Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pine Nut Gnocchi and Leek Lust

Even though the Cute Gardener's ancestors stem from places known for chow mein and sushi his cooking specialty is more rooted in that country shaped like a boot. When we first met I was a little overwhelmed when I looked into his cupboards and saw thirty boxes of pasta in every shape and form. Was he one of those weird people who collected dried food goods in preparation for doomsday? No, he was actually one of those people who eat like the Italians do, believing like Sophia Loren that a bowl of pasta a day keeps the blues away.

I was in luck!

I am still knocking on wood a year later after having been served a myriad of home cooked pasta dishes. His culinary style is denoted by its purity in which a type of pasta is married with oil, an herb, a vegetable, and some meat brought together in exquisite piles in bowls and plates that I can't help but empty - short of licking the dish. Even though I tend to not eat everything on my plate with most other meals, with his pasta dishes I tend to even go back for seconds.

The latest creation I was treated to was an Italian twist on steak and potatoes inspired by our daytime trip to the Italia Bakery and Deli in Granada Hills where we found savory and authentic sausage and pepper sandwiches, glorious home baked cannolis, perfectly dense white chocolate covered biscotti for coffee dipping and packages of plump and beautiful gnocchi.

While the gnocchi were boiling he whipped up a beautiful sauce of olive oil and pine nuts simmered down to a dense and smoky reduction.

Chopped leeks were sautéed simply providing a veggie side where every buttery bite burst with juice. I really enjoyed them in this style, as they were elevated to let their true magic shine whereas they are usually otherwise used to pump up other foods with flavor or to heft up soups conspiring with potatoes. This application was the surprise of the dinner.

A highly marbled steak, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, was fried rare to add some balance and protein to the palate.

The gnocchi was tossed with the pine nut reduction, a hearty amount of minced basil from the garden and copious amounts of Parmesan cheese. A hybrid form of a traditional meat and starch was turned upside down into a belly warming Italian comfort food meal.

The Cute Gardener’s pine nut gnocchi has replaced strozzapreti for my pasta of the moment – and believe me, those were big shoes to fill.

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