Creamy Evil

23 Apr

I got my first sunburn on Saturday.

Our Neighbor's Cherry Tree

I also ate an extortionately priced orange, found a Baby Jesus sausage, bought a racially insensitive cookbook, walked over eight miles and crossed three bridges. It was a great day!

Manhattan Bridge

Isaac and I did the “Three Bridges” walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. I had never heard of, or even really thought of, walking over more than one bridge in a day until the other Ann left a comment about it way back in January.

Manhattan Bridge

We had kept it in the back of our minds as something we really wanted to do for four months, waiting for the perfect day. It finally came on Saturday. Sunny, but not too hot and delightfully breezy, we haven’t had a more glorious day in about six months.

Water Tanks from the Manhattan Bridge

We started in Chinatown walking over the Manhattan Bridge into Dumbo. The Manhattan Bridge is still my favorite. I know it’s not fair to play favorites, but I just love it. I was in a horrific mood when we started. I’d been woken up by work (on a Saturday!) and my mood had gone from cranky to downright foul in about 2 seconds. But, by the time I was out over the middle of the East River, everything was once again right in the world.

Manhattan Bridge

We bumbled about in Dumbo. It really is a beautiful neighborhood, and there’s a fabulous bookstore there, P.S. Books, that all book loving geeks should make a pilgrimage to. They have a terrific selection of books on art and history, a great cookbook and fabulous biography sections and a neat place for kids to play and read. It’s a lovely bookstore, the sort I wish we had out here in Bay Ridge. I found a tiny old pamphlet on the cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish may know a thing or two about pickling and pork, but racially sensitive they are not. A well spent $2.50 if you ask me!

Dumbo, Art

We then walked through the park along the river where I tried to help some very, very lost tourists, breezed past the ungodly long line at Grimaldi’s and headed over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is my least favorite bridge to walk over, which is a pity, because it’s so beautiful, but it’s just too chock-a-block with tourists and bikers.

Off-Ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge

We walked under the anchorage, past the Brooklyn Banks and on along to the river. It was a quiet day, not many boats or fisherman, and no, no beavers. But Isaac did spot the world’s saddest dead turtle. All it’s limbs were limp and swaying back and forth in the wavelets. It kind of broke my heart, the hardness of the shell, the softness of its neck…

Brooklyn Bridge

But, we motored on and soon needed a pit-stop, so we headed inland for some pork & chive dumplings at Dumpling North on Essex. From there it was a skip and a hop over to Delancey and onto the Williamsburg Bridge. This is where my legs started rebelling, you finally realize how long the walk has been when you’ve walked and walked, and walked and walked on the Williamsburg and you’re still not over any water yet.

Brooklyn Bridge

The view on the Williamsburg Bridge is obstructed by a cage of safety fencing, so the real pleasure of walking over this bridge comes from the people watching. The endless stream of hipsters wearing ridiculous “ironic” t-shirts is something I find endlessly amusing and I’m always in awe of the beautiful coats worn by the men in some of Williamsburg’s Jewish sects. But the real reason to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge is to get to the other side.

The Brooklyn Banks

Williamsburg, to me, is like a Disney World for adults. Our first stop was Marlow & Sons, to pick up some of Steve’s magic beans (we got Goat’s Eyes and Little Horses). This is where I picked up the extortionately priced orange, too. $2.25 for an orange! But, I must say, it was absolutely worth it. It was the best orange I’ve eaten since we have been back from Italy, and that’s saying something.

Williamsburg Bridge

From there we walked up Bedford to the cheese shop. They have the best pickle selection in the world. It was everything I could do to keep myself from buying a half dozen different types. In the end, all we bought was some farina di ceci, or chickpea flour. I was sad to leave the little baby Jesus sausage where he was lying, but he looked so peaceful. Next time…

Williamsburg Bridge

Our bellies were rumbling again, so we pushed on the last half mile or so to Greenpoint. It was rough, but the siren call of Polish food made our trip quick and our feet light. We were going to get borscht! On a recommendation from Brooklyn Guy, we went to a place called Pyzy that he praised very highly for its soups. Unfortunately, it was a rare miss in our book. The food was decent, and yes it was very, very cheap, but, Polonica‘s food is vastly superior in flavor and freshness. But Pyzy, hands down, has better atmosphere. What a trip!

Williamsburg Bridge

And that was it. We walked to the G train, which oddly enough came instantaneously and went home. It was a great walk, and despite keeping ourselves well fueled, it was tiring. While Isaac napped on the couch I concocted dinner. In Rome one evening, Isaac was aced out of a dish of gnocchi di ceci that both he and I kept thinking about. Gnocchi, made out of chickpeas? It sounded so magical!

