Sweet Potato and Tarragon Gnocchi

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It’s been cold and rainy again and all I want to eat is soup, stew and gnocchi. So here another New World take on classic potato dumplings. They involve a little sticky work, but are so worth making. The tarragon really takes this former ‘poor people’s food’ from everyday to special occasion.They also freeze great, so make more than you need, freeze right on the sheet then store in zip top bags and cook from there when you’re ready. That way you could A) store them for a busy week night or B) make them ahead as a holiday side dish to serve with your Christmas dinner.

imageThe dough is a bit sticky, so make sure you flour the work surface well

imageready for the freezer!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • about 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 sprigs French Tarragon, leaves only, chopped

imageThey will look like little pillows ūüôā

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375, poke sweet potato with a fork and roast on a cookie sheet until soft  hen pricked with a knife, about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the sweet potato.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside.
  3. Set sweet potato aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and squish through a potato ricer into a bowl, let cool 10 more minutes (you want it to be cool to the point where the egg does not cook when you add it).
  4. Stir in the salt, tarragon leaves and the egg, then gently incorporate the flour.
  5. Set dough aside for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb some of the moisture.
  6. Then flour your work surface well, and cut off a portion of dough the size of a baseball. Gently roll into a rope, about 1 1/2″ diameter, keeping your hands floured.
  7. Using a knife, cut 1″ sections of dough from the rope and place on a ¬†prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used up.
  8. For eating right away:  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook about 8-10 gnocchi at a time until they swim to the surface, skim out using a wire mesh strainer, drain and serve.
  9. For use later: Freeze on baking sheets until gnocchi are firm, then transfer to zip top bags and store in the freezer until ready to use. Then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 5-6 gnocchi at a time, cooking less gnocchi at a time and making sure the water stays boiling, since the frozen dumplings will bring the water temperature down drastically and if the water isn’t hot enough, you risk having them fall apart.

Ideas for serving them:

  • with freshly grated Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil,
  • top with your favorite sauce,
  • bake in the oven topped with a little Parmesan cheese until slightly browned (highly recommend)
  • serve alongside roast chicken or game and don’t forget the side of cranberry or lingonberry jam!

imageCopyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Ricotta and Spinach Malfatti

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I have a secret fascination with gnocchi, or dumplings or whatever you want to call them. I think the part that really gets me is the fact that you make a sort of dough and then dump it in boiling water, AND if you do it right, it doesn’t fall apart but cooks and comes out of the water the same shape it went in. Seems crazy that should work at all, right?

                 

In the center shown with slow cooker sauce and sweet potato

Well, since we are on the topic, here’s another one I tried recently. With the fall weather setting in, I am veering over towards more substantial foods, but this one is surprisingly light and delicate, for a dumpling. It’s mostly ricotta after all! Still fascinated that they hold together in the water, although it just occurred to me, duh, that pasta is essentially dough as well, cooked in water. I guess the fact that pasta is much drier and flat never allowed me to make the connection? ūüôā Now granted these are a bit more delicate than Spaghetti, and need special precautions, but as long as you keep the water just below a serious boil, you’re good to go. And they are worth every minute spent on making them. Don’t let the long list of steps scare you off, they are much easier to make than it is to describe how to make them, seriously!

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Malfatti which translates literally as ‘ badly made’ are a regional specialty from Italy. I had first seen them on menus and tables back in Europe, then heard about them again when I started reading Robert’s blog, and his recent post on flour-less Malfatti reminded me to finally give them a try. Not flour-less, I’ll leave that for later, since that seems to require a bit more dumpling experience, I hear.

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Another thing to keep in mind before running to your kitchen: all the recipes I saw recommended draining the ricotta in a cheesecloth lined colander, in the fridge overnight, some with a weight on it. However my ricotta did not cooperate and drained nothing, so here’s my solution: When ready to make the dough, blot with several changes of paper towels, squeeze and blot several times before placing in a large bowl.

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So here’s what you need for the ‘screwed ups’ or Malfatti

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ricotta, drained in cheesecloth in the fridge overnight
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • semolina (or corn meal) for dusting so they don’t stick
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or other hard italian cheese

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Directions

  1. Drain the ricotta overnight in the fridge in a cheesecloth lined colander over a bowl or blot with several changes of paper towels, squeeze and blot several times before placing in a large bowl.
  2. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white, reserve egg white for another use, and add the yolk to the ricotta bowl.
  3. Cut the spinach leaves into a chiffonade (roll up a few at a time and slice thinly) then add with the salt to the ricotta. Stir with a fork until mixed.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the ricotta mixture and using a spatula or your fingers, gently incorporate until just coming together.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet with a non stick mat ans sprinkle with semolina.
  6. Generously flour a work surface, turn out the dough onto the surface an knead 4 to 5 times. (Do NOT overmix or the dough will get tough = not good)
  7. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce heat until just at a simmer and no big bubbly movement can be seen in the water.
  8. Using 2 teaspoons, cut a piece from the dough, shape and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.¬†Sprinkle all the Malfatti with semolina while they are ‘waiting’
  9. Gently slide dumplings into simmering water, 5 to 6 at a time and cook until they float to the surface. Scoop out using a wire skimmer and place back on the baking sheet.
  10. Preheat broiler on low and when they are all cooked, sprinkle with the Pecorino and quickly finish the Malfatti in the oven until the cheese melts, they should stay white.
  11. Serve with any sauce that makes you happy.

