Saturday, May 5, 2018

Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi all Romana

About the Recipe
I made this dish as part of a food challenge to find and make an historic recipe with a “foreign” bent. The dish could either have a loose connection to foreign lands, be named after a faraway place, or be attributed to foreigners. Basically, the challenge was meant to investigate how one culture interprets the cuisine of another culture. I chose to make Gnocchi alla Romana, an "Italian" recipe found in a very American cookbook, Foods of the Foreign Born in Relation to Health by Bertha M. Wood, Boston: 1922. I am an Italian-American, so this was a good fit for me.

I altered the recipe a bit to make sure it would work; some of the directions were missing and some of the ingredients were not quite right. First, there were no directions for how to cook the polenta. Luckily, I regularly made polenta for my Italian grandmother, Vincenza Ginaguzzi, so I had a good idea of how to handle cooking it. Second, the original recipe calls for using a whole egg, as opposed to using just an egg yolk. This made the polenta too thin, so I altered the recipe to just using one egg yolk. 

My Interpretation of Gnocchi alla Romana

  • 1 Pint Milk, or Half Milk/Half Water
  • Salt to Taste
  • 1/2 Cup Farina (Cream of Wheat) or Polenta (cornmeal)
  • 8 Tablespoons Butter, Divided
  • 1 1/4 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano, Divided
  • 1 Egg Yolk, Slightly Beaten

  1. Let the milk come to a boil. Add the salt.
  2. Gradually add the farina or polenta, stirring briskly and constantly so that no lumps can form. Cook on low for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the fie and add 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Then add the egg and mix well.
  4. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Pour out the polenta onto the paper and spread to out until it is about three-quarters inch thick. 
  5. While the polenta is cooling ad firming up, heat the oven to 425┬║ F and butter a gratin dish and set aside.
  6. When the polenta is firm, cut it into squares or diamonds.
  7. In the gratin dish, put a layer of the polenta pieces. Sprinkle with some of the remaining cheese and dot with some of the remaining butter. Make another layer, and so on, until the dish is filled. 
  8. Bake for 12 minutes and then broil for an additional 3 minutes.

Cooking the Polenta and Adding the Cheese

Cooling the Polenta

Uncooked Gratin

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Verjuice Vinaigrette Recipe

Fabrication du verjus (Making Verjuice) 

Gr├╝nernte von Weintrauben. Aus dem Handbuch der Familie Corutti in Verona um 1375
Source: Wikimedia Commons

About Verjuice
Verjuice actually means "green juice." It is an acidic liquid made from unripe sour grapes or crabapples. Verjuice is a good substitute for lemon juice or vinegar. It has a sour taste but is much fruitier and more mild than vinegar.

Verjuice was used in Roman cookery and as a medicine and was very popular in Middle Eastern cookery and European cooking, from the Medieval days to well into the 19th century. American recipes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also sometimes contained verjuice. 

Verjuice was mostly found in recipes for salad dressing, soups, stews, and sauces. For example, the recipe for Mutton with Yellow Sauce from Le Menagier de Paris, a French medieval book written in the late 14th c. contains verjuice:

Mutton with Yellow Sauce
The Good Wife's Guide,  Le Menagier de Paris, A Medieval Household Book.  Translated, with Critical Introduction, by Gina L. Greco & Christine M. Rose, Cornell University Press, 2009.

Cut the meat--it must be flank--into pieces when completely raw.  Cook it in water, then grind a piece of ginger and some saffron and thin it with verjuice, wine, and vinegar.

Here is another recipe that uses verjuice, from a cookbook published in New York about 400 years later:

No.12 To Make a Sauce for a Sweet Pie
The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook; Also The Making of English Wines. 
by Sussannah Carter. New York: 1803. 

Take some white wine, a little lemon juice, or verjuice, and some sugar; boil it, then beat two eggs, and mix them well together; then open your pie, and pour it in. This may be used for veal or lamb pies.

Verjuice Vinaigrette
I was experimenting with verjuice and came up with this recipe for a salad dressing. I really like it because the verjuice imparts a lot of flavor and sweetness without the need to add any sugar. 


  • 1/2 Cup Verjuice 
  • 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper, to Taste

  1. Mix altogether and shake.  
  2. Serve on a salad of your choice. 

You can order verjuice