Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bounty of Fruit Gets Added to the Holiday Mix...

Roasted Turkey Breast Stuffed with Feta, Spinach, and Apple
Sautéed Gnudi with Leek and Piñata Apple Cream Sauce

As if the many brightly wrapped and beribboned gifts skirting our twinkling tree weren't enough of a bounty to behold this holiday season, a knock at our door on Christmas Eve announced an unexpected delivery of some of the most beautiful fruit we've ever seen...heaps of apples and pears, perfectly shaped and colored, each nestled in its own dimple-cushioned compartment to ensure its safe arrival. Four long boxes...each housing more than a dozen pieces of flawless fruit!!! Needless to say, this was more than a generous gift...and one that surely added to the sweetness of our holiday celebration. Thank you R & J.

Our entire bounty of fruit arrived from Stemilt Growers, located in Wenachee, Washington... beautiful D'Angou pears and an assortment of red apples. One particular apple we'd never heard of before...the Piñata, a beautiful apple with a wonderful crisp, juicy crunch. It has all the flavor of a classic apple with an added punch...a slightly tropical flavor. It's an apple that is exclusive to Stemilt and quickly gaining recognition for it heirloom heritage and unique characteristics -- firm and crunchy; bright white flesh (that resists browning when sliced); and excellent in a variety of uses from salads to sauces. In addition to its great poaching and baking qualities, the Piñata also freezes well. Quite a versatile little fruit!

Though we immediately sliced into a few pieces and enjoyed the snack immensely, we were thankful that the boxes included storing suggestions to ensure that we'd relish this gift for weeks to come. And, while we knew that we would greatly enjoy the sweet, simple perfection of savoring this fruit as Nature intended...au natural...I admit that I immediately began thinking of ways to incorporate it into our already planned holiday menus...

Roasted Turkey Breast Stuffed with Fresh Spinach, Feta, and Apple

With plans to serve a stuffed turkey breast on Christmas Day, our new lot of apples made the perfect addition to a stuffing of fresh spinach and feta cheese. Though I know that many people simply must have the traditional, whole roasted turkey over the holidays, this little stuffed breast is so easy, so tasty, and so beautiful to serve that I think it may just replace the annual bird in our home (and maybe even make it to the table on other nights during the year). I served slices of this turkey breast over a bed of sautéed Grated Zucchini, and laid medallions of sliced, roasted sweet potato alongside. Simple, fresh, flavorful...and festive! 

1 large turkey breast (skinned, de-boned, lightly pounded, and butterflied...by your butcher!)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I actually used 1/2 blue cheese and 1/2 feta...what I had on hand!)
1 cup fresh apple, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay turkey breast flat on work surface. Layer spinach, cheese, and apples over surface of breast. Roll breast (from longest edge), tucking filling in as you go, until it is rolled into a "log" shape. Using kitchen/cooking twine, secure roll by wrapping twine around log (circling it from one end to the other, and then tightly securing the tips of each end to prevent stuffing from escaping). Drizzle breast with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Rub seasoning into meat. Place turkey roll into a roasting pan and place in oven for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until inside temperature reaches 170 to 180 degrees.

2. Remove turkey roll to cutting board and transfer roasting pan to stove top to prepare a gravy, if desired. Simply place your roasting pan on stove top (or transfer drippings to a skillet, if preferred). Add a cup or so of water and bouillon (or chicken stock) to pan and bring to a low boil. Scrape drippings from pan to incorporate into gravy. To thicken, add a little flour or cornstarch (about a 1/4 cup). To prevent lumps from forming, make sure you mix your thickener with some water or butter to create a little mixture to add to your pan juices. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: This recipe would work great with chicken breasts as well. 

Sauteed Gnudi with Leek and Piñata Apple Cream Sauce

Just before the holidays, we ventured into a new restaurant for a late night meal. We had just attended a couple of cocktail gatherings when we realized we'd never had a proper dinner...and we were starving. Being that it was after nine o'clock on a weeknight, we weren't sure we'd find any restaurant kitchens still serving a dinner menu. Assured that Beeker & Flask would...and buoyed by the kudos that came with this recommendation...we arrived ready for sustenance.

