Brown Butter Gnocchi with Chinese Broccoli and Portobello Mushrooms is a quick meal that can be made on a weeknight or served for a dinner party. It has a rich, nutty flavor that’s brightened up with fresh broccoli and a squirt of lemon juice.
For the last couple of weeks my husband and I have been enjoying a ton of fresh produce in our CSA.
We’ve been getting lettuce, radish, turnips, cabbage, bok choy, kohlrabi, onions, several kinds of kale, zucchini and more. Seriously, it’s almost more veg than we can eat in a week – and we are happy to eat a ton of veg.
Invariably, I end up making omelettes a couple of times just to use up some of those greens! Omelettes are an awesome and easy weeknight meal solution. Thankfully, recent studies have illuminated the myriad health benefits of eggs. I’m pleased eggs broke free of their bad-for-you stigma and that scientific understanding has rightfully restored them as a nutritional powerhouse. Because an egg makes such a satisfying meal, and is a fabulous source of protein for vegetarians like myself.
I can pack an omelettes full of veg, too, and paired with a small green salad they are a very calorie conscious weeknight meal choice. They can also be made in minutes, which is all of the bonus points in my opinion!
But I digress.
We were talking CSA. And one of the things I like best about my CSA, is the little surprises. And Chinese Broccoli, or Gai Lan, was one of those this year.
To CSA or Not to CSA
I wanted to pause your regularly scheduled Brown Butter Gnocchi and Chinese Broccoli with Portobello Mushrooms programming to talk about CSAs. I feel like they were much mroe popular a few years ago, before the bounty of farmer’s markets came to every city near you.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the farmer’s market. Visiting the farmer’s market each weekend with my family is the highlight of my week. Seriously – even if we don’t buy anything (ha! Like that’s ever happened!) I love to meander the rows, admiring produce, and dreaming of different dishes I can make – like this Berry Brioche French Toast.
But I also love my CSA.
I love knowing that a local farmer and I are helping each other out. Also, I love knowing that he’s curating fresh veg for us each week. I love that he also throws us a few extras. Perhaps most especially, I love that his chickens are happy and I can get a fresh batch of happy chicken eggs from him every week.
The All Fruit CSA Fail
Not all CSAs are so generous. We actually took part in an all fruit CSA last summer as well that was disappointing. Though the CSA promised loads of different kinds of fruit, they frequently only doled out what they had a surplus of on hand. For much of the summer, it seemed, this was blueberries.
I LOVE blueberries, so it wasn’t the end of the world. I made scones and jam and pancakes and more. But it was both sad and frustrating to see their table at the sunny summer market laden with bright melons, soft hued cherries, tiny bubble like grapes and more – and not to get any of those.
To me, it defied the point of the CSA.
I think the CSA customers – those that sign on before shoots even breach the soil, are the people you want to take care of on an ongoing basis. Theoretically, they are invested in your farm’s success. After all, you pay for a CSA UP FRONT. You’re in it to win it whether the locusts come and destroy the crop or not.
So you want to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Theoretically, the farm is trying to keep your support. But that CSA did not seem to share that opinion.
Even when peaches came in, we had to wait two weeks before that particular CSA gave us a bag. And then when peaches REALLY came in, we were given bags and bags of peaches and nothing else sometimes.
Our Crooked Road Farm CSA though is the opposite. Johnny, who runs it, is more than generous. He often lets us choose from a bit of extra zucchini or cabbage or some such veg. But I encourage you to check out what’s in your area. And frankly, like with us, it may take a bit of trial and error.
Start a dialogue with the farm. Ask them what’s normally in a CSA share. If they focus heavily on beets in July, and you can’t stand the sight of beets, find one that focuses on eggplant!
The point is, there are a lot of CSAs to choose from, and it’s a lot of fun to try and guess what will be in your share each week. Plus, I know where our fresh produce is coming from for the majority of the year!
And this means I can always be cooking seasonally.
With fresh ingredients. With fresh ingredients grown right across town from my family.
This makes me happy.
A Broccoli by Any Other Name Might be Turnip
Now, back to the Chinese Broccoli dish that started this whole thing!
