Baked Lemon Dill Gnocchi al Forno

  

Baked gnocchi

Comfort food comes in many different shapes and forms. Each culture, each tradition, each household, each individual has a dish that is comforting to them. Comfort foods tend to be soft, warm and not overly seasoned. This Italian gnocchi al forno takes the flavors of a Jewish comfort food: matzoh ball soup, and puts them into a warm, oven-baked, cheesy, saucy dish.

This is made with pre-made gnocchi so it is a quick and easy recipe for any day of the week. The lemon adds brightness to the rich sauce. Italians understand the glory of this fruit and as Italian poet Eugenio Montale wrote: “… now it’s our turn, us poor ones, to have a share of riches/ and it’s the scent of the lemon.”

Prep for making gnocchiGnocchi

Lemon Dill Gnocchi al Forno with Roasted Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of carrots, smaller carrots are best but not baby carrots
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 package of gnocchi (1 lb)
  • 1 bunch of Lacinto kale
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 2 1/4 cups of whole milk
  • 4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
  • 5 Tbsp. of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups of grated mozzarella
  • 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 3 tsp. of dried dill or 1 Tbsp. fresh dill
  • 2 tsp. of kosher salt, divided
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375℉. While the oven is heating up, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Peel the carrots and leave them whole. Line a cookie sheet or roasting pan with parchment. Put the carrots on the parchment and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of salt.

2.  Roast the carrots in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

3.  Once the water comes to a boil, put the gnocchi into the boiling water. The gnocchi take 3-5 minutes to cook. Once the gnocchi float to the top of the water, they are cooked. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate or baking dish.

4.  Grate the mozzarella. Chop the kale into thin slices. Set both aside. Once the carrots come out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400℉.

Butter

5.  In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the dill to the butter and let the butter cook a little until it is nice and foamy.

Add in the flour and mix it together until you have a paste. Cook the paste in the pan for a few minutes.

Once the paste begins to bubble a little at the edges, add in 1/2 cup of wine, stir and cook down for 3-4 minutes. Add in the zest of 1/4-1/2 a lemon. Then 1 cup at a time, add in the whole milk.

Stir together until the sauce thickens and the flour paste is incorporated. Add in the cheese and stir until the cheese melts completely.

Add flourMake a paste cheese and sauce

6.  In a large baking dish, or several small dishes, put a layer of kale into the bottom of the dish. Top with a layer of gnocchi and then pour a generous amount of the cheese sauce over top. Top the cheese with some freshly ground pepper.

gnocchi al forno-31-2

gnocchi al forno-38-2 gnocchi al forno-40-2

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7.  Cook the lemon and dill gnocchi al forno uncovered for 30-40 minutes. The sauce will bubble and caramelize slightly. Serve the gnocchi with a side of roasted carrots, and a glass of chilled white wine.

Buon Appetito!

gnocchi is served

Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts

  

By Mari Levine

halvahphoto_large

I’m in the throes of what I’ve dubbed the “Summer of Love.” I’ve hit the age where my Facebook feed is dominated by photos of engagements and newborns, and the only snail mail I get is wedding invitations and baby announcements. In the next three months, I’m slated to go to six weddings—and that’s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!

But I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open bars—um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding I’m especially excited for is in just a few weeks, when my dear friend Rachel marries Pascal, a guy she met and fell for while the two were in grad school together at Brandeis. But it’s not quite your typical Brandeis love story: Rachel is American Jewish, and Pascal is Haitian Catholic.

Their wedding will celebrate both of their cultures. They’re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. We’re going to dance the hora, then get down to some Carimi (Pascal’s favorite Haitian band). And then there’s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), they’ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachel’s asked some of her food-minded friends—myself included—to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.

The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaism’s very own holiday of love, Tu B’av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu B’av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But it’s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentine’s Day—minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu B’av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascal’s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so I’m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).

While thinking about Tu B’av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipe’s base: halvah, the dense, nutty confection popular among Jews all over the world. I love its mellow sweetness and chewy tackiness, which feels a bit like astronaut food (in a good way!). Halvah is great eaten straight from supermarket shelves, but I plan to give it a little flair by dipping it in chocolate and topping it with nuts and sesame seeds. I think I’ve found a cross-cultural recipe that everyone can enjoy.

Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts

Makes about 16 pieces

  • 1 pound halvah (flavor of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (I used shelled and blanched)
  • ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate

 

1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice halvah in half height-wise, making two planks. Cut each plank into 8 equal pieces.

2. Heat small, dry pan over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast until slightly darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

3. Heat now-empty pan over medium heat and add almonds. Toast until slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl with sesame seeds. Add pistachios and salt to bowl and stir until well-mixed.

4. Using microwave or double-boiler method, melt half of chocolate. Working piece by piece, dip half of halvah pieces in chocolate until fully coated, allow excess to drain off, and transfer to parchment-lined dish.

5. While chocolate is still warm, generously sprinkle nut mixture over tops of chocolate-coated halvah. Repeat chocolate dipping and sprinkling steps with remaining halvah pieces.

6. Transfer plate to refrigerator until chocolate has firmed up. Chocolate-coated halvah can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.

chosenfinal290pxcolor_largeReprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.

Nutella Bites (A Neat and Easy Breakfast in Bed)

  

By Mari Levine

nutellabites.jpg

Serving someone breakfast in bed is a terrific, thoughtful idea. But it has some logistical issues, including stealthily preparing the meal so your light-sleeping target doesn’t arouse, and, if you accomplish that, anxiously watching them try to balance a plate full of pancakes in bed without causing a mess. Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but you don’t want that thought to be tinged with inconvenience.

This quick recipe satisfies a loved one’s sweet tooth and takes only minutes to prepare. Each piece is bite-sized, so the mess—both in the kitchen and in bed—is minimal. It’s a nice way to express your appreciation sweetly and neatly!

Nutella Bites

Makes 32

  • 4 (9-inch) flour wraps
  • 6 tablespoons Nutella
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 8 strawberries, quartered
  • Confectioners’ sugar

 

1. Spread 1½ tablespoons Nutella into thin layer over each wrap, leaving ½-inch border. Roll each wrap and flatten slightly. Brush one side of each roll with melted butter.

2. Heat 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Add rolls, buttered-side and seam-side down, and lightly flatten with metal spatula. Cook until wrap is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Brush tops with remaining butter and flip. Cook until second side is golden brown, another 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board.

3. Using chef’s knife, cut each wrap crosswise into 8 even pieces. Place strawberry quarter on top of each bite and spear with toothpick. Using fine-mesh strainer, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over top. Serve.

chosenfinal290pxcolor_largeReprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.