new dishes:

fatoush – Greek salad

parsley salad

parsley salad

potato bean pasta leek soup

Rocco di Carpeneto – outstanding Cortese

Grilled Vegetables, Open-Faced Sandwiches, and Cremant du Jura

grilled open-faced, roasted dinner plate

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Various June Culinary Delights

June was a cornucopia of food pleasures.  The farmers markets were in full-swing, so fresh vegetables were plentiful and attractive.  Here is a sampling of the goodies.


A smooth, savory nut cheese — pure vegan and delicious


Scallion nut cheese on steamed beets and salad


Baked casserole of various summer squashes, with bread crumbs and feta cheese

red leaf

red-leaf lettuce salad

radishes with sea salt

radishes with sea salt

eggplant primo

eggplant and tomato antipasto

Damijan Ribolla Gialla-2

outstanding orange wine from Friuli — Ribolla Gialla

dinner table with Refosco

dinner with Refosco from Friuli

smoked salmon and beets for lunch-2

smoked salmon and beets for lunch — on homemade multigrain bread with roasted peppers and seaweed salad

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Museum of Science, and Yu Choi Stir Fry

Now there‘s a catchy title.  Last week my daughter had a beauty salon appointment in the city, which provided a great opportunity for me to take my grandsons to the Museum of Science.  We could spend three productive hours there, give her some time off, and I could play grandpa for awhile.  That all worked well, as you can see below.


Here’s the Yu Choi part.  Having completed my grandfatherly duties successfully, I decided to make myself dinner featuring a beautiful bunch of Yu Choi from the Asian gardeners in nearby Lancaster, MA.  I had purchased it on Sunday at the West Acton Farmer’s Market.

The dish was my own invention, a stir fry with King Trumpet mushrooms (very meaty in texture and flavor), onions, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, and of course, the greens, which were quickly blanched first.  My wok did its thing as designed, and I served it with brown basmati rice and a sour Belgian beer.  Life is good.

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