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baked pizza gnocchi with greens

April 15th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

It’s been almost a year since we eliminated meat from our eating. I’m ecstatic over the way I’ve felt in the last year; I’ve got more energy even when I have a terrible time sleeping; my belly is superbly happy, and my skin looks so much better. Those pesky hot flashes are only a minor occurrence these days too, and I love that part of it the most.

I love the variety and simplicity of our meals too, the ease at preparing them now that we don’t have to wait for meat to cook, and it’s been wonderful to see Griffin expand the foods he eats and also to see that he’s learning to enjoy meatless meals so much more than I ever expected. I’m really proud of how he’s adapted to the changes; he still gets his meat too, so he has the best of both worlds.

One food item that he’s still on the fence about is greens. Mike and I have come to love greens like chard, beet greens and kale, but Griffin is still wary, only eating them in dishes where other flavors can mask their tastes. He’s trying greens, at least. That’s good enough for me right now. He’s also not a huge fan of gnocchi due to the texture, and that’s too bad all around because this Baked Pizza Gnocchi dish that I created is utterly divine in every way.

Recipes inspire me in the most fascinating way. I can read dozens of them and not have a spark of interest, and yet come across one that stirs my imagination and I’m suddenly inside my head putting ingredients together and dreaming of an outcome. That happened to me recently as I was browsing through my news feed on my phone and came across an article about using chard. One recipe for a Skillet Gnocchi with Chard sounded really delicious, and my creative spark was ignited.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot more about meals with greens in them as I received an entire box of a wide variety of packaged and cleaned greens from Cut N Clean Greens to try out and it was probably the most exciting food stuff that’s landed on my door step because I just LOVE this product. It is so ridiculously easy to use greens with Cut N Clean Greens in your refrigerator. They’ve done all the work for you and the greens are ready to open and cook with. You don’t need to prep them, clean or do anything but enjoy. And for roughly the same price you’d pay for a bunch of greens, you get a great deal more yield and it goes a lot farther. Yet another wonderful thing to love about them.

(disclaimer: I received all the greens for free yet all opinions here are solely mine)

But…. back to this Gnocchi. Very simple and quick, rich with flavor and texture, this gratin came out fragrant, bubbling and with that perfect crunchy top to it. Grab a favorite pizza sauce (whether scratch or homemade) a package of shelf stable gnocchi (or…. knock yourself out and make a batch from scratch) and about a pound of good greens like chard, spinach or beet greens and give yourself about 15 minutes while the oven springs to life and heats up. It’s like pizza but it’s not; it resembles lasagna, but it’s better because it’s easier. The gnocchi become so incredibly soft and tender in the oven and it’s gorgeous enough for a special occasion, classy enough to taste like you really put out some effort.

I’ve noticed lately that when I write out my recipes here that I’m posting all sorts of side notes (in blue!) on what options you might do with your own version of the recipe. I hope this isn’t annoying. Is it? Because, here’s the thing; I don’t have the ego to think that the way I make anything would be exactly how someone else would make it. We all have our own tastes, right? We like different foods, flavors and we all have different methods, ovens that work differently, cookware and utensils that we love (go ahead, use that garlic press if it’s your way) and these recipes that slip through our computer screens in to our minds, making our mouths water, well they might mean something else entirely to another person. If I mention to saute your onions for 10 minutes and you think they should be cooked longer, or shorter, or if you don’t even like onions and don’t want to use them, then by all means, trust those instincts. Make the recipe your own. Learn the ways of your own stove, the cut of your favorite knife, dig through your cupboards and add your own flavor, spice, extra something that you love. This is how cooking should be. I’m thrilled to just be one of the stones you traverse in your own journey in the kitchen.

Baked Pizza Gnocchi with Greens

1 lb. gnocchi
1 15-oz can prepared pizza sauce (I love Muir Glen Organics)
2 small shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 lb. greens of choice (can be beet greens, spinach, chard or kale or a mix)
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese (for a richer taste, use ricotta)
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 T. melted butter (i used coconut oil)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs, like parsley, thyme, basil, oregano

Heat oven to 400°. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Or live a little and rub butter in it.

