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Food Photography Workshop in Italy

June 9, 2017
Food Photography Workshop in Italy | A recap on Fake Food Free

If you work as a creative in any form, you know what I mean when I say that sometimes you need the artistic version of a swift kick in the pants. 

Things grow stale. You lose inspiration, struggle to find new ideas, and become sluggish both mentally and physically. 

You need something to ignite that spark again. Not the spark that says, “Let’s do this!” It’s more of that spark that says, “My goodness, look at the beauty there. You must capture it and then recreate it!” 

I’m familiar with that physical motivation spark. It’s gotten me through almost a dozen half marathons. But that creative spark is new territory for me. I often feel it is much, much harder to ignite once it begins to fizzle. 

So I went to Italy. 

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Blue and White Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Red Tomato Sauce Recipe

July 2, 2012

This homemade potato gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce is made with blue and white potatoes for a patriotic 4th of July meal!

Blue and White Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Red Tomato Sauce Recipe | Fake Food Free
As I’ve shared before, this year our garden produced an abundance of Adirondack Blue potatoes. I can’t get enough of them! They are such a fun ingredient to experiment with in the kitchen. As you can imagine, with blue potatoes on hand, I thought it appropriate to create some type of patriotic dish for the 4th of July holiday.
Yes, I know they look purple, but bear with me here. It has been a long time since I’ve made gnocchi, but that was the first thing that came to mind when I wanted to get creative with the blue potatoes. Paired with the white potatoes my parents brought me from their garden last weekend, and a few surprise tomatoes that arrived in the garden, I had the makings of a red, white and blue creation. Even if the blue potatoes came out a wee bit purple in the end. 
Gnocchi is more of a comfort dish; one that doesn’t sound all that appealing in record high temperatures. For that reason, I kept the tomato sauce raw and fresh. The basil gives the dish a refreshing quality that makes it perfectly acceptable for summer.
Blue and White Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Red Tomato Sauce Recipe | Fake Food Free
Blue and White Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Red Tomato Sauce
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
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Fresh Red Tomato Sauce
  1. 4 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
  2. ¼ large white onion, minced
  3. 20 – 30 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  4. 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  5. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Potato Gnocchi
  1. 1 lb. blue potatoes, baked
  2. 1 lb. white potatoes, baked
  3. 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  6. Olive oil
  1. Fill a large soup pot with water, about ¾ of the way full. Bring to a boil as you make the tomato sauce.
  2. In a bowl, combine the tomato, onion and basil. Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and Parmesan. Toss to mix the ingredients and set aside.
  3. Place the flesh of the white potatoes and the blue potatoes in separate medium-sized bowls. Mash the potatoes until smooth and no clumps are present. Often gnocchi calls for sending the potatoes through a potato ricer. I don't have one, so I do my best to mash the potatoes well with a hand-held masher or a fork. If you have a potato ricer, feel free to use it.
  4. Next, add ½ cup flour to each bowl of potatoes. Then add ½ teaspoon of salt to each, and a ½ teaspoon of parsley. First take the blue potato mixture and combine the flour and potato by hand. Once it holds together, turn out onto the counter and knead as you would bread dough, until a smooth ball is formed.
  5. Roll the potato dough into a thin log. You may need to do this in 2 to 3 batches. Use a knife or dough cutter to cut the log into small ¼ inch pieces. You can leave the pieces as they are, or roll them gently with a fork to create ridges. Place the gnocchi on a plate or baking sheet.
  6. Set aside the blue potato gnocchi and repeat the process with the white potato gnocchi.
  7. Prepare a place for the cooked gnocchi by drizzling about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized bowl.
  8. Once the water comes to a boil, sprinkle in some salt, about a 1/2 teaspoon. Add the blue potato gnocchi to the boiling water in 3 separate batches. Allow it to boil until it floats, about 45 to 60 seconds. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place it in the bowl with olive oil. Repeat with the remaining blue potato gnocchi and then the white potato gnocchi. Toss the cooked gnocchi gently in the the olive oil.
  9. Divide the gnocchi into 4 to 6 portions. Top with the fresh tomato sauce, and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.
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Blue and White Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Red Tomato Sauce Recipe | Fake Food Free
Happy 4th of July to all my readers in the U.S!
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Borekitas: Hazan Family Favorites

May 21, 2012

When I received my copy of the Hazan Family Favoritescookbook I will admit I had to do some research. There is no doubt that this speaks to my lack of knowledge of Italian cuisine.  It made me think about how it is possible to feel affection for a cuisine without really knowing it at all.

There is no question that I love homemade pasta and marinara sauces, or that I believe they are 100% worth the time and effort it takes to make them. I enjoy bean soups and simple meat cutlets, and the other elegant offerings that come from an Italian kitchen.

What I think I have often overlooked is the simplicity. 

In case you have some more to learn about Italian cooking like I did, the book was written by Guiliano Hazan. He is the son of Marcella Hazan whose cookbooks are credited with introducing the United States to traditions and techniques of Italian cooking. 

The book is a collection of recipes rescued from a fifty-six year-old notebook. As you flip through it and see the pictures you can feel the history and importance of its pages.

What you also see when you read the recipes is simplicity. Most of the recipes use only a handful of fresh ingredients to create a stunning end product. It’s impressive, educating, hunger-inducing, and it makes you think – okay, I’m ready to begin mastering the art of Italian cooking. 

Or if you are like me, it may also make you think – okay, let’s book the trip to Italy!

Amid the Fettuccine with Orange, Fried Parmesan Cheese-Battered Lamb Chops, and the Peach-and-Strawberry Semifreddo, the Borekitas caught my attention. What’s not to love about spinach, feta and ricotta stuffed into a bite-size pastry? Absolutely nothing. These are delicious. 

From Hazan Family Recipes, reprinted with permission from Abram Books 
Time from start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Makes about 20 borekitas 

From the cookbook:
My parents and I went to my grandparents’ almost every Friday for Shabbat dinner. I can still
taste and smell the wonderful little pies my Nonna Giulia made, which she called borekitas.
She made them either with a dough shell or a phyllo shell. The fillings were spinach or cheese.
In attempting to replicate them, I used Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food as a guide.
Both the cheese and spinach fillings below are just like what I remember, and the dough shell,
my favorite of the two, is just as good as the one Nonna Giulia used to make.

FOR the dough
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

FOR the spinach filling (I made the spinach)
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces fresh spinach, washed
1 ounce feta cheese
2 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta cheese

Cut the butter into small pieces and allow to come to room temperature.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor with 1/4 cup water and run it until a smooth, homogeneous dough forms. If it crumbles when pinched, mix in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft and smooth when pinched.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for about 20 minutes before using.

Spinach filling
In a pot large enough to cook the spinach, put about 2 inches of water, and place over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the salt and spinach. Cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze the excess water out and coarsely
chop. Place the spinach in a bowl. Crumble the feta and add it along with the ricotta. Mix thoroughly.

Assembling the borekitas
Preheat the oven to 350°F on the bake setting.

Take about a walnut-size ball of dough, place it on a counter, and press it with your fingers into a disk 2 inches in diameter. Put about 1 tablespoon of either cheese or spinach filling on the disk. Fold the disk over the filling to form a half-moon shape, making sure to pinch the open sides together to seal them, and place on a baking sheet, either oiled or lined with a nonstick baking mat.

When all the borekitas are assembled, bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Disclosure: A copy of this cookbook was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.