A long, long time ago, when our budget for fun far outstripped our budget for Amazon Prime diaper delivery services, I planned a little bachelorette party for my BFF, Jessica. And because we both have the same definition of fun, i.e. pasta, cheese, and wine, a cooking class was in order.
Now I know how to make pasta out of cheese. Serve this with a glass of red wine and just tell me you’re not having fun. I dare you.
for the gnocchi
15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup pesto
pinch white pepper (black pepper also works)
optional – very small pinch nutmeg
fresh chopped herbs – parsley or basil
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if the dough is too wet)
Stir together ricotta, pesto, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper – and if desired – a very small pinch of nutmeg. Very slowly add the flour, stirring gently to form a soft, wet dough.
On a well floured surface, divide the dough in half, and then in half again. Roll out a quarter of the dough into long rope and then cut crosswise into one inch pieces. If you want little ridges, press each gnocchi with the back of a fork. Stick them on a piece of parchment paper (to avoid them sticking) while you turn to the next section of dough.
Repeat step 2 with the next section of dough – two ropes is probably more than enough for two people, so feel free to freeze the rest.
Bring salted water to a boil in a deep skillet (to give you more surface area) and drop each gnocchi in individually, taking care not to drop them on each other. They will sink to the bottom, rising to the top when they’re done (about five minutes or so per batch).
Lift out cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and proceed to the next batch. Serve with tomato sauce below.
for the spicy tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 red or sweet onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
crushed red peppers
salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
a few sprigs basil
optional – big scoop of pesto
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook down 3-4 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute or two. Add crushed red peppers – as much as you can stand!
Add tomato paste, red wine, and tomatoes. Stir the whole thing together and cook a few minutes.
Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil and pesto, if using. Bring to a boil, and then cover, simmering over low heat about 30 minutes. Discard sprigs of basil before serving over the gnocchi.
This was a veritable party in our mouths…all fun & games until the Little Man woke up. But no worries – we have more gnocchi dough in the freezer!
Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery. Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables. Holler.
However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation. In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy. This made my husband feel unhappy.
To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious. (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)
Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce
2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
big scoop of all-purpose flour
big pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
lots of chopped parsley
about a cup of white wine
Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water. Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes. Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off. Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat. Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up. You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery. Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.
I’ve gained new appreciation for lots of things I’d never before considered before I became a walking dairy cow mom. Showers, for instance. I didn’t know I was such a proponent. (In fact, I am pretty sure I was on the low end of the shower bell curve.) No longer, my friends. I am PSYCHED when I get to shower. Ramps are another biggie – our first bout of activism: lobbying our condo board association to reinstall a lobby ramp. Chairs with arm rests – helpful to have something to push off of when trying to stand up. My friends, who brought us lunches and dinners and sent me funny Bitmojis and fruit to the hospital. My mom. Oh, my mom. My mom was everything those first few weeks. Cook, grocery shopper, house cleaner, baby changer, bottle washer, life giver. At one (let’s be honest, very low) point, I found myself breastfeeding my baby in a Wendy’s parking lot, my mom spoon-feeding me a Frosty, and I realized: this is motherhood, and it is NEVER. GOING. TO. END.
I also have a new appreciation for one-handed meals. And a fast and loose definition of what “meals” entail – these cookies, for instance.
Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, brought to room temperature
1 super ripe banana
splash vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 – 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
optional – pecans, almonds, your preferred nut.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Slowly beat in the egg, banana and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and fluff it all through with a fork; slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture.
As a last step, stir in chocolate chips, coconut & (optional) nuts.
Use an ice cream scoop to measure out about half a scoopful onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 9-12 minutes, depending on your oven.
Goodness these are delicious and I am pretty sure that’s not just because I am always ravenous. Fluffy and light, they don’t keep longer than a day or two before they start to lose their texture…which wasn’t a problem around here.
Things that happened over chez nous since our last musing on kielbasa & lentil soup:
One Saturday morning, the Husband insisted we go house-hunting. Again. 41 weeks into gestation, the stairs have never felt steeper.
We stopped for pretzel hot dogs for lunch. And then falafel and french fries. And then, because why not, for the first time in YEARS, a McDonald’s milkshake.
And then, one terrible, terrible car ride later – stuck behind a funeral procession, SCREAMING at the Husband to just end it all NOW – I had an epidural. At 2:57AM, we heard our kid cry for the first time. In between, there were some terrible, serious complications that we are still working through, 2.5 months later – stories for some other time.
BUT. A BABY. A wonderful, healthy, smiley, squirmy baby boy we’ve named Theodore. Our little man. Holy, moly, love.
But this isn’t a blog about babies. (Although I do feel like I could do a whole side blog entitled “Really Hard Stuff No One Told You About Pregnancy and Babies and Childbirth and Parenthood Because Otherwise We’d All Stop Procreating and Social Security Would Disappear Faster than It Already Is.” Catchy name, no?)
And now I’m going to do the impossible: try to start cooking again. And to write about it. Bear with me.
I know I complained about the weather in my last post, and my ploy seems to have worked. It’s now gloriously sunshine-y, and creeping up into the 70s. Hello, DC that I love – all glorious three weeks before it becomes so hot and muggy you start walking around with a scarf and a fleece again – to protect yourself when you enter the arctic tundra that is DC office buildings in the summer. #firstworldproblems
Of course, the one downside to the beautiful change in seasons is the slow creep away from those hearty, soul-filling foods. When my sister visited a few weeks ago (how surreal is this: the LAST time I will see her before I become a MOM), we spent almost a full day planning out a menu (clearly, we’re sisters, and daughters of our mom), and took full advantage of one of the last cold blasts of the winter season. OK, now I’m really ready for summer.
Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)
1/2 pound green lentils
2 large onions, diced
2 leeks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt, pepper, red hot chili flakes
8 stalks fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
4-6 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
10 cups chicken stock
a big squeeze tomato paste
1/2 – 1 pound kielbasa
big splash red wine
Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water. Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes. Drain.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and then saute onions. After a minute or two, add the leeks, the garlic, salt, pepper, red hots, thyme and cumin, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Add celery and carrots; saute another 10 minutes.
Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils. Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about an hour – until the lentils are completely cooked through. Add kielbasa, red wine, and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Adjust seasonings – and serve with your choice of topping.
As you can imagine, this soup gets even better when it sits overnight, soaking up all the goodness. If it’s not spring/summer yet where you live – make this. It will NOT disappoint.