Both of us ordered salads and chose to share a Gnudi dish (pronounced "nude-y"). I've tried Gnocchi before...but never Gnudi...one has more flour and potato (usually) and the other is made with ricotta, respectively. It was absolutely DE-lish-ous!! And, by the way, appropriately titled given that it's kind of a pasta filling without its covering.

Though our hunger may have prompted the quick slurping down of this amazing dish, I knew it demanded an opportunity to be made in our home so I quizzed our server on the ingredients. Though no official recipe was offered, he did provide us with the primary additives...to which I quickly applied the acronym P.E.R.F. (lest I forget)...parsley, eggs, ricotta, and flour. The sauce was leek- and cream-based...something I figured I could approximate with a little forethought.

I had planned to plate this dish up as an appetizer for our holiday gathering...and then our bounty of fruit arrived. So I decided to add apples to the mix...namely the tasty Piñata...and it proved to be a great addition, providing a slightly sweet undertone to the creamy leeks..perfection! Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed this starter. I mean what's not to like about a little airy pillow of ricotta perfection, sautéed in butter and piled atop a creamy sauce of leeks and apple. Yum is an understatement! I can say this because it truly wasn't my idea...just a take-off from a very fortunate late-night dining experience. If we could have (with any etiquette...and human ability) jumped right into our bowls of gnudi to finish up every last little drop of goodness, we would have. Enough said.

I won't lie and say that this little gnudi is a quick or easy prep. It's a finicky little pillow of delight. After researching a few recipes with variations on how to boil (slow or full-throttle), how many eggs to add, whether to add additional yolks, etc., I came up with the following. And, while our dish was listed as an entree, I prefer it as a starter. After all, we've got eggs, flour, butter, cream...hmmm...thus my decision to assign these nuggets to the appetizer menu. All good things in moderation.

This may not be the dish to make when you have a large menu to plan or many guests to cater to (just my opinion) but it is definitely one to make. I made it the day after Christmas...with our family happily lounging, football on the tube, and bubbly poured...a perfect time to be piddling in the kitchen.

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (for transferring dollops of gnudi)
2 cups semolina flour (to serve as a bed for your gnudi while chilling)
3 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Piñata apple (or apple of your choice), peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
sprinkle of nutmeg, if desired
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Spread cup of all-purpose flour out over clean surface or cutting board. 

2. Spread semolina flour out over a large baking sheet.

3. In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg yolks, parsley, salt, and pepper, until well mixed. Using a small spoon (like a teaspoon) pick up a small dollop of mix on tip of spoon (like a 3-pea-sized portion) and drop into the all-purpose flour. Roll around carefully (with tip of spoon or finger) to coat lightly with flour. Then transfer flour-dusted dollop to semolina-covered baking sheet. Continue scooping, dropping, rolling, and placing uncooked gnudi onto semolina. Place baking sheet into fridge to cool and set gnudi while you prepare your sauce.

4. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add leeks and sauté until leeks begin to soften. Add apples and sprinkle of nutmeg, continue to sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream, and broth and let simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken a bit and allow flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

5. Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil. Add handful of salt to water. Lay a sheet of parchment out to transfer boiled gnudi to when ready. Remove chilled gnudi from fridge. When water is at a slow-rolling boil, begin adding gnudi...just 5 to eight at a time so as not to crowd them. (NOTE: if you roll the gnudi around just a bit in the semolina, to coat them very lightly, then they will stay together better when they hit the water). There will be some flaking of gnudi in your water...don't worry about that. Once they are ready, they will float to the top of the water (just minutes). Let them roll here a bit and then remove them with a slotted spoon to waiting parchment. Continue process until you've boiled all your gnudi.

6. In a separate skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons butter and let it brown just a tad. Carefully add gnudi, in portions, to pan and sauté until lightly golden on all sides. Transfer sautéed gnudi to a parchment-lined plate when done. Heat leek-apple-cream sauce. For each serving, plate approximately a 1/4 cup of sauce in a shallow bowl, top with 5 to 7 gnudi and serve!

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