In a deep skillet with a lid, heat oil of choice and add shallots, cooking for about 5 minutes while stirring over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a few minutes, then begin adding the greens, a handful at a time and stirring so they begin to absorb some of the heat and oil and start to get a bit of wilt to the leaves. Once all the greens are in the pan and they’ve collapsed and are starting to soften, crumble in the goat cheese and stir to break it down. When it’s pretty well incorporated, add in the pizza sauce and about a half cup of water. (add the water to the can and swish to collect any remaining sauce). Stir the pan well, then bring it to a gentle simmer and cover it. Cook the greens until just tender. The timing will depend on which green you are using. Taste often so they don’t get away from you. When the greens are just tender, stir in the gnocchi, and turn off the heat. I used a mix of beet greens and chard and cooked them for maybe 10 minutes. 

Mix the panko crumbs, butter and parmesan cheese together. Scrape the gnocchi in to the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the panko crumbs. Bake in the middle of the oven until bubbly, and the crumbs have browned nicely. Mine took about 20 minutes, and I rotated the dish a few times to brown the top evenly. Once removed from the oven, allow the dish to stand about 10 minutes before serving.

KATE’S NOTES: You can divide the gnocchi between individual ramekins if you want something fancier. But please keep in mind that your baking time will be drastically reduced. I baked a few ramekins, placing them on a baking sheet lest they rise up and bubble over the top. They didn’t. (whew)

You can double this for a crowd, baking it in a 9×13 pan. That’s a lot of greens, so add them patiently to the pan.

farro pilaf with gold beets

November 6th, 2011 | Comments Off

There’s no other choice now. The clocks are switched, falling back; the light in the morning is better but soon the winter darkness will settle on our afternoons. Temps will drop and all sorts of things happen that we’ve been very fortunate, up until now, to have avoided.

But still, we’ve had some beautiful weather. And right now I’m sitting in the wan light of dawn watching the clouds scuttle across the sky at a fast, furious clip. The patio door is open and it’s mild for a November morning. The clouds are fascinating, wind-whipped deep blue patches racing along as if they’ve got somewhere important they need to be. I sip my coffee, watching, taking it all in.

In a few weeks we’ll have Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to take that in as well. I’m also trying to plan a menu that doesn’t focus around meat, even debating whether to just do what I want and make a completely meat-free meal, or bow to convention, and what the rest of my family expects and make a turkey. The jury is still out on that one.

I do know one of the sides I plan to make.

Just about two years ago I came across this recipe, intrigued by Farro and the gold beets that I’d fallen in love with, and the first bite was a revelation. Somewhere in this dish, I began to see that a meal could be enjoyed without meat, and one that would leave me satiated without the bloat of something heavy. It was a good revelation, and something to start me on the road to better health.

Every component of this dish is not only perfect alone, but when mingled with each other makes for so much amazing texture and flavor. The Farro is chewy, with a deep nutty flavor; then you’ve got the beets and their greens to offer up a dark, earthy taste, a crisp pepper, robust cheese and a scatter of chopped pecans to add a bit more crunch. Every element of it is lovely, and on it’s own it could easily be a meal. Next to your turkey, it’s a terrific side dish.

I can’t complain about the seasonal change, the coming cold, or even the snow that’s rumored to fly soon. I’m ready, and with recipes like this, I’ll be warm from the inside too.

Got a favorite recipe or dish that keeps you warm and toasty in cold weather?

 

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets

 

3 large gold beets, roasted and diced, with greens washed, de-ribbed and rough chopped
2-3 c. cooked farro (can sub brown rice)
1 red pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c. pecan pieces
salt and pepper to taste

{{Farro can be cooked like any other grain, with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; 1 cup uncooked will yield the amount needed for this recipe. It should be tender to the bite, not too firm with a texture similar to barley. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a wire sieve prior to cooking. It can be very dusty.}}

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil of choice and add red pepper, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add shallot, cooking until soft and slightly browned, maybe 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring continually until just barely wilted. Stir in the cooked farro and diced beets. Add about 1/3 cup of water and combine. Cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until heated fully through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and nuts.

KATE’S NOTES:
The mellow flavors of the beets and farro simply beg for a good salty and robust cheese. Feta is perfect, goat cheese would be great but blue cheese and gorgonzola also would work nicely. If you can’t find Farro, use Wheat Berries, or long grain brown rice.

 

~~originally from The New York Times recipes for Health and Nutrition, March 27, 2009; adapted by Kate

What’s on YOUR plate this month??


Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets

November 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments »

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Pictures can be amazing, can’t they?

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I sometimes surprise myself when I am going through the photos I’ve taken of my recipes. There are, without a doubt, the ones that hastily cause you to hit the ‘Delete’ key, shuddering in horror; they’re too close or too cloudy or they just don’t allow for one to discern what’s on the plate. They’re overexposed. Ugly. But those tiny slips caught in the wink of the shutter are evened out by beauties that can convey taste, aroma, and feel with one glance. The beauties that make you go ‘Wow’ and when you place them in your post, they literally tell the story without you needing to do much else. But every food has a story. Sometimes the tale tells of a feet-first plunge headlong into love with a certain food, a single bite causing your taste-buds to explode while the endorphins engulf your brain. You’re whupped and there’s no going back. Or it may be a telling of how we find a food that quietly asserts itself into our life, a slow and deliberate culinary courtship. Maybe the first exposure isn’t mind-blowing, but it isn’t a dud either. You look forward to the next time. You know there’s more to it than this. After a few meetings, the quiver in your heart starts to build and when you spy your current food crush, it’s silly how your chest seems to collapse in relief that you’ll be together again.

This past year I crushed, big time, into total infatuation with gold beets, and their greens. It didn’t take much. By routinely visiting the organic farmer at the local markets who carried these burnished lovelies and allowing them to roast to their full potential, I became fully acquainted with their earthy solid personality. We just clicked, those beets and I. It was quality time well spent. Mike gave me an enthusiastic endorsement for sauteed beet greens and we never looked back. Beets were in the recipe box, finally. We ate them so much that it was a turgid and satiated overkill. We sighed a lot during those dinner meals. Then high summer came, the corn took hold along with eggplants so shiny and purple, followed by a parade of tomatoes and zucchini and endless grilling adventures. Beets were nearly forgotten, sad as it was. But I was sold on the roasting method, and most days couldn’t even consider turning on the oven. They simply had to wait. I realized after a while that I missed them a great deal but I knew, like any solid friendship, that we would endure through our separation.

Then I found this recipe. It was the way back to my summer love of beets and caused me to drive across town just to find a bunch, greens attached, that would do this recipe justice. The moment we connected again was like any friendship renewed after absence. No lapse of time could remove the bond and the oven, once more, shared it’s warmth with my old friends and turned them soft and supple.

I was enamored…no, scratch that… bewitched by the flavors that came from this dish. It’s simple base of whole grain farro is more than capable of standing up to the lusty flavor and texture of beets and their greens, and the beets happily share their colors with the grain to diffuse the entire dish in sunshine-y warmth. Since 2007 I’ve been experimenting with whole grains, and I found farro to be an amicable and easy friend to bring into my life, a chewy and simple grain that mimics wheatberries and a heartier barley. Never mind that it was costly. Or that only one store I knew carried an affordable brand. Of all the whole grains I’ve encountered in the past two years, this one has become a good and trusted companion, steadfast, reliable and so so good for me. We all need friends like that in our lives, in both our hearts and our pantry.

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The original recipe for this dish was in salad form, but for a November meal, a cold offering wasn’t going to cut it. Even with the warm sunshine that’s been poured upon us, the chill and darkness comes quickly with the descent of the five-o’clock hour, and something steaming, whether a bowl or a plate, more appropriately fits the season. I’ll revisit the salad option next Spring when the markets open again, and I can once more hone in on that stand, with the kind bearded farmer behind the table, the dirt still stuck to his knuckles. For this time of year, and especially with the brisk wind that came up after several days of that limpid sunshine, a pilaf was exactly what we needed.

Farro is not a quick grain to cook, and you’ll find many recipes call for it to be soaked ahead of time, but I’ve discovered that to be unnecessary. Washed and placed in boiling water, the grain cooks up deliciously chewy in 35-45 minutes, and once cooked to that al denté stage, it freezes really well with little loss of texture. And maybe it’s the way it is with you too, but I roast my beets or I simply don’t eat them. Call me picky, but I never met a beet I wanted to devour before being introduced to those that mellowed in the oven, swaddled in foil, and so perfectly tender that the skins slipped off with hardly any effort. Again, this isn’t quick. I made both the farro and the beets the day prior to creating this pilaf. It worked for all of us.

