Monday, April 14, 2008

Wine and dine

For a story I'm working on, I had a small wine tasting with my friends on Sunday to sample five bottles from Frogmore Creek.

It was challenging to come up with a variety of dishes light enough for a hot evening (it almost got up to 100 degrees), substantial enough to hold us through five bottles of wine and cheap enough for my budget.

For starters, I made spinach and artichoke dip and baguettes. For dessert I chilled a spicy Mexican chocolate rice pudding. One of my friends brought wonderful, syrupy sweet strawberries and candied nuts.

And for the main course I made fresh gnocchi from scratch with thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream, a recipe from VeganYumYum.

I've never made homemade gnocchi before, and it was more time-consuming than I thought it would be.

First you have to bake a couple russet potatoes, then peel and grate them. Let that air dry for a little bit, then shape into a ball. Add flour.

Potato with flour

Combine to form a weird dough. Not too sticky, not too dry, not too combined, not too lumpy ...

Gnocchi dough

Roll that out into a long dough snake, then cut into bite-sized chunks.

Gnocchi pillows

Curl each chunk around the tines of a fork, until they look like real gnocchi. (Don't forget to say, "Awwww!" and nearly die from the complete adorableness of what you've made.)

Gnocchi dents

Boil. The second, third, fourth and fifth batches turned out better than the first; I think it holds together better when there's starch in the water.

Boiling gnocchi

The photo really doesn't do the dish justice. Each gnocchi was a little pillow of potato perfection. The thyme vinaigrette was salty and grassy, while the cashew cream had a really bright taste that melted all the other flavors together. (The cream looks lumpy here, but it was silky smooth and delicious.)

Finished dish

It was a dish that was truly worth the effort. I'm really glad I had people here to impress!

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