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from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Homemade Gnocchi
2 lbs russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of well-rinsed spinach
1 1/2 to 3/4 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400F.

Poke four or five holes all over the potatoes. Bake them (you don’t need a tray or foil, right on the oven rack is fine) for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Do a test after 45 minutes; they should be very tender (mine took closer to an hour). Use tongs to remove them; place on a cooling rack and let them cool completely. This could take half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop the spinach finely, and cook over medium heat in about 1/4 cup of water until it is completely wilted. Place in a strainer and press all the water out.

Remove the skins from the cooled potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and mash very well. You don’t want to puree them, that will make the gnocchi sticky, just mash them until they have very few lumps. Fold the spinach in. Add the flour in handfuls and incorporate it into the potatoes. Once you’ve added half the flour you can turn the dough onto a floured countertop to work it there. Keep adding flour and lightly kneading the dough until a smooth, unsticky but not dry dough is formed.

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each portion into a rope that is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a pizza wheel or a knife to cut the ropes into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Now comes the fun part- flour your hands and use your thumb to roll each piece of gnocchi gently down the tines of a fork. Each piece should be able to do about half a roll before reaching the end of the fork so the final result should be that one side of the gnocchi has an indent from your thumb and one side has ridges from the fork.

At this point you can sprinkle with flour and freeze any gnocchi you aren’t using. To cook them immediately bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally and cook the gnocchi in three batches. Within 2 minutes they should rise to the surface; let them cook just under a minute longer and remove them with a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a large plate so that hey aren’t putting any weight on each other, and sauce them as soon as you can. I like them with either a simple tomato sauce or sauteed briefly with pesto and veggies.
Serves 6-8

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 c tightly packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 c water
1/4 c almonds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh basil

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a low boil, then turn the heat off and let soak for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Grid the almonds in a blender or food processor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes (with the water), garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puree.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the basil. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This was a really rewarding dinner for a day that I felt like challenging myself in the kitchen. Normally I don’t like something that’s so fussy, and I totally got frustrated with the tine-rolling segment (SO NOT THE FUN PART, ISA), but it was very much worth the while, especially when I was able to pull some out of the freezer a few weeks later for leftovers! I was a little uncertain about the texture of the dough and wondering when I should stop adding the flour, but I did pretty well with 1 3/4 cups of it. Kneading it was fun, and I felt like the spinach made my gnocchi a bit more festive, as well as healthy.
Let’s talk texture. Gnocchi isn’t for those who don’t like doughy things. These are SO DOUGHY, so toothy. So satisfying. I want to make all of the variations, but I try to save potatoes for special occasions- they just go down too easy. The texture of the pesto was a nice partner to the gnocchi- with a faint crunch of almondy goodness. Total perfection, this meal.

from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used a combo of red, yellow, and orange)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
one 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 tsp dried thyme (I used about a tablespoon of fresh)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp pesto

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant into a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker (I used my 5 quart and it was just fine).

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the onion to the slow cooker along with the bell pepper, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes and their juice, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. (I gave it a stir even though it didn’t tell me to. Just fine.) Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours, until the vegetables are tender.

Just before serving, stir in the pesto. Serves 4 to 6.

What a cozy meal! I love that the slow cooker makes a dish that it seems you’d have to slave over for much longer to produce, while you go off and sweep floors and swim with your baby and fold laundry and work on some drawings and read blogs. That’s my kind of meal. This one was particularly easy, maybe it was because I had help? My daughter supervised in the kitchen as I chopped the veggies. She tested them out and urged me not to use the eggplant, but I think it might have been hard for her to imagine that raw eggplant would turn into THIS!
A friend suggested I might serve this over quinoa, which I’ll totally try next time! This time I already had my heart set on whole wheat pasta. What I loved most about this dish is the addition of the pesto. I didn’t use traditional pesto because baby doesn’t eat nuts yet, and I wanted to share the fruits of our combined labor with her… so I made a quick batch of “pesto” by chopping to death a bunch of fresh basil, a squirt of lemon juice, a sprinkling of salt, a few tablespoons of olive oil, as well as a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast all together. I just added the ingredients in small amounts until it looked and tasted pestoliscious. Success!

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