Some of you may know that I spent five years in Canberra, of which my reviews are… mixed.
Canberra is the capital of Australia, but it feels like a state capital, more akin to a place like Jefferson City, Missouri. Lots of public buildings, and a migratory flock of public servants that fly into town when Parliament is in session, and then get out as soon as possible when it is done. Sometimes they don’t even wait that long. I remember hearing once about then-PM Tony Abbott berating his party for losing a vote because a few key members had skipped out of town early on a Friday afternoon. (Might he have felt better if their reason for missing was that they were drunk on a friend’s couch…?)
Once when driving in from Sydney, I heard a heated radio argument between the ACT Minister of Tourism, and the announcer who said the city was boring. What cheek! Canberra has a big flower show, a man-made lake full of dead fish, and many other things, I assume.
In this city replete with attractions, my favorite was ALDI. Yes, the store. I loved ALDI. Those of you who grew up in the US may remember ALDI as a sort of Jimmy Carter-esque response to adversity. A place that you could “Whip Inflation Now” by shopping in a grungy purgatory of off-brands and black and white generic labels. ALDI was a store you didn’t want to be caught entering or leaving.
Ah, but the Australian ALDI! What choice, what selection! They had quite good food, really, plus surprises of the randomest sort. I bought a fire-pit at ALDI, and a few weeks later bought a chainsaw, which I would subsequently introduce as “my chainsaw that I got at ALDI.”
Well, a few months ago, the ALDI here in Ithaca closed for remodeling, emerging in this new mold from its chrysalis of scaffolding. It’s like a mini-Costco that sells Mountain Frost instead of Mountain Dew, Crispy-Os instead of Cheerios, Hamburger Assistant instead of Hamburger Helper, Open Casket-brand frozen pizza instead of Tombstone, you get the idea. Plus surprises, like this tasty Norwegian goat cheese that they got us hooked on, then stopped selling. Those monsters.
Which brings us to today’s lunch. All purchased at ALDI.
Gnocchi with kale, and all that other stuff in the title
This recipe requires three separate pans.
In the first, use a bit of olive oil to fry about two cups chopped kale over medium heat until wilted. Add 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms, 1/2 small can crushed tomatoes, 1/3 cup kalamata olives as much garlic powder as you like, and a large pinch nutmeg. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and remove from heat.
In the second, fry 1/4 cup each diced hard salami and chopped walnuts over low heat until the salami is crispy. Set these aside while you prepare the gnocchi (according to package directions, in the third pan).
When the gnocchi are cooked (this happens fast, so be ready), toss them quickly in olive oil, and combine all three pans: the sauce, the crispy salami and the gnocchi in a large bowl. Stir to combine (do this gently, since the gnocchi are very soft) and serve with a quick squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (yes, astute observer, that is mozzarella in the picture.
This is a quick and easy dish, the hardest part being washing up. The salami and crisped walnuts give the kale a salt and umami burst and add a welcome texture to the soft gnocchi.