Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. Soft pillows of potato dough take perfectly to light treatment- just a bit of Earth Balance and garlic, a splash of wine, maybe some fresh herbs. They also go well with tender vegetables like spinach, asparagus, fresh peas, and scallions. As a result, I usually associate gnocchi with spring. However, a dose of earthy mushrooms and brown butter will go a long way to making a spring dish seem more winter-appropriate. This is super easy to make, taking approximately 25 minutes altogether, and can easily be adjusted to suit the group you’re serving. In my case, I was cooking just for myself, but made enough for two meals.

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter
Serves 2, or one very hungry person

1/2 package gnocchi
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 generous handful criminis, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
A grind of pepper and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, or whatever your favorite salt is
1/4 lemon, and/or a splash of dry white wine

Put on a pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Meanwhile, melt the  Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and criminis. Stir occasionally, until the vegetables and Earth Balance are browning lightly. Add the gnocchi to the water once it is boiling, and be prepared to drain it as soon as the gnocchi float to the top.  As soon as the Earth Balance is a warm, golden colour and the vegetables are looking toasty, add the remaining ingredients. Drain all but 2 tbsp of cooking water from the gnocchi once it is cooked, and toss them along with the reserved water into the pan with the vegetables. Toss a few times and cook for about 2 minutes, coating the gnocchi in the sauce. Serve with a kitten, and maybe a glass of wine…

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Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini

I spent the day trying not to be too sick, trying to write my thesis, trying not to get too distracted, trying not to tear the boy to pieces in the middle of it all. There was a lot of trying. It was a trying day. Trying days call for one of two things: take-out, or pasta. In this case, it was pasta, due to the fact that I couldn’t bring Wok Box home on the bus in -17 degree weather without it freezing (not that the bus came, mind you- after standing outside in that nonsense for 30 minutes I split a cab with the other bus stop attendees.)

Rummaging through the fridge I found and almost wilted box of baby spinach that the boy abandoned (I eat the boxes of arugula, he’s in charge of the spinach) and so figured I’d do something with olive oil, spinach, garlic, spaghetti. But then, right next to the bag of leek tops waiting to become broth, I found about a third of a tub of Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I had heard of recipes for Alfredo sauce that use cream cheese before- more stable than regular Alfredo, cream cheese bases are often used in food service to reduce the risk of separating at uneven temperatures or over long wait times. I figured, how hard could it be? As it turns out, it’s ridiculously easy. Hardly even a recipe. Exactly what I needed after a day like today.

Since I refuse to have just pasta for dinner, I served it up with some frozen green and yellow beans, and made up my usual Chick’n Scallopini recipe. It’s quick, super easy, and delicious. The boy doesn’t like it, I should mention, but he dislikes most chicken-style seitan, so that’s no surprise.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini
Makes 2 servings for people who live in sub-zero climates, probably 4 elsewhere

For the pasta:

4 servings of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/3 tub Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1 teaspoon Spike, or salt alternative

Make pasta. When cooked but still firm, drain all but about 1/2 cup of cooking water. Put in back on the stove over medium-low heat, make a well in the center and add garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Put the cream cheese in over the top of the pasta teaspoon by teaspoon. Stir it all in until the water, garlic and cream cheese are blended. Add a bit more water at this time if it’s getting too dry, then add the spinach over top, and put on a lid. In about 1 minute the spinach should be starting to wilt, stir the Spike and the spinach into the pasta. Serve soon. If it gets stogy, add more water and reheat.

For the Scallopini:

1 package Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, or 4 chicken-style seitan pieces
flour for dredging
olive oil for pan-frying
1 teaspoon of Spike seasoning or salt alternative
2 teaspoon tamari
2 tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 2-inch sprig of thyme, or about 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp vegan butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil. Dredge frozen chick’n pieces through flour, and place in hot skillet. Give the pan a shake, wait a minute, then flip. It should be browning. Sprinkle Spike over, and turn once or twice more to get a bit of golden brown around the edges and crispiness all over. Remove the scallopini, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the garlic, thyme, tamari, and water, cooking two minutes, stirring up all the brown pits from the bottom of the pan. Bit-by-bit, stir the vegan butter into the sauce. Finish with the lemon and pepper, to taste. Feel free to add a bit more water if it needs to loosen up. Return scallopini to pan and quickly coat with sauce, serve over pasta with a side of steamed freezer veg… or something better, if you have it.