Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bonnie's Birthday Dinner.

Bonnie does not blade, she rides a fixed gear, a culture that is related to Bladers.  Another extreme sport with a lot more style than our counterparts.  One of the only females of the group, she adds a white light to a dark room of hoodlum Bladers, leaving out any sort of "Jersey Shore" type drama.  It was an honor to share my cooking gifts at one of the coolest dinners I have ever been to, Bonnie's Birfday. 

The sun set earlier than normal on this chilly evening.  All indications that summer was headed out the door.  A  crescent moon with candle centerpieces lit the starless Long Beach backyard.  The Long Beach family came together contributing what we could; backyard space, fold out chairs, tables, wine, beer, the local herb, and a menu by the two chef's in the group, with girlfriend's as kitchen staff.  I sat in a fold up-chair that had a canopy, useless like wearing sunglasses at night, but I like hanging in enclosed areas.

There was a white table cloth not on one table, but for two.  It extended to create one large dining piece, sitting more than 20.  Small chat was cut to the three people that sat on my left and I was lucky if the third person on my right was able to hear.  The large party united with toasts, extending gratitude for making such a momentous dinner possible, glasses clinking together, thanking the celebrant of course, and everyone that helped.

Dinner was done with the little that we have, and it became the best dinner experience I have ever had.  Fine dining done our way, kicking out all the "adult" rules, including etiquette, location, separate checks, and even which fork to use .  We didn't need all of that.  It was what dinner should be about, the food, the drinks, the community smoke, and most importantly the people we share our meal with. 

Michelle made a classy Spicy Bolognese Sauce

Sweet chocolate icing with a moist cake went wonderful with a Whiskey Peanut Brittle Ice-Cream that felt like a shot in every bite.  Michelle's personality definitely comes out in her food.  

This was the aftermath.  No pictures of my food were taken, no camera.  After my eight hour shift I went directly to Michelle's place and began making gnocchi.  Gnocchi is laborious and time consuming but, with all the time I had spent making it, the end product was well worth it.  The small potato pillows were delightful and light with the basil pesto providing the umami kick that'll make you coo like a baby.  The zucchini was cooked medium well giving the "cali crunch" for texture and of course, garlic was at the party.  The Heirloom tomatoes were slow cooked in an oven for two hours.  They made the corners of my chin and temples tingle with their tart and sweet kick.  I also made garlic toast using French bread instead of rustic rolls and kept away from toasting them to avoid feeling like your chewing on rocks.

Share with your friends on this recipe.  This one isn't meant to be eaten alone.

Gnocchi, Oven-Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, and Zucchini in a Basil Pesto
Yield: 20 servings

Ingredients                                                             Amount 
For the Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes, quartered, and                            4 pounds
   seeds removed, surfboard shaped.
Salt                                                                           2 tsp.
Extra virgin olive oil                                                   3 fl. oz.
Thyme                                                                        1 Tbsp.

For the Pesto
Basil leaves                                                                3 1/2 oz.
Pine nuts                                                                     2 1/2 oz.
Extra virgin olive oil                                                    3 fl. oz.
Water                                                                         3 oz.
Parmesan                                                                    2 oz.

For the Gnocchi
Russet potatoes                                                           4 1/2    pounds
All Purpose Flour                                                         4 cups
Eggs                                                                            4 ea.
Salt                                                                            1  1/2 oz.

Zucchini, julienne, matchstick shaped                         3 ea.
Garlic, minced                                                            3 ea.

For the Garlic Bread
Butter, softened, room temperature                             1 pound
Garlic, minced                                                             3 ea.
Parsley, minced                                                            1 bunch
Paprika                                                                         3 Tbsp.
French Rolls, separated                                               24 ea.

For the tomatoes
1.  Preheat oven to 275°F.
2.  Toss tomatoes in salt, olive oil, and thyme.
3.  Lay tomatoes on a sheet pan with rack and slow cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hour.  rotating pan periodically.

For the pesto
4.  In a food processor, add basil and pine nuts, till fine.  While food process is running add water and slowly emulsify oil into mixture.
5.  Fold in Parmesan.

For the Gnocchi
6.  Completely submerge potatoes in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil.  Cook potatoes until they can easily crumble with a pierce of a knife or fork. 
7.  Drain potatoes and allow to cool till steam no longer rises.
8.  on a large working area, create a well with the potatoes, flour, and salt.  Crack eggs in the well and beat with a fork, incorporating the flour and potato mixture till everything combines to form one large ball.
9.  Lightly dust flour over your work surface to avoid sticking and grab a handful of the dough.  With two hands, in a forward and back motion, roll logs 1 1/4 inch thick.   After logs have been shaped, Cut 1 inch pillow shaped dumplings.
10.  Drop gnocchi into salted boiling water.  Remove from water once gnocchi rises to the top.

11.  Heat a large saute pan till glowing and add oil.  Drop zucchini and saute till cooked through adding garlic at the last moment to release their oils but do not burn.
12. In a large bowl toss gnocchi, zucchini, tomatoes, and pesto.

For the garlic bread
A.  Butter must be soft and at room temperature.  Cold butter left out for a few hours won't hurt anyone. Fold parsley, paprika, and garlic into butter and spread on the sliced side of french roll. 
B.  Heat a saute pan and place butter side down until butter has melted and created a golden exterior.  Serve with gnocchi to your friends.