February 9, 2011 · Recipe · Comments Off on Pan-fried Gnocchi


I remember well the first time I tried gnocchi. I had heard of it but had never eaten it before buying a package from World Plus Cost Market while living in Denver. It looked tasty, and thinking it would be like pasta, I grabbed a jar of tomato sauce to go with it. I was completely disappointed. The gnocchi was gummy, and the sauce was expectantly salty and bland. I threw most of it away.


Cauliflower and sage before roasting

I tried a couple times more with various sauces or toppings. However, the result was always the same- I couldn’t get past the gummy gnocchi no mater how delicious the sauce was. I hoped to try a professional’s gnocchi, but when  I would see the dish on a restaurant menu, it was usually served with a blue cheese sauce which I am not a fan of and wasn’t willing to try. I had essentially given up until we moved to Switzerland. Gnocchi is available in various forms at every store, and I renewed my motivation to figure out how to make it delicious. Thankfully, before I had to eat another bite of gummy gnocchi, Heidi Swanson came to my rescue with a suggestion to pan-fry the gnocchi instead of boiling. The technique tak

es no more time or effort than boiling and results in flavorful, chewy gnocchi that don’t clump together or weigh down the sauce. Thank goodness!

To top off my happiness at finding a way to prepare the potato dumplings, Annie arrived in January with a fantastic dish she made frequently for herself while living in D.C. She had found a recipe in Real Simple for

Gnocchi With Roasted Cauliflower. The crispy gnocchi, rich cauliflower and flavorful sage made a perfect combination and I can’t wait to make the dish again. The Real Simple recipe is linked here, and written with the pan fried gnocchi below.

Roasted Cauliflower and Sage with Pan-fried Gnocchi

Pan-fried gnocchi

  • head of cauliflower
  • small bunch of fresh sage leaves
  • olive oil (3 T)
  • salt (1/2 t)
  • pepper (1/4 t)
  • fresh gnocchi
  • Parmesan cheese
  • (optional: garlic cloves)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C.
  2. Break the cauliflower into florets and wash.
  3. Rinse the sage leaves.
  4. Peel garlic cloves if using.


  1. Toss the cauliflower, optional garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Put in preheated oven.
  2. Roast cauliflower for 25- 30 min, tossing once.
  3. With about 10 minutes remaining to roast, heat some olive oil in a saute pan or skillet. When oil is hot, add gnocchi and cook until golden brown on all sides.
  4. Toss gnocchi and cauliflower together in a large serving dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.
February 3, 2011 · Recipe, Sichuan Cuisine · Comments Off on Baozi and Mian

While I love using the recipes from my course at the Sichuan Culinary Institute, often the idea of ingredient shopping and preparation is too much. To get some of the flavors of Sichuan quickly and easily, I’ve turned to making baozi (steamed buns) and variations of mian (noodles).


Noodle cart in American Garden

While living in Chengdu, I ate some type of noodle at least 3 times a week. Xiao Wang would make mian whenever we didn’t have leftovers for lunch, Ian and I would head to the local noodle shop nearly every weekend, and we caught the cold noodle cart every time it passed in front of our house. There was nothing more delicious or satisfying than spicy noodles.

In my cooking course, we learned to make both Dan Dan Mian and Hong Tang Nuirou Mian. Both dishes take a little preparation to make thebases, but the bases can be stored in the refrigerator and used at a moment’s notice. I make both when I can, but my go to noodle lunch is a variation of Xiao Wang’s noodles.

Preparation could not be more simple.

  1. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add a good amount of salt and noodles. (The noodles can be anything from ramen style to udon to basic spaghetti). Just before noodles are cooked, add a couple of leaves of lettuce (romaine is best) per person. RESERVE cooking water.
  2. While noodles are cooking, put a bit of each of the following into each serving bowl: soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, sesame paste, garlic and sugar- all optional or to taste.
  3. Place noodles on top of flavoring ingredients and pour a ladle full of cooking water into bowl.
  4. Top with chopped scallions if possible.
  5. Serve and have each person mix his own bowl until uniform.


Baozi preparation takes more time and planning than mian, but is not difficult and results in completely wonderful little buns that can also be frozen and resteamed whenever needed. In Chengdu, there are as many types of baozi fillings as you could possibly imagine. For a fortunate few months, we had a baozi stand that would pop up outside of our house every morning and evening. The stand sold about 4 types of extra large baozi and an equal number of mantou (steamed bread rolls) variations. It was nearly impossible to walk by without buying at least one each. The following is a recipe for the dough and two ssample filling. However, the filling could be nearly anything that sounds good- BBQ pork, spicy beansprouts, diced chicken and vegetables, etc.

Baozi Dough

  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T dried yeast
  • 500 g  / 4 C white flour
  • a little vegetable or peanut oil


  1. Add sugar and yeast to 250 ml/1 C of lukewarm water. Leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes until frothy.
  2. Place flour in a mixing bowl. Pour in yeast mixture and miz well, adding about 50 ml/1/4 C of lukewarm water.
  3. Knead dough until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. After dough has doubled, punch it down to its original zie. Leave for 20-30 minutes until it has risen again.
  6. After second rise, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes.
  7. To make baozi: rip off a small piece of dough (about the size of a large lime). Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten with the palm of your hand. Flatten until  dough is about 3 mm thick. Try to make it thicker in the middle, thinner around the edges. Place a couple T of filling in center. Pinch sides of baozi together and pinch the top.

Mushroom Filling

  • about 4-5 handfuls of mushroom
  • about 1/2 a head of cabbage
  • soy sauce
  • salt


  1. Finely mince the mushrooms and cabbage. You can use a food processor. The mince should be very fine.
  2. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a wok. When hot, add mushroom and cabbage. Cook until well done and all moisture has evaporated.
  3. Add soy sauce and salt to taste. Because the baozi dough is bland, the filling should be overly salted for balance.
  4. Follow directions above to fill baozi.

Steam baozi for about 20 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce of soy sauce, black vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil and sugar (all to taste).

If you have extras, freeze in a large freezer bag and steam for 10-15 minutes to reheat.