Williamsburg

And so that was what I was thinking of when I bought the farina di ceci. A quick search on the interwebs led me to the understanding that these are not your typical gnocchi. They’re more like the gnocchi alla Romana, made of semolina, than like a traditional potato gnocchi. Making them is like making polenta and then playing with your food. I was very excited!

Gnocchi di Ceci

Most of the recipes I found suggest serving gnocchi of this sort with no sauce, just pure creamy goodness covered in cheese. But me? I’m a sauce girl. I love sauce, almost more than I love stuff the sauce is on, so I whipped up a quick rustic tomato and pepper sauce.

Gnocchi di Ceci

This dish is so gentle, so creamy, so pillowy and decadently delicious that it reminded me of a class of potato dishes we kept running across in Italy that I named “Creamy Evil.” They’re cooked potatoes covered in bechamel sauce, sometimes with other healthy accompaniments like boiled eggs or an additional cheese sauce. They are so good, so insanely, swear-word-worthy-good, that yes, they are in fact Creamy Evil.

Gnocchi di Ceci

These gnocchi aren’t quite as bad for you, but they do have the same sort of mouth feel, and so, since I’m never (ever, ever, ever) going to allow myself to make potatoes covered in cheese and butter sauce, I hereby officially add gnocchi di ceci to the taxonomy of the food family known as “Creamy Evil.”

Head below the jump for the recipe for Gnocchi di Ceci.

Gnocchi di Ceci

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: 40 minutes

  • 6 c + a little more than 1/4 c Water
  • Salt
  • about 2 tsps Chopped Parsley
  • 205 g or about 2 c Chickpea Flour (aka Farina di Ceci)
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil or Butter
  • Grated Cheese, like Parmesan

Set a half sheet pan out and oil it well.

Put the water in a large pot, season with salt and bring it to a boil over a high flame. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the parsley and stream in the chickpea flour while whisking vigorously (I think this step is actually impossible, so embrace the lumps, it’ll still taste fine). Whisk for a few minutes and then switch to a spoon. Beat the mixture constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off the flame and immediately pour the mixture onto the oiled sheet pan. Allow the mixture to cool until solid, at least 30 minutes.

While the mixture is cooling, grease a baking pan with olive oil or butter and preheat te oven to 400°F.

When the mixture is cool, use a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter or clean, empty tomato paste can to cut out circles. Stack the circles carefully at one end of the baking pan. When done cutting out the circles, gather up the scraps and put them in the other end of the baking pan.

Carefully begin pushing the scraps towards the other end of the pan and moving the circles around until the scraps form a lower layer and you are able to use the circles to form a pretty, overlapped scale-like pattern on the top.

Drizzle a little oil over the gnocchi or dot with butter. Liberally coat with grated cheese and season with fresh-cracked black pepper. Slip the gnocchi into the oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes, then transfer to the broiler until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Remove from broiler, turn off stove and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve with a spoon and some sauce if you like. Enjoy!

Tomato & Pepper Sauce for Gnocchi di Ceci

prep time: 20 minutes ~ cooking time: 30-40 minutes or as long or short as wanted

  • 1 large Onion, sliced in half moons
  • 2 Red Peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt & Pepperoncini
  • 5 Tomatoes, sliced into thin strips

Cook the onion and peppers in oil over medium heat until the onions are just becoming golden and the peppers have softened. Add the garlic and season with salt and hot pepper flakes. Cook until very, very soft and add the tomatoes. Cook until desired consistency is reached. Some people like their tomatoes not too soft, others like them to melt into the sauce. It’s your call. Enjoy!

25 Responses to “Creamy Evil”

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 23, 2008 at 7:43 am #

    I would never have made it through this walk (three bridges — how wonderful!) because I would have bought so many wonderful food items to take home that I’d have been dragging along the ground. Thanks for the “tour” — makes me miss New York.

  2. WillB April 23, 2008 at 7:20 pm #

    Now I’m hungry again! Those gnocchi look fantastic! Did I hear someone say Sunday Brunch? Terrific photos, btw.

  3. izzy's mama April 23, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    Those sound wonderful but your instructions for forming them are somewhat mysterious. You lost me after pushing the scraps to one end. I might need a demo!

  4. Terry B April 23, 2008 at 10:51 pm #

    Ann, I have to admit, I have been one of those tourists who’ve turned you against the Brooklyn Bridge. But I did it on a school day, not the weekend, walking from my friend’s Atlantic Avenue apartment to Manhattan, and was delighted to see a whole host of people using it just as a means to get from one borough to the other. It remains one of the coolest things I’ve done in New York.

    What a lovely, lovely day you and Isaac had. Next time, use sun block, hear?

  5. Ann April 24, 2008 at 4:58 am #

    You did it! And that means you walked right past the secret Studiofeast location, too (that’s all I’m sayin’!), as well as very near my little piece of the burg (I’m in the Hasidic-Hispanic area off Broadway).

