Cooking together makes wonderful memories. Stirring the pot, rolling out a bit of pastry, grating cheese — time flies while you get to know someone, deepen friendships and forge family ties. The bonus: a delicious supper to share. This trio of recipes is designed to invite many hands into the making.
Gnocchi with Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce
If ever there was a recipe to make together, the honour goes to gnocchi, potato dumplings dressed with homemade tomato and roasted pepper sauce and generous sprinkles of Parmesan. This dish is adapted from one shared by Daiene Vernile, television journalist and retired member of the Ontario Legislature.
2 lb (450 g) oval baking potatoes,
1 tbsp (15 mL) salt
2 1/3 cups (580 mL) all-purpose flour, divided
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 sweet red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) plum tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 cup (250 mL) freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded fresh basil
Gnocchi: Scrub potatoes; bake at 400°F (200°C) until tender when pinched, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash in a bowl until lump-free. While the potatoes are still warm, work in the salt, then 2 cups (500 mL) of the flour, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, kneading to form a soft, slightly sticky ball. Cut into 8 pieces; cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with clean tea towels; sprinkle towels with half of the remaining flour, saving the rest as needed for rolling and shaping the dough.
Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 12 inches (30 cm) long and 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Cut each into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces. Dip a fork into the remaining flour, and, holding the fork with the tines curving down, lightly roll each piece of dough over the tines to create ridges. Place on the floured towels. Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to a few hours.
Sauce: Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat; sweat the onion, garlic and carrots until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatoes with their juices, and salt and pepper. Mash very well. Bring to a boil, stirring often; reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is thickened enough to mound on a spoon. Stir 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the Parmesan into the sauce. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days; reheat to serve.
To serve, drop the gnocchi in 2 batches into a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water and cook until they surface, 4 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi to a warm bowl; pour on the sauce and toss well, adding a little of the gnocchi cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and garnish with basil.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Tip: If using fresh sweet red peppers, roast them at the same time as the potatoes. Jars of already-roasted sweet red peppers are available at the supermarket.
Tip: A food mill or ricer is the best tool for smooth potato puree.
Sauce: In a skillet or shallow pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Stir in the garlic and let soften slightly without browning, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, stirring to combine the flavours. Cook gently, stirring from time to time until the tomatoes start to wrinkle and soften. Mix in the parsley. Remove from the heat and set aside. Reheat to serve, adding a splash more of olive oil if needed to loosen the sauce.
Wedge Salad with Chive Dressing
Cut the heart of a Bibb lettuce into 4 to 6 wedges, or separate into the tenderest leaves. In a measuring cup, whisk together:
1/4 cup (60 mL) each mayonnaise and buttermilk
2 tbsp (30 mL) sour cream
2 tbsp (30 mL) snipped chives or thinly sliced green onion
2 tsp (10 mL) cider vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
Spoon over the lettuce; garnish with thinly sliced radish and more chives or green onion. Other garnish options include cherry tomatoes, crunchy croutons and baked pecans.
Raspberry and White Chocolate Rugelach Slices
Rugelach are a traditional Jewish crescent-shaped cookie. There are instructions for this shape below, as well as an easier sliced version. The best part of the recipe: the sweet baking aromas escaping from the oven. The finale is the first bite, and bliss.
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, softened
1 pkg (250 g) regular cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated orange or lemon zest
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) coarse granulated sugar, approximate
3/4 cup (180 mL) raspberry jam
Dash almond extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped white chocolate chips
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped sliced almonds
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange oven racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. About 10 minutes before baking the rugelach, heat oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Blend in the sugar, orange zest and salt. Mix in the flour, 1 cup (250 mL) at a time, to form a soft dough. Divide into quarters; shape each into a thick playing-card-size rectangle. Wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Let come to cool room temperature before rolling.
Meanwhile, stir together the jam and almond extract in one bowl and the chocolate, almonds and sugar in a second bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, and working with a quarter of the dough at a time, roll dough to a 12×8-inch (30×20-cm) rectangle. Spread 3 tbsp (45 mL) of the jam evenly overtop; sprinkle with a quarter of the chocolate mixture. Roll up from one long side to make a tight log. Wiping your blade as needed, slice into 1-inch (2.5-cm) rounds. Place upright and 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, jam and chocolate mix. Refrigerate for 1 hour. In a small bowl whisk the egg with water; brush over the pastry. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar.
Bake 2 baking sheets at a time, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes; transfer to racks to cool. Make-ahead: Layer with waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for 2 days, or freeze for 2 weeks. Makes 48 Rugelach Slices.
Ginger Apricot Rugelach Slices
Measure out 3/4 cup (180 mL) apricot jam, chopping any chunky pieces finely. Combine 1 cup (250 mL) desiccated coconut or chopped sliced almonds, 1/2 cup (125 mL) each diced candied ginger and semi-sweet mini chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar. Follow method for the raspberry version above.
Traditional Rugelach Crescents
Shape dough into 4 discs; wrap and chill. Roll out, 1 disc at a time, on lightly floured surface to 11-inch (28-cm) round. Spread jam and chocolate mixture over dough. Cut into 12 wedges, like cutting pieces of pie. Starting at wide end, roll up each wedge toward centre. Reduce baking time by about 5 minutes.