Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {spring fever}

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Yippeee! yahooo! It’s SPRING!

Why am I so excited, you may ask? Well, you probably don’t ask–who doesn’t like spring?

I am so excited because…WE GET TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Cold, wet, grey weather does NOT mix well with young, active children. I can categorically declare that I can build just about anything with Legos and that I know every word in Frozen. It’s time to move on to outside activities.

  • Outside activity #1: Farmers Markets. They’re back! Local produce, local artisans, and scooters–our preferred mode of best-way-to-wear-the-kids-out transportation.
  • Outside activity #2: Gardening. I love having the kids help me plant plants, watch them grow, pick the flowers/veggies. We just have a small city patio and garden space but it’s still plenty to give them some exposure to what it’s like to grow your own produce and plants.
  • Outside activity #3: Playground Happy Hour. Oh come on, you’ve never taken the kids to the playground after school, met up with other parent friends, and brought a little special bevvie?

In addition to outside enjoyment, springtime fare is just the best. Some of the most delicious, and most elusive or short-lived, ingredients come to pass during spring so you’ve got to take advantage of them. Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morels, and of course asparagus!

A friend gave me asparagus fresh-picked from his garden with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner–a perfect pairing with asparagus. So I wanted to create an easy, delicious dish that highlighted the asparagus but didn’t overpower the wine. And I wanted to use some fresh herbs from my garden. And I had a farmers market leek in the fridge.

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Herby Asparagus and Leek Gnocchi with Scallops was born. A little strategically, a little kitchen sinky, a lot deliciously.

It looks and sounds all fancy so is great for a special weekend meal, but honestly I made it on a Wednesday in 20 minutes with mostly ingredients I had on hand. So it can double as a mid-week pick-me-up. And the kids love the gnocchi, so it’s an easy sell.

I actually created this dish specifically to pair with a Lagler Gruner Vetliner that was given to me. It’s crisp enough to compliment the asparagus, but has enough body to hold up to the gnocchi and scallops.

Cheers!

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Ingredients

  • 1 pound packaged gnocchi?
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • ?1 Tablespoon olive oil?
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced?
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus?
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil)?
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops?
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions. While you’re bringing the water to a boil, prepare the sauce. 
  2. Trim the asparagus where the tough, woody stem naturally breaks off. Then cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook just until tender but not brown--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, only about a minute or two. Toss in herbs and drained gnocchi. Cover and set aside. 
  5. In a clean large skillet (I just wipe clean the skillet I just used for gnocchi), melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high to high heat (you want to get it really hot, but not smoking or the butter will burn). Pat the scallops very dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter begins to sizzle, place the scallops into the pan with at least an inch of space between them.
  6. After 2 minutes, flip. Outside of the single flip DO NOT TOUCH the scallops. After another 2 minutes, remove.
  7. Place the gnocchi on a plate and garnish with scallops. Serve with a seasonal green salad.
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***this was updated from an original post in May, 2013, with new photography. Like it?

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

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Congratulations! We made it through another week! Doesn’t it often feel like you’ve finished a marathon by Friday night? Like you walk through the door and there should be confetti and a medal and champagne?

Well, I suppose there is confetti for me. In the shape of tiny legos scattered all over the house.

And it does look like I’m wearing a medal since I didn’t notice the giant circular peanut butter smear the little one planted on me this morning.

And champagne, well I can do something about that.

In our house, making it to Friday night deserves a celebration. But not too big of a celebration since we only have 30 minutes to dinnertime. So, pasta is a go-to Friday night meal. A little decadent and a lot easy.

Since I’m embracing spring, even if it won’t embrace me back, I springed up a classic decadent pasta dish–Carbonara–by adding asparagus and shiitakes to the classic eggs, cheese and pancetta.

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I only recently discovered Carbonara and I can’t believe I’ve spent this much of my life in the dark. It’s basically tossing spaghetti with the easiest hollandaise sauce and then adding cheese. And bacon. And anything else that makes you happy. Right now asparagus and mushrooms make me happy. And wine. Like a Soave. Or even champagne would do well here. Yeah, there’s my happy place.

Hey look, confetti. Nope, that’s just a lego that landed in my eye. Oh well, it’s the weekend. Cheers to Friday!

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Asparagus Shiitake Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound thick pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound shiitakes, stems discarded and caps sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough woody ends snapped off and stalks cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I like a mix of Parmesan and Romano)
  • parsley

