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11 Mar 2010

Rejuvenation is Yellow

The world of food bloggers challenges never stops to produce pleasant surprises. It was just last week that Cathy of ShowFood Chef popped by my blog and left a comment. I then had the pleasure to discover her blog and the PaperChef challenge!
This is quite the kind of challenge I prefer. What is it about? Monthly a series of 4 ingredients are drawn randomly from a list and a theme is picked by the monthly-host. Our duty is then to produce as many recipes as we wish featuring these ingredients and inspired by the chosen theme. But get a look here for a more complete description, have a look here.
The host for this month challenge is Cath of Prospect: the Pantry; the ingredient drawn were Honey, Ricotta, Dill and Eggs and the theme was Rejuvenation.
To me, all of these ingredients speak of life, spring, sunshine, grass; it was quite easy then to put together my two entries.
The first concentrate on the symbolism of the egg as a life bearer and this thought bloomed in me as a:

Deviled egg with ricotta and dill mousse over a Honey-Dark Chocolate sauce.

Ingredients (make at least 2 egg halves):
For the eggs:
  • 2 eggs;
  • 1tbsp ricotta;
  • 1tbsp heavy cream;
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped dill;
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
For the sauce:
  • 2 shallots finely sliced;
  • 2 tsp butter;
  • 1tsp honey;
  • 6g dark chocolate (70%);
  • 1/4tsp Chinese wine;
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Hard boil your eggs, when ready chill them in cold water before shelling them. In the meantime let the shallots caramelize with the butter, the honey and a sprinkle of salt in a little saucepan over a medium-low fire. Add a little water to the saucepan to prevent the onions from sticking while caramelizing and cover with the lid.
Cut the eggs in half trying not to break too much the yolks.
To prepare the ricotta mousse, combine in a little jug the ricotta with the dill, one whole hard boiled yolk, salt and pepper and then fold in the whipped cream. Keep refrigerated.
When the shallots will be nicely and caramelized (it may take roughly 15min), press them through a fine sieve or blitz them to reduce in puree. Warm up the puree and, out of the fire, add to it the chocolate roughly chopped. Stir gently to melt and combine; add a little water to achieve a nice sauce consistency. Add then the Chinese wine and season with salt and pepper (be careful with the salt, this sauce doesn’t need much salt).
When ready to serve, warm the sauce up and spread it around the center of your plates using the back of a spoon. Using a piping bag and a fluted tip, fill the hollow egg whites halves with the ricotta mousse and place them on the sauce. Decorate with the reserved hard boiled yolks to symbolise the sun rising over the dark night (sauce) and a branch of dill.

The other recipe I came up with stemmed from a colour association. Rejuvenation is orange, yellow for me; so I tried to create a dish whose appearance was mainly a punch of orange. What better than saffron to deliver this great colour to a sauce as well as its etheric taste? So here you are my

Ricotta gnudi with long pepper over a Saffron-white wine sauce served with fragrant Dill branches.

Ingredients (enough for 2 servings):
For the gnudi:
  • 150g ricotta;
  • 1 yolk;
  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour;
  • 1 medium long peppercorn crushed; 
  • Salt to taste.
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup white wine;
  • 1medium shallot, sliced;
  • Few black peppercorns;
  • 2 tsp honey;
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads;
  • 1 tsp beurre manie (read recipe for details);
  • 1 branch of fresh dill;
  • Salt to taste.
In a little bowl combine the ricotta, the yolk, the pepper, salt and flour. Stir them until you get a smooth paste and let it rest for 30 minutes or so in your fridge.
In the meantime in a saucepan sauté the sliced shallots in some butter, add the white wine, the peppercorns, and the honey and let reduce to half. In a clean dry mortar gently crush the saffron stigmas and dilute them in a little warm water. Let the whole steep for a while.
When the wine will be nicely reduced, add the saffron to it. Mix properly and pass through a sieve to separate the shallots. Crush well the shallots in the same mortar where you had the saffron steeping and add them back to the sauce.
In a little cup (an espresso cup for instance) prepare the beurre manie by combining 1tsp of soft butter to the same amount of flour, creating a nice paste. Bring the sauce back to simmer and while whisking, add little by little enough beurre manie to achieve the consistency you wish. Season with salt and set it aside covered.
To prepare the gnudi, start by bringing a pot of water to the boil; now you need to shape your dumplings. You can simply make quenelles with the dough using two spoons or you can form nice cylinders to slice using some cling film to encase it.
For the little quenelles, drop them directly into the simmering water and let them cook until they will float to the top (test the doneness of one of them since the cooking time depends on their thickness).
If you choose to make the cylinder, gently drop it with the cling film into the simmering water and cook for roughly 8 minutes, for a thickness of 2cm or so. When ready, drop it into cold water so to cool it slightly and not scorch your fingers when cutting it into slices.
Bring the sauce back to a simmer and divide it among the serving dishes spreading it apart with the back of a spoon. Set the gnudi on the sauce and decorate with fresh branches of dill.

As you could have guessed by now, gnudi aren’t anything but dumplings. This old-fashioned Italian word simply means “naked” and it is referred to the fact that to make them we usually use the same kind of stuffing used for filled pasta. They represent a lighter and more elegant (and fast) alternative to homemade filled pasta.
I hope you have enjoyed these dishes, let me know your thoughts.


  1. OMG I am drooling! How fabulous! Alessio you have such talent - these are both creative and beautiful. I am bowing down to the lord and master! Get thee to a professional kitchen fast!

  2. They are both lovely. I would love to eat your devilled eggs-they are a favourite of mine. I tried making them with my own mayonnaise a while ago, although your ricotta and heavy cream would be more luxurious.

  3. Alex! I love the idea of the ricotta mixed with the egg yolks. That's very Italian - non? As for the dark chocolate sauce, it reminded me of the Mole Negro sauce of Mexico, without the heat. Very creative indeed... Did you like the way the flavors worked together?

  4. I absolutely love deviled eggs and how many variations you can make of them. At a picnic, a friend had made curried deviled eggs. the chocolate sauce here is quite an inventive twist.

  5. You are an amazingly clever and creative man, Alessio. :-) Wow!! I'm so inspired and intrigued. :-)