The daylight was fading fast, with a raging hunger, this simple idea, untried and uncertain was forming in my head. I had no idea if it was even going to taste good or not. I put it all on a plate, and crossed my fingers.
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.
Long ago, through some rather perfect serendipity, I came across this recipe (method, really) in both a cookbook I happened to pick up for browsing in a bookstore, and again, in an New York Times article just about the same day. Both times, reading of softly boiled red potatoes topped with briny tapenade, my mouth did that sort of happy dance that one gets when a food is particularly appealing. I made them. Once. And then, every time I see tiny little red potatoes I think ‘Why have I not repeated that dish?’
I don’t have much of an excuse, really. And it isn’t that it’s even that difficult. You can use prepared tapenade, instead of making your own and you’ve got half the battle done, right there. And really, does boiling little red potatoes take up SO much of my time? Who am I?
The flavors marry in the most unusual way. Soft and simple, a boiled potato isn’t a whole lot all on it’s own; it needs a friend to help wake it up, make someone take notice. That’s the tapenade’s job. It’s a loudmouth, all right. Sharp, briny and out there, it sidles up next to the humble boiled potato and says ‘Hey, let’s make some noise’ and pretty soon, with the addition of half a jalapeno pepper languishing in the fridge, and a shallot for good measure (potatoes and onions are so utterly complimentary) you’ve got yourself a plate of something that’s risen to greater gustatory heights. It’s humble and basic, still. But fantastically more. It’s the type of dish that soothes the rough spots out of your week, gives you pause. A forkful raised to your mouth is at once sharp and fragrant, then through the bite of olive, lemon and caper, soft in the way only a perfectly boiled potato can be.
Best part about making this simple and humble dish is that you’re likely to have leftover tapenade, and spreading that on a bit of toasted bread is one of my most memorable treats. In fact, eyeing the simmering pot of potatoes while I scooped tapenade on freshly toasted asiago cheese bread, I quickly calculated the merits of actually finishing the recipe, versus sitting down with the remains of the bread and the tiny dish of olive spread, but soon realized how boring that would sound. I’d had enough of boring, and it was time to make a little noise.
Smashed Potatoes and Olive Tapenade
For the Tapenade:
1 c. kalamata olives, minced
2 T. capers, minced
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Mix everything together in a bowl and allow to stand for a while to blend. You can whiz everything in a food processor to make it easier. Don’t skip the lemon zest and juice. It’s delightful in this.
For the Potatoes:
About 1-1/2 pounds of waxy small red or white potatoes,
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
Wash potatoes. If not uniform in size, cut to size and boil, with all added seasonings, until tender. Drain and discard seasonings. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly, then gently crush them with your palm so they break open, but don’t bust them apart too much.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cast iron works beautifully for this. Add a small amount of butter and oil and swirl to coat the pan. When hot, place potatoes in a single layer in the pan. You may not use all of them. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until a good crust forms on the bottom. Dot the top with about 1/4 cup of the tapenade, and carefully turn the potatoes over. Allow to cook on the other side for an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with tapenade on the side.
NOTE: You can add a finely minced shallot and jalapeno at the same time you add the tapenade. These added a nice dimension of flavor to the finished dish.
Original recipe: “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way” by Francis Mallman and Peter Kaminsky (via the New York Times Dining Section, 5/20/09)
I started using gnocchi a few years ago and love how it can make such a quick seamless meal. A few sauteed veggies, a protein option and a bit of sauce makes dinner in less than 15 minutes. This quick little potato dumpling is mainstream now, on dinner plates everywhere. I suppose it’s pretty simple to make, but the few times I gave it a go from scratch it came out gluey and heavy. Now I just purchase packages of shelf-stable gnocchi and save myself the time and energy.
My favorite method for cooking gnocchi is to sauté them in a skillet with a bit of butter and olive oil until they plump up and brown on the outside. The texture is a bit better than what you get from boiling them. I’m not a huge fan of dousing these with sauce either, as the texture gets too soggy so when I use them in a meal, it’s a little more spartan. A plate of gnocchi, with sauteed greens and roasted chickpeas sounds really good right about now, but this is the recipe in my archives, which is golden for versatility.
Gnocchi In a Flash
1 pkg shelf stable gnocchi
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cut to strips
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, cut to strips
1 bunch spinach, washed and de-stemmed* (equal to a 10-oz bag)
1/4 c. canned diced tomato with italian seasonings
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice
1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil to garnish
Season chicken breast strips with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until strips are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl. Add red pepper and cook 3-5 minutes until tender. Add to chicken. Wipe out skillet with paper towel and add about a teaspoon of oil. When hot, add gnocchi and cook about 5 minutes until browned and slightly puffy. Add chicken and pepper to pan, and in bunches, add in spinach, stirring quickly until it’s all wilted. Toss in diced tomato and mozzarella cubes and shave some parmesan over the top. Stir to mix and allow to cook for 3 minutes or so until hot. Serve immediately topped with fresh basil.