Instructions

  1. Start the pasta water for boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove to a plate.
  3. Skim off some of the fat until there is 2 Tablespoons remaining. Saute the mushrooms in the fat until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to plate and turn off skillet.
  4. When the pasta water is boiling, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute, just until blanched. Skim off and put in an ice bath.
  5. Add the salt to the pasta water and cook pasta until al dente--9 to 10 minutes.
  6. While the pasta cooks, rub the cut garlic all over the inside of a large bowl.
  7. Whisk the eggs in the bowl until frothy. Whisk in wine and cheese.
  8. When the pasta is almost finished, grab 1/2 cup of the pasta water and whisk into the egg mixture.
  9. Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce with the pancetta, asparagus, and shiitakes. Toss the pasta into the sauce constantly until it's thick and coats each piece of pasta equally.
  10. Serve, topped with parsley.
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Someone was surprised that my kids would eat carbonara and I’m not sure if that’s because they’re surprised that a kids would eat it, or if they were surprised that I would serve it to my kids since the eggs start raw in the sauce. Why anyone would be surprised about kids eating a creamy, cheesy, bacon-y spaghetti is beyond me, so it must be because of the raw eggs. So let say something about that: when you’re making the sauce you add boiling pasta water to the eggs and cheese and then add steaming hot pasta and stir constantly until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick and creamy. The eggs are not raw. But if they’re not fully cooked, I do buy farm fresh eggs from the farmers market so I don’t worry too much about fully cooking eggs for them. We love over-easy eggs with a dippy center so this really isn’t any different.

If you’re still a little ooged out by the undercooked eggs, just pop the pasta back in a hot pan and heat. Or microwave individual portions. It ruins the consistency in my opinion, but you can guarantee cooked eggs.

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Linguine with Pecan-Arugula Pesto and a giveaway!

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Happy Spring everyone! I’m so excited to have that awful winter behind us and officially set the calendar to “spring”. I absolutely love spring; the weather is pleasant, the flowers are blooming, and everyone just seems so darn happy (including me!). Some of my favorite things about spring are:

1. Cherry Blossoms. I’ve lived in the DC area for nearly 15 years and I don’t think I’ve missed seeing the cherry blossoms once. Walking around on a gorgeous spring day with flower petals wafting through the air…it’s just magical.

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2. Farmers markets! Our farmers markets close for the winter, but they open again in April and May. And I just dive into that spring produce: asparagus, greens, ramps, squash blossoms, strawberries, peas. I can’t get enough.

3. Gardening. I’m an awful gardener. I have a patio where I like to fill planters with herbs, vegetables, and flowers. My plants always end up dead or overgrown by the end of summer, and my vegetables never really produce any actual vegetables. But every spring I get to start with a clean slate and try again. Maybe this will be the year that my plants will stay gorgeous all summer long and I will actually grow some vegetables!

0314 a year in a vegetarian kitchenTo celebrate the first day of spring, I’m offering a giveaway! One of my favorite cookbooks is A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop of Cooks Illustrated. The cookbook is organized by seasons and is completely vegetable-centric so is an amazing way take advantage of the best seasonal produce. While we’re not vegetarian, I try to make most meals that start with vegetables and go from there, so I use this cookbook often!

One of my favorite recipes is to make pesto out of just about anything. This Pecan-Arugula pesto from the cookbook is an awesome combination of rich, nutty pecans and sharp, peppery young arugula.

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Linguine with Pecan-Arugula Pesto

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups packed stemmed arugula leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 1 pound linguine

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
  2. Place the nuts in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the nuts, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Cool the nuts.
  3. Process the cooled nuts, arugula, and garlic in a food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the ingredients are finely ground. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until thick and fairly smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. (The pesto will be very thick.) Stir in the cheese, the nutmeg, and salt to taste. (Salt the pesto generously; it has to season a pound of pasta.)
  4. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and daring the pasta. Stir 1/2 cup of the cooking water into the bowl with the pesto to achieve a saucier consistency. Add the pasta to the bowl and toss, adding more cooking water as necessary to moisten the pasta and help spread the pesto. Serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

Notes

from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop

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5 chances to win! Make sure to leave a comment about each of ways you entered to be counted. Winner will be selected by random.org. U.S. residents only. Giveaway starts on Thursday, March 20 and ends at 9pm EST on Tuesday, March 25.

To enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me what is your favorite thing about spring.

2. Follow @gourmetmommy on twitter and tweet the following: Happy Spring! I’ve just entered to #win a #vegetarian seasonal cookbook from @gourmetmommy. http://wp.me/p4gDMM-CW #giveaway

3. Like Gourmet Mommy on Facebook and share this Facebook post

4. Follow GourmetMommy2 on Pinterest

5. Subscribe to Gourmet Mommy updates by email or RSS (link in sidebar)

Please remember to leave a comment for each of the ways you enter. Otherwise only one entry will be counted. If you already like me on facebook or follow me on twitter or pinterest, that counts! Just share a post about this giveaway and let me know by leaving a separate comment.

I wasn’t compensated for this giveaway, I just wanted to share one of my favorites.

Official Rules:

To enter leave a comment.

U.S. residents only.

One winner with a valid entry will be selected at random, using random.org. I will email the winner and they will have up to 3 days to claim their prize or another winner will be selected. 

A legendary party

1211 legendary party introWhat do you put on the birthday menu for the guy that’s been kickin it strong for 70 years? Whatever the heck he wants.

My father in law loves filet mignon. He loves shrimp cocktail. He loves all things Italian. And he loves great wine. Pretty good taste, right?

So for his 70th birthday party we did a soiree at his place with all his favorites. And despite a late afternoon presentation to senior executives, a mad dash to the market to pick up the heirloom carrots special ordered for me, and an hour drive to get to their place, it truly couldn’t have been easier. This would work great for an easy holiday gathering as well, either as a sit down menu or a buffet.  [Read more...]

