Posts Tagged ‘easy meals’

Easy Gnocchi

January 14, 2011

I think I loved gnocchi the moment I tasted my first little potato pillow. I’d been craving potato dumplings. Back in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, there was this little restaurant downtown on State Street that sold pelmeni, or Russian dumplings. Some were filled with ground sirloin, and others were filled with potato. Covered with dusting of curry powder and squirts of spicy-sweet Srichara, it was perfect for lunch, dinner, or after a night out at the bars.

But then I moved away to Tucson, Arizona (and sadly, the restaurant eventually closed so when I go home it is no more) and I wasn’t sure where I’d get my fix. Of course I attempted to make pelmeni myself, but I was still growing as a cook then and it turned out pretty disastrous. Before I boiled them the dumplings were about the size of a Superball. Neat little balls of dough filled with mashed potato season and salted. But a few minutes in a boiling water caused them to go supernova. The potato burst out of the dough. The dough quadrupled in size and suddenly I was faced with a pot full of potato bits and doughballs the size of baseballs. I still ate it of course, but needless to say, it wasn’t the same.

Easy gnocchi

This gnocchi is seriously easy to make, especially if you use potato flakes...yes, potato flakes.

Enter Trader Joe’s. Enter gnocchi.

I spotted them in the freezer section (they’ve recently been vacuum-sealed and moved to the past section) and seeing “potato” and “dumpling,” I went in for it. They were pelmeni, but that day another food love affair began. I served them with curry powder and Sriacha. I combined them with kielbasa and vegetables.  Just last night, I cooked them up and served them with a Boursin garlic cheese sauce with grilled portobella mushrooms.

But last night’s dish didn’t involve Trader Joe’s. I’ve gone rogue, you see. I make my own gnocchi now.

In June of 2009 my boyfriend and I went to Rome. On our last night there, my boyfriend’s brother and his girlfriend (who were living in Trastevere at the time) took us for one last great roman meal. We went to the a restaurant in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, a wonderful, dreamy place called Il Giardino Romano where I watched a man peeling crate after crateful of fresh artichokes (we ordered fried artichoke hearts for an appetizer) while we waited for our meal.

I ordered the gnocchi in a fontina sauce, and the first bite I won’t ever forget. Soft. Pillowy. Delicious. Sorry, TJ’s, I love you, but you just don’t compare. Homemade gnocchi, friends, that what I bit into.



Tomato Caper Tilapia

August 18, 2009

Lately, I’ve been up to my elbows in tomatoes. This? is a good thing. The boyfriend and I have been hitting the farmers’ market week after week since our return from Rome, and tomatoes are tops on our list. Our tomato purchases seem to increase from week to week because they’re just that good and there’s so much you can do with them. This week, he was in New York for a bachelor party and I went to the market alone. We’re heading to the beach next weekend, which means no market for us (we’ll hit some of the produce stands on the way up). So what did I stock up on? Tomatoes? The bag was so heavy I had to lift it with both arms, tilt backward to counter the weight so I wouldn’t fall forward and land on my face. But I had to have them.

A light, fresh tasting meal with a complement of asparagus and artisan bread.

A light, fresh tasting meal with a complement of asparagus and artisan bread.

Because what is summer without tomatoes, after all? The ones you find at most grocery stores are flavorless and hard. Their flesh is orangey instead of a marvelous red. You can’t smell them and you can hardly taste them. Even in summer when tomatoes are in season, there’s really no comparison between store and soil. And the heirloom tomatoes! If you only went to the store, you’d never know about Mr. Stripey or the Cherokee Purple?

I’ve making lots of salads and salsa and slicing them up for caprese salad and for burgers. I’ve been throwing them into sauce pans and cooking up spaghetti puttanesca. I’ve been dicing them up and cooking it with fish, and in this recipe in particular, which is so good that I want to tip the tomatoes directly into my mouth and skip the fish altogether. But trust me, the fish and the sauce together? As my friend Rob would say, it’s ACES.


Black bean and chicken tacos with cabbage slaw

February 20, 2009

When I made this I wasn’t really sure I was going to like it. I’m not particularly excited by black beans or cabbage. I figure at best, I’d have a relatively healthy and budget-friendly meal for me and the boy, and that in itself would be a win. That’s all I was going for.

Whole wheat tortillas grilled and folded in half make humougous and delicious taco wrappers.

Whole wheat tortillas grilled and folded in half make enormous and delicious taco wrappers.

But man oh my. I really enjoyed this. Really, really. The cabbage slaw in particular. I could have gobbled it up by itself, but in the taco it served as a great counterpoint to the warm beans and chicken resting inside waiting to be consumed.


Potato Gnocchi with Sausage and Vegetables

February 8, 2009

If I had all the time in the world I would cook long, complicated dishes with rich sauces and a tantalizing array of flavors and aromas that would make Julia Child’s toes curl. But if I had more time I would also work out more often, sleep 8 hours, catch up on my work at the office, talk to friends and family, travel. It’s really not that realistic (with my time management skills), but I can dream, can’t I?

Potato gnocchi with spinach, onions, and kielbasa sausage is quick and delicious.

Potato gnocchi with spinach, onions, mushrooms, and kielbasa sausage is quick and delicious. I really could not ask for much more.

So usually I have to go the practical route and cook dinner on the fly. If I don’t prep the night before or meal plan for that week, that usually means, if I’m not in the mood for sandwiches (and trust me, I love a good old fashioned bad-for-you-Kraft-American grilled cheese sandwich) what can I boil, and how fast?

Well bless Trader Joe’s and its potato gnocchi. Not only can you boil it in two minutes flat and eat it with some salt, butter, curry powder, Sriracha, and sour cream, you can mix it up with loads of other ingredients to make a dinner that looks a whole lot fancier than it really is.