Showing posts with label gnocchi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gnocchi. Show all posts

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beet Gnocchi with Walnut-Sage Butter

I’m playing with fire. With two posts in a row about beets, I could forever lose any blog readers who are serious beet haters. But, wait. Even if you’ve disliked the flavor of beets in the past, you won’t really taste their earthiness here. They’re transformed into lovely ricotta gnocchi with parmigiano reggiano in the dough as well. And, they’re sauced with browned butter and crispy sage leaves, and topped with toasted walnuts. Of course, I have to mention that color. That pretty reddish-purple alone could help convince anyone to give these a try. I still have a little fear of making potato gnocchi although I did try it once, but ricotta gnocchi are somehow less daunting. The dough was mixed easily enough, divided into pieces that were rolled into ropes, and gnocchi were cut from the lengths. The recipe is from last April’s issue of Food and Wine magazine, and it’s available online. I’m always trying to bring beet haters around to fandom, and these gnocchi could finally do it. 

The beets need to be roasted and allowed to cool before they can be pureed for the dough. I did that step a day in advance. The skin slips right off the beets after they’ve been roasted. Then, I trimmed the ends, chopped them into big chunks and refrigerated them until the next day. The beet chunks were pureed in a food processor until smooth. That puree was combined with ricotta, an egg, some salt, and grated parmigiano reggiano in a stand mixer. After mixing to combine, flour was added and incorporated. The dough was kneaded to smooth it a bit, and then it was wrapped in plastic and left to rest for about 30 minutes. The rested dough was divided into pieces that were each rolled into a rope. One half inch pieces were cut from the ropes of dough and placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet that had been dusted with flour. A second baking sheet was drizzled with oil, and water was brought to a boil in a wide pot. I only cooked enough gnocchi for one meal and placed the rest in the freezer. To cook them, they’re placed in boiling water but not too many at a time. There should be plenty of room for them to move around in the water. They’ll rise to the surface and then should be cooked for another minute or so. They’re then transferred with a slotted spoon to the oiled baking sheet. The oil is important because without it, they would stick. The last step is to brown some butter and crisp some sage leaves in it. Lemon juice was added to the butter and sage before the cooked gnocchi were tossed with the sauce. The dish was plated with toasted walnuts and more parmesan on top. 

The brown butter, sage, walnuts, and hint of lemon were perfectly matched with the gnocchi. I crisped some extra sage leaves because I always want more of them. I would definitely serve the extra gnocchi from the freezer in the exact same way again, but I might try adding some gorgonzola crumbles too. I also might try inviting some friends over who think they don’t like beets. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gnocchi with Pesto

There are some things that I am completely afraid to attempt to cook, but as of last week, there is one less of those things. Since forever, I was terrified of gnocchi, and it had nothing to do with the process of making the dough and cutting the pieces. I was afraid of the result. I remember an episode of Top Chef in which someone, and now I can’t remember who it was, made gnocchi. One of the judges, can’t remember which judge either, held one little dumpling on a fork above his plate and let it drop. It thudded to the plate like a heavy ball of paste. That’s what frightened me. If I was going to cook potatoes, rice them, make dough, cut it into little pieces, boil them, and make some kind of sauce for them, I wanted them to be light and pillowy and delicious. So, for my first foray into gnocchidom, I gathered several sources of information and learned that every cook seems to have a different opinion about what makes perfect gnocchi. Marcella, in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, recommends boiling potatoes, and she boils them, skins them, and purees them in a food mill. Mario, in Malto Italiano, uses russet potatoes instead, but he also boils them, skins them, and purees them in a food mill. Anne Burrell, who calls her recipe "Light as a Cloud Gnocchi," uses russet potatoes, bakes them, skins them, and purees them in a food mill. Last, I had the good fortune to watch David Bull make gnocchi right in front of me at a Central Market cooking class that I attended earlier this summer, and his potato choice and cooking method were the same as Anne Burrell’s. So, three of them used russet potatoes, and it was split two to two for boiling vs baking. I nervously looked from one recipe to the next, comparing notes, biting my nails, and finally jumped in and made my first batch of gnocchi.

