Wednesday, October 27, 2010

an adult halloween treat - recipe: pumpkin gnocchi with walnut sage cream sauce

Although I'd never describe myself as a pack rat, I’ve noticed that I have a hard time parting with certain things: any “artwork” made by my son John, greeting cards, and, to nobody’s surprise, recipes.

I’ve collected an astonishing number of recipes over the years. I have about 15 binders, each sorted by course or theme (soups, salads, entrees, food as gift, Mediterranean and so forth), a file folder system for recipes from magazine clippings or the newspaper, a “sacred” recipe journal which is used only for family or cherished recipes, a box of recipes from the cooking classes that I’ve taught over the years, and a large bin for recipes that have yet to be filed.

And as I’m typing this I realize that I haven’t yet described my system for my food shop and catering recipes. Don’t worry, I won’t.

Every so often, I thumb through the various recipes for inspiration. I recently reviewed my “Fall/Halloween” binder (I’m not crazy, just organized, right?) and a couple recipes jumped out at me.

The first was “scary” Halloween spiders — these will be a fun snack for John to enjoy on Oct. 31. The second was pumpkin gnocchi with walnut cream sauce.

While at chef school at George Brown College, I took full advantage of their amazing magazine collection, and must have photocopied at least 300 recipes. This is one of those recipes, and I can’t believe that it’s taken me almost 10 years to make it because it sounds so delicious.

I’ve adapted the recipe, using a combination of pumpkin, russet and sweet potato, adding garlic, shallots and sage to the cream sauce and a touch of gorgonzola to finish.

Feel free to omit the gorgonzola if you don’t like blue cheese — but don’t tell me because then I will think you’re crazy.

This would be a great grown-up meal to enjoy on Oct. 31. Don’t be afraid if you’ve never made gnocchi before. Even though you’ve likely only ordered it in a restaurant, it’s not at all hard to make at home.

pumpkin gnocchi with walnut sage cream sauce
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine


  • 1 10-ounce russet potato, to yield about 1 cup mashed russet
  • 1 14-ounce sweet potato, to yield about 1 1/3 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree from can or pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 -2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream (35 per cent)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely ground in cuisinart
  • 3-4 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • finely grated parmesan
  • cheese or gorgonzola to finish

method (for gnocchi)

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
  • Cook sweet potato and russet potato in microwave until soft, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly and remove and discard potato skins. Place peeled potatoes into a large bowl, add pumpkin. Mash with potato masher or wooden spoon until smooth. Add parmesan cheese, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of flour to the potato mixture, stirring with a spoon until incorporated. Knead dough, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough.
  • Note: I used 1 1/2 cups of flour in total, and used the remaining 1/2 cup for dusting.
  • Cut dough in 6 pieces. Form one piece of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope on a lightly floured surface.
  • Cut rope into 1/2 inch pieces. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough. Gently press fork tines into each piece of gnocchi to make ridges on one side (like the ridges on peanut butter cookies). Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets.
  • Add one-third of gnocchi to a pasta pot of well salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl or dish off the heat. Cook all gnocchi in the same manner.

method (for sauce)

  • Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat until foamy.
  • Add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add cream, cook for 3-4 minutes until frothy and slightly thickened. Add ground walnuts, sage and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add gnocchi to sauce and stir to combine. Divide amongst six plate, if serving as a main course, or eight if serving as a first course, and top with parmesan and/or gorgonzola cheese.

scary halloween spider snacks


  • peanut butter
  • round crackers
  • pretzel sticks
  • chocolate chips or raisins


  • spread some peanut butter onto a round cracker
  • fan 4 pretzel rods on each side of cracker for the legs
  • top with another round cracker
  • spread a bit more peanut butter on the top cracker and use 2 chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

a milk substitute for soup - dairy free creamy leak & potato soup - recipe: dairy free creamy leak & potato soup

Yes, you read the recipe’s title correctly. And yes, it is possible to make a delicious, creamy soup that is also dairy-free. Here’s the trick — cashew cream.

Have you heard of it? In a nutshell (pardon the pun) this “cream” is made by soaking raw cashews in water overnight, and then blitzing them in a food processor, blender or “vita-mix” until a thick, cream-like mixture is obtained.

Cashew cream is no stranger to vegans, who abstain from consuming all animal product. This miracle ingredient was made popular by the talented vegan chef, Tal Ronnen.

It is easy to change its consistency. If you want a thick cream, add less water; if you’d rather have a thin cream, add more. Thick cream is great in desserts, and as a substitute for cheese in ravioli and mac and cheese, while thin cream in perfect in soups and sauces.

Chef Ronnen refers to it as “the magic ingredient that makes it easy to live without dairy.” I’m surprised at the number of people that I’ve run into lately that either cannot eat dairy (allergies and intolerances, nursing mom’s whose babies react to it, vegans) or who are trying to avoid it (vegetarians who are trying to cut back on dairy, people who have suffered from heart attacks or other health issues and are watching their saturated animal fat intake).

And to those of you without these restrictions, cheers to a creamy, decadent, guilt-free soup!

Speaking of soup, please consider stopping by the shop this Friday, Oct. 15, from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. for our second annual fall fundraiser. Dana Shortt Gourmet is located at 55 Erb St. E., in Uptown Waterloo (across the street from the “old” LCBO store).

This year, we are featuring a “soup sale” fundraiser to raise money for National Service Dogs (NSD). We’ll have a wide selection of soups, fresh baguettes and crackers on sale and 100 per cent of the profits from the items sold will go to NSD.

National Service Dogs is a local charity that is committed to enriching the quality of life and enhancing the independence of children and families living with autism and special needs by providing them with specially trained Labrador and golden retrievers.

The money raised this Friday at our fundraiser will be used to help a sweet little girl named Tessa.

For more information on National Service Dogs, visit

dairy free creamy leak & potato soup
serves six


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (you could use chicken stock as well)
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cashew cream, see recipe below


  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Saute leeks, onions, garlic and celery until just golden brown, about eight to 10 minutes.
  • Add potatoes and vegetable stock to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil; then simmer until potatoes are soft and cooked (about 25 – 30 minutes).
  • Add cashew cream, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Puree soup in blender (or using a hand blender) until creamy and smooth.

Tal Ronnen’s cashew cream

  • makes about 2 1/4 cups thick cream or 3 1/2 cups regular cream
    prep time: 10 minutes, plus soaking overnight.
    note: extra cashew cream freezes well.
  • For more information on cashew cream, visit:


  • 2 cups of raw cashews (not cashew pieces, which are often dry), rinsed very well under cold water.


  • Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  • Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by one inch.
  • Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.
  • To make thick cashew cream, which some of the recipes in this book call for, simply reduce the amount of water when they are placed in the blender, so that the water just slightly covers the cashews.

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