Monthly Archives: June 2013

Gnocchi verdi

ImageI don’t think I have proclaimed my love for everything italian emphatically enough. Well, that was an oversight, and it shall be corrected: I love everything italian. Yup, music, movies, food, wines, herbs, art, writers, the language, Fiat (give me a 500 convertible and I will marry you before you’ve had a chance to say buongiorno!), even Vespas are awesome, and if I didn’t have an irrational fear of motorcycles, I would definitely have one. Berlusconi is not my cup of tea, but then again there’s so many people there not liking him either! Right?

Right.

So, thinking «italian» and feeling a bit masochistic early in the morning, I turned my eye on my «Antonio Carluccio» collection. Signor Carluccio shares a birthday with my sister, so I feel connected to him in a strange cosmic way (which is weird to say today, of all days, on the day of Margherita Hack’s death, but I hope she’ll forgive me). A real cook-of-the-world, Antonio Carluccio has lived in Italy, Austria, Germany and ended up in England, where he still lives today. Like a true Italian, he has had some drama surrounding his life, but, hey, who hasn’t, right?

Going through my Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking copy, I came across a recipe for green gnocchi, that is gnocchi with spinach. Mr. S is not really a spinach fan, but I promised he wouldn’t even notice it, and went on to make them.

Now, Italians will promise on their Gucci shirt that gnocchi is really easy to make: do not believe them. It may be for them, but if you’re making them for the first time, expect frustration, flour EVERYWHERE in the kitchen, two black cats turned white, a yelled-at boyfriend and a slightly-bigger-than-normal batch of gnocchi. That will blow. Your. Mind!

A couple of tips before you start: allow NO moisture in your gnocchi mixture than the absolute minimum. That means, let the potatoes cool a bit before you start making your mixture, and squeeze the spinach like your life depends on it. Trust me, you won’t be sorry!

So, let’s start:

For the gnocchi, you will need:

500gr floury potatoes

200gr spinach

1 egg

110gr flour

salt & pepper

For the sauce

1 garlic clove (I used two, because, well… I love garlic)

500gr canned tomatoes (I used whole tomatoes, because, well… I love them!)

6 basil leaves (ravage your herb plants – HEY! I hope you have herb plants!)

Some mozzarella

Some oil

And the Joker said it best, when he said «Here. We. Go»

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Boil the potatoes until they are soft. At the same time, boil the spinach, in some salted water. It shouldn’t take more than, say, 2 minutes to boil, so don’t go off making your nails or surfing the web – it will overboil and the world will come to an end. Or not, but still. When it is ready, squeeze the living daylights out of it. Keep squeezing, even when you think there is no more water in it (which will never happen, unless you have some magical powers, in which case, what are you doing torturing yourself like that? Hire a chef! Or hire me!).

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Mash the potatoes, and your torture begins: Add the spinach, one egg, salt, pepper, and the flour. I added a tiny little bit of nutmeg, which was pretty nice, but if you want to stick to the original recipe, I won’t hold it against you. If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour, until you have a dough you can work with. Let me tell you, it took almost twice the flour and about an hour of trying to figure out what to do, until I got the dough right.

You will notice that I have no photos from this stage of the recipe. That was mainly due to the fact that my hands were covered in sticky green dough, and I almost reduced Mr. S to tears when he offered to snap a photo. Eventually, I made it, though, and boy, was I rewarded!

So, once you have your dough, cut out little pieces of it, roll them in a sausage-like shape and cut the gnocchi. Cut them small, like 1cm pieces or so, and, using your fork, make some indentations on them, so that the sauce sticks. When you’re done with that, throw them in some boiling water and  wait a couple of minutes, until they rise up on the surface. When they do that, they’re ready. Take them out using a slotted spoon and, there you have it: Gnocchi verdi!

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Tiny balls of gnocchi verdi on the surface! Do you see them there?

The sauce is fairly easy:

Cook the garlic in the oil, throw in the tomato, cook that for about 20 minutes, add the basil, cook a while longer, in order to incorporate the basil and, done!

Serve the gnocchi with the sauce, add the mozzarella and some parmesan if you want, and get ready for seconds! Even Mr. S had seconds (and then thirds…). Spinach, you are back in our lives (Hallelujah!!)

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Cosco Chicken (a.k.a. Chinese)

IMG_6824That recent brush the greek government had with Cosco made me crave for some good-old chinese food. Alright, I’ll be honest, it doesn’t take much to make me crave chinese food: show me some chicken, some colored peppers, a bottle of soy sauce, or, you know… a plate, and I’ll be on my knees begging for noodles. But today I have an excuse, and I intend to use it!

It’s about a thousand degrees (Celsius…) in Greece, so I didn’t even need to defrost my chicken from the night before. I asked Mr. S whether he had any sort of preference, and he said “can we get some cashews in the food?”.