    Isn’t the Bedford Cheese Shop the best? We’re in there at least once a week.

    Your gnocchi looks fabulous. I love the beautiful golden color.

  6. mary April 24, 2008 at 6:00 am #

    Wow! That’s about all I can say to this one. The photos are a delight, the walk sounds like it was magical. I’m a sauce girl too, so I’m thinking I know what I’m going to do with the chickpea flour that’s been waiting in the cupboard for months trying to figure out what it’s purpose was. Thank you for telling us about your day and your food.

  7. ann April 24, 2008 at 6:02 am #

    Lydia — You nailed one of the biggest problems on this walk, because, seriously, it takes you past some of the best culinary spots in the city. Jacques Torres chocolate, a couple of pickle guys, cheese, sausages, etc, etc. It’s seriously amazing!

    WillB — It would be good brunch food, especially with some nice, runny poached eggs. Delicious!

    Izzy’s Mama — Hi! Yeah, I knew those instructions were screwy… I tried. Here’s what happened… So I’m cutting out my circles, putting them into a perfect little tile pattern, when I cut out my last circle, look down at the sheet pan and realize I’ve got tons of scraps that a. can’t be put back together to cut more circles and b. constitute a significant amount of the ceci “polenta.” So I moved some of the circles back to one end, put the scraps in, moved the circles on top of the scraps, tried to level the scraps out and then begin the “tiling” pattern again on top of the scraps plateau. See? It’s even more confusing when I try and explain the origins of the confusing instructions! I’m sure if anyone actually tries to make them, they’ll figure something out… Right?

    TerryB — Lol, you know that’s just New Yorker bravado, rigth? Damn, I melt into puddles of kindness whenever I get asked for directions by lost tourists. I don’t actually have bad feelings for tourists, I’m just a little prickly from time to time. As to the sun block, I was in such a foul mood before leaving the house, I just wanted to get away from my computer and cellphone, so I completely forgot. I promise, I’ll remember next time!

    Ann — I was wondering about all those things as we were walking around! I did love the cheese shop. They had an aged gouda out for tasting that was simply amazing. But there was a funny yuppie guy in there who in all seriousness asked one of the cheesemongers, “So, where does this comte come from? (in a perfect French accent). The girl was like, “Uhm, France.” You could hear the silent expletive hanging in the air. It was pretty damn funny.

    Mary — You have chickpea flour hanging around in your cupboard? That’s awesome!! Apparently you can eat the mush just like polenta too, you just have to cook it for a bit longer. I also want to try some Middle Eastern applications as well. It’s neat stuff, and gluten-free to boot I think!

  8. Ann April 24, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    Not to monopolize your comments… but next time you go to the Bedford Cheese Shop ask for tastes of things you think you might like to buy. They’re very generous about it and will start recommending stuff and handing you pieces to try (if they aren’t too busy). I usually go in and say “I want something runny and stinky, something firm and strong and something mild and nutty. What do you think?” Fortunately they’re used to florid prose (I assume you read their descriptions of the cheeses?) and don’t even blink at my request. I once told them that a particularly strong goat cheese was “like being orally violated by a randy buck” and they were flattered!

  9. K April 24, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    Wait, wait, wait. “…found a Baby Jesus sausage, bought a racially insensitive cookbook…” What? I want to hear about these things, too! You can’t leave us hanging like that!

  10. Luisa April 24, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    What an amazing walk. I need to rustle Ben up to do it with me.

  11. Toni April 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    Ann, your photographs just get better and better every time I see them. You’ve got some jaw-dropping images here.

    And then there’s the gnocchi……..Wow! I need to make this. Not just want to, but NEED to!

  12. shelley April 25, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    That is a looong walk, with some great sights along the way! “creamy evil”, I loves it!

  13. Anne April 25, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    I think you earned yourself a plateful of creamy evil after that trek! What a great day. I love gnocchi, esp. the more foolproof, non potato kind. Can’t wait to try this.

    Why no love for potatoes with cheese and butter? What did they do to you, Ann? Were they mean to you in junior high? Did they steal your college boyfriend? Do tell!

  14. Anne April 25, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    Oh, and I think we need to do a meet up soon!

  15. MrsDocChuck April 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    My husband collects cookbooks like that. Can you tell us more about them?

  16. naomi dagen bloom April 25, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    awesome, stunning photographs! enjoyed the text too though this granny became a bit tired on the journey. please do not tell me about another used bookstore when i try so hard not to collect anything new–not hard to do in manhattan.

    if your interests move toward fiber, stop by the yarn tree on bedford in williamsburg. the invention of linda la belle, who is a woman of many parts.