If you’re interested, you might want to check out this article on The Kitchn, by Kelli Foster, which talks about the difference between broccoli, Chinese Broccoli, and Broccoli Rabe. Chinese broccoli is, according to Foster, “Widely eaten in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisine, Chinese broccoli has a slightly bitter and earthy taste, and is best after a quick steam or sauté, or in a stir-fry.”
Foster goes on to say that broccoli and Chinese broccoli are close kin, but broccoli rabe is actually “closely related to the turnip.” Who knew?
If you’ve never had Chinese Broccoli, also known as Gai Lan, it is a pretty special plant because the entire thing is edible. The leaves, the stems, and the florets – even the flowers. Chinese Broccoli, like regular broccoli, has a close kinship with cabbage, and this is part of what makes it a powerhouse green.
Because of this I wanted to do something where I could use the whole plant.
I love when you can use the whole plant don’t you?
But if you prefer to use regular broccoli, or the excommunicated cousin broccoli rabe in this recipe, you can. I would opt for broccoli rabe so that you can maintain some of the pretty appeal you get with the leaves.
A Brief Moment to Consider the Butter that Is Browned
Brown butter, or clarified butter, or beurre noisette if you want to get French and fancy – is one of the easiest things to make. This is a secret you don’t need to share, though, because a little brown butter can take a dish from ordinary to extraordinary in just a splash.
Seriously, think of a teaspoon of brown butter like you do the Batmobile.
It doesn’t exactly give Batman an invincible superpower, but it’s just about as close as human invention can get, right?
And beurre noisette, or browned butter, or clarified butter, is pretty effing fabulous on everything from fish to bread. You make it by slowly heating the butter until it begins to turn a slightly nutty caramel pecan color, and then straining the sediment.
When I make it, I try to make extra so that I have a little on hand for other things – like salmon, or ciabatta toast. Or maybe I’ll lay in some fresh seafood and use the beurre noisette for dipping crab or shrimp into.
Mmmmm. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
Showcase the Greens
In the I don’t always make gnocchi, but when I do category is this dish. It really impressed my husband, and I love that, because this really was easy to throw together. I really wanted to showcase the Chinese Broccoli, because I am so in love with it.
The first time I tried the Chinese Broccoli I simply baked it much like I would asparagus. The stems have a very asparagus like taste and texture. And it really was superb. But I didn’t think that was the best preparation for this vegetable.
I really wanted to do something to show it off. And I had this gnocchi see, and I had these mushrooms, and I decided they all needed to get in a pan and hang out with some brown butter.
We actually ate this for breakfast, because food blogger life. I knew I wanted to blog about this dish, and that was the only time I had to make it. That’s also the best time for photos.
Too, I have a husband who will eat anything savory for breakfast. Anything sweet too – he’s not picky. The point is, this dish was a hit, and I think you could easily serve it for a vegetarian dinner party, or a simple weeknight meal at home.
Tell me, do you belong to a CSA? Have you ever tried Chinese Broccoli?
Brown Butter Gnocchi with Chinese Broccoli and Portobello Mushrooms
- 1 Stick Salted Butter You may use unsalted butter if that's all you have on hand, but salted really makes it sing!
- 1 Package Gnocchi, Prepared Approximately 2 cups
- 1 Bunch Chinese Broccoli May use approximately 2 cups of regular broccoli, or broccoli rabe
- 1 Cup Portobello Mushrooms, Sliced
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil for Sauteeing
- Begin by melting your butter in a sauce pan and stirring slowly. Dont let the butter boil, but keep stirring until ti turns a light brown pecan like color.
- Pour brown butter through a strainer into a bowl and set aside.
- Heat a sauce pan of water to a boil. Place gnocchi in sauce pan and boil until they float to the top, or for about 3-4 mins. Drain and set aside.
- Saute Chinese Broccoli whole. When stems begin to tenderize, add slied mushrooms, and continue sautéing until mushrooms are soft.
- Add gnocchi to pan, and toss with the broccoli and mushrooms.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of brown butter, and toss to coat.
- Serve hot.
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