Monday, 5 March 2012

David or Goliath?

Gnocchetti con Lenticchie Rosse, Spinaci e Pomodorini alla Majorana
Miniature Gnocchi with Red Lentils, Spinach and Marjoram Cherry-Tomatoes

Sometimes size really does matter. Of course I am being facetious now and of course I like nice, succulent, large gnocchi as much as the next man- but this evening I decided to make them smaller, more compact and dainty, just for a change. I am also jumping the gun by telling you all this now- but later in the week I will be making a dish with some very large noodles- so there you go! Equal rights for all!

Back to this evenings meal though and the flavors and ingredients I used for it. I have fresh marjoram at the moment, which I love, so I will be incorporating it into a couple of dishes this week too. Fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes for freshness and red lentils for a nutty flavor and a bit of texture... yes it seemed like a good combination to me! I will leave it up to you to decide what you think...

I also wanted to experiment with the gnocchi dough this evening. I had a crazy idea that worked surprisingly well- and it was based on seeing peoples disastrous results when trying to make mashed potatoes in their food processors on TV shows. Though I have obviously never been so foolhardy :-), I have seen the results often enough and the potatoes become very sticky and slimy and gluey. Hmmm. Isn't that halfway towards what you actually want when you make gnocchi? So I thought to myself... as long as I don't overdo it- using the machine to make my dough might just work... and it actually did!

I boiled a couple of potatoes and dropped them piping hot into my blender. I then added about the same amount of flour, cracked an egg into the mix and gave them a whizz. Poof! There was a brief blast of white powder and suddenly a ball of dough appeared. I added more flour, whizzed it again until it became a little less moist and that was it! I am talking about short blasts here- just enough to combine the ingredients. I then poured out my little ball of dough and finished kneading it gently by hand, then rolled it out into lengths that were roughly the thickness of my finger. I then cut off pieces of about 1"  and dropped them directly into boiling, salted water and cooked them until they floated to the surface, then scooped them out and set them to one side and got busy with the other ingredients...

So this was when I began a little juggling act in order to get things coordinated time-wise. In one small frying pan, I began to fry a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and marjoram, along with a little garlic, salt, sugar and pepper, in olive oil. Whilst that was happening I started the red lentils boiling in another tiny saucepan, That's all ok so far, right? Well, after 5 minutes I was ready to put this lovely little meal together. So I rinsed and shook the spinach almost dry and then dropped that into anther frying pan with a touch of olive oil and a hint  of crushed garlic. I sautéed it briefly, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and then pushed it to one side and transferred the gnocchi to the same pan, in order to bring them up to temperature and also to give them a slight glaze of olive oil.

I drained the lentils after 7-8 minutes and added some sliced shallot and a drop of oil, then returned them to the heat to cook the shallot and coat the lentils- I seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper and then turned my attention towards serving!

Construction time! First, I laid out the spinach at the bottom of my bowl and then sprinkled the lentils and shallots on top of that. Next came the gnocchi and last but not least, the juicy fried tomatoes and marjoram... mmm! I added a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of cracked pepper corns and dinner could finally be served! And let me tell you... this is one little dish of miniature gnocchi that could easily measure up! That is was BIG in flavor really goes without saying! I really enjoyed it- and I hope you do too!

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