Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Gnocchi Saga Continues

Recipes for ricotta gnocchi on the web seem even easier than potato gnocchi. Of course, not being satisfied to simply follow a recipe to the letter, I decided to violate a few "rules" others had set down.

First rule to be violated: Use fresh whole-milk ricotta and drain it overnight. I used part-skim ricotta from the supermarket and didn't drain it.

Second rule to be violated: Carefully mix the egg and ricotta by hand, adding very little or even no flour. I used the food processor and flour about equal in weight to the ricotta.

Potato gnocchi must be made without blending or processing the potatoes because to do so breaks the cell walls of the potato, setting the water loose. More water means more flour which means heavier gnocchi.

But, if careful and limited pulsing of a food processor can make pie crust, why not try it for ricotta gnocchi?

You need a fairly large food processor to make this recipe. I have a 1980s vintage model that refuses to die.

  • 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 ounces freshly grated parmesan or other grating cheese
  • Salt and white pepper to taste.
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sifted flour
  1. Quickly mix the first five ingredients in the processor.
  2. Sift 1/2 cup flour into the processor and pulse briefly on slow speed to mix.
  3. Repeat step two until the dough is stiff enough to form a ball. Use as little flour and as little pulsing as possible.
  4. Remove the dough from the processor and divide into four balls. Wrap and refrigerate briefly to help firm the dough for handling.
  5. Taking one ball from the refrigerator at a time, divide it and shape it into stubby rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter.
  6. Cut the rolls at 3/4 to 1 inch intervals and roll each piece into a ball. Shape the ball by rolling it over fork times, whisk wires, or other surface to make grooves.
Store and prepare to eat as with the potato gnocchi in the previous post.

Gnocchi on Foodista

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How to Use a Whole Bag of Potatoes

There are only the two of us, so I generally buy potatoes only as needed. Bill has been swooning for lack of mashed potatoes, which really are best made with baked russets. Summer is no time to turn on the oven for just two potatoes. If I just microwaved them one or two at a time, inevitably some poor, lost potato would end up sprouting in the bottom of the veggie bin. What could I do with a bag of 13 good-sized russet potatoes that would allow me to bake them all at once? Time for some new cooking experiments.

The web came to the rescue with many seemingly simple recipes for potato gnocchi. Gnocchi are little Italian dumplings. Like dumplings everywhere, they can be made from a variety of ingredients, a simple version using potatoes, flour, eggs and salt. The pictures of web versions can be a bit intimidating because they seem so evenly shaped. Mine might more appropriately be called "malfatti," Italian slang for poorly shaped dumplings or pasta. No matter, they were very tasty.

  • Cooked russet potatoes, still warm, skins removed.
  • 1 egg for each two medium-large potatoes
  • Enough flour to make a dough you can handle.
  • Salt to taste
Baked potatoes are drier than boiled resulting in less flour being needed to make a dough. Less flour means more potato flavor. Measurements and proportions vary with the weather, size and moisture of potatoes and eggs. I had seven biggish potatoes, 4 large eggs, and added about two-and-a-half cups of sifted flour to get a sticky dough that left the sides of the bowl.

  1. Mash or grate the potatoes by hand. Do not blend or process them. Using a blender makes the potatoes runny which would result in more flour being needed and heavier gnocchi.
  2. Mix the egg into the potatoes.
  3. Work in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough leaves the side of the bowl and can be handled.
  4. Refrigerate the dough a few minutes to stiffen it a bit and make it easier to handle.
  5. To shape the gnocchi, roll pieces of dough into snakes about 3/4 inch in diameter and cut into 3/4 inch pieces. You may then roll these pieces into balls and roll the balls across the tines of a fork, holes of a grater, or wires of a whisk to make ridges in the gnocchi that will better hold sauce.
If you are going to freeze the gnocchi, place them separated from each other on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, put them in meal-sized plastic bags.

To cook the gnocchi, whether frozen or not, bring a pot of water to a boil and gently put the gnocchi in one or two at a time. Make sure the pot is big enough that your gnocchi can poach without touching each other. At first the gnocchi will lie at the bottom of the pan. Move them gently to make sure they are not stuck. Wait until they float and then remove them from the water.

At this point, gnocchi become a wonderful canvas to be painted with sauce, pesto, butter, whatever strikes your fancy.


Gnocchi on Foodista

Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.