Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragu

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Whenever I talk about a “ragù”  it’s usually a meat-based sauce served with some type of pasta. In this case, I thought that using the soft pillowy texture of a potato Gnocchi would be perfect. This is my Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragu.

Let’s start with the ragù.

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Colander-Style Spoon

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley



Prep Time: 15 minutes (re-hydrating mushrooms)
Cooking Time: 40 minutes (includes the cooking time for browning sausage)
Total Cook Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 3-quart saucepan, 10-inch non-stick sauté pan, 12-inch rondeau pan, 6-quart saucepot, Microplane for grating

1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, bulk style
1 4.5-ounce package of dried Porcini mushrooms
2 cups of unsalted beef broth
1 cup of mushroom stock (the liquid from the re-hydrated Porcini mushrooms)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 package of store-bought potato gnocchi, (substitute homemade)
1-1/4 cups of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (reserve 1/2 cup to sprinkle over each serving)

Start by re-hydrating the Porcini mushrooms over medium-low heat with unsalted beef broth, 15 to 20 minutes until plump. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and transfer them to a cutting board, reserving the mushroom liquid. Next, finely dice the mushrooms placing them into a small bowl.

In a rondeau pan (deep-sided frying pan) over medium heat add the Italian sausage to the pan breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until sausage is completely brown, with no pink, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and drain the grease by using a strainer or a slotted spoon, transferring the sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel.

While the sausage is browning, dice up the onion and mince the garlic, set aside.

Using the same rondeau pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Stir and let that soften and the onions become translucent 2 to 3 minutes. Next, add the chopped Porcini mushrooms, minced garlic, and the fresh thyme leaves, stir to combine.

At this point, add the gnocchi into a pot of boiling salted water.

Add the reserved mushroom stock to the pan. Allow the stock to simmer and reduce until there is only a couple of tablespoons of the liquid is left in the pan. Add the cooked sausage and crushed tomatoes, stir to combine, simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream, stir through.

When it the Gnocchi begins floating they’re done. Using a colander-style spoon transfer the gnocchi into the pan with the ragù, stir gently to combine. Turn the heat to off. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, again, stir to combine. Garnish with chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley.

Ladle the Gnocchi With A Porcini Mushroom And Sweet Italian Sausage Ragù into individual porcelain serving bowls. Top with more of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve hot.

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Vines Grille & Wine Bar

Vines Grille And Wine Bar (3)

In Orlando, we call it “Restaurant Row”. Located on West Sand Lake Road, are some of the best restaurants Orlando has to offer. These restaurants are not located in a theme park, nor are located on International Drive, know to tourists. They’re just conveniently located close enough, where “the locals” can get dressed up, take a 20-30 minute drive, and enjoy some great dining. Vines Grille and Wine Bar offer “high end” steaks, prime rib, and an extensive wine collection. Not to mention, they have live Jazz and Blues music. Located at 7533 W. Sandlake Rd. Orlando, Fl. 32819. For more information visit their website at

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Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle

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Cheesecakes, besides being decadent and delicious, I believe are one of the most popular dessert item found on restaurant menus. Whenever I’m making a cheesecake, I think about the three things, first, the crust, then the filling, and finally the topping. Of course, the traditional is only comprised of two of these, the crust and the cheese filling. Let’s face it, cheesecake lovers are always trying to invent new ways of sprucing up the traditional with fruit, chocolate, and even making savory ones.

I really want to take a minute to talk about the batter, the body of the cheesecake. My two main objectives are to prevent the cheesecake from cracking or the eggs from curdling. I like using a water bath, a gentle heat, for the baking process which prevents the cheesecake from cracking.

When using both corn starch and flour in the batter, the cornstarch will prevent the eggs from curdling. I’ve also have found, after the cheesecake has baked for an hour, leaving the cheesecake in the water bath, in the oven with the heat off, and the oven door slightly ajar for an additional hour, will ensure you won’t have cheesecake with those little annoying cracks in the top. The residual heat, in the walls and left in the water bath, will radiate enough heat to complete the baking process.

