Cheese Baked Gnocchi with Spinach

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Baby it’s cold outside and I wanted something warm and comforting for dinner. I had a pack of gnocchi and went to epicurious for some inspiration and this is what resulted, cheesy gnocchi with a panko crunchy top. Best of all, dinner in less than 20 minutes!

Ingredients:
1 package shelf stable gnocchi
2/3 c half and half
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bag of baby spinach
1 tsp flour
6 oz ricotta
3 oz shredded mozzarella
1/4 c panko

Cook gnocchi according to package.

Preheat oven to 425.

In a 12 inch oven proof skillet, heat half and half, salt, pepper, nutmeg and flour over medium heat, whisking. Continue to whisk until it starts to bubble then reduce heat and add spinach. Once spinach wilts remove from heat. Add gnocchi, stir to coat the gnocchi. Drop the ricotta in blobs and smoky over top. Sprinkle with mozzarella and panko.

Place pan in skillet and cook for 4 – 7 minutes – until bubble and brown on top. Keep an eye on it, panko can burn quickly.

Serves 4 – 6.

Cauliflower and Barley Salad with Mozzarella

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Meatless Monday: this week an amazing warm salad with creamy fresh mozzarella cheese inspired by Bon Appetite. Yum!! Can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients:
1 c pearl barley
¼ c fine fresh breadcrumbs
2 c whole milk
1 c finely chopped cauliflower
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 c finely chopped celery hearts, plus
1/4 c chopped celery leaves
1/2 c finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and parsley stems
1/2 c grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP Champagne vinegar
8 oz. burrata or fresh mozzarella, torn
1 TBSP creme fraiche or half and half
Olive oil
Aleppo pepper
Salt

Cook barley in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 15–20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, toast breadcrumbs in a nonstick skillet.

Bring milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; season with salt. Add cauliflower and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes; drain well. Discard milk.

Toss cauliflower, barley, breadcrumbs, shallot, celery hearts, celery leaves, parsley, parsley stems, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vinegar in a bowl; season salad with salt.

Mix burrata and crème fraîche in a medium bowl; season with salt. Divide burrata mixture among plates, drizzle with oil, and top with barley salad; season with pepper.

Caprese Pasta

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This is the perfect summer pasta dish – light, refreshing and perfect for a hot weeknight meal. I added some toasted breadcrumbs for a little crunch.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb pasta
2 – 3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c basil, ripped into small pieces
4 – 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
1/4 c olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 c breadcrumbs, toasted
4 slices of prosciutto ripped into small pieces
Grated Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package.

Toss together tomatoes, basil, cheese, oil and salt and pepper.

Add pasta to tomato mixture, top with bread crumbs, Parmesan and prosciutto.

Serves 4.

Caprese Salad with Warm Pancetta Dressing

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The first heirloom tomatoes of the season showed up at the farmers market this weekend! The first tomato of the year deserved to be celebrated with bacon or in this case it’s close Italian cousin Pancetta. This salad is perfect for dinner with a nice crusty bread.

Ingredients:
4 oz pancetta, diced
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/4 c sherry vinegar
2 tomatoes, sliced
Basil leaves
1 ball mozzarella, thinly sliced
Salad greens

In a medium size pan, cook pancetta until crisp, add onions and sauté until tender, add vinegar and cook for 1 – 2 minutes to warm through.

Toss 1/2 the dressing with your greens.

Arrange tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on 2 plates, add greens on side and tip tomatoes with remaining dressing.

Serves 2.

Polenta with Tomato Sausage Sauce

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I bought a log of polenta at Trader Joe’s awhile ago. Every time I open the pantry it stares back at me wondering if I’m going to cook it. Last night was the night. I whipped up a tomato sauce and slathered it with gooey cheese – delicious! Next time I’m going to try this sauce over creamy polenta.

Ingredients:
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 TBSP chopped fresh oregano
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Red pepper flakes
1/2 lb sweet chicken sausage, casing removed
1 log prepared polenta, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add the sliced onion and sausage and sauté, stirring often, until the meat is browned. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and fennel seeds to the sauté pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato, cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

Spray a 9×13 pan olive oil. Add polenta, spray with olive oil. Bake about 10-15 minutes until it starts to brown.

Turn on broiler

Pour sauce over polenta, then top with mozzarella slices over the top, return to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

Serves 4.

Asparagus, spring onion & green garlic pizza

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Spring is in full swing here in the SF Bay Area and the farmers market is full of all my favorite limited time veggies! So I thought why not combine them all and make a pizza. OK, i was actually cleaning out the fridge in preparation for my weekly trip to the farmers market and turned what was left over into a pizza – but man was it good. I use the Mozza recipe for dough and freeze it – then defrost on demand.

Ingredients:
1 pizza dough
1 TBSP olive oil
2 bunches of green garlic, sliced thin
2 bunches of spring onions, sliced thin
1 bunch asparagus, steamed, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 oz ricotta

Preheat oven to 500. Heat pizza stone for at least an hour.

Roll out pizza dough. Brush with oil. Top with onions, garlic, asparagus, sliced mozzarella, and dollops of ricotta.

Bake until cheese is a little brown and crust is crisp, about 10 minutes.

Serves 4.

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

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This dish came together based on food I did not want to toss in the green waste. And it is the perfect meatless Monday comfort food!

8 inch spaghetti squash
1 c chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
3/4 c. Ricotta cheese
1 c. Mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 tsp. basil
Dash of thyme

Preheat oven to 400.

Poke a few holes in the squash, place in a pan and bake for 60 minutes, until easy pierced with a fork. Let cool a few minutes, slice in half, scoop out seeds, and shred with a fork.

While squash bakes, saute onions and garlic with salt, pepper, mushrooms, and herbs. When onions are soft, add freshly chopped tomatoes. Cook until most liquid evaporates. Combine all ingredients and pour into a 2 quart buttered casserole. Top with lots of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees in open casserole, about 40 minutes.

Serves 4.
6 WW PP per serving.

Sweet Potato Pizza

I came across this recipe in Food & Wine, at first it sounded weird, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I HAD to try it. Of course, I made some changes to the recipe, and it turned out de-li-cious! The crispy crust, topped with soft mashed sweet potatoes and slightly acidic balsamic onions, melty cheese and slightly spicy salami – it’s a party in your mouth. I make the sweet potato mash the night before to cut down on cooking time. if the sweet potato mash is too thick thin with a little water.

Ingredients:
3 – 4 sweet potatoes
1 lb pizza dough
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
2 – 6 TBSP water
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1.5 c grated mozzarella
5 oz salami

Preheat oven to 450 with pizza stone inside if using.

Roast sweet potatoes till soft. I just cut a slit in them, toss them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. It takes about 30 – 60 minutes depending on their size. Cool, remove skins and mash.

In a large skillet melt butter and olive oil over medium heat, add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 2 TBSP water, turn heat to low and cover with a lid, cook for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets dry add a little more water. Keep checking and adding water until they start to caramelize. Stir in balsamic and cook for 6 minutes until vinegar is absorbed. Set aside.

Roll out your dough, place on pizza stone or baking sheet and prick with fork. Bake for 5 – 7 minutes until it starts to crisp.

Remove crust from oven and spread 1 cup of the sweet potato mash on crust. Top with onions, cheese and salami. Bake for 5 – 7 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Serves 4 – 8.
7 WW PP (8 servings).

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