sweet potato gnocchi with a sage corn pancetta cream sauce

I’m going to admit this pasta dish rocks. I’m also going to admit I didn’t use anyone’s recipe it came together as I started to plan it.

I have written down both the recipe for the sauce and the pasta as best I can. I hope it comes together for you like it did for me.

I think the sauce is amazing and could easily be translated to a fettuccine or something.

The Creamy Pancetta Sage Sauce

  • • 4 ounces diced pancetta (Wegmans sells it)
  • • 4 tablespoons butter
  • • 2 small vidalia onions chopped
  • • 1 small red hot pepper diced (no seeds!)
  • • 2 ears of cooked corn off the cob
  • • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • • 1 pint light cream (2 cups)
  • • 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (super fine for sauces)
  • • 2/3 cup fine grated Parmesan
  • Melt the butter. Add the onion and the red pepper and some salt to taste. Add the corn. Chop fine the fresh sage and add that. Cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

    This should all be low to the bare minimum of medium heat. You don’t want anything to burn.

    Add the flour. Stir briskly in the pan so nothing sticks and the flour is absorbed.

    Add the wine. Stir briskly. Let that cook for a minute or two and add the light cream.

    Allow the sauce to come together and stir constantly until an even warm temperature. You want it to come to almost a boil but not a boil because you don’t want to scald the cream.

    Add the Parmesan cheese gradually till all incorporate it and let it cook on low a little while longer. Let it cook down, and it will cook down some and thicken a bit. It doesn’t get stand your spoon upright thick, but it thickens in consistency.

    Gnocchi

    The gnocchi are an approximation. I make my pasta by feel.

    • 1 1/2 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
    • 2 cups of semolina flour
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • A few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil

    Combine everything in a bowl and bring your dough together. After everything is evenly mixed place a damp cloth over the bowl that your dough is in and let it rest for an hour.

    Roll out between your hands thin “snakes” of dough and with a sharp knife cut even sized bite-size pieces.

    Your pasta should be laid out on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking pad. You should have enough for two layers of bite-size pieces and the layers should be separated with parchment paper and covered with parchment paper and a linen towel and put in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your pasta.

    Fresh gnocchi only take a few scant minutes to cook in boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook.

    As you remove your gnocchi add a little bit of sauce in between and then finish with sauce on top.

    Mangia!

    summer sauce

    I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

    2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

    Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

    Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

    Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

    Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

    This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

    It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

    Easy summer dinner.

    Leftover sauce can be frozen.

    like a little pandora’s box: the old recipe box

    I love to cook and everyone who knows me knows I collect vintage and old cookbooks, so today I added an old recipe box to my repertoire.

    It was a funny little thing and probably no one else would have bought it because it’s like a piece of some other woman’s history but it has all her cherished recipes in it, which I find really cool. I also found it really sad that no one in her family wanted it.

    Old Fashioned Walnut Loaf? Sounds pretty good!

    These are just a few of the recipes. The owner of the recipe box seem to like pineapple because there are a lot of pineapple recipes. But there are also a couple of old-fashioned fudge recipes too!

    Pot pies. Green bean casserole (which I will keep in the recipe box but will never cook because I think it’s gross.) And more!

    Now that I have this recipe box and it’s a nice one I am also going to add my late mother-in-law’s recipes. She was a legendary home cook and it was because of her I learned how to make an amazing gazpacho.

    I love old recipes. Especially the handwritten ones. They are history. Someone took the time to write these down, which is what makes them special.

    These old handwritten recipes are a thing. There is actually a blog called Handwritten Recipes but the creator hasn’t posted since December.

    Now most prefer the ease of simply going to the internet and letting your fingers do the walking but nothing beats an amazing old cookbook. Or a recipe someone thought enough of to write down.

    Old cookbooks and old handwritten recipes are a little like going on a mystery history tour. And if you want to master a basic recipe in the kitchen, this is how to do it. New cookbooks are lovely but it’s the old ones that really teach you the art of cooking. Not just a new recipe.

