Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Decapitated Pumpkin Day!

I never really understood this holiday. Now that it has become such a lucrative consumer free-for-all, it's simply an candy begging campaign to occupy the store displays during that lull between Thanksgiving gluttony and X'mas excess. A heathen like me is sorry to see how this solemn day of All Hallows Eve has been turned into sugar-rush marathon dressed up in a itchy, gaudy gorilla suit.

I know haven’t been a very good blog-mistress lately. I could tell you that it’s because we’ve had guests staying with us and a never-ending parade of family and friends coming by to visit. I could tell you that I’ve had the joy of celebrating the birthdays of both my DH and grandpa within a week of each other. I could tell you that work has been turned upside down and sideways. I could tell you that my final push of food preserving has left me so busy that I’m cross-eyed.

It would be true but really, all that wouldn’t make this past week any different than any other week.

The real reason why I haven’t been posting?

I’m obsessed with my new knitting project:

I’m making a kimono sleeved shrug wrap. Yes! It’s finally sweater season! Yippee!

For knit-geeks: The background colours are, of course, Noro yarn. I’m using a Silk Garden No. 34 and a Kureyon no. 178. I’m also using Marks & Kattens Feelings yarn leftover from a wedding afghan I did for my sis-in-law and her DH. You can’t really tell from these shots but the Feeling’s yarn pattern is based on a motif from a plant pot.

It took me a few days and several cathartic frogged attempts to finally figure out the pattern. Initially I was going to use the Noro for the motif and the Feelings yarn for the background but it just didn’t look right. Then I tinkered with the motif a bit. After a week of knitting, I finally managed to finish one sleeve and I’m ready to dive into the other sleeve. As usual, I’m doing it all on circular needles and I’m trying to get away with doing as little seaming as possible.

I still haven’t designed the collar yet but I figure the sweater will tell me what sort of collar it wants when I get to that point.

However, as obsessed as I am with my new project, I haven’t been starving. Especially since I am blessed with friends and family who show up at my door with local bounty. I have a couple packages of moose steaks and sausage in the freezer thanks to DH’s family’s generosity. I can’t wait to get into those.

Last week, we had friends show up with an armful of locally picked chantrelles!

I made a chantrelle chowder. I sautéd the sliced chantrelles in a little bit of smoked bacon dripping and butter. Remove the chantrelles and brown up some chopped local veggies (potatoes, carrots, corn, celery, onion) and added a litre of homemade chicken stock. I let it simmer for a few minutes and voila, a soup fit for a queen!

My friend, Karin, and I also made a batch of gnocchi this past week. Not just any gnocchi but purple Peruvian potato gnocchi and a batch of butternut squash gnocchi. The Peruvian purple ones look like Grimace turds but would assume they taste much better than that. Grimace turds probably taste like rancid McGrease.

My Fast and Dirty gnocchi recipe is as follows:

1-2 cups mashed veggie – starchy potato like Yukon gold, russet. Don’t use waxy potatoes like red potatoes. You can also use winter squash, yams, sweet potato. To the potato dough base you can also add roasted garlic, eggplant, pesto, spices, sundried tomato, spinach, tapenade, fermented black bean, miso, chickpeas. This is one of those recipes that is ripe for experimentation.

2-3 cups flour – I used locally milled organic Red Fife wheat flour.

1 egg

pinch of salt & pepper.

Mix the mashed vegetables and egg and salt in a big bowl. Add a cup of flour and mix well. Add more flour in 1/3 cup increments, mixing until the flour is incorporated into the dough. Basically add flour and knead until the dough isn’t sticky anymore.

Pull of a ball of dough and roll that into a ¾ inch snake. Cut it into 2cm pieces. Roll each piece against the tines of a fork so they get a grooved pattern. The grooves provide a place for the sauce to hang out.

Bring a pot of salted water to a hard boil. Drop in gnocchi individually so they don’t clump up. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until they float up to the surface. Remove from water and continue until all your gnocchi are cooked. They can be popped into pan and sautéd with some butter and other tasty goodies. I opted to serve it with a sauté of local veggies and chorizo sausage from the Nanaimo Sausage House.

Uncooked gnocchi can be frozen. Simply line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay the gnocchi in a single layer. Once hard, they can be transferred to a Ziploc. I often make 2-3 batches of gnocchi since they freeze well and only need to be boiled before eating.

A shaving of aged manchego and some good company was the seasoning this dish needed.

To finish off, here’s what I had for lunch today:

It was leftovers from yesterday’s dinner of local striped shrimp curry. The shrimps were amazing. Unlike imported prawns and shrimps, these didn’t turn rubbery and tough after the initial cooking and then a subsequent ride in the nukebox to be reheated for lunch . They were super-sweet and juicy. Hands down they were better than any frozen imported prawn or shrimp I've had before. There were a pleasant reminded that 'Oh yeah, sea bugs are supposed to be flavourful and not nuggets of sea-tinged rubbery protein.' These are from West Coast Wild Pacific Seafoods and I got my batch from Shady Mile market.

That's it. I'm hiding out in the back room and knitting for the rest of the day.



Gina said...

I am wowwed all around! The knitting, the preserving, the gnocchi. Yum. I must figure out how to make gluten-free gnocchi. This could be the pasta that I will miss the most. BTW, I come here via French Chic.

Anonymous said...

The chantarelles look beautiful--how'd you get them so CLEAN?? When we pick them they've got tons of dirt, esp. on the undersides, and it almost ruins them to get the grit off. Please dish!!