What’s on YOUR plate this month??
There are dozens of recipes in my Recipe Index. I’ve been writing this blog for 5-1/2 years, and the content is huge, but my audience doesn’t go back that far. I could write forever about what’s been covered in the past, but instead, for this post, I’m culling together an entire array of quick bread baking options- muffins and tea breads alike- for you to enjoy. There are a lot of really good recipes for warming up your kitchen on these chilly November days.
I think there is nary a food item more perfect than a muffin; and I don’t mean a muffin so sweet and cloying that you might as well slap buttercream on it and call it a cupcake, I mean a MUFFIN. I real, honest to goodness muffin, made for breakfast, or a snack. I mean a substantial, hand held baked good. I’m talking MUFFINS, one of the baking world’s most perfect little foods, in my well-explored opinion. I love a good muffin, and have no less than eight in my Recipe Index. Muffins lend well to just about any flavor, take only a few minutes to put together and let’s face it, everyone loves them, right? Got flour, baking powder and a few spotty bananas? Make a muffin. Leftover grains from dinner? Make muffins! Blueberries? Raspberries? Nuts? Oats? Bulgur?? It’s all good for going in a muffin.
And oh, how I do love these fragrant and simple little things!!
And then there are a few recipes without photos:
And….. because quick breads are created the same way, only baked in a loaf pan, they too can be stellar muffin options and I have plenty of those as well.
What’s on YOUR plate this month??
I could be accused of purchasing eggplant simply to make this dish. Not that this is a bad thing.
I have a wooden spoon permanently stained from turmeric.
I may have, just a wee bit, tried to hide the remains of this dish in the back of the fridge where my husband can’t find it.
I love curry.
The first time I ever tried any kind of curry flavored dish was in college when a roommate and I shared an amazing meal at an Ethiopian restaurant. She warned me that I would sweat curry the next day and she wasn’t kidding; the warmth that exuded from my skin was unreal. It was heady, and deep with the memory of the fragrant meal we’d consumed the night before and I would lift my arm to my nose repeatedly over the course of my morning to remind myself of the flavors. It’s no surprise that any type of curry dish, whether red or green or yellow, is at the top of my list in terms of my favorite taste. With or without coconut milk, whether searing hot with a heat that makes my heart beat just a bit faster and sweat bead at my eyebrows, or a mild gentle tease that touches my tongue, curry flavored dishes are tops.
Eggplant. Chickpeas. Red onions. Fresh curry powder whisked with a splash of oil and just a bit of dark brown sugar to aid in caramelization. A hot oven. And 30 minutes. That’s it. From that point, all you need is a fork.
Your house will smell truly amazing, and I’m telling you, it will be darn right difficult to resist eating the roasted curried chickpeas right off the baking sheet when it’s all done. They become dense and crispy, especially if you take a few moments after you’ve drained them to spread them out and pat them dry with a paper towel, and I’m sure you’ve heard by now that roasted chickpeas make a perfectly addicting snack? I’ve experimented with them already, and have, more than once, gazed at the enormous #10 foodservice size cans of them in consideration of purchasing. Crazy? Maybe. But once you try this, you may understand why that’s not so dumb a thought.
But this dish? It’s a ‘Wow’ factor of 10. And an ‘Easy’ on the preparation scale. You’ll spend 10 minutes cutting and prepping, then you’ll pace for the 30 minutes it sits in your oven. Give the baking sheet a shake halfway through and that’s about it. The eggplant cooks to a creamy dream, onions settle in soft and caramelized and those chickpeas…… oh those chickpeas. Hold me back.
Good thing I’ve got that permanent turmeric-stained spoon. I’m going to need it.
Eggplant and Chickpea Curry
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (spread them and pat dry for extra crispness)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 t. good quality curry powder
1 t. dark brown sugar (sub molasses, muscavado or honey too, can use light brown sugar as well)
Preheat your oven to 400°
Whisk together the curry powder, sugar and oil in a small bowl. Combine the eggplant, onion, pepper and chickpeas, then pour the curry oil over and carefully toss together to combine. The eggplant will soak up the oil but don’t add anymore. Eggplant is a sponge; too much oil and it will be too soggy.
Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice about halfway through, for 30 minutes. This dish can be consumed immediately, but takes on deeper flavor if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Serve with naan or pita bread, over brown rice or on crisply toasted baguette slices.
KATE’S NOTES: For additional amazing flavor, add two large tomatoes that have been roasted as well, but don’t place them with the eggplant. They take far less time. For a good method, check this recipe.
Original recipe from Food & Wine, here with modifications
One night last month, amidst the gorgeous August that made it’s way in to Minnesota and on a night that seemed as supple as velvet, I was home by myself, bored and restless. Feeling the urge to experiment with some of the food laying about the refrigerator, I poked through the stuffed bags from the Farmers Market, eyeing the three overflowing bags of chard.
