gnocchi in sage-browned butter sauce (with warm spinach salad).

gnocchi in sage-browned butter sauce (with warm spinach salad).

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? How convenient.

Last Wednesday was Josh’s birthday, the big 2-3. Since he had a bio chem test the next day (real cool, prof), we postponed the raging and commenced the celebrating with a low-key with a dinner at my casa. For inspiration, I did some searching on Chow.com and found my muse in a “How to Make Gnocchi” video that suggested a simple browned butter sauce infused with sage, which sounded amazing and became a perfect opportunity to use the newest addition to my balcony herb garden. Bring on the gnocchi gnight!

We made gnocchi a while back with a homemade red sauce chock-full of zesty veggies, and Josh has been hooked on the little potato pasta ever since.

I wanted to mix things up a bit, so I stopped by Central Market (oh CM, I will miss you dearly when I leave Big D for the Big Apple) and picked up some spinach gnocchi and chicken sausage with spinach and feta. Sticking with the apparent theme for the meal, I also picked up fixings to make a manly spinach salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette: baby spinach leaves, mushrooms, and walnuts. One of my favorite restos back in Columbia, Missouri (CoMO!) is Forge & Vine, and their version is incredible. I think mine would have made them proud.

For the salad, I basically followed Food Network host Alton Brown’s recipe, but cut it down for two and replaced the red wine vinegar with apple cider vinegar. I boiled two eggs beforehand and cooked three strips of bacon until crispy, reserving some of the drippings for the dressing. Reducing the heat to medium-low, I whisked in a couple tbsp.’s of the vinegar, 1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/2 tbsp. sugar, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and simmered five sliced Cremini mushrooms and 1/4 thinly sliced white onion.

Meanwhile, I washed and dried the spinach leaves, removed their stems and divided the leaves and slices of hard-boiled egg between two bowls. Once the onions were translucent, I poured the vinaigrette over the spinach and tossed the salad to cover the leaves, so they would wilt slightly.  Then we ate it up while it was still warm. Yum! (Oh, and I would have added the crumbled walnuts if I hadn’t toasted the hell out of them. Next time, friends. Next time.) I forgot to take a pic, but it turns out rather pretty… and err, manly. Grunt!

Next up: pasta time! Cooking the sausage is the longest step, so I started there, cooking them through, letting them cool on a paper towel, slicing them into disks and setting them aside. Gnocchi only takes about three minutes to cook (when they float, they’re good to go), so I started boiling salted water when the sausage looked about halfway done. I plucked about 10 to 15 leaves of sage from my new plant, rinsing and setting them aside, as well.

On medium-low heat, I melted 4 tbsp. of unsalted butter, stirring steadily until it turned a golden brown. I added minced garlic, simmering it for twenty seconds or so before adding the sage leaves, a dash of Kosher salt and ground pepper. After a couple minutes, when the sage was crispy, I tossed the gnocchi and a handful of spinach leaves in the sauce for three or four minutes, until the pasta had browned nicely. I served it with a generous amount of shredded parmesan and a mellow tempranillo. Man, oh man. Savory and delish.

And what birthday meal is complete without cake? It’s a box mix, I’ll admit, but with cream cheese frosting, carrot cake of any sort is downright orgasmic. Below is the birthday boy acting like he’s too old for candles. (You’re never too old for candles.)

All in all, a lovely meal that I was wholly proud to serve and more than pumped to devour.

What to do with those leftover ingredients? Find out next time! Hint: It starts with Q and ends in iche.

Until then,

Happy fooding to all and to all a bearable Monday!

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