My HuffPost Story, Ancient Chat with Mario Batali, “Foodie” Conflicts and Gnocchi! 03/06/2013

Foodie Fame!

A good friend is a big fan of the Huffington Post. He occasionally sends me stories that are worth reading. About 3 or 4 months ago, one of them was of a success story of massive weight loss and inspiration. My buddy suggested I send in MY story. Thinking it could be kind of fun, I sat and typed a lot of words into my email program, attached a few images and sent it off! The Huffington Post has millions and millions of readers. I assumed it would never see the light of day. I sent it and, just as quickly, forgot about it.

About 2 weeks ago, I got an email from them saying that they loved my story and plan to run it. Being a classy operation they even apologized for making me wait! I had a little chat with the woman, answered some of her questions and then waited to see what would happen.

The article came out on Monday morning. It's been a bit of a whirlwind, since! Whew!

If you haven't read it, click the image above, or click this link to my article at The Huffington Post.

For those of you that HAVE read it and are new to my blog ... there are MANY of you! ... Welcome to my little corner of the Internet! Thank you for participating! I hope you enjoy a regular onslaught of delicious recipes in a generally whimsical and lighthearted fashion! I send blogs about 2 to 3 times a week, and average a new recipe, every single day. Look towards the bottom of this email to see today's batch!


The Huffington Post Hates "Foodie"

In a somewhat ironic twist of fate ... the same week that the Huffington Post runs my story of doughnuts and inspiration, they also run a story declaring their hatred towards the word "Foodie". They put it up there with other food words like "moist" and "nom nom". *cringe*

To be perfectly honest, I don't love the name "DJ Foodie", but ... it's been around me for at least 15 years. When trying to think of what to call this blog, I had a long list of ideas. Between friends, family and my girlfriend at the time, "DJ Foodie" was determined to be the most memorable, even as I fought for the similarly cringe inducing "SaucyBanter.com".

What do you think? DJ Foodie or Saucy Banter?

In all cases ... DJ Foodie seems to stick with me. It's mine. It's me. This is me OWNING IT! ?


Foodie Time Travel

Here's an amusing little slice of DJ Foodie history. This should give a sense of where the name came from.

In 1999 I had an online radio show, called "The MasterCook Show". I, DJ Foodie, and my Co-Host Sous Chef Cleve, interviewed many of the James Beard winners, that year. In 1999, Mario Batali's Babbo won the James Beard Foundation Award (like the Oscars, but for restaurants), for "Best New Restaurant".

Pizza Pucks

If you're interested in a 35 minute long recording of a chat between a 24 year old DJ Foodie and Mario Batali (including the story behind the orange shoes!) ... Click the link. Give it a listen. It's a fun one. If you like it, I've got more!

Even though I agree that "Foodie" is a bit childish, I was but a child when I was dubbed "Foodie" by friends. It seems clear that the Huffington Post has a little room in its heart for this foodie, even if they hate the name.

Thank you, Huffington Post!


Today's Recipes

I have 4 recipes today. Two are sauces and two are suggestions on how to use the sauces. I don't want to spend too much time describing them as they are each their own little stories. The gnocchi, for example, could almost be its own solo blog post!

Again, I want to welcome all the new readers! Thank you for joining us!

You'll hear from me again in a few days.

Cheers!

DJ


Tomato & Roasted Pepper Cream

Often times you'll walk into an Italian restaurant and be offered a white sauce, or a red sauce. You can order a pizza and have it red or white. Certainly "red" is the more common variety in these instances, but white is just as tasty!

I'm here to tell you that the world isn't always so red and white. There are always going to be shades of pink.

Welcome to one of my personal favorites! This is a WONDERFUL accompaniment to pasta, zoodles, poured over a chicken breast, drizzled onto a bowl of buttered cauliflower, etc. It's got some pink from the tomatoes, as well as the slightly sweet roasted peppers. It's also got a little texture and smoky flavor coming from the bacon bits. Finally, there are the little speckles of fresh basil, to tie the whole thing together.

It's also INCREDIBLY fast to make; a perfect pairing with a plethora of meal ideas. Give it a shot!

Note: Reduced cream-based sauces tend to form a skin almost immediately. As a result, the photos aren't as "pink" as the sauce really was. Bear in mind ... the skin is delicious! :)

[ VIEW RECIPE ]

Ricotta Gnocchi

Here we have gnocchi (nee-yo-kee). Gnocchi is a favorite of mine, going as far back as childhood. These soft Italian dumplings always hit the spot, tossed simply with marinara and cheese. Within a low-carb way of life, I'd long assumed that gnocchi had vacated my future. Then, without really meaning to, I discovered "ricotta gnocchi".

Most all gnocchi I had growing up was a mixture of mashed potatoes, flour and eggs. This was formed into a dough, then little dumplings, which were then boiled. Over my career, I've seen different flavors and methods employed, including boiling, frying, broiling and the use of sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, nuts, etc. Every variation I'd ever heard of used flour in some way. Flour is a no no within a low-carb lifestyle.

So, what's this ricotta gnocchi? Interesting! Turns out, it's basically ricotta mixed with flour and eggs. My shoulder sank. Bummer.

Then, I found a reference to a pure ricotta variety, stemming from the Zuni Café cookbook. (Zuni Café is a famous restaurant in San Francisco ... the best hamburger on earth!)

Here's a link to the recipe I followed. My master plan had been to follow this recipe, but dust the final dumplings with parmesan cheese, rather than flour. This would work and would be significant enough of a change to warrant a new recipe!