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© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade

Leek and Sausage Rag√Ļ

imageLate summer and the last tomatoes are picked from the garden. They are currently occupying the best part of my counter in order to go from green to a more desirable color… In the meantime the leeks are getting to the size where it’s worthwhile cooking them and even though I did not use our own tomatoes for this one, I just had to have some of the gnocchi we made the other day. And you know what? Sometimes I find the pretty red tomatoes from the garden a little too special for sauce, especially now, that there aren’t any more coming, so I am okay with using a can once in a while ūüôā

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Ingredients

  • 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage (about 2 links)
  • 3 tblsp¬†extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 leeks (white and light-green parts only), cut into rounds and rinsed well(about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • grated Parmigiano, lots (about 1 cup)

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Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic, turn the heat up slightly and cook both until golden (not brown). Add the salt and spices, stir
  2. Add the can of tomatoes and crush with a wooden spoon so the pieces break apart. Bring to a slow boil.
  3. Squeeze the sausage from its casing, ‘dispensing’ meatball sized chunks into the boiling sauce, cook until sausage is cooked through, about 5 minutes.¬†
  4. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes for flavors to blend, season with black pepper to taste and serve over potato gnocchi with lots of Parmigiano cheese.

image© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade

Potato Gnocchi

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With the cooler weather, the desire for more substantial foods comes back as well. Thicker sauces and thicker sweaters are a hand in hand occurence in this house. I crave different foods when the weather changes, and a good plate of airy and light yet filling gnocchi has never been passed off by this girl here. But when you research or ask around, it seem that short of moving to a monastery in the Italian Alps and apprenticing for a solid three years, or at least adopting an Italian ‘Nonna’ (and they are hard to come by), there is no chance that you might even come close to something edible. Light and delicate and not rubbery, dense or chewy is what I am dreaming off and honestly due to all the info and feedback, it took me a good year of just looking at my potato ricer (that was purchased with just this very task in mind) before I attempted my first batch. When I finally went for it, I could hardly believe how simple it seemed. Had I only realized that it would be so easy to make these from scratch I would have eaten them weekly. ¬†So sadly I have lived without gnocchi for quite some time, having been served lumps of what must have been an illegitimate love child of paste and rubber, I had been too scared to even try the frozen variety at the store. Anyone know if they are any good?

But taking an afternoon and making a batch of nice, homemade gnocchi, is going to give you the best result. You just have to be mindful of a couple of important points and you should have no trouble creating a lofty, delicate gnocchi!

imageMy little gnocchi factory ūüôā

Go ahead, give it a try! The important factors (from my research supplemented by my limited experience) are using a potato ricer, and just barely putting the dough together, if you knead it as many recipe’s are calling for, it will get dense due to the gluten developing inside the dough, and last but not least of course, the type of potato is important too: Russet, or another starchy variety is recommended.

imagemakes enough for about 3 meals for 2 people

Ingredients

  • about 2 lb of Russet potatoes (I used 3 big ones, might have been more than 2 lb, but that’s what most recipe’s call for)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp salt

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Directions

  1. If necessary, cut the potatoes into manageable pieces (so it fits in a pot) and cover with cold water, bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and cook, covered, until cooked and tender when tested with a knife.
  2. Drain and set aside until juts cold enough to handle, peel the potatoes, cut in half and pass them through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Set aside, uncovered to cool to almost room temperature, about 20 minutes. (They need to cool down to the point where they won’t cook the egg that will get mixed in)
  3. Slightly scramble the egg, then add to the potatoes with the salt and stir with a fork until mixed in.
  4. Add about 1 1/4 cup of flour and gently incorporate into a crumbly dough, using your hands. Make sure the flour is all moistened then press all of it together against the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Generously flour a work surface and wash your hands. Turn dough out onto floured surface and quickly knead until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft and a little tacky but feels delicate and mostly smooth. About 30 seconds to 1 minute max. (do NOT overwork or the gnocchi will be tough)image
  6. Place dough back into bowl and cover with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment and flour lightly, set aside.
  8. Lightly re-flour work surface and using a piece of dough about the size of a small orange, roll into a 3/4″ diameter roll on the floured surface, below the palms of both your hands.image
  9. With a sharp knife, cut the rope about every 3/4″so you get a little dough piece roughly 3/4″ square. Traditionally Italian Gnocchi have little ridges that are made by pushing/rolling the gnocchi over the tines of a fork, but you could just as well leave them in the ‘pillow’ shape after cutting.image
  10. Place the gnocchi in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat until you used up all the dough.
  11. If you are going to cook them within the next 2 to 3 hours, you can leave them out on the counter,otherwise place in the freezer(on the sheets) and when frozen store them in zip top bags for use anytime!
  12. To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and slide the fresh gnocchi off the parchment into the water, about 15 to 20 at a time, stir and cook for 1 minute after they float to the surface. If they are frozen, cook right from the freezer but cook less at a time as the water temperature comes down when you add frozen things and the gnocchi will end up falling apart before they cook or (not sure what’s worse) become soggy.

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© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade