The Simple Pleasures of Summer Dining

Avocado Basil Gnocchi with Roasted Summer Squash & Heirloom TomatoesThere is something incredibly satisfying about making a beautiful, delicious, and creative meal at home—it’s a simple pleasure of the highest order.

In honor of this week’s Kingstonist Challenge, I put on my chef’s hat and came up with a great new recipe. I’m a foodie at heart and take pride in being a pretty good cook most of the time, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Challenge accepted!

This dinner puts an emphasis on fresh local ingredients and in-season produce to achieve flavor notes that are bright and bold. It’s a fun dish to impress your next promising date, feed friends and family, or just treat yo self.

Avocado Basil Gnocchi with Roasted Summer Squash & Heirloom Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 cups of potato gnocchi, fresh or frozen
2 medium avocados, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of fresh basil
½ lemon, squeezed
3 medium summer squash, sliced at an angle
12 oz. basket of small heirloom tomatoes
3 fresh shallots, finely diced
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Montreal steak spice
Cracked sea salt
Black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash summer squash and heirloom tomatoes. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add gnocchi. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes if fresh and 12-15 minutes if frozen.
  3. While the gnocchi is boiling, sauté minced garlic over low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Combine garlic with avocado, basil, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processer. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In the same pan used for garlic, sauté shallots at a medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until almost translucent, or about 5 minutes. Combine shallots with summer squash in a shallow glass casserole dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Once the gnocchi is finished boiling, it will be fork tender and float to the top. Drain in colander, rinsing briefly, and return to pot. Add creamy avocado basil sauce to gnocchi, making sure each piece is well-coated. Cover with lid and keep warm.
  6. Select a handful of heirloom tomatoes and cut into halves, but leave the majority whole. Remove casserole dish from the oven and add tomato medley to summer squash, mixing well. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and about one teaspoon of Montreal steak spice. Continue roasting vegetables together for another 20 minutes.

Plate, serve, and enjoy. Serves 3-4. Goes well with most crisp white wines or a citrus liqueur like limoncello on ice.

The best thing about this meal, beyond its seasonal taste and feel, is its flexibility and effortless panache. As is, it’s swift to make and vegan-friendly. Also handsome! C’mon, just look at that plate.

If you have any gluten sensitivities, opt for a gluten-free variety of gnocchi. If you love cheese, then garnish gnocchi with a little bit of aged parmesan, or pair this as a main with a warm flatbread and baked goat cheese appetizer to start. Want to up your protein intake? Add pan-grilled chicken breasts and top with toasted almonds. Barbequed basa with a dry spice rub would also work quite nicely.

In other words: delightful but easy to modify. My favorite meals tend to be crowd-pleasers like this, where diverse palates are satisfied and there’s something for everyone. Happy cooking!

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