A Snowy Saturday and A Shout-Out to Brooklyn (Dumac and Cheese)

I love snowy days here in Denver, Colorado. Unlike the Northeast, where snow is a harbinger of cold things to come and you really don't thaw out till mid-March, the snow here will likely melt in a day or two and then temperatures will go back to 50 degrees. The sun will be out shining until the next snow fall. There aren't huge berms of snow (like the 4 foot mound that stayed on my old corner in Brooklyn for months) and you never get to know just how many dogs actually live on your block (know what I'm talking about?). Here, the strong sun and high altitude causes the snow to melt, seemingly without any puddles. Evaporation is a powerful force of nature around these parts.  
So today, the morning after it snowed about 6 inches, I took the boys out for a little morning ride in our new (pink) sled. One man who was shoveling his walkway shouted, "looks like she's having one helluva time." By 'she' the man meant Otis, so I explained that pink was the only color sled left in the store. Otis loved it. Theo, not as much...
We live in the Highlands section of Denver, at least for the time being. The neighborhood has an awesomely quirky housing stock and an eclectic collection of architectural styles- everything from American Craftsman and bungalows to hyper-modern pre-fabricated design. It's fun to walk around because there are so many great details everywhere you look.
We were outside for about an hour and a half and then I started getting hungry. I mean it's a real workout carrying a 14 pound infant in a sling and pulling a 28 pound toddler. So we turned around and headed home.  
Knowing full well that a salad or 'something light' just wouldn't cut it on a day like today, I decided that I had to make either: a stew, a hearty minestrone soup or some macaroni and cheese. I went with option number three. I thought about my favorite mac-n-cheese from Martha Stewart, but I wanted to try a different recipe. I had one for DuMont's Dumac and Cheese (by way of The New Brooklyn Cookbook)...and I conveniently had Gruyére and heavy cream in the house.
It seemed so appropriate that I make this Dumont dish today because tonight one of our closest friends is having her Supper Club debut in Brooklyn! So shout out to Kathyrn of Cooking Inside the Box and Whiskey & Salt Supper Club. We'll be thinking of you. Good luck. xo 
* * * 
About this Mac-and-Cheese: 
"No truffle oil, no weird stuff.  Make a good sauce, buy good cheese.  That's it." 
- Polo Dobkin, Dumont
DuMac and Cheese (Courtesy of The New Brooklyn Cookbook)
Serves 6
• 1 pound radiatore, elbow macaroni, or fusilli
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups whole milk
• 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 pound Gruyère, grated, divided
• 1/2 pound sharp white cheddar, grated, divided
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, toss with the olive oil in a large bowl, and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; bring to a gentle simmer.
4. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the flour is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue mixing with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a pale golden color, about 4 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk and cream mixture to the flour mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally to keep the mixture from burning. Add half the Gruyère and half the cheddar and whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add the cooked pasta and toss well to combine. Pour the pasta into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart gratin dish. Top with the remaining Gruyère and cheddar and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Allow the mac and cheese to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Spinach and Sheep's-Milk Ricotta Gnocchi with Asiago

When we moved back to New York, after living in New Orleans for 6 years, we lived in a small apartment on Carroll Street in Park Slope.  I liked the close proximity to Prospect Park and was excited about the neighborhood restaurants.  In addition to Al di La and Rose WaterConvivium Osteria was high on my "go-to" list.  I eventually went and it did not disappoint.  
Convivium is part Italian, part Spanish and part Portuguese and it's all parts delicious.  As a vegetarian I was happy to see an entrée on the menu that wasn't pasta.  These spinach and sheep's-milk ricotta gnocchi with Asiago cheese are rich little dumplings that hit the spot.  You only need about 7 or 8 per portion.  Also, since there aren't a lot of ingredients in this dish, it really is important to buy the highest quality of cheese and produce you can find.  As they say in Lisboa, Bom apetite!
Spinach and Sheep's Milk Ricotta Gnocchi with Asiago (Convivium Osteria, by way of The New Brooklyn Cookbook)
Makes 32 Gnocchi
For the gnocchi:
1 1/2 pounds of organic spinach, stems removed, coarsley chopped (I used small leaf)
1 cup (1/2 pound) sheep's-milk ricotta or well-drained whole-milk ricotta*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1/4 cup unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided (1/4 for the gnocchi and 1/2 for dredging) 
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese, plus (quite a bit) more for garnish
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
* If using whole-milk ricotta, wrap the ricotta in a cheesecloth, gather into a ball, tie and drain over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight.

