The weather here in the ILM has been crazy lately! One day it’s hot and sunny, the next it’s raining and downright nippy. I feel like my entire wardrobe is out and at the ready right now. I can’t put anything away for fear the weather will instantly change and I’ll need my shorts and my parka in the same week. For someone who tends to cook based on the season--that’s not cool! So if Mother Nature could please stop with the mood swings, that’d be great.
I readily admit that my appetite is closely tied to what’s happening outdoors on any given day. Cold and rainy? I”ll be craving soup or stew or a cozy casserole. Hot and steamy? Give me a big salad with cold seafood and crisp veggies. Brisk and windy? How about a roasted piece of creature with a veggie hash and pan sauce. These past few weeks of schizophrenic weather have me all over the map with our dinners…but I think I hit on a massive winner a couple of nights ago.
One of the hurdles I face when planning dinners is that my teenager is a vegetarian. She always has been, as I was vegetarian long before she came along, and continued eating that way until just a few years ago. I’m really good at cooking interesting and delicious vegetarian meals, but I don’t always feel like making two separate dinners and she’s often exhausted and time-pressed due to her school work. Way too often she asks if she can please just have veggie chili and mac-n-cheese. Way too often I say yes, because it’s easy and makes her happy.
A couple of months ago she and I talked about how I wasn’t happy with her increasing reliance on that favorite combo, and about how I wanted her to eat more whole foods and less refined products…see, even health coaches deal with this! As she’ll be graduating high school next year, I want to set the stage for her to have a solid foundation of healthy, easy, tasty foods she can incorporate into her cooking repertoire and take with her through college and beyond. I think (hope) this recipe will make it into her future kitchen adventures.
Getting back to a couple of nights ago, it was rainy and cool and no one had any idea what they wanted for dinner. After texting back and forth for a bit with the daughter and the Mister it became glaringly obvious that it was up to me and me alone to pick something. Don’t tell them, but I secretly love when they don’t have any ideas about dinner—that’s when I can get away with experimenting on them.
I had been wanting to try out a version of a dish our daughter had ordered in a local restaurant, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. You’ve probably heard of Gnocchi, but have you heard of Gnudi? If you haven’t, you are missing out!
Gnudi is similar to gnocchi, but it doesn’t use potato as the base. The best way I can describe it is to tell you to think of ravioli filling, and now think of cooking just the filling, like cute fluffy dumplings. Imagine little savory clouds of happiness floating in a pool of warm cream. That’s Gnudi.
I didn’t get the chef’s recipe, and it’s been a few months since she had ordered these, but after a bit of cookbook research I had a basic idea of what to do and how to do it. They go together rather quickly and make a delightful appetizer or a lovely light supper. You can also assemble them ahead of time and store uncooked in the refrigerator for up to two days. I suggest making a double batch and doing that. You will definitely become addicted to these.
I could have eaten every single one of these babies myself. Happily. Without Regret. But I’m a nice person so I shared them with the family. And now I’m sharing them with you.
Seriously, these are so easy to make I think they are going to be in regular rotation here at the hacienda.
It helps to have a food processor for this recipe, but you can easily put it together with a spoon, a mixing bowl and some elbow grease.
1 cup + 2 TBSP Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 TBSP GF Panko ( I use Ian’s)
10 oz clam shell of baby spinach
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
dash or two of nutmeg
GF flour for dusting
Fill a 4 qt pot with cold salted water and bring to a boil.
Fill a large mixing bowl with ice water and set nearby
Blanch the fresh spinach in the boiling water, then using a slotted spoon immediately transfer to the ice bath. Reserve the blanching water in the pot for cooking the Gnudi.
Once spinach is cool, remove to a colander to drain. Using paper towels or tea towels, squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. You want this to be as dry as you can get it. Once all the water has been squeezed out, chop the spinach.
Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. The mixture will turn a bright green and be fairly smooth, but still have some texture.
Line a jellyroll pan with parchment or wax paper and dust lightly with GF flour.
Place a small amount of GF flour on a plate.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out a walnut sized amount of the dough and roll into a ball. The dough will be sticky. Roll in the GF Flour on the plate to help shape it, and then place on the prepared jellyroll pan.
Once all of the dough has been shaped, bring the water you used to blanch the spinach back up to a simmer.
DO NOT BOIL THE WATER!!!
When the water is simmering gently, carefully drop a few Gnudi into the water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. I usually put 7 in at one time. The Gnudi will sink to the bottom, but within a minute or two they will pop up to the surface. The cooking time depends on how big they are, but when they float they’re done. If a few aren’t popping up, check to make sure they aren’t stuck to the pot…it happens. Just give them a gentle nudge with your spoon. Use a slotted spoon to remove the floating Gnudi, and place on a warmed platter while you finish the rest.
Serve as soon as the last ones are cooked.
I drizzled a reduced sage-cream sauce over mine, but you can use whatever you like. Simply a little good olive oil or melted butter would be wonderful. They are quite light and delicate, so I wouldn’t suggest a heavy tomato sauce, but chopped fresh tomatoes and a sprinkle of fresh basil would be nice. If you have some on hand, crispy pancetta makes a delicious counterpoint to the creaminess of these dumplings.
These also make a great "Get the Kids involved in the Kitchen" project. They can help grate, and measure and press the button on the food processor. And rolling the balls is fun and easy enough for pre-schoolers to help with. Heck, my 16 year old helped, and getting teens to cook is much harder than getting the littles to help.
That’s it. So easy. So good. Go make them right now!
Let me know what you think about this recipe, and anything else….I love reading your comments!