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs kids cooking foodFeatured Recipe: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Featured Pairing: Chianti (why mess with a classic?)

There is nothing better than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on a cold winter night, especially if your kids are doing most of the cooking! Mixing and shaping are a great activity for little hands if they’re old enough to know to wash their hands after touching raw ingredients. Conveniently leaving your hands free for supervising and sipping.

This recipe makes enough for 8 servings of meatballs. I like to freeze half of them individually on a cookie sheet, and then transfer them to a vacuum sealed bag. Then just add them to your sauce and simmer for 20 minutes or so. That way you can have sketti night any night!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsServes a big meal for 4 with enough meatballs for a second dinner

Ingredients:

Meatballs IngredientsMeatballs:
1 cup course homemade bread crumbs (torn up pieces of stale bread, or fresh bread if you don’t have stale)
1 cup milk
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large), minced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped (or parsley if you don’t have celery tops laying around)
1 pound lead ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large), diced
1 clove garlic
1 glass of red wine, optional
1 quart canned tomatoes, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound pasta
fresh basil, optional
extra cheese, optional (who are you kidding?)

Instructions:

Start the sauce. Saute onions in olive oil until translucent, approx 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and heat through, 1 minute. If you like, pour that glass of wine you’re drinking in; while the wine cooks down, refill yourself. When the wine is nearly gone (in the pot), pour in the tomatoes and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then put it on the back burner on low until the meatballs are done.

Heat the oven to 400.

Kid-friendly cooking. From here on out, nearly all of the steps are kid-friendly for ages 4 and up. But first give them lectures on the need for clean hands, and make sure they know not to put their fingers in their mouth after touching the raw meat.

spaghetti and meatballs kids cooking collageIn a small bowl, combine the milk and bread bits. Let sit while you do the rest.

In a large bowl, crack the eggs and lightly whisk them. Add the onions, garlic, celery, meats, cheese, and seasonings. With your hands, scoop the bread out of the milk and add to the large bowl. You may have a bit of leftover milk that you’ll need to discard, but the bread should have soaked up a good portion of it.

Form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and inch or two apart. If your hands get too sticky, run them under cold water and you’ll be good to go. This is a good time to get dad to jump in and help too. You should make approx 32 meatballs.

End kid-friendly cooking.

Put the meatballs in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the meatballs are brown and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, stir a cup or so of sauce over the pasta so it doesn’t stick.

When the meatballs are done, toss them into the sauce just to coat.

Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta, topped with fresh basil and cheese.spaghetti and meatballs with copySpaghetti and meatballs kids cooking food

Grilled Pizza

Pizza with KidsFeatured Recipe: Grilled Pizza
Featured Wine: Chianti, or if you’re feeling sassy: Champagne.

A dab of flour on noses, oops! a little juice spilled. Cooking with kids, what a delightful mess and such fun, say paper towel companies.

More like, splat! there went a dozen eggs. No, you can’t eat raw bacon. How did spaghetti sauce wind up on the ceiling?

So, cooking with kids. Delightful and fun? Yes. A mess? Definitely!

Despite the mess, I started inviting N to help me in the kitchen when he was about 3 years old. He’s going to be there anyway, so he may as well help out! Plus bringing kids into the kitchen teaches them math, science, following instructions, being independent, and self-sufficicient. And if they’re involved they’re less likely to complain about whatever is for dinner.

Just little things at first–mix this, pour that in there. By 4 he was doing more to make meals like brunch than me–making the bacon (using my baking technique), cracking and mixing the eggs. I just put things in the oven and stir them on the stove.

Yes, he makes a giant mess. But he gets better with practice, and anyway who does’t make a little mess while cooking?

One of the easiest cooking activities to introduce him to was the art of assembly. He loves making and building things (think Legos), and can quickly see his efforts rewarded with a finished product. Plus he felt like he had decision rights on what goes where. Sandwiches were good. Salads are easy. And pizza is great.

I like to grill individual pizzas since the grill can get hotter than my oven–I think it makes it a little more authentic. Pizza dough that is partially cooked on the grill, combined with prepped toppings, everyone gets just what they want, with sauce on the ceiling and flour on the nose to prove it!Grilled Pizza

New Years Resolutions, Minestrone

Ok, it’s resolutions time! Yes, I’m a few days late, but a girl’s got to finish her holiday, right? Now that it’s back to work, back to reality, I’m ready to commit. So, my resolutions are……………(drumroll, please)

1. Eat healthier

2. Workout more

3. Spend less money

Wow, original, right?

So here I was on Monday night, armed with my resolutions, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It’s cold. I want something comforting. And filling. And delicious. Unfortunately lobster mac and cheese isn’t going to help me with those pesky resolutions.

Minestrone! It’s warm and comforting. The whole family loves it. If you’ve never seen a 3-year old chowing down on big chunks of kale, it’s worth it alone to make this. It’s healthy–only 4 Weight Watchers points per bowl. It’s cheap–about 10 bucks for the whole batch, or less than $1 per bowl. And it works out for you. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad (watch for my next post on Meatloaf).