Friday, October 9, 2009

"i try to get right with myself"

the food: Pan Seared Gnocchi with Asparagus and Mushrooms
the song: "No Key, No Plan" Okkervil River

tinker, tinker, tinker.

Well, I made it to my one month mark
without changing the format of this little blog. I'm constantly working at overcoming my shyness...or maybe it's just my lack of confidence. So it's very like me to second guess my format, my recipes, my pictures, even my words themselves. But I've made it one month, so I'm giving myself a permission to tinker.

In honor of my one month of consistent writing, I decided to cook gnocchi, and show some love to one of my favorite bands. It seems like I've been following Okkervil my entire adult life. They were starting to get some attention right around the time the husband and I moved to Austin in 2001 to start UT, and they have consistently and without fail blown me away every time I've seen them play. After 8 years, I will still jump at the chance to see this band. We were fortunate enough to see them at an Austin City Limits taping back in June. When it airs, I'll be easy to spot in the crowd. I'll be the super fan sitting next to the other super fan, singing every word with reckless abandon.

Now, for the food. This is one of those dishes I cook that relies on processed, packaged food even though I generally try my best to avoid those. There are several foods I'm just totally intimidated to make from scratch. Pastas of all kinds fall under this category. For this reason, I use store bought gnocchi. My confidence is growing daily, however, and before the year is over I will attempt gnocchi from scratch. But for now, let me share my favorite gnocchi recipe.
This basic recipe is one of the best for seasonal eating. Keep the gnocchi and mushrooms (if you like them), then change up the green vegetable. The original calls for Brussels sprouts, sliced as thin as possible and sauteed until crisp tender. But until the weather gets a little cooler and while asparagus is still cheap, I'll cook it this way.

Pan Seared Gnocchi
adapted from Vegetarian Times, February 2009

1 16 oz. package gnocchi
about 10 cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 lb. asparagus
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup shaved or shredded parmesan
handful of pine nuts, toasted
splash of wine, beer, or vegetable broth
olive oil

First, prepare the asparagus. Remove the tough end. I use my hands to break the asparagus at its natural tough point, then clean it up with a knife. Then cut the stalks at an angle into bite size pieces. Steam for about 4-5 minutes, until asparagus are still crisp, but cooked throughout.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add gnocchi, and cook 5-7 minutes until browned, turning often. Transfer to large bowl.

Add mushrooms and a bit more olive oil to skillet. Add a healthy splash of tasty liquid here (wine, beer, broth) and a generous amount of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms absorb most of the liquid. Add steamed asparagus and chopped garlic and stir together about 1 minute, just allowing flavors to permeate the vegetables.

Stir gnocchi back into skillet*. You might want to add another splash of liquid here to help it all come together. Remove from heat after a few minutes and stir in pine nuts and parmesan.

*I fully admit this next statement is one of the most bourgeoisie things to ever come out of my mouth, but if you have truffle oil sitting around your house, I highly recommend adding a tiny bit when you're doing the last stirring in the skillet. It adds a nice flavor that compliments the textures of this meal.


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