    Tips and tricks. That is also what you will find in between the pages of old cookbooks and recipe boxes. It’s kind of cool when you find one. You also learn about the food trends of the past. (HINT: check out a cooking show from Ireland you can find streaming on Netflix called Lords and Ladles.)

    In 2018 Food and Wine wrote an article on cookbook collecting:

    Before you throw your old cookbooks away, it might be worth getting them appraised. Antiques Roadshow’s latest season, which premiered this past Monday, will make a stop in one of America’s most beloved food cities: New Orleans. While shooting in the well-known southern travel destination and former Louisiana capital’s convention center last summer, Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Brattle Book Shop owner Ken Gloss revealed to Forbes that our old family cookbooks are worth more than we realize….According to Gloss, some of the earliest American cookbooks (dating back to the 1790s) are selling in the $1,000 range, while books from as far back as the 1400s and 1500s go for thousands of dollars. Some other pricey collectibles are glossy cookbooks about cake decorating from the 1920s, first editions signed by cooking legends like Julia Childs and Fannie Farmer, and even some hard to find recipe pamphlets once included with newly purchased appliances. Gloss states that although seemingly mundane, their high price tag is due to how these items serve as historical documents—about places, people, cultures, and, of course, the food of the time.

    “[Cookbooks] offer a view into society at the time,” Gloss told Forbes. “What were the foods people were eating? What was available? How were they preparing them?”

    Old cookbooks and discarded recipe boxes can be found everywhere. Thrift stores, garage and estate sales, eBay, Etsy, Thriftbooks, used book stores local to where you live, library book sales and more. Church rummage sales are one of my go to sources for old cookbooks.

    Step away from your keyboard next time you need a recipe and dust off a cookbook or crack open an old recipe box. You never know what treasures you will unearth!

    fall dinner….mmmmm

    Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.

    I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!

    I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)

    So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.

    First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)

    Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.

    As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.

    After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.

    Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)

    Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.

    Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

    People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.

    My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.

    Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.

    Bon Appétit!

    baking day: banana bread and collecting cookbooks

    I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.

    Start with preheating your oven to 350°.

    Next, your ingredients:

    3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted

    1 cup white sugar

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    Four eggs

    2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

    1 teaspoon cardamom

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    3 cups all purpose flour

    1 1/2 teaspoons salt

    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

    1 cup chopped pecans

    1 cup dried cranberries

    1 cup dark raisins

    Five large bananas mashed up

    The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.

    Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.

    Put the pans to the side.

    And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries

    Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.

    After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.

    Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.

    The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!

    Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.

    Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.

    My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.

    My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.

    For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.

    As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.

    One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.

    I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.

    A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.

    Enjoy your day!

    hummus tahini

    With the exception of a few short days between the flu and flu related viruses I have now been sick off and on but mostly on since the 28th of December. (On the news when they run through the list of people who are susceptible to flu, especially if they forget to get a flu shot, I’m right up there.

    As a result I have become the master of sick food. It has not been a month where I have been overwhelmingly starving. And the foods I have been eating have been pretty basic. A lot of chicken soups, in particular. (I have to tell you having an Instant Pot to make bone broth, soups, and stews has been a god send.)

    I am not a big giant sandwich eater for lunch most days so things like yogurt and hummus have also been up there on the list of things which have tasted good to me.

    I love hummus tahini. My mother has been making it since we were little. When we were little it was a sure sign of company coming over because it was one of her “go to” hors d’oeuvres kind of things.

    I have never really used a recipe to make my hummus. I just watched what my mother did for years and then I have created my own recipes as an adult.

    I made it again today and I think it’s extra delicious this time, so I decided to commit the recipe to paper, or blog. (And yes I still have that draft of that unfinished cookbook on my computer desk top and this recipe will be added to it.)

    Hummus Tahini Ingredients:

    1 extra large can of Goya chickpeas – 1 lb. 13 oz. DRAINED

    1 large sweet onion rough chopped

    4 large cloves garlic

    1/4 cup pine nuts

    1 large red bell pepper rough chopped

    Juice of two large lemons

    A couple of dashes of Cumin

    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

    Approximately 1/3 cup Tahini paste (you can add more or you can add less – truthfully it’s a matter of personal taste)

    1/3 cup olive oil

    Salt and pepper to taste.

    Olive oil and sweet paprika to dress the hummus before refrigerating.

    A food processor or a blender that works like one. (I have a Breville blender it seems to do everything except take out the trash.)

    Now to put it together…

    I put into the blender the red pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne. I then add a couple of dashes of salt and pepper to taste and blend well.

    Then I add the pine nuts and blend well.

    Then I add the chickpeas, and blend well again.

    Then I add the tahini paste in three parts because it’s a pain to work with and blend some more.

    I taste it and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary, and also may add a little more lemon juice or a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar if I don’t think the acid balance is right. The thing about hummus is there is a balance to the acids you add, and when people omit the acid it doesn’t taste as good.

    I will also tell you that I know some people who blend the tahini paste and lemon juice first to break down the tahini and make it more pliable. I do that sometimes too, but also breaking the adding of adding tahini in three bits also makes it manageable.

    When my hummus tahini is velvety smooth, I put it in its own container and I dress the top of it with a few swirls of olive oil and sweet paprika. I then refrigerate until cold.

    Hummus is fabulous with pita bread of course, but also goes well with carrots and other vegetables. it also makes a great base to a vegetarian type sandwich if you are so inclined.

    Truthfully hummus is one of my favorite things especially for lunch. And not just when I’m not feeling well. I will buy prepackaged hummus tahini but I still think nothing is better than making it yourself and it’s so simple and takes very little time.

    Enjoy!

    chutney!

    One of the best smells in a fall kitchen is when you are making chutney. Chutney is sweet, pickley, and savory and it just has wonderful aromas.

    For me, chutney is one of those kitchen sink kind of prospects as far as recipes. In other words, what I have available in my kitchen dictates what kind of chutney I make.

    Today I made Apple – Tomato – Plum chutney. I had a bunch of beautiful fresh tomatoes that someone had gifted us that we were not going to eat before they got too soft, so I blanched all six of them in hot water to make it easy to remove the skins and then I chopped them up and threw them in the pot with:

    • Five medium apples peeled, cored ,and chopped
    • Six plums, mostly peeled and chopped
    • Four green tomatoes, chopped
    • One large red onion, chopped
    • One large sweet onion chopped
    • One red bell pepper, chopped
    • One poblano pepper seeded, de-veined and minced
    • Four jalapeño/Serano peppers seeded, de-veined and minced
    • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar (I did not have any malt vinegar)
    • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
    • Mustard seed, quatre epices, cinnamon, pickling salt (1 1/2 teaspoons), fresh cracked pepper, cumin, dill weed, curry powder.
    • 8 teaspoons honey

    I cook everything in my Maslin pot. You bring everything up to almost a boil and then you reduce to simmer, and the chutney cooks down for an hour and a half to two hours – I just sort of eyeball it and I know when it’s the right consistency.

    I have a vintage cookbook that I love that I use as a guide. Alison Burt’s Preserves and Pickles from 1974. I bought it at a church book sale years ago, but you can easily find copies on eBay and Amazon that are very inexpensive.

    When the chutney reached its desired consistency for me, I jarred in sterilizesterilized jars and did the full immersion hot water bath for canning.

    Right now my chutney is all beautiful and jewel toned and cooling on wooden cutting boards on my counter. When they are completely cool, I will tighten the lids on the jars and add the labels.

    You can also make chutney that you do not put up that you just jar and refrigerate and it’s good for a few months that way.

    Fall canning and preserving is so much easier than you think.

    Try it!