Yesterday I also got an enormous bunch of really meaty spinach at the Union Square so today figured I should use it while it was still fresh. Spinach is another one of those vegetables that is so much better from the farmer’s market. You can find bagged or bundled baby spinach anywhere which is great for salads but pretty much useless for cooking with. The stuff wilts if you look at it funny. When I’m cooking I want thick, mature spinach, preferably still attached to the stems. I’ve found decent fully grown spinach at stores in Chinatown but more often than not it’s not at its past it’s prime or very close. So I get excited when I find a huge bunch at the greenmarket for $3.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a stickler for locally grown. Tomatoes are supposed to be one of those things that just aren’t that good out of season but this afternoon I came across these beautiful bright red golf ball sized camparis from Arizona of all places. When I got home I cut one of them into quarters with some salt and pepper and popped them into my mouth. It tasted like a tomato should. That’s pretty much unheard of this time of the year.
So I decided to make gnocchi verdi and toss it with the campari tomatoes quickly sauteed. There are a bunch of ways to go about breaking down all the ingredients to mix together for the gnocchi but really what matters is squeezing as much water out of the spinach as possible. Last time I made this I tried chopping the spinach with a food processor but it really seems easier to do it by hand. So basically you take some cooked and very well chopped spinach, cooked and mashed potato, some flour an egg and salt and mix it all together, adding more flour until it’s a smooth and not so sticky dough. My rolling technique leaves something to be desired. Ideally you want to roll ridges on the gnocchi with the tines of a fork but it’s a little trickier with the texture of the spinach. It’s important to use lots of flour to keep them from sticking together. From there it’s into boiling water for a couple minutes until the gnocchi float. After photographing in restaurant kitchens I learned a trick for tossing pasta and sauce in a frying pan. The pasta or gnocchi goes straight from the boiling water into a frying pan with sauteed vegetables along with a splash of the pasta water. The starch in the water emulsifies the cooking fat along with all the browned bits clinging to the pan and the pasta absorbs some of the flavor of the sauce. Maybe a little cheese goes in to thicken the sauce and the whole thing tips into a pasta bowl or serving platter with a shower of more shredded aged cheese.