Basil potato gnocchi with roasted exotic tomatoes

I got very excited last week about the Woolworths Exotic tomatoes that I found at my local Woolworths Food.  Not only were they incredibly pretty, but tasty as well.  I used them in my Mixed Tomato, basil and pea garden salad, which was very popular, and decided that they would also be perfect for #meatfreemonday. So, with little further ado, here is my recipe for potato gnocchi with roasted exotic tomatoes.

This recipe gives 3-4 portions:

Potato gnocchi:

3 medium to large potatoes, cooked and skins removed

1 scant cup flour, sifted

1 egg

Salt to taste

Once the potatoes are cooled, mash it very finely but do not use a blender. Add the egg and salt and mix well with a spoon.  Add the flour to the potato mixture and gently mix through (you do not want to over mix in order to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy). Once the flour has been incorporated, remove a handful, and gently role it into a sausage shape on a lightly floured surface.  Cut 1 cm pieces off the potato sausage (they should be shaped like little pillows), and lightly press with a fork.  Once you have made all the gnocchi, bring a pot of water to boil on the stove and add the gnocchi to the boiling water. As soon as the gnocchi floats to the surface, they are ready and can be removed with a slotted spoon and place in a colander in order to drain any excess water.  Set aside.

Roasted tomatoes:

1 green tomato (a specific type of tomato, not an unripe red tomato), cut into wedges

2 pink tomato, cut into wedges and halved

handful vine-ripened tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsuis.  Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a roasting tray.  Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until done.  Remove for the oven and set aside.

Dish assembly:

2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

cooked gnocchi

roasted tomatoes

Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan.  Add the gnocchi, and fry for 3-5 minutes. Add the basil and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Remove form the heat, and add the tomatoes. Toss lightly and serve. I served my gnocchi with freshly grated parmesan.

Mixed tomato, basil and pea garden salad

O, Woolworths, how I love thee! I went to Woolworths Food this past weekend in search of something (I can’t even remember what!) when I discovered boxes and boxes of the most beautiful, mixed tomatoes.  I love tomatoes-they form the base of most salads and sauces and are so versatile that they can be served up from anything like a sweet jam to a savoury sauce or tart.

You can thus imagine my joy at purchasing a box of vine-ripened tomatoes, tiger-stripe tomatoes and yellow, green and pink tomatoes, each perfectly shaped and flawless. I immediately decided to continue celebrating summer with a tomato, basil and pea salad, with fresh mixed lettuce and basil from my garden. The end result was delicious- the sweetness of the tomato was complimented very well with the fresh basil (one of my favourite combinations) and off set by the acidity of the balsamic vinegar.

This recipe gives 3-4 large portions:

1 cup frozen peas, blanched and cooled

a large bunch of lettuce such as Boston, Romaine, Green and Red leaf lettuce

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced and halved

1 cup, quartered or halved Tiger stripe and vine ripened tomatoes, tossed in salt and allowed to rest for 15 minutes

5-6 leafs fresh basil, finely chopped

3-4 sprigs chives, finely chopped

Parmesan shavings for garnish

Basil vinaigrette:

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

50 ml good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons, fresh, finely chopped basil

Arrange the lettuce in a large bowl and add the peas and cucumber.  Poor off any water that formed after tossing the tomatoes with salt, and add to the lettuce. Add the chives and basil, and toss lightly.  Add the parmesan shavings and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Layered lentil and creamy spinach bake- a delicious low carb veggie dish

As I was whipping up a storm in the kitchen yesterday, I realised that most of my recipes tend to be developed from scratch-i.e. what’s in the cupboard/fridge/garden?  I have also started reading up on the so-called “Banting” diet, which promotes a very low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) lifestyle.  This diet is being promoted quite widely in South Africa at the moment, especially by Prof. Tim Noakes, who is a well-known sport scientist.  I am not going to give an opinion about the LCHF diet specifically, but a quick search of peer-reviewed journal articles shows that a low-carbohydrate diet, with either restricted or no-restriction calorie intake (Mediterranean diet; 1,2) , does result in greater weigh loss and better prognosis for blood sugar and cholesterol than a low-fat diet.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my boyfriend requested that we cut back on the carbs last year after a visit to Germany (I believed he survived on pomme frites and curry wurst).  The LCHF diet doesn’t quite fit this, because it does promote very high protein intake, and with the current cost of red meat (and even chicken) in SA, it doesn’t quite fit our pocket to dish up steaks every night.  I thus wanted to create a vegetarian (and economic) dish that fits the low-carb, high protein profile, without the high fat, and came up with this deliciously layered lentils in tomato sauce and creamy spinach dish. I replaced the white sauce with double thick Greek yoghurt (which has many health benefits of its own), and added mozzarella but this can be left out if preferred. Lentils, as I have mentioned previously, is also low G.I., very low carb, high in fibre and protein. The perfect replacement for meat!

This recipe gives 4 large portions (and I am looking forward to leftovers as lunch!)

dash olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon good-quality paprika

3 sprigs spring onion, sliced

1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme, leafs only

1 tin tomato paste (70 grams)

1 can cherry tomatoes

1 1/2 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup water

large bunch spinach (approximately 100 grams, stems removed and finely chopped)

1 cup Greek double cream yoghurt

1 1/2 cup mozzarella

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, before adding the cumin, coriander and paprika. Fry for 2 minutes before adding the lentils. Once the lentils has been added, stir well, and add the tomato paste and canned cherry tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes). Add the thyme and the water, stir, and allow to simmer over low heat for 40 minutes or until thickened, reduced and the lentils are cooked through. Add the fresh basil at the end. To keep the layers separated to a degree, you don’t want the lentils to be too saucy. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

In a separate pot, add the finely chopped spinach with a tablespoon of water, and allow to cook for 5 minutes or until completely wilted. Add the yoghurt, stir through and add 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese. Allow to cook for 5 minutes and add salt to taste.

In a square 20 cm oven proof dish, layer the lentils and spinach. I started with a layer of lentils, followed by spinach, and managed to layers, ending with the spinach on top. I covered this with the remaining mozzarella cheese and baked it at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (which lets the dish set) before serving with a side of salad.

References:

1) Brehm, B. J., Seeley, R. J., Daniels, S. R., D’Alessio, D. A. (2003) A randomized trail comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low-fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism;  http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2002-021480

2) Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., Golan, R., Fraser, D., Bolotin, A., Vardi, H., Tangi-Rozental, O., Zuk-Ramot, R., Sarusi, B., Brickner, D., Schwartz, Z., Sheiner, E., Marko, R., Katorza, E., Thiery, J., Fiedler, G. M., Blüher, M., Stumvoll, M., Stampfer, M. J. (2008) Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterreanean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359:229-241; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0708681