Ravenous Fig

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Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Melting Tuscan Kale

[caption id="attachment_596" align="aligncenter" width="549" caption="Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Melting Tuscan Kale"][/caption]

The last couple of days have been bizarre, to say the least. If you found Ravenous Fig via Hacker News, you know what I mean. If not, there's a pretty fantastic recipe in here for you that will hopefully make up for lost time.

Let's rewind. For my birthday last month, Vance took me to Atlanta to visit some friends who just had the most adorable baby boy. Seriously. He makes the Gerber baby look like an elephant calf with angler fish teeth. We stayed at a sweet bed & breakfast in Midtown, which was a great comfort considering how sick I'd get before we left.

[caption id="attachment_598" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Romesco Sauce is thickened with bread and nuts to give it a nice body and texture."][/caption]

These flu-like symptoms kind of snuck up on me. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening and power through, but by the last night I was sitting in the bottom of the bathtub letting the hot water beat on my back as I coughed up Lord-knows-what. Not the best way to spend a vacation, but I got some good magazine time in while I was holed up in the room, specifically with La Cucina Italiana.

[caption id="attachment_600" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="New Mexico Chiles can be found in the ethic foods aisle of most major grocery stores."][/caption]

That magazine has the most beautiful food photography. It almost made me want to throw away my camera and never publicly post a food photo again. It somehow entered into my ill consciousness, though, giving me dreams of gnocchi with rich sauce and melted kale. Soon after I got back to Orlando and over my illness, I had pieced together a meal I could only imagine would taste like magic.

Crispy Gnocchi with Romesco and Kale

This recipe may have been the result of psychedelic flu dreams but believe me, it's worth the hour or so it takes to prepare. After having prepared and eaten it twice, it's one that'll definitely make an appearance in this year's family cookbook. Enjoy.

Special Equipment Needed: Food processor.

Crispy Gnocchi Ingredients

  • ¼ lb butter (1 stick)
  • 1 lb fresh or packaged gnocchi (I use whole wheat packaged Gia Russa gnocchi when I'm in a hurry)

Romesco Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato, cored
  • 1 (1/2-oz) dried New Mexico chile
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts*, toasted and loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel while warm
  • 2 tablespoons blanched almonds
  • 2-3 slices firm white or wheat bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 of one bottled roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

* I substituted unsalted shelled pistachios when I made this

Cherry Tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce

[caption id="attachment_387" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Finished Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic sauce on pasta"]Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic sauce on pasta[/caption]

Not too long ago, I consumed copious amounts of frozen pizzas, pre-made salsas, boxed pastas with powdered sauce mixes, and various questionable meats marinated with reconstituted powdered "flavor packets" as part of my regular diet. I didn't have a need to keep a stock of whole foods — by which I mean foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (or minimally processed and refined), not the national grocery chain.

Once I discovered how easy it is to prepare simple, affordable meals from scratch rather than whipping out a meal-in-a-box, -bag, or -can every night, I started keeping a few things on-hand at all times. Eventually the "few things" became much more than that. Our pantry looks something like Alton Brown's pantry in the Good Eats kitchen. You don't need to go that far, but it is much less intimidating to prepare from-scratch meals when you already have a supply of most of the ingredients on the list.

[caption id="attachment_388" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Our pantry is stocked with most of the items on Jamie Oliver's list, as well as a "few" extra items we've picked up along the way."]Part of our pantry[/caption]

Jamie Oliver put together a wonderful, relatively exhaustive list of "Essential Cupboard Ingredients" in Jamie's Food Revolution. (If you're new to cooking at home and you want to buy one cookbook, that's it). From all-purpose flour to smoked paprika we've got nearly all of it. I'd add a few fresher items to the list as well, like lemons, butter, garlic, capers, a block of parmesan, and any seasonal fruit you like. They don't all meet the criteria of "sitting happily in your cupboard or freezer for months," but we go through them fast enough to always re-stock when we run out. Oh, and you can add bars of chocolate to that list… :)

[caption id="attachment_389" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Garlic prepped for this sauce."]Garlic[/caption]

Last night I whipped up a big-flavor sauce in the time it took me to boil water and cook linguine, using a few pantry staples and some of the last of the season's cherry tomatoes. I threw in some gorgeous, striped green heirloom tomatoes to add a dimension of color, but you could use a simple pint of red cherries if that's all your supermarket has on hand.

This sauce ends up looking and tasting quite impressive, but cooks up in less time than it takes to heat the oven and bake your average frozen pizza. No more excuses!

[caption id="attachment_391" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The finished sauce, ready to serve."]Finished Sauce[/caption]

Cherry tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce

We served this over some lovely garden (tri-color) linguine, but it would also be excellent spooned over another pasta, fish, or meat. This recipe is from Jamie's Food Revolution.

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pint cherry or

Summer Vegetable Ragout with Exotic Curry Sauce

[caption id="attachment_291" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="The finished Summer Vegetable Ragout with Exotic Curry Sauce."][/caption]

From-scratch curry sauces can be pretty intimidating. Ingredients like lemongrass can be hard to find, and sometimes the sheer quantity of ingredients it takes to make a curry can send you running out of your kitchen and into the nearest Thai restaurant, where someone else will make it for you. But what fun is that? It's the Labor day weekend and there's plenty of time to get out the old mortar and pestle for a sauce-making adventure.

We're finally winding down from the squashy days of summer (summer squash, that is — what were you thinking?) But last week I still had some yellow squash and zucchini in the produce drawer, along with an eggplant, corn, and arugula. So to avoid letting any of it get past its peak, I made this dish, which incorporates them all in a surprisingly beautiful combination of flavors that will leave even the meat eaters at the table satisfied.

[caption id="attachment_292" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="All of the vegetables are combined shortly before serving for a final re-heat in the oven."][/caption]

Lemongrass and ginger are pretty key to this recipe, so don't skip them; lemongrass can often be found in the fresh herbs section of the produce department of your local megamart, or in an Asian market. (Or, if you live in Winter Park, it's growing like crazy in a planter along Park Avenue — I'm sure they wouldn't notice if you snagged a stalk). Carrot juice is another key ingredient. I found a small bottle with the fresh fruit juices in the produce department. (If I had a juicer, I would have definitely used it!)

Summer Vegetable Ragout with Exotic Curry Sauce

This recipe is largely unchanged from the original, which appeared in the September 2010 issue of Bon Bon App├ętit magazine. If you like a saucier meal, double the curry sauce recipe — you don't have to use all of it but you at least know you'll have enough for everyone!

Ingredients for Curry Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, peeled, chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, coarsely chopped and pounded with meat mallet to flatten slightly (Jamie note: I chopped the lemongrass pretty fine and threw it in my stone mortar. I then proceeded to bash out the week's aggressions with the pestle. Works like a champ.)
  • 1 1-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (preferably Madras)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups fresh carrot juice
[caption id="attachment_293" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Some of the Mise en Place -- curry powder and apple."][/caption]

Other Ingredients (Vegetables)

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplants (about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound assorted summer

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