I love this man, he can read my mind (which proves to be a problem whenever we’re in Italy – Italians are hot…!). My cashews cravings have been rampant for a while, but due to their high fat content, I couldn’t dig up an excuse to buy them. But, since Mr. S has remained the sole money provider in this family and all I can do is help him enjoy his meals, I am bound by ethical law to give him cashews! See how it all works out?

Chicken and cashews always make me turn to one of my favorite books from my collection (I have quite the cookbook collection): Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy. Now, since she actually has about a ton recipes on her webpage, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I posted one of them on mine. Ching always makes my day, she has a unique style and, as promised by the title of her book, she actually does make chinese food easy! Even for me. Like I’ve already said, I am not a chef, I am not a cook, I haven’t even been cooking for that long, so it is truly important to me when the recipe doesn’t require elaborate techniques and strange ingredients!

The recipe requires:

For the chicken

500 gr. Chicken (duh!)  (i used 2 breasts)

1 egg white

1 Tb corn flour

Some salt

300 ml groundnut oil (heck no, sorry Ching, I used a lot less!)

For the rest of the dish:

1 onion

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

2-3 Tb soy sauce

3 Tb chicken broth (I had no broth, so I used water – it changes it a little bit, but at the end of the day it was still awesome)

2 spring onions

2 Tb cashews

I swallowed in shame right at the start, because I have no wok. I used to have one, but I sold it for shoes (THAT was a joke, I used to have one, but I have no idea what happened to it – it’s probably stuck in some box down at the garage, gathering dust, wondering when I will find it and restore it to its old glory).

IMG_6816I have a big pan, though, so I sent a telepathic request for forgiveness to Ching and grabbed it.

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To start, mix the egg white, the corn flour and the salt, and, with it, coat the chicken. Yes, it will be enough. No, you will not believe it when you see it, but yes, it will be. Mix it all up in a plate, and leave it aside.

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Put the oil in the pan (wok, if you have one) on high heat, and throw the chicken in.

Make no mistake, it will try to kill you. There was so much splattering, I had to hide behind the corner. Now, I may be exaggerating a little bit, because I don’t like frying my food (even though I hardly consider this frying). But my stove did get a new groundnut oil layer we struggled to clean. Silver lining: the house smelled amazing.

The cat appreciated it!

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While the chicken is cooking, cut up the onion and the peppers – those last ones in strips. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the smell of cut-up red peppers. Almost as much as I like their taste – oh wait, they are related!

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Oh well!

When the chicken is done – you will know by the beautiful golden color – take it out of the pan and place it on absorbent paper. Discard of the oil (don’t throw it down the sink, find out how you can discard of frying oil either on the Internet, or ask your local authorities – in Kalamaria there is a place you can take it and they do something with it, we just give it to this nice guy who uses it to make dog food or something like that), save a Tb, put it back on high heat and throw in the onions. Cook them for a few seconds, until they are transparent, and add the peppers. Give them about a minute and add the chicken.

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Stir fry that for a while and then add the soy sauce, the broth (or water), some salt and some pepper. Then add the cashews and the spring onions, give it a twirl and, ta-da!

Serve it along with some jasmine rice. Now, as you can see, I couldn’t style a plate if my life depended on it. But, I give you my word, Ching is a genius, this food is mouthwatering.

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Try it and let me know what you think!

PS All my tags begin with a C. This is in no way important, but still, how cool! (–> another C)


Blogosphere, here I cook

Cheers!

Cheers!

Blogging is considered the 21st century’s window to the world, and even though I have been resisting for so long, I think it’s about time I caved in and embraced modernity. So, accompanied by the sounds of Tellin’ Stories (that’s The Charlatans UK for those of you out there who did not know) and some random politics talk show (I don’t even know why that’s on, but I’m embracing today, I’m all about love), this cherry is being popped.

My blog is up.

This page is called “All that Cooking”, because I cook. Also, because I think an homage to what most Greek families will be missing in a few months is in order. That is food, in case you missed that (very subtle, now that I revisit it) hint. So, cooking within a background of a financial crisis, unemployment and lack of money is sure to be a challenge I intend to meet.

Recently, my work status changed radically – I joined the ranks of the unemployed, after 18 years of constant work –  and I found myself with a lot more time in my hands. If only that phrase could be paired with “a lot more money”! But alas, it never is. So, as I struggle to fill in the gap that suddenly adorns my everyday life, since it is not easy to get used to not working every day, I’m hoping this will be a good refuge.

Now I am not a chef, or a cook. But I do fuss around in the kitchen, enough to want to write about it. That means that all my cooking will not be my own recipes. I have favorite chefs, cooks, cook-bloggers and I will be sticking my fingers into their writings and letting you all know how it went. And of course I intend to dig up all the recipes and advice my grandmother and mother have given me over the years. As true women of the Greek countryside, they could not let their little girl grow up lacking the necessary skills. Hopefully grandma Eleni is smiling her lovely crooked smile up there in the skies, showing me her rolling pin and saying “teach them how to roll a phyllo!”. I will!

So, I raise my glass (of wine) to you and welcome you to my special place. Here’s to a long and lasting friendship.

Cheers!


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