A Disaster Dinner
And the recipe that saved it...🌞
I cook nearly every day, and I’m proud that my ratio of good dinners to absolute garbage, inedible dinners is very high. Even if a meal isn’t blog-worthy, it’s usually mostly edible. Or it’s edible enough to just be supplemented with a little after-dinner instant ramen. We’ve all been there (I assume…). Last night was different, unfortunately. Somehow, everything I tried went horribly wrong.
Allow me to elaborate:
I set out to make ground turkey curry, but the turkey I bought was funky with a capital F. Something similar happened with ground pork a week or so ago too. I don’t know if I’m just more sensitive now or if I need to switch brands, but the smell of the turkey was off, and it tasted even worse, so I had to throw it out.
Not to worry, I still had my spicy potatoes cooking up in the oven…right? WRONG. They’re burnt…to an actual crisp. I guess in the midst of dealing with the turkey, I forgot about them in the oven.
Then I thought I’d make a nice salad with a sweet and spicy mango dressing. Fate had other ideas because–not one–both of my mangoes were rotten.
Needless to say, it was frustrating. I spent an hour prepping and cooking and had nothing to show for it except a pile of dirty dishes.
I almost fired up Yelp for takeout, but I remembered I drafted an idea for a gnocchi recipe during my last grocery trip and had all the ingredients just waiting to make their debut. Not to be beaten by that dangerous little voice, I decided to wipe my tears (exaggeration) and clean out my pot (no exaggeration), and see how fast I could spin up my recipe idea.
I don’t mean to complain too much, but this week’s new recipe needs a tremendous introduction because it’s a tremendous recipe. When I say that you must keep this recipe in rotation, I am not exaggerating. It’s perfect for a quick dinner. It’s also perfect for salvaging a disaster dinner that almost results in you angrily eating chicken tenders on your couch.
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Easy Gnocchi with Kale
If you don’t have a fennel bulb or aren’t a fan, simply omit it. Add protein with a cup or two of diced grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken added with the tomatoes. Alternatively, you can fry up loose Italian sausage or ground beef first and return it to the pot with the tomatoes. Chickpeas or cannellini beans can be used to add protein while keeping this recipe vegetarian.
Serves: 4 | Cook time: 50 minutes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and small-diced; fronds reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons butter
¾ pound cherry or yellow cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, or use ½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, more or less to taste
½ cup water or vegetable stock
4 ounces Lacinato kale, torn; or use baby spinach or torn escarole
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
16 ounces store-bought gnocchi
Fresh basil leaves, optional, for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the aromatics:
Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Add the onion and diced fennel and sauté for 8–10 minutes or until both begin to soften and darken around the edges. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the tomatoes:
Melt the butter into the onion and fennel. Once bubbly, add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes until the skins begin to split. Add a sprinkle of salt.
Turn the heat to medium-high. The tomatoes and aromatics will begin to sizzle loudly. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the water or stock and bring it to a boil.
Taste and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, adding more water as needed if the sauce begins to stick.
Boil the water for the gnocchi:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt.
Finish the sauce:
Right before cooking the gnocchi, finish the sauce. Add the chopped kale to the sauce. Cook for 3–4 minutes until it just begins to wilt. Add the lemon juice and season again to taste.
Cook the gnocchi:
Add the gnocchi to the pot of boiling water and cook for 4–5 minutes or until the gnocchi float to the top. Scoop out ½ cup of the gnocchi cooking water and then drain the gnocchi.
Finish the gnocchi:
Turn the heat on the sauce to medium. Stir the grated Parmesan cheese into the sauce. Once it melts, add the cooked gnocchi and half the cooking water. Cook for 1–2 minutes, turning occasionally, until the gnocchi is well-coated with sauce. Add the remaining pasta cooking water if needed. Turn off the heat.
Transfer the gnocchi and sauce to a large serving platter. Garnish with a pinch of grated Parmesan and scatter fresh basil leaves and reserved fennel fronds on top. Enjoy!