1. To prepare the gnocchi: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spinach and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender but not mushy.  Drain in a colander and use the back of a wooden spoon to force out any excess water.  Wrap the spinach in a clean dish towel and wring out any remaining water.  Spread the spinach on a dry surface.  When it is no longer steaming, transfer it to a large bowl.  Add the ricotta and mix with a fork until well combined.  Add the eggs, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup flour, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt.  Mix until smooth.
2. Place 1/2 cup flour in a shallow dish, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment (I used wax paper) and lightly flour the parchment.  Using two tablespoons, shape the mixture into ovals.  Dredge the gnocchi in flour to coat, then tap off any excess.  Place the gnocchi on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3.  When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the sauce.  Combine the Asiago, milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
4.  Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the saucepan with the sauce.  Gently toss to coat, cooking for 30 seconds.  Divide the gnocchi and sauce among the bowls and garnish with additional Asiago. 

Nothing "Beets" This Salad: Five Leaves Beets with Blood Oranges, Arugula and Macadamia Nuts

On Saturday night I went to Saul for a close friend's "surprise" birthday party. (I put the word surprise in quotations because it was blown the day of the event.) The conversation was great, we dined for over 3 1/2 hours and the food was delicious. I had an incredibly flavorful beet salad for my first course. The salad contained heirloom beets, honey crisp apple, fennel, toasted hazelnuts and was dressed with a golden apple vinegar vinaigrette. It was great. I got inspired to try a unique beet salad of my own and this recipe (below) immediately came to mind. 
Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, puts a unique spin on the ubiquitous beet-and-goat-cheese salad.  This recipe substitutes goat's milk yogurt dressing for goat cheese and adds arugula, toasted macadamia nuts and sliced blood oranges. Delish! This recipe was featured in The New Brooklyn Cookbook- my new cookbook which contains recipes from Brooklyn's brightest culinary stars. (Mentioned in this post.) It has more steps than your typical salad, but it has more flavor too. The beet vinaigrette is so wonderful I might make it on it's own if I am crunched for time (and happen to have half a roasted beet lying around).   I make this salad when my entree is simple to assemble/cook or only needs to be reheated (i.e. Martha's Macaroni and Cheese). 
In addition to being delicious, this recipe also helps me with one of my most recent resolutions. Namely, eating very colorful foods that are rich with antioxidants. Of course this was much easier to do when it was CSA-season. Now that we are entering the duldrums of winter I need to remind myself to go with bright, high-impact fruits and vegetables. Check.
Goat's milk yogurt dressing with honey, orange zest, honey and a pinch of cayenne. 
Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Arugula, Macadamia Nuts, and Goat's Milk Yogurt Dressing (From Five Leaves Restaurant)
Serves 4 to 6
For the beets
3 medium red beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
2 medium golden beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 garlic heads, broken into cloves, skins on, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarse salt, plus more to taste
For the yogurt dressing
6 ounces goats milk yogurt
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of cayenne pepper
For the vinaigrette

2 shallots, peeled
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts
6 ounces baby arugula, about 4 cups
3 blood oranges (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into rounds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the beets and pat them dry. In a large bowl, toss the beets with the herbs, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bottom of a square baking pan with the two cups salt. Set the beets, herbs and garlic on top of the salt, cover the dish with foil, and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 75 minutes.
Set the pan aside to allow the beets to cool, then peel the beets and cut them into wedges, reserving half of 1 red beet for the vinaigrette.  Keep the red beets and golden beets separate or their colors will bleed together.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the yogurt dressing: Combine the yogurt, zest, honey, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
To make the vinaigrette: In a blender or food processor, puree the shallots and the roasted red beet half with the vinegar and mustard. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified.

Place the macadamia nuts in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Bake for three to five minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through to evenly brown.  Allow to cool slightly, then roughly chop.

Combine the red and yellow beets with half the yogurt mixture in a medium bowl and toss to coat. In another bowl, toss the arugula with the beet vinaigrette to coat.

To serve, divide the beets and blood orange slices among the four to six plates, top with the arugula, and garnish with the macadamias and a drizzle of the remaining yogurt dressing.