Our vegetable patch is starting to come up trumps. We just picked our first beans and tomatoes of the season and I’m so excited about having so many gorgeous ingredients just a few steps away from the kitchen. Garden-to-table cooking is my mission for the summer, using fresh veggies and herbs and serving them simply so we can appreciate their deliciousness. I recently read an interview with Alice Waters, the godmother of this approach, where she said she decided what to eat and cook each day, not by what recipe she wanted to try but by considering two questions – what she wanted to eat and what food she needed to use. Thereby eating seasonally, avoiding waste and letting our taste buds guide us. Indeed.
My children aren’t as easily convinced about the merits of eating green beans fresh from the garden as I am, but they loved watching them grow and helped pick them. I wanted to make a lunch that would ease them in to eating the beans by adding a few other things I know they love. In this case, gnocchi, goats cheese and tomatoes.
Gnocchi is a regular get out of jail card for me. It cooks in two minutes and the De Cecco brand (blue and yellow packet) sits happily in the cupboard for ages ready to rescue me. It is very child-friendly and provides just the right level of comfort for grown ups too.
Use the recipe below as a template and swap the veggies and cheese for what you like to eat. That way you can use it with whatever sounds good to you and what you have available. I already I know I’ll be making this with some quickly fried courgette (zucchini), basil, garlic and tomatoes next time. And had I not just missed asparagus season I’d have made it with that too with a few frozen peas thrown in.
Ingredients to serve 4 people for lunch (2 adults, 2 small children) or 2 adults for dinner
1 packet gnocchi
1 handful (around 25) green beans – de-string and chop into 1 inch or so lengths
1 handful cherry tomatoes or 4 big tomatoes – chopped small ones in half, big ones in chunks
1 tablespoon good olive oil
zest and juice of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper and Maldon salt
4 tablespoons soft goats cheese
Optional add ins – chopped fresh basil, chili flakes, crunchy breadcrumbs
You can pick up all the equipment I use through my shop.
1. Boil a pan of water, lid on makes it boil faster
2. While the water boils, chop green beans and tomatoes
3. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl along with the olive oil, goats cheese, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and mush together with a fork until the cheese mixes with the oil
4. Put the gnocchi and beans into the pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes before draining and tossing through the tomatoes and dressing. The heat of the gnocchi will pull the dressing within itself. Serve with a final twist of black pepper.