Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fashionable Spring Gnocchi

When I was in high school I spent the last 6 months before college thinking about how wonderful college would be. I used Binghamton as the idea of a mecca, like when I got there I'd be free from the pettyness of high school, free of the stress of living at home, and free to be who I really wanted to be. Free to be introspective, change, and grow up.

I have to admit that Nick and I have been living the last few weeks thinking like that, and I'm sure the feeling will only intensify the closer we get to our move. We keep thinking about living in a bigger apartment with more amenities, not being stressed out by certain aspects of our jobs, having better weather, being away from family drama, living a Greener lifestyle, and being in a more liberal enviornment (that's not to say New York isn't liberal, but certain things are more available in California).

This Friday I plan on booking a moving van, which means we will officially have a moving date. The frenzy of packing and reality of what it means to be 3,000 miles away from everything we know will truly set in. It does sound like we're putting too many expectations of Palo Alto being a perfect haven from life here, but there truly are many things that are going to change. And we're about to embark on a major adventure, so it's exciting nonetheless.

Part of what I've been doing to get excited has been revolving around our kitchen. Even though I can't go out and spend money on Spring Fashion and light and airy homeware, I have to eat. So I've been using my reusable shopping bags and getting seasonable vegetables to make delicious and light dinners.

After doing a google search on what exactly those seasonal vegetables are (apricots, beets, kiwis, radishes, and stawberries just to name a few), I came up with a recipe that sounded so yummy I had to invite people over to try it out. We now have two seperate evenings which we plan to have 4 or 5 people over, and the 1950s housewife in me is jumping for joy at the idea of planning meals for so many people.

Last Friday we had my friend Danielle over for dinner so I could experiment the following gnocchi recipe on her. Now I know gnocchi is not normally thought of as a spring food (most people think the potato sits like a rock in their stomach), but for someone who enjoys a heavier meal (like I do), this is the perfect balance between filling and light for the warmer weather.


-2 pounds of regular potato gnocchi
-2 whole shallots
-1 bunch of thin asparagus
-3/4 cup of peas (I used frozen)
-crimini mushroms
-oyster mushrooms
-2 cloves of garlic
-good quality parmesean cheese
-4 tablespoons butter
-4 tablesppons olive oil
-3 pieces of bacon

*Start off by cooking the bacon. Don't cook it like you would cook your breakfast bacon. Cook it about half way, then remove it from the pan.
*Slice up other veggies while the bacon is cooking. First start with the shallots and garlic. Chop/mince the garlic and slice up the shallots in small pieces. Then melt the butter and olive oil together. When the butter is completely melted, add the garlic and shallots.
*Around here is when you want to turn on the pot you're going to cook your gnocchi in to get the water boiling.
*To cut asparagus, bend a piece until it breaks. Where it breaks, cut the rest and throw the bottom pieces away. Then slice the rest on an angle into bite sized pieces. Add those next.
*Cut up the mushrooms into small pieces (smaller than you could for a normal pasta dish, but not diced). Add those next and add in the peas too.
*By now the water for the gnocchi should have boiled and the gnocchi should be in there too. Right around the time the gnocchi is done cooking you should cut up the bacon into small pieces and add to the pan with the rest of your veggies. Add the nutmeg as well. I usually add spices by covering the whole pan, giving a stir, then covering the whole pan again. I'm not sure how much that is, but if you're a real measurement Nazi, I'd say start off with a teaspoon and go from there.
*Fresh gnocchi cooks very fast (less than 5 minutes). So once you're done adding the nutmeg you will only have a short while to sit back before you need to drain the gnocchi. When you do, add it straight to your frying pan (tip: make sure you use the biggest frying pan you have because this is A LOT of food).
*Once the gnocchi is mixed, start grating your cheese on top. I pick out cheese by smelling it. That sounds gross, but it's the same as buying produce. How do you know if something is fresh and will taste good if you don't smell it first? Anyways, half the time I pick out cheese and have no idea what the name of it is. I just know that it's in a certain family and it will taste good. Use your own tastebuds on this one, but I picked out something in the parmesean family from Whole Foods. And add as much or as little cheese as you want. I usually add a little bit at first and then put the cheese out on the table in case other people like a lot of cheese on their pasta (tip: I don't know if you've noticed but I don't like to cook with salt. I'm really sensitive to it, so I never use it. Rarely does anyone notice. Usually when using certain spices or ingredients (like parmesean cheese), the cheese is salty enough that no one misses it. That being said, I always put salt and pepper out on the table just in case.)

I served this for three people with a very simple salad (mixed greens, tofu, an apple, trail mix, and olive oil and vinegar) and a loaf of french bread. This Saturday I plan to make the same thing but with a steak, and a side dish of sauteed red, orange, yellow peppers, and onions. I'm also planning on making another vegetable side dish, but I can't decide just what yet. I'll let the market inspire me. Dessert will be mini pavlovas with berries and whipped cream.


While we're on the topic of food, I stumbled across this cookbook today online and I thought it looked really good. For the fashionista mom (if you're stil looking for another Mother's Day gift), it would be perfect. I'm adding it to my Amazon.com wishlist, if I ever get it I'll let you know if it turns out to be a good buy.

$29.50 at Amazon.com

The last pages have a food questionnaire that you can fill out with your guests. I figured I'd fill mine out now just for fun:

My favorite restaurant: Spring Street Natural in NYC
My favorite person to cook for: My husband of course
The ingredient that is most indispensible to me: Rosemary or Nutmeg
My favorite "sinful" indulgence: Coldstone Creamery Ice cream
The most sensual meal would include: a dessert that can be shared
My favorite cuisine: Italian
The most unforgettable meal I have ever experienced: dinner at the Deer Hill Inn in Vermont
My ideal dinner guest list includes: several of my best friends and their significant others (but I can't fit 20 people at my dinner table)
The strongest memory of my mother's cooking: Baking brownies together and getting to lick the bowl afterwards
My idea of a food extravaganza: Italy or France, especially on market day
The most fashionable dish I can prepare: Maybe this gnocchi? I also make amazing desserts
The most edible person: A gingerbread bear
My dream dinner date or location: In Greece on the Meditteranean Ocean with my husband (or the actor Matthew Goode)
An ideal dinner party should: have the right music mix and lighting
The most appropriate time for dinner to begin: 7pm if it's just us two, 8pm if you're entertaining
My dream pattern or brand of flatware and table setting: Simple flatware with white plates. Plain white plates makes your food pop and look that much more delicious. White flowers with bright accented table linens only add to that.

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