  17. Brooklynguy April 25, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    too bad about pyza. its the white borscht that i love there, by the way. it’s kind of a workman’s cafeteria. last time i went a month ago i noticed too that the food dropped off in quality. ever changing, this ny food scene.

  18. ann April 26, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Ann — Yeah, if it had been just a wee bit cooler that day, we would have bought some cheese. And don’t you worry about me, I’m a cheese sample whore. I always ask for what I want ;-)

    K — lol! They’re in there!! The Baby Jesus sausage is made by a guy named Jesus, so he calls it his little Jesus sausage, which the kind folk at the cheese shop have translated as “little baby jesus” sausage. Funny, no?

    And the cookbook is just a little pamphlet from the 60s on the cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s got all sorts of funny little drawings and examples of how the Lancaster County-ites talk. One of the illustrations is of the “names” they have for different ethnic sorts (including themselves). Let’s just say no one comes across well! As soon as I find it (like I said, it’s small and I think Isaac tidied up a bit) I’ll take a picture and post it here in the comments.

    Luisa — You guys would love it. It takes you near so many great places to stop and hang out and eat and shop. It’s a lovely walk!

    Toni — I wish I had some right now too. I had some dental work done yesterday and my mouth is so owie. They would be the perfect comfort food!

    Shelley — I’m glad someone thinks I’m funny other than myself. It makes me feel slightly more sane ;-)

    Anne — Ha. You would be the one to ask me what I’ve got against potatoes, cream and butter. Lol! It’s not that I have anything against them per se, in fact, I hold nothing against them at all, and that’s kind of the problem. If I were to make a big tray of potato/butter/cream loooooove, I’d probably plunge my face into it with no regard for searing hot dairy products and slurp it all down like some kind of starving carnivore on holiday at a fat camp. I can’t allow it!

    MrsDocChuck — I’ll post pictures as soon as I can find it!!

    Naomi — Hi! Thanks for stopping by! I love meeting other “chicken” bloggers. I love yarn, it’s so pretty, and I especially love things made with yarn, but I have no talent for it… Alas… But I will be sure to drop into that store the next time I walk by, it sounds lovely. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    Brooklynguy — Hi!!! I remembered that it was the white borscht you are so crazy for, but it was just too hot that day (plus, I think white borscht falls solidly into the category of “creamy evil” foods I’m trying to avoid before bathing suit season!) I had the clear borscht with uzkami (little mushroom dumplings) and sauerkraut salad. They’re my keystone dishes that I test every Polish restaurant for. They were nicely done, but Polonica’s is better. I guess I’m just super lucky to live 4 blocks away from that place (and wicked spoiled).

    But, the atmosphere, oh the atmosphere! What an amazing place in that regard! Next time we go back, I’m totally ordering the fried pork cutlet with a sunnyside up egg that all the locals seemed to be eating. It looked amazing! That’s too bad about the quality… I blame these food prices. So damned high! Regardless of all that, you’re still a star-food-recommender in my book. Keep ’em coming! (And come out to Bay Ridge and try Polonica’s white borscht, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it).

  19. ann April 26, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    Okay, here it is! A photo of the cookbook.
    Click through the next few photos to see more.

  20. michelle April 26, 2008 at 8:39 pm #

    i’m tired just reading about that walk – holy crap! but it does make me want to head over to williamsburg for some overpriced food and irony-watching.

    any class of food called creamy evil has got to be good. in fact, creamy evil foods might be my favorite class of foods, along with despicably crisp.

  21. Christina April 26, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    Never, ever make potatoes with a sauce of cheese and butter? Ever? Really? Oh, I think that is on my list of life’s must-dos.

    What a beautiful walk! But, how dare you go tell us that the Amish are not racially sensitive and that just leave it there. I’m dying of curiosity!

  22. ann April 27, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    Michelle — Oooh! Despicably crisp! That’s good. And yeah, the irony makes the overpriced food taste better, doesn’t it?

    Christina — It’s definitely something you must try! Oh, and I posted pictures of the book 3 comments up. I suppose I should put them in the post too, huh? :-)

  23. Christine April 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    Wow, that little tour of the bridges sounds lovely.

    As do the ceci gnocchi. Have you ever had panelle? They’re made kind of the same way, only you spread the paste onto a baking sheet (about a quarter inch thick or so), then cut into pieces – we use triangles, and fry. With a little salt and a squeeze of lemon, it’s one of my favorite things. Try it on good Italian bread for a carb overload. I leave the frying to my aunts, so this may be the next best thing.

  24. Ulla April 30, 2008 at 9:43 am #

    Sorry about the sunburn, but thank you for the photos!
    Lovely:)
    The sunlight and textures in all of them:)

  25. MrsDocChuck May 9, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    Thank you for the pictures. My husband prefers more insensitive volumes. His collection is mostly from the 30’s to the ’50’s.

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