Ray is probably one of my oldest friends in NYC – we’ve known each other for over 8 years, I think. I don’t even remember how I met him it was that long ago. And also probably that drunk. The days of DJs, Irish Car Bombs, and drunk bar aerobics. The bars we used to go to don’t even exist anymore. I haven’t seen him in years and he and his wife Carmela have just moved to Brooklyn, to an apartment building in Gowanus near Four & Twenty Blackbirds, our favorite pie shop. They love to eat but don’t cook much at home, and we’ve been trying to hang. So yesterday I invited Ray and Carmela over after making ramp pesto in the morning. FYI Fresh Direct has them for $3 a bunch right now – HURRY! (Er…they did, “temporarily” out of stock right now.)
The top parts of the ramps. (Just cut off the white bottom parts. I saved them and pickled them.) I used about 3 bunches.
2 small cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
Parmesan cheese, grated
Toss it all into a big bowl and puree with an immersion blender. I can’t really tell you how much of everything I put but I can tell you you’re going to need more salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar than you think you need. Just keep tasting til you get the flavors you want. You might also want to hold off on the 2nd clove of garlic, as my pesto was pretty strong. Just depends on what you want. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays in the freezer, which might be good for using as pesto in soups or on eggs later on.
For dinner we made ricotta gnocchi from the Union Square Cafe cookbook (Ryan worked for Danny Meyer for a long time) and a citrus beet salad.
Ricotta Gnocchi (from Second Helpings)
15 oz Ricotta, drained for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup Marscarpone cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup each grated Parmigiano-Regiano & Pecorino Romano cheeses
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup flour, plus extra for dusting
Mix the cheeses together and add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Lightly beat the eggs and add those, then add some of the flour. We didn’t add all the flour the recipe called for so they wouldn’t be too heavy and doughy. Also the point of adding the eggs and flour last is so that they don’t get overworked in the bowl.
The gnocchi dough should be sticky. Working in small batches and on a well-floured area, roll out the dough into 1-inch wide logs and cut them into 1 1/2-inch long pieces. Put these on a lined baking sheet or dish to freeze. If you don’t freeze them, they’ll fall apart when you cook them.
We made a double batch so we can have some for later dinners.
To cook, boil in salted water for 4-5 minutes. When they start to float in the boiling water, let them cook for about 2 more minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. We drizzled the pesto over them, then added fresh tomatoes to add a little acidity.
Citrus Beet Salad
Beets – roasted, peeled, cut into small wedges
Grapefruit, cut into supremes
Small sweet oranges (I used Valencia, too small for supremes) with peels & pith cut off, sliced into thin rounds
Red onion, sliced thinly and lightly pickled in white vinegar and sugar
Toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Dressing (mustard, orange oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, leftover citrus juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper)
Arrange the beats, grapefruit, oranges, and onions on top of the arugula. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the hazelnuts on top. Drizzle the dressing all over the salad.
Ray and Carmela brought pie for dessert: Black Bottomed Oat, Salted Honey, and Rosemary Shoofly. My favorite was the Salted Honey. Now that I can bike again, I can make a super detour in the mornings to have pie for breakfast. Been dreaming of Buttermilk Custard and Blueberry Peach!
Let’s do this more often you guys.
P.S. Click here to read more about Ray and Carmela, including their THREE MONTH LONG HONEYMOON where they traveled all over the world.