It’s a personal preference that I choose to use a little flour in the batter. I like the creamy, silky yet firm texture to my finished cheesecake. Now, if I were making a savory version, then I’d incorporate flour and cornstarch in the batter because I’d want a slightly firmer texture. No matter savory or sweet, the gentle heat of a water bath is always the method I use.

This is my Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle.

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Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Inactive Baking Time: 60 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Crust: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Strawberry Sauce: 30 minutes
Refrigerate Cheesecake: overnight
Freeze Cheesecake: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Yields: 8 to 10 slices

Equipment: 9-inch springform pan, 3-quart saucepan a roasting pan, food processor, an electric mixer, aluminum foil, long wooden skewer, Stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Note: Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature

Ingredients For The Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups of tightly packed cracker crumbs (1 sleeve each, honey graham crackers and cinnamon graham crackers, processed)
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients For The Strawberry Filling:
2 pints fresh strawberries, hauled and cut
2 heaping tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 cup of strawberry preserves
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Ingredients For The Cheesecake Filling;
3 8-ounce bars of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup  Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of sour cream, room temperature
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 seeded vanilla bean
3 large eggs, room temperature

Hot water for “water bath”

Ingredients For White Chocolate:
2 11-ounce packages of Ghirardelli White chocolate chips, melted

Directions For Strawberry Sauce:
Start with fresh strawberries that have been hulled and halved into a food processor. Add in the cornstarch and pulse until the strawberries are completely puréed. Next, pour the puréed strawberry mixture into a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, add fresh lemon juice, granulated sugar, and strawberry preserves, stir to combine. Bring up to a boil, constantly stirring, Cook the strawberry sauce until shiny and thick. This takes about 5 minutes. You’ll see that the sauce has thickened when you run your finger down the back of a spoon and it stays separated. Remove the sauce from the heat, place into a bowl, and transfer to the frig to chill for 30 minutes.

Directions For Graham Cracker Crust:
prepare the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the two varieties of graham crackers. Transfer the graham cracker crumbs to a mixing bowl add sugar, stir to combine. Add in the melted butter, mix to combine. The crumbs should look like wet sand. Dump the cracker crumbs into the springform pan. Spread the crumbs around with your fingers to fill the bottom of the pan. Then using the bottom of a small shot glass, firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and around the interior edges of the pan. Prepare the outside of springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Directions For Cheesecake Filling:
In an electric hand-held or stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the softened cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, and flour beat until light and fluffy. Next, add the lemon zest, sour cream, vanilla extract, and the caviar of the vanilla bean. With the mixer on low speed gradually add in the sweetened condensed milk. Finally, add the room temperature eggs one at a time until just combined. Turn the mixer off.

Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Remove the crust and strawberry filling out of the frig. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon dollops of strawberry sauce onto the batter. Then pour the other half of the cream cheese mixture carefully on top, not to disturb the strawberry dollops. Then repeat adding spoonfuls of strawberry filling on the top. Using the pointy end of a skewer, make swirly designs making sure not to go through to the bottom layer. Just draw the swirls really lightly on the top.

Set the filled (unbaked cheesecake) and foil-wrapped springform pan into a large roasting pan. Have a tea kettle of hot water ready. Add the hot water into the roasting pan so it comes about a 1/4 of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Tip: Set the roasting pan with the cheesecake in the pan, and in the oven first, before adding in the hot water.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until center is almost set. Turn the oven off leaving the pan in the oven with the door slightly ajar for another hour. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let cool on a wire rack until room temperature, around 20 minutes.

Remove the foil from around the pan and refrigerate overnight. The next day, microwave the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 15-seconds; remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until most of the chocolate has melted. The white chocolate will continue to melt from its own heat upon being stirred. Remove the springform pan from around the cheesecake. Take a fork, dip it into the melted chocolate, drizzle the melted white chocolate all over the top and down the sides. The cold cheesecake will harden the chocolate pretty fast.

I like to place my cheesecake in the freezer for around 2 hours then return the cake to the refrigerator before cutting. This helps to make the cheesecake nice and firm allowing you to have smooth even slices.

Tip For Slicing Cheesecake:
Take a sharp knife, dip it into very hot water, before slicing each piece.

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