By J.M. HIRSCH
In my kitchen, versatility trumps all. A recipe that isn't fussy makes it easier for me to cater not only to my tastes, but also to my schedule, lifestyle and budget.
Take this recipe for gnocchi with lobster and peas. The lobster adds a decadent splurge to an easy weekday meal. But if lobster isn't in your budget, frozen cooked shrimp or canned lump crabmeat are fine, fast and more affordable alternatives.
If you decide to go for the lobsters (this recipe calls for the meat of two small ones), have them cooked in the grocer's seafood department while you shop. This saves you time and mess, and usually is free.
Shelf-stable fresh gnocchi also are a lush choice that cook in just minutes, but any pasta would work. Cheese-filled ravioli or tortellini would be especially nice. If time is more important than money, stick with fresh pastas, which cook much faster than dry varieties.
The sauce for the pasta and seafood is made from creme fraiche, which resembles cream cheese but is softer and has a more neutral flavor. Ricotta cheese or whipped cream cheese are great, less expensive options.
GNOCCHI WITH LOBSTER AND PEAS... OR NOT
* Start to finish: 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
* What you'll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup frozen peas
16-ounce package gnocchi or other pasta
1 cup creme fraiche or ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (more or less to taste)
11/2 cups cooked lobster, shrimp or lump crabmeat (about two 1-pound lobsters, meat from the claws, tails and knuckles)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
* How to do it:
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and thyme, then saute until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the peas, stir well, then cover the skillet and reduce heat to low.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook according to package directions. Drain the gnocchi and set aside.
Uncover the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the creme fraiche or ricotta and hot sauce, tossing well until the dairy melts into a smooth sauce. Stir in the lobster or other seafood and heat until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the gnocchi to the seafood mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.