It killed me a little to ignore Marcella’s advice, but russet potatoes seemed like the fluffier choice, so that’s what I used. And, again, since baking seems to produce a fluffier cooked potato than boiling, I ignored Marcella and Mario and baked rather than boiled. I don’t own a food mill, so I used a ricer to smoosh the cooked potatoes. Then there are the eggs, if you’re adding eggs that is. Marcella recommends that you don’t, but everyone else was for eggs. Marcella explains that gnocchi from the Veneto are cloud-light and are made with no eggs. She goes on to say that gnocchi dough with eggs is easier to handle but can easily become rubbery. For my first time with this, I felt like I needed eggs if this was going to become a dough, so to the four big, riced potatoes, I added two eggs. David Bull used semolina flour while everyone else added all-purpose flour. I used all-purpose. You should start with half the suggested flour and work in the rest as needed. Two other last ingredients were parmigiano which Anne Burell added and I didn't and chopped chives which David Bull added to his dough and so did I. Everyone says to knead the dough gently and don’t over mix it. Anne Burrell leaves all the ingredients on a board and folds in the eggs and flour with a bench scraper. That seemed like a good idea, so I did that. Last, when you have a cohesive dough, you break off pieces, roll them into ropes, and cut the ropes into gnocchi. You can leave them like that or roll them on the back of a fork or along a cute gnocchi board to make grooves in them. You press with your finger as you roll so each piece has a dent one side and ridges on the other. I have to explain that I bought the cute gnocchi board months ago as a way of convincing myself to make gnocchi. It worked eventually. Once you have your finished gnocchi, you can cook them immediately or freeze them. I left mine in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before boiling, draining, and adding sauce.

For the sauce, I went back to Marcella and followed her instructions precisely for basil pesto. It’s pretty much what you would expect for pesto except that she adds three tablespoons of softened butter after she stirs in the cheese. It was a lovely pesto. She recommends it as one of the best sauces for potato gnocchi, and I’m a believer now too. In an attempt at balancing the meal, I sauteed some sliced summer squash and mixed that with the boiled gnocchi before topping it all with pesto. After all of that, was there a thud when a piece was dropped onto a plate? No, believe it or not, they were truly tender and delicate although not quite perfectly formed. I actually wondered if I didn’t knead the dough quite enough. I’ll work on that next time, since there will definitely be a next time, and I might even try boiling the potatoes and not adding eggs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Soup of Wild Greens with Gnocchi and Prosciutto or Pesto

I know how this looks. I really do. I hesitated to even post this at all, but I went for it in honor of Earth Day for lack of a better reason. Yes, that is a bowl of green goo. It’s something you might find on the Land of the Lost studio floor after a Sleestak scene. Did you know the movie version is coming out in June? I just discovered that fact as I looked for a link to explain Sleestak, and now I can’t wait for June. So, let me explain this soup. We’ve been getting some fresh and gorgeous spring greens from our Hands of the Earth CSA, and yesterday was a pick up day, and I found this recipe, and it sounded good to me. HOE has grown some really beautiful beets, and they deliver them with their perfect greens intact. I’m not sure that beet greens get used very often. Beets sold in grocery stores often have the greens removed, or they’re a little dried out and less than appetizing. Yesterday, Earth Day, the beet greens were pristine, so I cut them off to use them and saved the beets for later. We also received some braising greens including little collard and kale leaves. I was thrilled to use every bit of what we received as best we could, and the trimmings went into the compost as usual. And, that is how to throw an Earth Day party: eat all your greens and make compost.

If I haven’t driven you off yet, let me mention the book in which I found this soup. It’s from Potager: Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style. Potager, or kitchen garden, cooking is necessarily seasonal. The author, Georgeanne Brennan, founded Le Marche which is a seed company specializing in unusual vegetables. This book encourages home gardening or finding fresh, local ingredients. The book is sectioned according to season and offers a range of simple but interesting dishes. There’s a savory bread pudding with asparagus and fontina that I have bookmarked, and for summer, rosemary pizzas and charred eggplant sandwiches with aioli sound amazing. This soup was very easy to prepare, and I hope I can convince you to consider trying it. Two pounds of greens were cleaned and roughly chopped and then sauteed with onion in olive oil. Once the greens were limp, they were added with their juices to a blender pitcher with a half cup of vegetable broth. This was pureed and returned to a large saucepan. An additional cup and a half of broth was stirred into the puree. Meanwhile, store-bought gnocchi were boiled separately. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, add gnocchi, top with grated pecorino and sliced prosciutto if you like.

Kurt’s bowl had some prosciutto, but I went a different way with mine. I made a quick cilantro pesto, with cilantro also from HOE, using almonds, garlic, and olive oil. I spooned a bit of this on top of the gnocchi. For both bowls, I sprinkled on some piment d’esplette for color and spice. I know you might not believe this, but it was really good. It was very fresh tasting, and the gnocchi were the perfect addition to the soup. The cheese instantly melted into the top surface, which added to the murky look, but also added a nice salty edge. Grow some greens, or find really fresh ones at a farmers’ market, and make a pureed greens soup with gnocchi because it actually is more delicious than it looks.

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