Starting with a store bought organic, expensive, high-end ricotta (rather than making my own), I put it in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge and let it drip-dry for 24 hours. I really wanted to follow the recipe to a T. Once the ricotta is dried, the rest is fairly easy to follow along with.

I followed along with the recipe, tweaking, twiddling and twoddling, until I finally had something like a batter. I tried to form dumplings, but ... it was too loose. I refrigerated the batter to see if it would firm up. It didn't. Finally, I decided to see what would happen if I carefully dropped some batter into a pool of very hot, but very still, salted water. Imagine every molecule in the gnocchi being upset with every other molecule. When given the chance to run far far away from everything, they do. This is what adding the batter to the water was like. Everything went every which way, resulting in a pale white water, with nary a gnocchi in sight. I was beyond frustrated!

*light bulb*

Then, I remembered the Instant Mashed Potatoes that had been kicking around my cupboards. LC Foods had mentioned on their Facebook page that they'd send free samples to people willing to try them out. I submitted my info, and they immediately sent me the stuff (also some tasty trail mix!). I was energetic enough to get the free mashed potatoes, but ... a good month went by and I never tried them. I had been attacked with a severe bout of laziness.

I dug the potatoes out of my cupboard, measured a cup of it, mixed it in and tested it in water. The outer layer very briefly tried to run away from every other part of the outer layer, but then it all miraculously hung together, sank for a moment, then came bobbing back to the surface after about 1 minute. I let it cook for about 4 more minutes and then pulled it out. It was soft, but ... it held its own. I tasted it. YUM!

In the end, I was a little worried about the taste, because I've had a bad experience with instant mashed potatoes in the past. However, these were AMAZING. They were light and delicious, with precisely zero of the strange flavors stemming from other low-carb instant potatoes that I've had. Well done, LC Foods!

Forming Note: The are a few ways to form these. You can do it by rolling long logs in parmesan cheese, then cutting the logs into smaller dumplings. You can use a spoon and drop each dumpling into grated parmesan. You can also use a very small ice cream scoop for it (chances are, you won't have this, though). Here's what I did: I put the dough into a pastry bag, without a tip. I also set up a platter with freshly grated (the finest grate) parmesan cheese. Then, I placed the pastry bag in one hand, with a steak knife in the other. I extruded the dough out of the tip, while using the steak knife to cut the dough-stream every inch. This created a quick succession of small inch long cylinders, each dropping into random spots on the parmesan. I did this until I was out of dough. I tossed it in the parmesan to make sure it was evenly coated, then refrigerated it for about 30 minutes. The rest is in the recipe!

Sauce Note: the gnocchi in the photos are topped with a tomato and roasted pepper cream, but a marinara sauce would be nice, as would just very simply fried in butter, with maybe little sage and topped with grated parmesan cheese.

[ VIEW RECIPE ]

Sweet and Spicy Tomato Jam

This tomato jam recipe comes from a restaurant that no longer exists. I am unsure who developed it, but it was on the menu when I worked there, as a kid. I LOVED this stuff and made it regularly. I'm sure I used it wrong, when I slathered it on my own meals, but I applied it, liberally, to almost everything. One of my favorites was to toss it with pasta and devour it when I got home. A strange combination, but one I ate often!

The flavor combinations are also a bit strange. It's a difficult recipe to pinpoint, in terms of ethnic origin. Is it Indian? Is it Moroccan? It initially feels like a sweet tomato jam from the southern U.S., but then the spices and aromatics harking from other countries start teasing the olfactory nerves, resulting in a powerful mélange of exotic tastes and aromas. That's my way of saying ... it's TASTY!

I don't remember how we used this in the restaurant. I want to say it was served with lamb, but I'd be lying if I said that with certainty. I think it tastes great on everything, but I would likely hold it up to bigger/bolder flavors: beef, lamb, goat, bison, ostrich, venison, etc. for example.

Oh ... now I want to braise lamb shanks in this stuff! Stay tuned!

Note: Makes about 1 1/2 cups of jam. The recipe is calculated for twelve 2-tbsp portions.

[ VIEW RECIPE ]

Spiced Ginger Steak Salad with Cauliflower

This is a quick little warm salad, but one which is BURSTING with flavor!

I had made a sweet and spicy tomato jam, which comes from an old recipe of my youth. I wanted to use it for something simple and tasty, and came up with this salad.

This is one of those salads that falls under the "warm salad" category, which I love so much. I should point out some differences between the actual recipe and photos, from what I would normally do in my personal life. Being a busy guy, it's quite common for me to throw stuff in a pan with virtually no regard to "looks". This is a salad that can be quick and tasty, but is also quick to lose its aesthetic charm, when done in the "quick and dirty" fashion in which so many of my warm salads are actually made.

What I would REALLY do, on a busy day, is heat up some coconut oil in a large sauté pan. I would throw in some cauliflower florets and season them with salt and pepper. They would sauté in the pan, while I take some beef and cut it into cubes. I would season the cubes with salt, pepper and some cumin, just to tie it together. At this point, I'd add the cubed beef to the hot pan with the cauliflower and let it brown on one side. Then, I'd toss it around once to let it sear on a different side. While this is all happening in the pan, I'd take a large salad bowl and put some baby spinach into it, with a big spoonful of tomato jam. Then, I'd make sure the cauliflower and beef were cooked. If they are cooked through, I'd throw them, hot, into the salad bowl. Then, I'd toss all the ingredients together, resulting in a wilted spinach salad, BRIMMING with flavor!

Or, you can also roast it and compose it, like the recipe states. Either way, it's a good thing!

[ VIEW RECIPE ]
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