I’ve been crazy for chard. Really crazy. Thankfully, this is a good thing. It’s not like an addiction that’s harmful, unless you can OD on vitamins. My blood won’t be anemic any time soon. And after this particular evenings playtime with my food, I was excited to share my findings so I propped up the computer on the island and found my voice to tell you this story.
People, I’ve madly fallen in love with radishes.(photo courtesy of Really Natural)
I do remember not particularly liking them as a kid. But then again, I didn’t care for much then anyway, being raised on a typically 1970′s diet, I was your typically picky little thing. Fresh foods weren’t that present in our home so my exposure was lacking and my palate not particularly advanced; it’s no shock I wasn’t at all enamored with the radish’s peppery bite, a sting to the tongue that I found unpleasant. My sister Karen loved them, dragging them through a plate of table salt before popping them in her mouth. Even that typical dressing did nothing to take the edge off the flavor. So for the most part, I’d ignored them.
Then something happened a few years back. On a trip to the Farmers Market, I spied a large bunch of red, white and pink radishes- it was an enormous amount- and was only a dollar. I picked them up, passed a buck to the farmer and placed them in my bag. Once home, I stared at them and thought ‘Great. Now what?’ I ate one, and it was divine. Fresh, snappy, crisp and tart, but not harsh and sour like I recalled. Still, I didn’t leap headfirst into devouring them. I remained rather skeptical. And they languished in my fridge until I was forced to do something, anything, with them.
So I pickled them. On a whim. And went tuckus over teakettle for the crisp little discs, eating them on sandwiches, with my fingers and finally with a fork to grab the last little slices from the dredges of their vinegary brine. And it was soon after that when I first dragged a cold fresh radish through a slab of creamy butter to discover one of the best, and most surprising treats I’ve ever tasted. My eyes were now opened to the radish. Once again. Adulthood is a wonder around every corner, especially when discovering the foods from your childhood that once caused you to turn up your nose are now part of your regular gustatory delight.
So they’ve happily made a comeback; the inexpensive little things can be had sometimes on a 2-fer deal with any farmer willing to move their bounty. I scrub them down and place them in a baggie where they happily keep for days on end, willing that they last that long in my fridge. I eat them for breakfast a lot, sliced thick on good toasted bread with slices of butter, or most recently, this delicious sandwich creation that I’m thoroughly ga-ga over.
A cooked egg, nice and firm is placed a top a bed of greens on nicely toasted bread, and covered with several shredded radishes. The key is to shred the radish directly over the egg. Something about the fresh spray of liquid released makes for a much better flavor. I like spinach with this, but I’ve used spring greens, garden lettuce and romaine as well. This is a summery breakfast, if I’ve ever dreamed of one.
I took my radish love one step further too, recently, when I roasted an entire batch of them.
Roasting radishes takes the sharp flavor away, and replaces it with a mellow soft rendition that is palatable to anyone, even the most avowed radish hater. One would hope, anyway. I could have eaten these like candy, but instead, I caramelized a big pan of vidalia onions and made the two of them into a delicious tart atop a flaky puff pastry crust.
This was a sweet, tender and amazing hand held meal, soft like summer nights, fresh as the season and when topped with just a little Gouda cheese, a bit of savory tang that balanced the vegetables perfectly. Eating a slice of it, on my patio, with a lovely glass of Rosé wine and a perfect summer night surrounding me, I felt a million miles away from my life, but in the simplest way possible. I love how a good meal, with gentle ease can transform an ordinary day into something surreal and dreamy. That’s the magic in a plate of really, really good food.
So…. do you like radishes? What do you like to do with them?
Roasted Radish & Caramelize Onion Tart
Scrub one bunch of radishes well, removing tops and roots. Cut into halves or quarters and toss with a bit of seasoned oil of choice. Roast at 400° until tender. It won’t take too long, maybe 10 minutes.
Slice two Vidalia onions and place in a hot skillet. Cook onions over medium heat, turning frequently, until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add a few tablespoons of brown sugar (or a drizzle of good honey) a tablespoon of kosher salt and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. This is my favorite way to caramelize onions, but you may have your own method. Continue cooking the onions for about 20-30 more minutes, or until they are very soft and richly browned. Stir them on occasion, and be careful not to let them burn.
Thaw one sheet of puff pastry. Roll out sheet to desired thickness on parchment paper, then transfer to baking sheet. Poke holes in pastry with a fork and place in 400° oven, baking until lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, spread caramelized onion over the crust then top with roasted radish and a small amount of a good sharp aged cheese of your choice. I used Gouda because I had a some on hand. Fontina and Gruyere would be good options too. Place back in oven and bake for about 15 more minutes, until edges of pastry are crisp and brown and toppings are hot. Allow to cool slightly, then serve. Can also be served at room temperature.