Dining al fresco.

Last Thursday, during a rare break in the rainy weather, I decided to move our dinner outside so that we could enjoy 37d in all of its summery glory. It was nice to be able to actually use the garden for the first time since May. Plus, it suited that night's meal especially well.

Check out all of that lush green! Courtesy of England's record breaking June rainfall.

And some more green. Now, I realize that this may not exactly be the most attractive dish I have ever made, but let me just say that the picture does not do it justice. Because it is delicious. This is Gnocchi Al Forno w/ Spinach and Broccoli - one of the many fine recipes from the good people at Waitrose (for all of you non-Brits, this is a fancy-schmany grocery store with prices to match).

It is actually one of the easiest dinners I have made yet and the only high-tech equipment you need is a food processor. Even a small one will do. Here are the ingredients and recipe:

400g Spinach
1000g Potato gnocchi
250g Ricotta cheese
3 tbsp (remember this is a UK measurement, but probably not THAT different) Freshly grated parmesan cheese
240g Tenderstem broccoli spears (long, thin spears of broccoli - could probably use any kind), thickly sliced - like you would for any casserole or mac-and-cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
25g Bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place spinach in large bowl and pour over a kettleful of boiling water. Leave for a minute or two to wilt, then drain very well.

2. Transfer to food processor and blend until very finely chopped. Add ricotta and two tablespoons of parmesan and blend again. If sauce is too thick, mix in a splash of milk or water.

3. Cook broccoli in large pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Add gnocchi and cook for 2 more minutes then drain well. Return to the pan. Add the spinach mixture, basil and lemon zest and toss well to coat gnocchi.

4. Pour gnocchi into heatproof dish. Scatter over breadcrumbs, remaining parmesan and a grind of black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Serves 6

Seriously so simple. It's basically pushing a button, boiling things and mixing everything together.

Also, really easy to make alterations to for your own convenience. For example, I halved the recipe since there were only two of us eating and had a nice portion for lunch the next day :) This recipe also originally called for wholemeal breadcrumbs, but I wasn't about to go out and buy a bag just for this. Instead I made my own breadcrumbs from a day-old baguette and the topping was perfectly crispy. Finally, I knew I wasn't going to be home until dinner time that night, so I made the spinach and ricotta sauce ahead of time and left it in the fridge until I needed it.

If the measurements seem weird, I apologize. It's probably because Waitrose wrote the recipe and tailored it to the items that they carry in their store. Furthermore, for all of you using U.S. measurements, I'm sorry, you'll just have to do the conversions. There are a lot of good websites out there that are helpful. Also, you can pretty much type any conversion you want into Google and get it. But, really, don't worry if you can't get the exact amounts. There is very little science involved in this recipe and altering it a few grams/pounds/ounces here or there is not going to make much of a difference.

Let's hope this weather turns around soon. If it doesn't, I will just have more things to look forward to on my visit to the states!



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