The daffodils are starting to pop their heads up out of the cold and hard winter ground, which can only mean one thing, spring is right around the corner. And, spring in the Pacific Northwest means spinach season.
Well, really, most of the year is spinach season in the Pacific Northwest. Spinach is a hearty, cold weather loving crop that is ready to harvest very quickly. You’ll be harvesting your spinach 25-60 days after planting it. And, spinach loves temperatures 35°-75° so as soon as your risk of frost has passed, you can start planting spinach.
Spinach does have a tendency to bolt in warmer temperatures, so if you are planting later in the season, or you simply live in a warmer climate, you can look for slow-bolting varieties, like this Seaside Spinach variety. Since spinach grows so quickly you can extend your spinach season by succession planting. Succession planting is planting a new row of spinach every couple weeks so you can extend your harvest by always having new spinach popping up. You can keep this up as long as your temperatures stay in that 35°-75° window, which here in the Pacific Northwest is almost the entire year.
Since I am on a spring high, and spinach is now in season, I decided I wanted a heart warming soup full of fresh, healthy, delicious vegetables, while still being hearty and filling. I had frozen tomatoes in the freezer from last summer that were calling to be used. So I decided on a spinach gnocchi soup with a creamy tomato base and charred carrots.
Making gnocchi looks much harder and more involved than it actually is. And, the results of homemade gnocchi are so much better than store bought. Homemade gnocchi is more pillowy and soft compared to store bought. However, if you are in a pinch, store bought gnocchi will do just fine for the spinach and vegetable soup.
I also had frozen homemade beef bone broth. Like gnocchi, making your own broths or stock is incredibly simple, and the results are much better than store bought. You can control the sodium levels for one, store bought broths and stocks have a shocking amount of sodium in them. And, the depth of flavor in homemade is vastly superior. Not to mention getting the added health benefits from making your own. The collagen you get from homemade bone broth is wonderful for your skin and healing. Plus, when you can make it in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, it makes what used to be a long process, quick and easy. Again though, if you don’t have homemade on hand, you can substitute with store bought.
Russet Potato: 3-10
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Hearty tomato based gnocchi soup with fresh early spring spinach and charred carrots.
1 lb russet potatoes
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 onion diced
splash of oil
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 tbs red pepper flakes (or more)
3–4 cups pureed tomatoes
4 cups bone broth
3 carrots sliced
2 heaping handfuls of spinach (or more)
squeeze of fresh lemon (about 1-2 tbs)
1/2 cup half n half
To make gnocchi, boil potatoes until cooked through. Mash potatoes, and set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, add flour, egg and salt to potatoes and combine. Form potato mixture into a rope and cut into 1″ pieces. Using the back side of a fork, roll gnocchi to form small grooves. Boil water. In batches boil gnocchi in water for 2 minutes.
In a large stockpot on medium heat cook diced onions with splash of oil until they start to turn translucent. Toss in garlic and red pepper flakes until they become fragrant and start to toast about 1 minute. Then add pureed tomatoes and bone broth, turning heat to high. Once soup begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
While soup is simmering, in a cast iron skillet, add sliced carrots in a single layer on medium high heat. Let them cook without moving them until they are charred, about 3 minutes per side.
When soup is done simmering, turn off heat, add spinach, stirring until wilted. Add half n half, gnocchi, carrots, and squeeze of lemon, stir, serve and enjoy!