Friday, February 5, 2010


After a horribly long drought this last summer, I think mother nature is finally trying to make up for it this winter.  Texas weather never ceases to surprise me.  One weekend it's a beautiful 60 degrees, sunny, and perfect. The next weekend it will drop down into the 30's for a high, yet still sunny, despite the chill.  And then, "warm up" to the 40's but rain, and rain, and rain, for days.  I don't mind the rain so much, but Nelly hates it.  Correction, she doesn't hate being outside in the rain.  She hates me for making her stay inside all day, rather than let her get muddied up and slip and slide in my teeny, tiny backyard, then come back in, then back out, then back in.  Therefore, she sits at the back door and looks longingly outside.  Kind of heart-breaking, but not so much that I let her stay outside.

  This week, I decided to go back to savory.  Italian food is one of my favorites, right up there with Mexican.  I spent a good part of three summers in Italy when I was in high school, being a nanny for my Latin teacher from middle school.  I stayed in a beautiful villa in Tuscany in the town of Lucca, the only city in Italy that still has its intact medieval fortress walls surrounding it.  Now that I'm older, I wish I had been more adventurous while I was there and taken some authentic cooking classes.  I have a few dishes that I picked up while I was there, but would love to add more to my repertoire.
One of my favorite dishes there was gnocchi, a potato dumpling-like pasta.  Gnocchi is delicious with practically any type of sauce but some of my favorites are basil-pesto, tomato cream, and the one I made today, brown-butter sage sauce.
Once you've been to Italy, Italian food just doesn't taste the same anymore when you come back to the States.  You constantly compare your Americanized food to your authentic food from Italy, at least that's what I do.  Each part of Italy has a very different style of cooking and menu.  When I came back to Austin, I was determined to find a restaurant that had comparable food to what I was served in Tuscany. It wasn't until I was in college when friend, with whom I had taken Italian classes with in school, took me to a restaurant called Primizie, that he was convinced I would love.  Right, he was.  Their food was fresh and authentic and delicious.  Sadly, I just learned that they are closing down, not because their food isn't amazing, but they couldn't renew their lease in the building they were in.  My absolute favorite dish at the restaurant was a gnocchi with brown-butter sage sauce with mushrooms, corn, and shallots--YUM! Along side it they served freshly made rosemary flatbread.
I was feeling ambitious this week and thought I would make my own gnocchi AND rosemary focaccia, but then my cookbook intimidated me with the gnocchi instructions and I could foresee a gnocchi disaster.  So, I'm going to save that adventure for another day and just make homemade rosemary focaccia alongside my store bought gnocchi.
I don't have the "actual" recipe that Primizie used for their dish, but the title and description pretty much summed it up and I have made this dish multiple times and it continues to be a favorite.
So first, the rosemary focaccia.  I'm using a recipe from Teanna at Spork or Foon.  Recipe seemed simple enough and it was a good opportunity to use my dough hook on my pink Kitchenaid!
Along with recipes that call for butter at "room-temperature," I'm not a big fan of recipes that call for the bread to "rise until doubled."  But today is rainy, so what better way to spend your time than reading a good book with a hot cup of peppermint tea, waiting for your bread to rise.
Waiting for the dough to rise, not once, but twice, was the longest part of making this bread.  It only took 21 minutes to bake.  I ended up putting a piece of foil over the top about 12 minutes into it because it was already getting golden brown and didn't want it to be black by the time it was cooked all the way through.
The focaccia is delicious. Not Italy delicious, but very close.  The coarse sea salt and rosemary are the perfect blend.

Now for the gnocchi... Unfortunately, it was dark by the time I made this, so I wasn't able to get any natural light shots, so this first picture here is with a flash and the one below is without.  I really like the natural light for photos better. But without further ado, here is my makeshift recipe.

Gnocchi with brown-sage butter sauce
1 package gnocchi
1 can corn
1 stick butter
8-10 leaves fresh sage
1 shallot
1 1/2 cups mushrooms of your choice (I like baby bellas), sliced
parmesan cheese

Melt butter in pan over medium heat and add shallots, cook until butter begins to turn brown then remove from heat and add sage.  In another pan, cook mushrooms (I add a little olive oil) until they are still slightly firm. (Can "al dente" apply to mushrooms, too?) Add corn and heat through.  Add together with butter sauce.
Cook gnocchi according to package directions and when finished toss in butter sauce.  Serve immediately and sprinkle shredded or shaved parmesan on top.

Like I said before, one of my favorite meals.

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