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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.”
Lemon Dill Gnocchi al Forno with Roasted Carrots
1. ¬†Preheat the oven¬†to 375‚ĄČ.¬†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‚ĄČ.
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.
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.
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.
Matzoh ball soup is a staple in many Jewish homes and if you recently attended a Passover seder, you likely indulged in this comforting winter dish. It is the soup many of us crave when we’re not feeling well and the soup that has become known as Jewish penicillin. Lately (or, like, a few years ago on the West Coast), there has been a new “buzz word” in the world of soup: Bone broth.) The basic recipe for bone broth hasn’t changed from the days of our nonna, bubbe or grandmother. What has changed is that we’re talking more and more about ingredients and cooking methods. We’re going back to our roots where there wasn’t a fear of using all the parts of all our ingredients, but rather, our grandparents embraced the versatility of their¬†ingredients and took¬†pride in stretching them, wasting nothing.
Soup is just broth until you add dumplings. Dumplings are a comfort food and every culture’s cuisine has some sort of dumplings. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are dropped in soups, served with chicken, fried up, steamed, filled with soup and meat, folded, rolled, pinched and pressed.
The universal truth when it comes to dumplings is that there are perhaps never enough. Whether you grew up alongside your Italian nonna cutting and rolling gnocchi on a Sunday morning or you poured matzoh ball mix out of a box with your father on Sunday afternoons, you know what’s in the back of everyone’s mind is, “Will this be enough?”. This recipe for brodo with potato knaidlach makes so many dumplings there are extras to freeze for a quick weekday meal.
This Spring Bone Broth and Parsley Knaidlach takes us on a trip to Italy with¬†inspiration from brodo (broth) and potato gnocchi (knaidlach). If you or your partner has Italian ancestry, this is a fun way to combine your cultures in a meal that’s fun to make together. You may want to save this¬†one for the weekend because it takes a little time, but not so much that you can’t whip up a batch on a weekday evening either.
Spring Bone Broth and Parsley Knaidlach
For this recipe we’ll be doctoring up a boxed broth to save time, but you can try this fabulous brodo if you enjoy going the extra mile.
1. ¬†Begin by preparing the potatoes for the potato dumplings. Scrub the potatoes with a brush and place them in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and let the potatoes boil for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes a toothpick or skewer should easily go into and slide out of the flesh of the potato with no resistance.
2. ¬†Once the potatoes are ready, let them cool on a plate for about 10 minutes until the skins are cold enough to peel off by hand. In the meantime, set your toaster oven or oven to 350‚ĄČ. ¬†Put some parchment or foil down on a tray (for easier clean-up) and drizzle 1 Tbsp. of oil on the tray.
3. ¬†Slice your onion in half and wash (no need to peel) your carrots and cut them into thirds. Place the vegetables on the tray (onions cut side down) and just slide them through the olive oil so they are well coated. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables (about 1 tsp) and roast them for 25-30 minutes.
4. ¬†Now, the potatoes should be cool enough to handle. Peel them by pinching the skin and pulling it away from the potato.
5. ¬†If you have a food mill (you know, the hand crank one you bought to make baby food), then use a food mill to process the potatoes. If you don’t have a food mill, a fork will work just as well. Make sure you use a large cutting board. Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices (a little bigger is OK too) then take your fork and press it through each slice so that the potato breaks into little strips.
6. ¬†Once the potatoes have been pressed (through the food mill or fork), let them cool briefly on the tray or board. While the potatoes cool, you can start the broth. Gather your roasted vegetables, the bones you saved from a rotisserie chicken (from earlier in the week or that you saved and froze for soup), and your soy sauce.
Set aside two of the roasted carrots for later. If you are using chicken legs, just season them with salt and pepper and add them into the pot. Pour the two containers of broth into your stock pot. There should be about 8 cups. If you are short, just top it off with some water.
Then add: your chicken bones (if you haven’t already), your vegetables and the 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce to the pot. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes.
7. ¬†While the broth is cooking, you can make your gnocchi. This is a great “play dough” style activity to do with the kids. Make sure you have a clean counter and clean hands. There will be flour on the floor but you can sweep up after.
A true Italian nonna would have to you make this on the counter, but I prefer the security of a bowl. Sprinkle a little flour (about 1/2 cup) into the bottom of the bowl and then put 1/3 of the potatoes on top of the flour. Sprinkle a cup of flour over the potatoes and add another 1/3 of the potatoes over that. Sprinkle another¬†cup of flour (you’re up to 2 1/2 cups now)¬†over the potatoes and top with the last 1/3 of the potatoes. Gently toss the potatoes in the flour with your fingers to coat. The extra 1/2 cup of flour (3 cups in total) will be sprinkled in as needed later if your dough is too sticky.
8. ¬†Make a well in the middle of the bowl of potatoes and flour and crack in 2 eggs. Add 1 tsp of kosher salt over the eggs.
With a fork, whisk the eggs and salt until combined and then slowly mix the eggs into the potato flour mixture. You will end up with a sticky dough. Continue to add flour until you have a dough that is soft and only slightly sticky. (You should only need at most 1/2 cup of flour but you can add as much as 1 cup of flour here if needed.)
9. ¬†Let the dough rest for a minute or two while you chop some parsley. You will want a small bunch of fresh curly parsley (wash and dry with a towel first). If you are making all the gnocchi with parsley, you will want 2/3 cup of minced parsley. If you have some picky eaters who cringe at the sight of green, you can leave 1/2 the potato knaidlach plain and you’ll want 1/3 cup of minced parsley.
10. ¬†Now the fun begins. Split your dough in half and knead in 1/3 cup of parsley unless you are making all of your dumplings green. To help make clean-up a little easier, I like to put some wax paper or parchment paper down on the counter. You can sprinkle a little water on the counter first so the paper doesn’t slide around when you roll out the dough. Sprinkle flour on the parchment generously and roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick.
11. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch strips. Then roll each strip out into a long rope. I like to pinch the strips first and then roll them.
12. ¬†Then, with a butter knife, cut the ropes into dozens of beautiful little knaidlach. They should be about 3/4 to 1 inch long. Do the same with the leftover plain dough if you are making some plain.
13. ¬†Now your broth is ready (it’s OK if it simmered longer than 20 mins). Strain your broth through a sieve into a new pot. Cut the carrots you set aside into tiny cubes (about the size as a pea). Take 1-2 cups of frozen peas (based on how much your family likes peas). Add the minced carrots and peas to the broth. Once the broth comes back to a boil, add in 1/3 of your potato knaidlich (aka gnocchi). The knaidlich are cooked once they float back to the top of the broth; about 5 minutes.
For picky diners, you can cook the plain knaidlach in salted boiling water and serve them like pasta with parmesan, butter and salt, pesto or tomato sauce.
The rest of the knaidlach can be put on a tray in the freezer until they become solid, and then transfered into a plastic bag. Frozen knaidlach can be cooked straight from frozen in boiling water or stock.
Serve the knaidlich and broth in a bowl and sprinkle with fresh herbs such as chives, basil, dill or more parsley. Buon appetito!