Battle Gnocchi. Jenny: 2, Oven: 1.

What a day.  I’m wearing real jeans for the first time in over a year (and not jeggings because they’re the only things that don’t cut off oxygen to my brain), I had a slight oven mishap, and I churned out a fabulous meal that would make my Italian relatives on Isola del Liri proud.

Ridiculous things I have done in a kitchen:

  • Set fire to two three microwaves- CHECK
  • Cut my hand open slicing an avocado- CHECK
  • Exploded a glass dish- CHECK
  • Forgot to put raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies- CHECK
  • Melted spatula and set dishtowel on fire simultaneously- CHECK
  • Used salt instead of sugar- CHECK (damn non-descript brown bags from grain bins.)

And I’d like to officially add to that list- melted blender in oven.  Yes, that’s right, folks.  Today’s cooking exploits included the sacrifice of my awesome blender to bake up some potatoes for gnocchi.  I curse you, Italian blood that wouldn’t allow me to simply nuke these things!  This is what happens when you pull a Carrie Bradshaw and store stuff in your oven:

This is a blender carcass when you’ve put it in your oven at 425, forgot you preheated because you’re deaf and can’t hear it ding. This is probably 15-20 minutes at 425.

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Any Italian who knows her gnocchi will tell you that it is practically sacrilege to microwave your potatoes.  Any farmgirl worth her salt will say the same thing.  Remember my trip to the farm in August?  I came back with enough produce to feed several families.  Some of it needed to be consumed post-haste, but then there were the gross tons of onion and potatoes, which I’ve been saving up for a special recipe.  My favorite had to be the Purple potatoes.  Look at how beautiful these are!

I scratched the skin a little so you could see the incredible color underneath!

For some odd reason, I got it in my head last night that I wanted to make ricotta to go with my gnocchi, but I’ve never made it with skim milk.  I’m all about the trial and error, so I decided to give it a shot.  The results?  Absolutely incredible.  The best part?  So freakin’ easy.  You could burn toast on a regular basis and still be qualified to make this stuff.

Fat Free Ricotta

1 Quart Skim Milk
2 Tsp distilled vinegar
pinch of salt

1.  Pour quart of milk into saucepan and heat over medium heat while whisking.  Do not boil the milk.  You simply want it to  simmer and when it starts to get little bubble along the edge like this:

Finally, a picture where my lens didn't get fogged up.

 

Turn off the heat and add the vinegar.  Do not whisk- the ricotta curds will stick to the whisk.  See?

Obviously, I did this just to demonstrate this little phenomenon. And yes, that is my blender in the background. At this point I was trying to think of some way to salvage it... *sigh*

 

3.  I waited about five minutes and during that time, I got out a very fine strainer, lined with a coffee filter and put it over a bowl to drain out the whey.  It looked like this:

I guess the coffee filter is only a small step up from paper towel. Maybe it's time for me to invest in a cheesecloth.

 

4.  Skim out the curds and place in strainer.  I let it strain for 20 minutes for firm ricotta.  I mixed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and stuck it in the fridge, fresh for my gnocchi.  It’d be absolutely delicious sans the salt with some fresh berries, too.

Note:  The yield for this wasn’t all that impressive.  I got about 3/4 cup of ricotta from a quart of milk.

Now, back to the gnocchi.  The potatoes, unaware of the blender chaos, baked up beautifully, and when cool, I sliced them in half to reveal this beauty:

I dug these out of the ground with my own two hands! I ruined a perfectly good manicure for these puppies. SOOOO worth it.

Here’s what I needed for the gnocchi:

Purple Potato Whole Wheat Gnocchi

3 Purple Potatoes (or whatever potatoes you have on hand but NOT red potatoes)
4 Tbsp Whole Wheat Flour and more to spread on your cutting board and your hands
1 egg
Salt

1.  As we’ve already discussed above, it is crucial that you bake the potatoes.  Sorry, but ancient Italian recipes don’t care if you don’t have any patience.  Poke holes so they don’t explode (i.e. you don’t pull what is affectionately called a “Jenny” in my family. This generally means you have either started a small kitchen fire or blown something up.  Either way, it’s probably not good.) and stick them in the oven at 425.  It’ll take about 30 minutes for three medium- large potatoes.

2.  When the potatoes are cooled, cut them in half and scoop out the innards.  Use either a potato ricer or mill to get your potatoes nice and smooth.  A mill or potato ricer is the best option because you will not only get a smooth potato, you will also be aerating the potato as you put it through.  That’s the key to getting nice fluffy gnocchi.  Don’t try to get all clever and put them in the food processor.  The joke will be on you when you end up with potato glue.

3.  You’re about to get nice and messy.  This next part isn’t for the neat freaks.  Crack one egg into the potatoes.  Add two Tbsp of whole wheat flour.

I LOVE the color here.

Now, rub some flour on your hands and  mix it up., but don’t knead it.  Working the dough too much will give you really dense and heavy gnocchi.  You want to  fold it on top of itself. It’s going to be really really messy and it WILL stick to your hands.   Once you’ve incorporated the first two Tbsp fully, add the next two.  The dough is going to be very sticky- this is ok.  Once you have incorporated all the flour, refrigerate (I know.  But if you had the patience to bake the potatoes when the microwave was beckoning, you can wait while the dough chills out for about 30 minutes or so.)

4.   Spread some flour on a cutting board and roll about an inch wide log of dough.  I just did mine about 6 inches long at a time.  Use a fork to take off about a half inch of dough at a time (You can make it smaller, if you’d like.  They do expand a bit in the water).  Pinch it between your fingers and use the back of a fork to put impressions in the gnocchi if you want to get fancy.

At this point I was so hungry that the aesthetics went out the window. The Italian judge would deduct artistry points, but I don't care.

5.  Drop the gnocchi in boiling water.  It’s easy to tell when it’s done- it rises to the top like ravioli.  It only takes about 4 minutes.

6.  Top with the sauce of your choice.  Enjoy!

Here’s my finished bowl.  I made a fresh cranberry and spinach sauce with fresh sage and topped with the fresh ricotta with olive oil.- Twas amazing.  The recipe for the cranberry and  spinach sauce does need a little refinement, so I’ll save that for another day.

Oooo...What's in there?

That's a helluva closeup!

Like my vintage pyrex bowl?  There’s plenty more where that came from.  I’ll show off my pyrex collection another day.  Flaunting other kitchenwares so soon just seems disrespectful to the blender.

I hope you had a wonderful day!

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About annenglish

I often think my the right side of my brain dominates- I live to create things. Color is one of the things that brings me great joy and in everything that I do, it is a theme that takes on great aesthetic importance. I am a jewelry designer, metal artist and writer (wanna-be.) During the day I work in an office, and while I like it, I spend my days dreaming about the next thing I want to make. As a result, I am the post-it queen- design ideas are always strewn about my desk, waiting for me to gather them up and take them home at the end of the day. Oh, yeah. I'm also a tremendous slob, which is unfortunate because I love to cook and washing dirty dishes is my least favorite chore to tackle. I'm a healthy food enthusiast and amateur chef. Cooking is a tremendous creative outlet for me- experimentation is my hallmark...whether it's surprising color combinations or flavor combinations.
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