A Recipe To Die For!

Ah! I haven’t blogged in so long. I have been super busy with getting ready to come back to school. I am all move in to the Delta Gamma house. Yay! One thing I am going to miss though is having my own kitchen. 😦 Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to use the one here because our chef uses fancy appliances that we can’t fuss with. However, before I left home my dad taught me to make my favorite food in the whole world – Gnocchi! For those of you who don’t know, gnocchi is an Italian pasta dish that is comprised of delicious light and airy potato ‘dumplings’ (for lack of a better word). We made ours from scratch and topped them with a gorgonzola cream sauce. Yum! It actually doesn’t take too long either, and they only need to be cooked in water for about 3 minutes until they are ready. We tweeked the recipe ‘Gnocchi al gorgonzola con radicchio’ from the Williams-Sonoma Rome cookbook.

We used: 2 lbs potatoes (skinned), a little less than 2 cups flour (we used double 0 – apparently its ‘just better’), and 1 egg

First, the potatoes need to be skinned and pushed through a potato ricer. Add flour to the potatoes a little bit at a time and mix loosely (If you mix too much at this step, gluten formation will be too high and your gnocchi will turn out too tough). We next added 1 egg and continued to mix until the dough was formed into a ball. Note that this can be refrigerated while you prepare other parts of your meal :). Cut the dough into chunks and roll them out until about 1 inch thick. Cut the rolled out dough into small peices. At this point, the gnocchi can be lightly rolled on the coarse part of a cheese grater or you can use a fork to imprint them. Roll the gnocchi lightly in flour and add to boiling water. Let them cook until they pop to the top of the water. So simple, quick, and DELICIOUS! 

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Cin Cin!

‘Cheers’ as it is said in the United States. Last week I celebrated my 21st birthday! I was fortunate enough to spend it with my closest friends and family in Washington DC. Although I don’t feel any different, it is nice to know I can now publicly enjoy a glass of vino with dinner. Making the decision is the toughest part (considering I know nothing about pairing wines – that’s what my brother, Alex, is for). Therefore, I will not go into much detail regarding regions/types of grapes/etc., but I am going to give my best shot at explaining the process of wine making 🙂

Although ‘wine’ can be made by fermenting other fruits, it is generally made by fermenting grapes in a process similar to that of beer making. The grapes are first picked, washed, and mashed. In this step, the skin is either removed or left on, which determines if the wine is a white or red wine. The juice from teh grapes is then mixed with water, and then yeast (and sometimes sugar) is added. The fermentation of the yeast is what determines if the wine is dry or not. Sweeter, off dry wines are only partially fermented whereas dry wines are completely fermented. It is the dryer wines that have the highest alcohol content. The next step in wine making is termed ‘racking’. During this period sediments are settled out of the wine. Aging follows racking. This step is classically performed in oak barrels, which impart flavor and work as a filter. Nowadays, it is more common to age wine in stainless steel vats. After the wines are aged, they are often pasteurized to kill yeast and then bottled. Pasteurization can impart off flavors in the wine if not done properly. This is why a technique called cold pasteurization is used to filter and keep the wine cold, allowing better retention of flavor.

Sparkling wine and champagne production is different than that of regular wine. Champagne is not aged and extra sugar and yeast is added to the bottle before capping. This extra yeast allows for greater fermentation and CO2 production – causing the signature ‘pop’! Champagne bottles undergo a ‘riddling’ process in which they are slightly turned and tilted every day, allowing yeast to collect at the neck of the bottle. The bottle necks are then frozen to form a yeast pellet, which is what shoots out when you open the bottle! This method of champagne production is the classic method. Other methods include pumping CO2 into the bottle, in which you would not have a yeast pellet. It is also interesting to note that a ‘Champagne’ can only be considered as such if it is from the Champagne region in France and it is made the classic method.

That’s all for now! I will keep updating with my favorite new drink recipes as they are discovered!



