Pesto & Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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.

 

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for the gnocchi

  • 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • pinch salt
  • 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)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. Lift out cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and proceed to the next batch.  Serve with tomato sauce below.

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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
  • pinch sugar
  • a few sprigs basil
  • optional – big scoop of pesto
  1. 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!
  2. Add tomato paste, red wine, and tomatoes.  Stir the whole thing together and cook a few minutes.
  3. 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.

 

The Verdict:

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!

 

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Mussels with White Wine Tomato Saffron Sauce

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.)

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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
  • olive oil
  • 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
  • fresh thyme
  • about a cup of white wine
  • salt, pepper
  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.

 

The Verdict:

More, please!

 

 

 

 

Lentil & Kielbasa Soup

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.

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Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)

  • 1/2 pound green lentils
  • olive oil
  • 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
  • to serve:
    • parmesan cheese
    • parsley
    • green onions
  1. Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water.  Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes.  Drain.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

The Verdict:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Cooked Chicken Coconut Curry

On March 7, the Capital Weather Gang – the coolest (ha!) gang around – declared winter in DC to be officially over.

The CWG is a really big deal around here.  Like when they say tomorrow is a Four Domes day  (– that’s four Capitol domes to you, non-DC native) – you KNOW you’re sleeping in late tomorrow, and at the very best, you’ll be “teleworking.” Hello, federal government.

So when they said winter was over, and spring was here, and that there’d be no more snow, and that only sunshine and puppies and rainbows were ahead, we BELIEVED them.  The whole CITY believed them.  There were discounts at coffee shops and consignment stores to celebrate the arrival of spring.

In other words, I live in Washington, DC, ok?  I shouldn’t be waddling to work in my down coat on April 13th.  CWG, next time, knock on wood when you make declarative statements like “pronouncing winter over now is really, really safe.”

The only saving grace is that it’s totally acceptable to make really heavy, spicy, ridiculously easy winter curries in our crock pot.

Slow Cooked Chicken Coconut Curry

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  • 1-2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 can coconut milk (light is fine)
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 1 big handful curry powder
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • a big pinch salt
  • 1 big pinch pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • optional – chopped jalapeno (*note – between the sambal oelek and the red pepper flakes, this dish is one hot wollop of a dish)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • for serving:
    • cooked basmati rice
    • chopped cilantro
    • coconut flakes
  1. Put all ingredients from chicken through black pepper in the crock pot and give it a good stir.  Cover and cook on low for four hours.
  2. At the four hour mark, add the bell pepper and cook for about 20 minutes.  Add a bit of cornstarch to thicken up the mixture and cook another 10 minutes or so (don’t let your bell peppers get soggy).
  3. Serve with rice and your desired toppings.  Keep some milk/water nearby because it will light your mouth on fire (in a good way).

The Verdict:

Plentiful, spicy-ful, ridiculously easy, and definitely good for making you think about warmer climates, where there are no down coats and no domes looming in your future.

 

 

 

[recipe tweak/do-over] SK’s Shaved Asparagus Pizza

I recently realized I am THAT lady. The one I’ve certainly felt badly for, but banned from my brain because I never thought I would be her.

This was the moment of realization: I was walking home from work, and I dropped my hair elastic.  To retrieve or not retrieve?

Pros

  1. I’d really like to tie my hair up.
  2. I’m grossed out by other people’s hair ties on the ground.  Like, seriously, you don’t notice when all of a sudden your hair springs loose?
  3. I don’t want to be a litterbug.
  4. I’d really like to tie my hair up.

Con

  1. The ground is really far away.
  2. Really far away.

I did not retrieve my hair elastic.  I am a litterbug.

As you can imagine, I’ve also been a bit of a disaster in the kitchen.  However, I was very proud of myself when I looked in the fridge about a week ago and realized I could basically recreate Deb Perelman’s shaved asparagus pizza (which I attempted here before) from things already in my fridge.  Even better: all ingredients were within easy reach & didn’t require bending down.  Some liberties, of course, were taken.

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Smitten Kitchen Shaved Asparagus Pizza

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • about 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 (prepared) pizza dough (Trader Joe’s) – we used Trader Joe’s – plus a little bit of flour for rolling the dough
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • sprinkle of Parmesan
  • 2 eggs – you’re going to poach these, & it will be awesome.  I find Alton’s instructions turn out the most consistently well-cooked eggs.
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. “Shave” the asparagus by holding by their (untrimmed) ends against a flat cutting board and running a sharp vegetable peeler across the spear.  I found that using a cheese slicer works best.  Repeat until you have a big pile of asparagus shavings, and then toss them in a small bowl with the onions, olive oil, Balsamic, lemon juice, and a pinch each salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle a bit of the flour on the bottom of your baking sheet and then transfer the dough to the sheet.  Spread the ricotta lightly over the dough, top with asparagus and onion mixture.  Drizzle with a little olive oil if you like, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and then pop the pizza in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until edges are browned and the cheese is bubbly.
  4. Top with a poached egg and serve immediately.

The Verdict:

Yup, we’ll be having more of this in the future.