Monday, May 16, 2011

Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto. And Grilled Romaine. AND a Story About Kitchen Gadgets.

Today, I made Caesar salad dressing from scratch in my super awesome food processor (thanks to my mother in law for the gift!).  I realize this isn't very monumental, especially given that I'm a well-known food blogger.  But for me it is, because A) there was a period of time when I was known as a terrible, hopeless cook, and B) I've had some embarrassing logistical issues with kitchen gadgets.  I guess its possible that "B" has something to do with "A".  Or maybe just that I can tend to be a bit ditsy from time to time and attention to detail isn't my strong suit.

Anyway, the Caesar salad dressing came out perfectly (or at least that's what my husband says, but maybe he's just buttering me up for the next time he wants to play golf and leave me alone with the puppy-monster).  But it got me thinking about the last time I used a kitchen gadget to make (what I consider) an elaborate condiment.  That time was Thanksgiving, sometime around 2005.  I'll never live this one down, and my Mom and sister just LOVE to make fun of me relentlessly for my little condiment mishap.  I happen to think that this could happen to anyone and it was an innocent mistake.  You be the judge, though.

One of the best things about Thanksgiving in our household is that instead of crappy green bean casserole or that weird jelly/cranberry sauce monstrosity, our side dishes consist of things like broccoli with homemade hollandaise sauce.  This particular year I had decided that I wanted to help prepare the meal instead of just standing around drinking wine and watching, so I offered to do the hollandaise sauce.  It seemed easy enough....put some egg yolks and butter and...well, some other a blender, and blend!  So I got out the blender pitcher and set it on the counter, and go about my business of adding the ingredients in there.  Easy as pie!  So then I announce loudly that this is "the easier thing EVER", and make a grand gesture of picking up the blender pitcher in an attempt to place it on the base to do the actual blending.  Well, no one told me that there was a BOTTOM to the pitcher, and that if you don't attach it, nothing will stay in the pitcher if you pick it up.  Egg yolks and butter went EVERYWHERE.  And since I called so much attention to myself before this happened, everyone say it, and they made fun of me relentlessly about my bird-brained attempt at "cooking".  They still do.

Today when I made my Caesar dressing, I was very careful to use all of the required pieces of the food processor, and it only took me like 20 minutes to assemble the darn thing and I only lost my temper and cursed at it twice.  Progress, my friends.  Progress.  I hope my family is proud.

Either way, dinner tonight was tasty (as usual!).  I will admit that I cheated and used store-bought gnocchi AND store-bought pesto.  But I made my own Caesar dressing, so there.

Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus and Pesto
Source: The Comfort of Cooking

1/2 cup basil pesto
1 16 oz. package gnocchi
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch (about 1 lb.) asparagus, cut in 1-inch slices
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

Prepare the basil pesto (see recipe below) and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Add gnocchi to pot; cook about 3 minutes or until gnocchi rises to the top. Strain and set aside in the strainer.

In the same Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus to pan. Cook 2 minutes. Add chopped onion and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until heated through, about 3-4 minutes.

Add gnocchi and pesto to the pot, and toss until combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. If desired, grate over some fresh Parmesan.


Seared Romaine Spears with Caesar Dressing
Source: Food and Wine

1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

Light a grill. In a blender or mini food processor, blend the mayonnaise with the vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. With the machine on, gradually add 1/2 cup of the vegetable oil until the Caesar dressing is creamy. Season with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.

Lightly brush the hearts of romaine with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once or twice, until lightly charred but still crisp, about 3 minutes.

Spread half of the Caesar dressing on a large platter. Arrange the grilled hearts of romaine on top and brush with the remaining dressing. Garnish with the cheese shavings.

Oh, and we had some white wine, too.  Lola seemed interested in having some.


  1. Those romaine spears look amazing. I've gotta try that. I am with you on making your own salad dressing, I did that last night and was so proud! Every other dressing I've made before that has tasted horrible so I was scared the same thing was going to happen, but it didn't! Yay for success stories. :)

  2. Precious little Lola! How can she even be a puppy monster? Your pics are fab Ann! And thanks for adding the subscribe button :-)

  3. Hi! I found your food blog a few days ago and have been enjoying your posts. I know this is a post from last year but I like going through blogs that I enjoy from beginning to end. Anyway, I was intrigued by the Caesar Salad dressing and would like to try to make it, however, it appears that the mayo is not listed on your ingredients, only the step-by-step directions. How much mayo needs to be included in the recipe?
    Thanks, keep up the good work!

  4. Hello Anonymous poster! Thanks for pointing that out! I have fixed the recipe on the page, so others don't have the same problem you did :) Also, the amount of mayo is 1/4 cup....I used low fat, but full fat would work fine, too. Thanks for visiting!