Ah, The Power Of Cheese

What ever happened to the ‘power of cheese’ commercials? In my opinion, cheese is underrated! It is high in nutrition, a complete protein, low in carbs, and high in calcium! Yes, it is also high in fat, but every thing in moderation, right? A few weekends ago, my dad made homemade cheese. It was so yummy and I was actually surprised at how easy it was (recipe to follow).

When making cheese, you are striving to coagulate casein – one of two main proteins found in milk, the other being whey. There are a few ways to coagulate the protein, one of the most popular is to enzymatically coagulate it by using enzymes. You can use renin from cows rumens, or other enzymes from bacteria and molds (these can add flavors to the cheese – stinky cheeses as I called them when I was little). The enzymes will work to break apart the casein protein, which will further trap water, fats, and minerals to make the curd. Post curd, the leftover liquid is whey, which is mainly water and vitamins.  The curd is further treated; it can be salted, cut, heated, or knitted to form a solid mass. After the curd is treated, the cheese can be ripened, aged, or cured. These methods allow the cheeses to develop their unique flavors and characteristics.

Ripening and curing are especially important in defining the type of cheese. The types created by ripening and/or curing are: fresh/young, soft, semisoft, firm, and hard. Cheeses that have no ripening or curing are fresh (sometimes called young) cheeses. These cheeses have a high moisture content and include: mozzarella, cream cheese, ricotta, and feta. Soft cheeses are quick to ripen, have a thin skin and a creamy center. Two examples of soft cheeses are brie and boursin. Semisoft cheeses are smooth and sliceable and include: gorgonzola, fontina, gouda, havarti, and stilton. Firm cheeses are not brittle, but only contain 30-40% moisture. These are your cheddar, monterey jack, and manchego cheeses. The hard and very hard cheeses are aged for a long time and are best for grating. The most popular types of these are your Italian cheeses, including asiago, pecorino romano (my personal favorite), and parmigiano reggiano (better known as parmesan).

There you have it! A short and sweet explanation of one of my favorite foods – CHEESE!

My Mini Restaurant Review

Since my last year of college is looming over me, I have vowed to myself that I will make an effort to see more of Washington DC this year. For me, of course, this means more restaurants! After continually stealing my friends Washingtonian subscription, I have been to a few very well rated DC restaurants. I also came to find out that 3 of the 100 best are in my neighborhood. One of these three, Fishnet, was surprisingly good. I took my brother, Alex, on this adventure with me. Fishnet could be easily overlooked since it is at the end of a Route 1 side street. This is unfortuante, because the food is so good! The fish sandwiches vary daily, based on the ‘catch of the day’. I decided to try the days daily catch, fried catfish, with a homemade mint lemonade, and a side of coleslaw. It was all so good! A little pricey, but I would definitely go back. I really want to go for brunch, lobster benedict sounds right up my alley!
My fried catfish sandwich with coleslaw: 
The second restaurant I was highly impressed with is Arlington’s Liberty Tavern. I have been here two times with my boyfriend since discovering it last week. If I were to describe it in 4 words: To die for cheeses. They have a large selection and most of them are from local farms. Also, most of their dishes are made in house. The first time I went I had the homemade ravioli…amazing. On my second visit I went for the branzino and grilled octopus. This was served with a sicilian style cous cous made with squid ink. Don’t let the look of it turn you away (black sauce, WHAT?!), I would describe it simply as being really salty. The best entree I have seen or tried at The Liberty Tavern was one that my boyfriend ordered, the “fish soup”. All of the seafood was perfectly cooked in a vegetable broth that had a slight hint of fennel and saffron. I would recommend this dish to anyone, even the less adventurous eater.
Branzino and grilled octopus, served with veggies and cous cous! Check out how black it is from the squid ink!
If you live around the DC area, or are ever making a trip, you should really check out these two restaurants! The less casual fishnet may be more appropriate for lunch, and there is a nice outside seating area. The Liberty Tavern is definitely more pricey and upscale, but still casual. I wouldn’t recommend sitting outside at the latter considering it is right on the corner of two busy cross streets. Also, if you’re in the area and looking for fun things to do, check out the Washingtonian website. It is a wealth of information about shows, restaurants, parks, movies, shopping, anything!