baked gnocchi with spinach & prosciutto

i fancy myself as more of a baker than a cook. mincing onions and garlic and searing meat will never have the same appeal as crumbling streusel topping over cake batter or swirling chocolate and cream together to make ganache. i don’t like eyeballing amounts and adding salt to taste nearly as much as i love teaspoons and tablespoons and cups and very precise directions.

 


but if there is a class of savory dishes that i take pleasure in making, it’s those of the bake-until-browned-and-bubbly sort. i guess that makes me a casserole kind of girl – though this one is no ordinary casserole.

it comes from a little booklet of recipes that came free with a magazine i bought when i went to australia. three months it had sat unnoticed, tucked among some other magazines stacked in my bedroom, but today the cover photo caught my eye. it seemed just the thing for dinner, with a cold glass of sparkling wine.


it is unbelievably fast to assemble, and the brief time it spends under the high heat of a broiler is actually what allows for the dish’s wonderful play of textures. plump, squidgy gnocchi (a pasta made with mashed potatoes) is coated in rich mascarpone cheese; fresh tomatoes – only slightly cooked – still pop with juicy sweetness; the spinach wilts just barely in the heat and keeps its vibrant green color; and salty ribbons of prosciutto twirl throughout the dish – a perfect companion to the crust of peppered parmesan on top of everything.

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[this is just the kind of meal you could put together on a weekday work night, fit snugly between your drive home from the office and the time when friends start showing up to gather on your couch and watch a favorite tv show. (personally, i’ve been missing my weekly dose of community.)]

note: i was able to find all the ingredients at my local trader joe’s.

Baked Gnocchi with Spinach & Prosciutto
adapted from a recipe in a free supplement to
Australian Good Food, April 2010
Serves 4


17.6 oz. package gnocchi
8 oz. tub mascarpone cheese
2 to 3 oz. prosciutto, cut into strips
6 oz. baby spinach
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cook gnocchi according to directions on package. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add mascarpone to hot pasta and stir until melted.
  3. Add prosciutto, spinach, and tomatoes and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to a 6-cup capacity baking dish (that will fit in the broiler). Season with pepper and top with parmesan.
  4. Cook in broiler about 3 inches from heat source for 4 to 5 minutes, until top is golden. Serve.
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fudgy chocolate cake

aside from what is essentially a glorified bag of groceries (timtams, sweet chili sauce, golden syrup, cordial), my most treasured souvenir from my trip abroad is a glossy cooking magazine, its pages filled to the brim with australian recipes. it delights me in a way that a pair of ugg boots never could. i pinched it off the rack while in line at a woolies on our last night in surfers paradise – the store near closing, the lines long – because i recognized the picture on the front cover.

deep, dark, and cloaked in ganache, it was the chocolate cake i had made just a few weeks before. you would think one would avoid paying out a few heavy coins for a magazine with an old recipe in it, but i took it as an indication of the publication’s quality instead – because this cake was deliriously good.

the cake itself is dense and sturdy like a brownie, and just moist enough to make a cold glass of milk fairly optional. and the ganache – well, there’s nothing like the magic of dark chocolate and hot cream. you could serve the cake at room temperature, when the ganache is at its prettiest, but personally i think a thick wedge of it is best cut straight from the fridge, so the frosting is cold and firm and melts only when it hits your tongue.

below is the recipe, fine-tuned and converted to american measurements (with the help of this website). when i made it, i had also slathered a fluffy mocha icing to rest just underneath the slick of ganache. but while the fluffy texture was a happy complement, something goofy happened when i one-fifthed the recipe, so you can experiment with your own third layer as you please.

in the meantime, i will go investigate the other 153 pages of themagazine and hopefully return shortly with good news of caramel slices and anzac biscuits and sponges layered with berries and cream.

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Fudgy Chocolate Cake
converted and adapted from this recipe by Angela Nilsen
Good Food magazine, April 2004
also in
Australian Good Food, April 2010

7 oz. good quality dark chocolate, about 60% cocoa solids {I used 15 squares of a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar}
14 Tbsp. butter, cut in pieces
1 Tbsp. espresso powder
2/3 cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ½ Tbsp. cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
5 Tbsp. buttermilk

{for the ganache}
3 ½ oz. good-quality dark chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

  1. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and line the base with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the butter pieces. Dissolve the coffee granules in ½ cup of cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted – don’t overheat. (Or, melt in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring well after each interval.)
  2. While the chocolate is melting, mix the two flours, baking soda, sugars, and cocoa in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to break up any lumps.
  3. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.
  4. Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the pan and bake for 1 hour 25 to 1 hour 30 minutes – if you push a skewer in the center, it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit). Leave the cake to cool in the pan (don’t worry if it sinks slightly); then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Make the ganache: chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Pour the cream into a pan, add the sugar, and heat until it is about to boil. (Small bubbles will form around the edges.) Take off the heat and pour hot cream over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

  6. Pour the ganache over the cake, letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife. The cake keeps moist and fudgy in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.