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets
originally from The New York Times recipes for Health and Nutrition, March 27, 2009; adapted by Kate

3 large gold beets, roasted and diced, with greens washed, de-ribbed and rough chopped
2-3 c. cooked farro (can sub brown rice)
1 red pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c. pecan pieces
salt and pepper to taste

{{Farro can be cooked like any other grain, with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; 1 cup uncooked will yield the amount needed for this recipe. It should be tender to the bite, not too firm with a texture similar to barley. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a wire sieve prior to cooking. It can be very dusty.}}

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil of choice and add red pepper, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add shallot, cooking until soft and slightly browned, maybe 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring continually until just barely wilted. Stir in the cooked farro and diced beets. Add about 1/3 cup of water and combine. Cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until heated fully through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and nuts.

KATE’S NOTES:
The mellow flavors of the beets and farro simply beg for a good salty and robust cheese. Feta is perfect, goat cheese would be great but blue cheese and gorgonzola also would work nicely.

Glorious Greens, part 2

July 15th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

So you want to hear something that sounds a little weird to me? I like beets, and not only do I like beets, but I absolutely LOVE beet greens. I think I can officially be called a grown-up now. I think….

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Anyway, why is this such a revelation? Due to the fact that just a few short years ago, I couldn’t be persuaded to even consider the beet, it stands to reason that for me to kindly elbow my way to the front of my favorite Farmers Market organic vendor and snatch the last bunch of his bi-colored beets off the table is little short of miraculous. What’s more miraculous is that he is but one of only a few vendors that I see at my local weekly stops that A) actually has beets other than red ones, B) has beets with stunningly gorgeous greens and C) has beets with the green still attached, period.

Why farmers hack off those nutrient rich leaves I’ll never know. Beet greens are nutritional powerhouses, chock full of Vitamins A, B-6 and C, antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein and they are full of fiber, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. There’s no saturated fat and no cholesterol in beet greens, and with a quick saute and a few seasonings, you get a delicious option for your plate. A cup of greens will set you back a measly 10 calories or so.

I recently experimented with Spinach Pesto, much to our delight (and Griffin’s chagrin) and so it wasn’t without much thought that I considered another go-round of Pesto with the slowly growing pile of beet greens that I was accumulating. A quick search for recipes or methods turned up little on actually making a Pesto with the greens, and not like it’s much to consider what with a food processor, some good olive oil, a little garlic and a few seasonings, that I would be well on my way to a glistening dish of green goodness without much of a recipe to follow. Pesto is pesto…. the method is still the same.  I knew the greens couldn’t be used raw like spinach can, so I decided a quick sauté was in order.

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I decided to use caramelized leek and garlic as a good base for this pesto, something that would have a lot of flavor to stand up to the commanding taste of the beet green. After a slow saute to a deep golden brown, I dropped the beet greens into the same pan, stirring and tossing them with the hot leeks, and watched carefully to get them to a point of losing their crunchy texture, but not so far as to make them fully cooked. I left them dark green with some toothsome bite, then scraped them onto a baking sheet to cool. The whole thing was placed in the food processor, with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then whizzed to the perfect consistency.

Wow. This is one amazing flavor, let me tell you. Perfect for pasta, as would be expected, but also good for spreading on my favorite herb flatbread and topping with an array of roasted and julienned beets, a drizzle of good herb vinaigrette and a sprinkle of nuts.

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Perfect Herb Flatbread

1- 3/4 c. AP flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2-3 T. fresh herb of choice
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. good quality olive oil

Heat oven to 450° and place a round baking stone in oven.

Blend dry ingredients, including herbs together in a bowl. Slowly add water and oil and blend until a somewhat stiff dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead gently about 4 or 5 times to pull the dough together. Roll into a large 10-12″ circle with a rolling pin, sprinkle with sea salt and a drizzle of oil and place, with parchment, on heated stone. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned in some spots. Remove from oven and cool. Do not leave on baking stone or it will continue to bake!

Dough can be divided into smaller portions and rolled out separately to smaller circles.

If you don’t have a baking stone, place the dough (on the parchment) right onto the rack of your oven. It may come out a little rippled.

I roasted these beets, wrapped in foil and in a 400° oven until they were nice and tender. The skins slip right off once cooled and they keep for several days in the fridge.