Monday, February 6, 2012

Homemade Lemon Gnocchi with a Spinach and Peas Sauce

I am in St. Louis for the weekend.  St. Louis is a great city and since Brian goes to school here I have gotten to see a lot of it.  Last night we went to this great restaurant called Bailey’s Chocolate Bar.  This place was fantastic.  Quite appropriately, the menu starts off with the dessert section and then moves to appetizers and entrees.  How could I not love this place? Instead of putting bread out on the table, they have cookies and they have a HUGE drink menu full of alcoholic and non-alcoholic sweet drinks.  Dinner and (not surprisingly) dessert were fantastic. 

Seriously great chocolatini
For tonight, we are making our own dinner.  Brian and I love to cook together and find new and exciting recipes to try out.  Isn’t that just adorable?  Anyways, I spent some time browsing epicurious and came across this fun little Valentine’s Day Menu Quiz.  You take this quiz and it tells you what the perfect menu is for you and your significant other.  I thought it was pretty silly, but the menu that it came up with actually sounded great.  I did not really feel like making the dessert, plus I had those mine heart shaped cheesecake pans, and so we decided to just make the entrĂ©e portion: Lemon Spinach Gnocchi.  We also decided to try making our own gnocchi.  Don’t worry though; we bought some gnocchi just in case the homemade stuff didn’t go according to plan J.

Homemade Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas (adapted from BLOG and Epicurious)

Make the Gnocchi:

2 pounds Russet Potatoes (about 4)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt, plus more for cooking

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Microwave the potatoes on high for 5 minutes.  Then, turn them over and microwave for another 5 minutes or until the ends start to soften.
2. Place potatoes directly on oven rack and bake 18-20 minutes or until you can easily slide a fork in and out of them.
3. Once potatoes are done, immediately peel them and place unpeeled potatoes in a bowl.  We found that the skins just sort of fell off and we ended up scooping potato out of the skin. Once in a bowl, use an electric mixer or potato masher and mash the potatoes. Spread mashed potatoes out on a baking sheet (we lined ours with parchment paper) and allow to cool for about 5 minute
4.  Scoop 2 cups of potatoes into a bowl.  You may have leftover potato, we didn’t, but don’t add it to the bowl.  Top warm potatoes with the beaten egg and using a fork mix until just combined.  Next, top with the flour and salt, and mix until no plain pockets of flour exist.  Don’t over mix.  The batter will not come together and will look crumbly.
5.  Lightly flour a clean surface and knead the dough until it comes together and appears smooth, about a minute.  Form into a ball and slice into 8 pieces.  Generously flour a baking sheet and, using one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out into a long rope about ½ inch thick. Repeat with all 8 pieces.  Then, cut the rope into about ½ to 1 inch pieces.  You can leave the gnocchi like this, or using a fork, you can form the ridges as follows:
6.  Using a fork, place a piece of gnocchi between the back of the fork and your thumb and then roll the gnocchi along the fork.  You may need to use a fairly large fork.  This will create the traditional ridges!

Now, you can make the gnocchi right away, or place gnocchi on a baking sheet so that they are not touching and freeze them.  Once frozen you can transfer them to a sealed bag for future use.

We made ours right away:

Lemon with Spinach and Peas Sauce

1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, smashed
¼ tsp salt
3 cups packed baby spinach
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 pound of gnocchi (the homemade stuff or store bought if all the above stuff is too much for you)
¼ cup of fresh, shredded parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, simmer peas, cream, red pepper flakes, garlic and salt covered for about 5 minutes.
2. Add spinach and cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest
3.  Cook gnocchi in the pot of boiling water: if using the homemade stuff, cook about half a batch at a time.  Gnocchi is done once all the pieces float to the top.  Using a strainer, scoop the gnocchi out of the pot and place into a large bowl.  Then, make the other half the same way.  Reserve ½ cup of cooking water.
4. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and toss to coat.  Add about ½ cup of pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce.  Add more if you like. Top with the cheese.
Enjoy J

Note: the red pepper in this recipe causes the sauce to have quite the kick.  We loved this, but if this is not to your taste, use less or leave it out.  Also, we added a little more lemon than what the original recipe called for and it was great!  

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