Toasted Kale and Mushrooms with Gnocchi
Random fact about me: I need to learn absolutely everything about a subject before I can take action. I’m not proud of my neurotic habits – I would give anything to be more spontaneous. But it’s just not my style. I’m the type of person who reads all 146 amazon.com reviews on the latest paperback book before buying. I routinely google my medical concerns before I actually pick up my phone to call my doctor. I can’t seem to publish a post on SemiVeggie without obsessively reading it a million times, checking for grammatical mistakes and making sure my writing is accessible to the beginning home cook. I’m great at gathering information, but I’m awful at following through. Many of my great ideas go into the trash bin because I cannot seem to get started.
Two years ago I knew I wanted to learn how to cook, and I tried to convince myself to take action. Of course, instead of actually walking into the kitchen, I ended up reading a million food blogs and learning everything I could about cooking. As a result of my efforts, I soon could talk for hours about the differences between summer squash and winter squash, but I had never actually tried to cut into a squash with a butcher knife. I’m sure you can relate – cooking sure seems fun when you’re watching Paula Deen douse her cornbread in butter, but in reality it’s hard to peel yourself away from your TV long enough actually go preheat the oven. Oh, I’m sure you’ve done your research, promising yourself you’d learn to cook – maybe you invested in expensive non-stick cookware, or watched multiple YouTube videos about how to dice a mango. I did the same – I used to scour thrift stores for fun kitchen gadgets, but the flat spatulas and pastry brushes would sit unused in my kitchen drawers. I’d tried to learn to cook before, but had only gotten as far as re-heating Easy Mac. Two years later, I’ve gone from food blog reader to food blog writer, and I cook every chance I can get. I get excited when Wegman’s has Hungarian paprika on sale, and I can tell you the best way to liven up a grilled cheese sandwich (add Balsamic vinegar, in case anyone was wondering). What the hell happened to me?
Here’s the truth: I was finally inspired to put knife to veggie when I faced my first bitterly cold upstate New York winter. I’m sure you can picture the scene: I’m wrapped up in blankets, with my laptop on my lap, going stir crazy in the middle of January. Out of a fit of desperation, I posted a sad little message on Facebook: “Anyone want to come over? I’ll make dinner”. To my surprise, my friends replied: “Sure! We’ll be over in an hour.” I gathered up my courage and started boiling water for pasta. Soon, I had a house full of friends, wine, and laughter in the middle of winter. And the best part was: I didn’t have to leave my house! I had figured out a way I could fill up my social calendar without venturing out into below-freezing temperatures. Win-win!
I quickly fell in love with my new role as cook. I discovered I loved hosting casual dinner parties, and my kitchen confidence grew with every veggie I diced. My new hobby grew into an obsession, and I couldn’t be happier. Oh sure, I still love to know everything before I actually cook – I will read through the recipe many times before starting, and I often make a recipe for my fiance before I will serve it to friends. But I can tell you – actually cooking is way more fun than reading food blogs. So get up out of your computer chair, put your laptop on your kitchen counter, and start cooking! This gnocchi recipe is a favorite of J’s, and it’s perfect vegetarian comfort food for the cold winter months. Make it, and invite your friends to join you. Tell them to bring wine.
Toasted Kale and Mushrooms with Whole Wheat Gnocchi
Two years ago, I would have been intimidated by the ingredients in this recipe. Please don’t be a wimp like I was. Recipes should be flexible – if kale scares you, then substitute spinach or swiss chard or broccoli. Kale is yummy and healthy and cheap – I highly recommend it. I buy a large bouquet of the curly green stuff at Wegman’s every week, and I throw it into soups, pastas, and stir-frys. You can find pre-made whole wheat gnocchi in the regular pasta aisle.
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two cloves of garlic, diced
Or one teaspoon of the pre-diced garlic
One bunch of kale
Preparation: Strip off the curly leaves, throw out the stems, and rip the leaves into small pieces. Rinse pieces to remove any dirt.
One 16 oz. package of sliced mushrooms
I like to use prepackaged baby ‘bellas, but any kind will work.
¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra olive oil to drizzle on top
You’ll need two pots for this recipe: one for the gnocchi, and one for the kale and mushrooms. A wok works well for the veggies if you want.
Directions for gnocchi: Bring four cups of water to a boil over high heat. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. Cook according to package directions (gnocchi are usually ready in 3-4 minutes). Drain the water from the pot.
Directions for veggies: Add the two tablespoons of olive oil to a pot over medium heat. Wait until the oil is hot, and then add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for a minute, then add the entire package of mushrooms. Cook the garlic and mushrooms together for 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are dark and juicy. Add the prepared kale to the pot. Sprinkle salt over the kale, mushrooms, and garlic. Stir the veggies around the pot to cook. After about three minutes of cooking, the kale should turn bright green. Keep stirring so the veggies don’t burn. Cook for five more minutes, and then turn off the burner.
Combine cooked gnocchi with kale and mushrooms. Add a generous drizzle of oil and the ¼ cup of parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine.