Thursday, May 29, 2008

Payday Gnocchi

Now here is something I did not know.

Gnocchi, one of my favorite meals, has its own day of the month in Argentina. Ñoquis del 29 is what it's called.

The day is so-named because traditionally, the 29th day of each month was the day before payday for most people, which meant that it was a day on which people had little money in their pockets. Gnocchi was celebrated as an inexpensive way to have a hearty meal on a day that had nothing else going for it.

A hot bowl of gnocchi is my favorite meal-on-the-go; the gourmand's version of fast food. It's my go-to on the nights when I have an evening event or meeting.
This is because I rarely make gnocchi from scratch.

Buying it pre-packaged and vacuum-sealed, I'll rip open that plastic pouch, dump the lot into a pot of boiling water, and let it go for 3 minutes. I'll chop an onion, smash a clove of garlic, and dump a 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes and a handful of dried herbs into a second pot, heating the whole thing to a simmer. Once the gnocchi float to the top of the boiling water in pan
#1, I'll drain them, then add them to the sauce in pan #2 for another 2-4 minutes. Into a plate it goes, and ta-da: fast food. Off to my meeting.

My experiences making gnocchi from scratch have been crummy. I end up with potato crusting my counter-tops, flour smeared on the floor and--the worst--lumpy gnocchi.

I'm sure this is a sign that I need to keep working at it. I will muster the energy to try again soon, but until then, I'm sticking with the pre-packaged stuff.

Today's gnocchi recipe is a good summer feast and is nearly as fast as my tomato-based fast food sauce. In spite of the fact that the sauce is built upon a smooth foundation of heavy cream (a very little heavy cream, folks), it is a light, citrus-y dish with bright green spinach and sweet peas at the forefront of the palate.

Speaking of palates, Steve and I drank a $7.00 Domaine Du Pouy with this dish and it paired beautifully with the citrus and cream. Economical and tasty, it's an appropriate way to toast an upcoming payday.

I have adjusted the proportions a bit to suit my own taste, and reduced the amount so that it serves two people. If you would like the original recipe, which is portioned for four people, it is available at Epicurious.

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

Adapted from Gourmet, December 2007

1/2 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, smashed

3 cups packed baby spinach (3 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I love Meyer lemons, but regular lemons will do the job, too)

1/2 pound dried gnocchi (I use whole wheat)

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

Simmer peas with cream, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add spinach and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.

Add gnocchi to sauce with cheese and some of reserved cooking water and stir to coat. Thin with additional cooking water if necessary.

Serves: 2 people on ñoquis del 29

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