Right, I know... totally random.
I've been reading a TON of molecular gastronomy blogs lately (shout out to Salty Seattle and Alinea at Home) and I thought that for once, instead of relying on my usual ideas of Italian-means-tomatoes-and-basil and Greek-equals-feta-and-olives, I decided to try to think about flavors. Now, the reason these traditional cuisines are so delicious is exactly because a long time ago people discovered that basil and tomatoes balance each other terrifically. So, I have been trying to come up with a way to use up the rest of my beet gnocchi (gnudi actually, because they are ricotta-based instead of potato.... details, details) and be slightly more creative about it and the flavors that come with it.
Here's about how it went in my wine-addled brain:
"Beets. Beets are earthy. What else is earthy? Mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms! I love mushrooms. Mushrooms make me want a nice glass of pinot noir. I love wine. Mmmmm shiraz is also tasty. Shiraz is peppery. Pepper! Yes, pepper. How do I make this a sauce? Cream. Can't go wrong with cream. Beet gnudi with mushrooms in a peppery-cream sauce. Seems to earthy. I mean, I love the earth and all... but hmmm... too much of the same. Maybe something sweet? I do have to dried figs in the pantry... oh, and by the way, I need to figure out what 'figgy' pudding is..."
Aren't you sad you now know how I think? Imagine working with me. Tangents. Everywhere. No wonder my students always look so confused....
I tossed some sliced portobello mushrooms, garlic and shallots into an oiled saute pan over medium heat to get soft and start browning. Once I got some nice color on the 'shrooms, I added the chopped figs and about 3-4 tbsps brandy to the pan and turned the heat up a little to bring it to a simmer.
I started a pot of salted boiling water for my gnudi, they only take like 2 minutes to cook, even from frozen. Yay for fresh pasta!
Once the brandy evaporated off and everything was smelling fantastic, I added about a 1/4 C cream, some beef stock and a healthy dose of cracked pepper. While that was amalgamating and getting all happy, I cooked the gnudi. About 5 minutes later I had the gnudi plated and was pouring delicious earthy-figy-goodness over the top. A sprinkle of thyme to seal the deal.
Yum. I thought this turned out great. Boyfriend liked it too, but thought that next time I should add less figs and/or chop them up a little finer. I agree (although how often to I make things twice... yeah, the answer to that would be, "extremely rarely"). But just in case, I will heed his advice :)