Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Farmers Market Dinner, part one: Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Asparagus, Fiddleheads, and Chanterelles

If you follow these pages at all you should be familiar with our weekly pie night ritual that follows the season of fresh fruits, resulting in a pie or tart and a recipe. This year, I decided to try to have occasional farmers market dinners with friends based around what I found at our local market.
The first dinner, held after the first market of the season, featured asparagus (from Lapinski Farm), fiddlehead ferns, morels, chanterelles (from Mainly Mushrooms0 and baby greens and strawberries (from Mickley's Orchard and Farm).
I couldn’t get everything I used from the market so there were some non-market ingredients, too.
The dinner began with a cheese sformato with a ragu of spring vegetables in lemon/brown butter sauce. A salad of early baby lettuces with strawberries and pickled chanterelles followed. Third was goat cheese gnocchi with asparagus, fiddleheads, and chanterelles. For dessert, it was first-of-the season strawberry shortcake with lavender custard.
This post will cover the gnocchi course. The sformato recipe will follow in a future post. The directions for pickling chanterelles are below. I have written about strawberry shortcake in a prior post. The only variation this year was using dark brown sugar in the shortcakes and substituting some whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour. The custard sauce recipe is included below.

Goat cheese gnocchi are easy to make, but you can use any gnocchi of course. You can substitute other vegetables, too. This recipe is a way to use the items I was able to find which you might come across as well.

Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Asparagus, Fiddleheads, and Chanterelles
The gnocchi recipe makes enough for four servings but I have scaled the rest of the recipe to two servings. You’ll need to clear some space in your freezer to hold the tray of completed gnocchi. Believe me, that’s as much of a battle for me, too. Any remaining gnocchi can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer for future use.

Goat Cheese Gnocchi
Makes about 12 ounces gnocchi, enough for four servings.

8 ounces goat cheese
1 grade A large egg
salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup flour
1. Place the goat cheese into a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the egg and using a wooden spoon, mix it into the cheese until smooth: season with a little salt and pepper. Mix in the flour one tablespoon at a time. The completed gnocchi may feel a little wet to the touch but this is fine. You will be using additional flour when you roll the dough.
2. Divide the dough into four pieces. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a ½ “ thick rope—did you ever make snakes with Play Doh?  Same thing---Cut the dough rope into 1” pieces. At this point you can either place the gnocchi onto a parchment or wax paper lined baking tray, or you can mark them by rolling the dough off the back of a fork or use a gnocchi board, to create the traditional ridges in the gnocchi, but plain works just as well. Repeat until all of the gnocchi are made. Place the tray of gnocchi into the freezer. After they have frozen, the gnocchi can be put into a plastic bag, sealed tightly, and frozen until needed.

Asparagus, Fiddleheads and Chanterelles
For two servings
¼ pound fiddlehead ferns
4 to 6 spears asparagus, depending on thickness (about 4 ounces)
1/8th to ¼  pound chanterelle mushrooms (depending on your splurge)
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
1/3 cup light cream, optional
zest of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped chives

1. Break off the bottom ends of the asparagus. Trim the bottom end off the fiddleheads. Place the fiddleheads into a bowl of cold water to soak. Place a large pan filled with ½ cup lightly salted water over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus spears and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until just tender. Remove from heat and drain in a colander; cool the asparagus under cold running water.
2. Fill the pan with another ½ cup lightly salted water and return to the stove. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the fiddlehead ferns and add them to the pan. Blanch the fiddleheads for about a minute. Remove from heat and drain into a colander; cool the fiddleheads under cold running water.
3. Cut the asparagus spears into 1” pieces and set aside. Place the cooled fiddleheads onto the plate with the asparagus pieces.
4. Fill a medium-sized sauce pan  2/3rds full with water. Add some salt to the pan; cover and place the pan on the stove over high heat. This will be for cooking the gnocchi.
5. Trim the bottom ends off the chanterelles. Tear any larger ones in half. Rinse the chanterelles under cold water. Return the pan to the stove and heat over medium high heat. Swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat them for 2 to 3 minutes; lower heat if necessary to prevent them from burning. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add a ladle or two of the water from the pot to the pan as the chanterelle cook to develop a broth. Add the asparagus pieces and the fiddleheads to the pan. Stir together and season with a little more salt and pepper, then add the cream, if using. Cook to begin reducing the cream about a minute or two. Remove pan from heat, cover and set aside.
5. When the water in the pot has come to a boil, add the gnocchi and gently stir. Lower the heat; the gnocchi should never boil, but simmer. Place the pan of vegetables over medium-high heat. When the gnocchi float to the surface of the pot, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them into the pan with the vegetables. Add the lemon zest and stir together. When the cream has reduced, remove from heat. Divide between two serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with some of the chives and serve.

If not using cream, which is fine, make sure to make a little extra broth in the pan using some water from the gnocchi pot.

Pickled Chanterelles
Any mushroom can be pickled, but wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, should first be cooked. The pickling liquid can be increased to make larger batches of an type of pickled vegetable. Follow the ratio of equal parts of each ingredient.
Pickling Liquid
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

1. Place all of the ingredients into a saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil—the liquid should be clear. Remove from heat. Add any additional flavoring spices as you wish such as some pickling spice, or the spices that make up pickling spice- black peppercorns, cloves, allspice berries, bay leaves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes. You can season the pickling liquid to your taste. They will be fine without any additional seasoning too, just not as complex in flavor.
2. Choose small-sized chanterelles. Trim off the very bottom and rinse them clean. Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in  1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chanterelles to the pan and sauté until cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes depending on their size. Drain the chanterelles on paper towels and pat off excess oil.
Pour the (still hot) pickling liquid into a clean container with a lid. Add the chanterelles, cover and let sit in the refrigerator. They should be ready in a day a two. Use in salads or to accompany other food. The mushrooms should keep for several weeks refrigerated in the pickling liquid, if they don’t get eaten first.

Lavender Custard Sauce
I had dried lavender flowers on hand but you could use fresh lavender. Substitute with several stems of fresh lavender.

1 cup half and half
1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers
3 Grade A large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the half and half into a small sauce pan. Place over medium heat. When the half and half is hot to the touch, remove the pot from the heat. Add the lavender, stir, and let the lavender steep for about 15 minutes.
2. While the lavender is steeping, place the eggs into a bowl. Add the sugar, honey, and vanilla and whisk to combine.
3. After the 15 minutes, strain the half and half through a fine sieve into a second bowl. Rinse the pot if any bits of lavender remain. Pour the half and half back into the pan and warm it over low heat. Whisk in several tablespoons of the warm half and half into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pan. Cook the custard over low heat, stirring continuously with a silicone spatula; be sure to also run the spatula across the bottom of the pan as it cooks. The custard is ready when it reaches a temperature of 168 degrees; any light colored foam that was on top of the custard will have disappeared and the custard should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl through a fine sieve. Cover and refrigerate the custard until needed. Makes about 1 ¼  cups custard sauce.

"My mushroom guy," Chris Darrah of Mainy Mushrooms, is the source of the wild and foraged foods I use. I feel fortunate that we have someone like him at our farmer's market. Edible Philly magazine featured Chris in it's spring edition. You can find the magazine in select locations or right here on line:

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