08 August 2010

Green and Garlicky, or Non-Date Night Food

Although I normally relish cool weather--particularly in August, the notoriously hottest month of the calendar year--I am actually a little surprised that the temperatures have remained so consistently pleasant for practically the entire summer.  The coolness is likely the culprit behind the delayed proliferation of the heirloom tomato plants in my backyard, but they don't necessarily look to be struggling to survive, so I don't feel justified in complaining much about this odd weather pattern.  Instead, I am taking advantage of the unseasonably low temperatures by utilizing my stove and oven whenever it suits my cooking mood.

The other day, I decided to crank up the oven to roast a head of broccoli, with the intention of eating it as a side dish to some entree I hadn't yet devised.  I quite enjoy the flavor and texture of roasted vegetables in general, but couldn't recall whether I had applied that cooking method to broccoli.  Following my usual roasting technique--tossing the florets with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few whole garlic cloves--I let the broccoli sit in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately a half hour, until the florets were just cooked and toasty.  By then, I still had not thought of something with which to pair the roasted broccoli, which happened to be quite tasty but unsatisfying as a meal on its own.

At some point, the idea of making a pesto out of it sounded like a good idea.  I'm sure it's been done over and over again, but using a cooked ingredient in a traditionally raw sauce was a novel concept for me with which I had toyed for some time, but never actually attempted.  I decided to whip together a minimized-fat version that included raw spinach and toasted walnuts.  Due to the complete spontaneity of the project, the amounts of each ingredient are approximate.  As always, it's a fairly flexible formula; please don't hesitate to adjust to taste.

Roasted Broccoli and Spinach Pesto (printable recipe)
Yields approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

1 medium head broccoli, roasted* and cooled
1/3 c toasted walnuts
4 cloves roasted garlic (I used the garlic I roasted whole with the broccoli.)**
1 clove raw garlic, optional**

1 c fresh spinach, loosely packed
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 c vegetable broth
3 T nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper, to taste

*To roast broccoli: Cut washed head into florets.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few whole garlic cloves.  Bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, turning and flipping midway through baking time.
**Roasted garlic is sweeter and mellower than raw garlic, so I used both here for the sweetness of the former and sharpness of the latter.  Omit the raw garlic for a more subtle garlic flavor, or omit the roasted garlic and increase the raw garlic to two cloves for a more pronounced garlic flavor.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the walnuts and garlic until finely chopped.  Add the roasted broccoli, spinach, parsley, basil, nutritional yeast, and 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth and process until blended, adding enough vegetable broth to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste, blending until incorporated.  Enjoy as a sauce, dip, or spread--no additional cooking required!
As the title of this post suggests, you may want to avoid consuming this pesto when you expect to be in the company of someone you might feel inclined to impress.  Aside from including broccoli and spinach--two veggies that tend to get stuck between teeth--the amount of garlic alone should be enough to warrant some physical distance.  But hey, if that sort of thing is of no issue, perhaps you might serve it up in one of the following ways:

Pesto Rice
This was the manner in which I first ate my new batch of Roasted Broccoli and Spinach Pesto, using the leftover cooked brown rice I had on hand.  Simply reheat the brown rice (I do this by microwaving it with a sprinkle of water) and mix with your desired amount of pesto.  The resulting dish ends up being a little like a sturdier version of risotto, with much less time and patience required.
Gnocchi with Pesto
Like many carbohydrate addicts, I have a hearty fondness for bread, pasta, dumplings, and starchy vegetables.  To me, gnocchi has always been akin to something like the ultimate comfort food pasta (even though it's not pasta at all), combining potatoes with flour into a dumpling, then dressed with the sauce of choice.  I prefer to make my gnocchi from scratch, so using my last sweet potato and a shiny new potato ricer I've been dying to try, I set about the dumpling-making process.  I typically wing it when it comes to making gnocchi, but the method is quite basic.  You can probably find infinite versions online, but I'll provide what I did here anyway.  I like sweet-and-savory flavor combinations (hence the sweet potato), but a regular potato may be substituted, if preferred.

Sweet Potato Whole Wheat Gnocchi (printable recipe)
Yields 2 servings.

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped, then boiled in salted water until tender
1 flax "egg" (1 T milled flax seed mixed with 3 T warm water, until viscous)
1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour

Drain the sweet potato.  Put it through a potato ricer, or mash it well with a fork or potato masher until no large clumps remain.  Mix in the flax "egg," then add the flour, and mix until incorporated.  Divide the dough into three balls.  Roll out each ball into a snake approximately 1/2" in diameter.  Cut into 1/2" pieces, then run each piece along the tines of an overturned fork (tines down) to achieve gnocchi's trademark ridges.  Place the uncooked gnocchi on sheet covered with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour.
Drop gnocchi into boiling, salted water, and cook until the dumplings just float to the top, approximately three minutes.  Drain and toss gently with Roasted Broccoli and Spinach Pesto.  Enjoy hot.


  1. Your gnocchi look great! The secret to enjoying garlic-infused dishes with friends is to make sure everyone eats some. :D

  2. The gnocchi looks delicious - and garlic is always good...

  3. I love this gnocchi recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow! Love your blog. Going onto to my blog roll :)

  5. I have been wanting gnocchi forever!! I must... make... some...

  6. I have been wanting gnocchi forever!! I must... make... some...

  7. The gnocchi looks delicious - and garlic is always good...


Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)