cooking gnocchi of a spring day

I made this festive dish of gnocchi with garden peas for a recent cooking class...to the delight of all. And in keeping with my tradition of trying to "waste nothing," I taught them how to cook the pods and turn them into a simple delicious purée, which I learned years ago from Toni Vianello, of l'Osteria fame (that great "hole-in-the-wall" Italian restaurant in the Marais, which he unfortunately sold).

We drank a lovely bottle of Epidote (100% Sauvignon blanc) from one of my favorite winemakers in the Loire Valley, Joel Courtault, full of sparkly mineral tones and soft fruit. It was a great accompaniment.


1 kg potatoes (Charlotte, Russet, Bintje, Ditta—floury with minimum water content—not newly harvested as the sugars won't have had time to turn into starch with the result that your gnocchi will be gummy and even fall apart)
1 egg, lightly beaten
200 gr || 7 oz unbleached flour flour (T65 in France) 

800 gr || 28 oz fresh peas in their pods
6 – 8 cloves fresh spring garlic
4 -5 spring red onions
10 – 12 fresh mint leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
1 FRESH bay leaf
Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated (optional)

|||  Wash and zest the lemon. Spread the zest out on a plate to dry for 1 – 2 hours.

|||  Shuck the peas and wash the pods. Set the peas aside. Place the pods in a pan. Add cold water to almost cover, place the lid and bring to a boil then cook uncovered at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and set the cooking water aside. Pass the pods through a food mill and reserve the purée that collects under the sieve and in the bowl. Set aside—you'll be using a bit in the sauce, the rest can be seasoned with a pinch of salt, some good olive oil then warm spread on pieces of toast.

|||  Preheat the oven to 200 ˚C (400 ˚F) and bake the potatoes in their skin until easily pierced with a knife (depending on size 0 – 60 minutes). Peel while hot and pass through a ricer into a large bowl.

|||  Make a well in the center of the riced potatoes and add the beaten egg. Begin to gently mix, cutting with a wooden spatula from the edges inward, lifting as you go. The idea is not to “work” the dough, which turns it tough. Add small amounts of flour at a time, sifting it through a sieve and gently cutting it into the potatoes. The flour doesn’t need to be completely incorporated. Begin to test the dough for stickiness after having added 100 - 125 gr flour. The dough should be just shy of sticky—you don’t want it too dry. And not to worry if the first time you don't succeed...it does take a bit of getting acquainted with

|||  Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and gently gather together into a seamless ball. Cut off a small portion of the dough (a good handful), form into a seamless baby ball then gently roll into a log (2.5-cm or 1-inch diameter) on a floured surface. Cut into 1-inch long pieces. Place each gnocchi on the backside of fork tings, press your index finger slightly into the center to create a little well and either rapidly roll it toward you down the tings or pick it up along the cut edges and press it slightly to curve it. The well helps the gnocchi cook more evenly and hold the sauce. Transfer to a piece of cardboard, small cutting board or flimsy baking sheet whose surface has been generously floured. Continue with the rest of the dough. Set aside to dry for 30 – 40 minutes. At this point you can either cook them immediately or place them in the refrigerator, covered with a kitchen towel, until ready to use. They will keep for 24 hours, but best cooked up the same day.

|||  Put a large deep pan of water on to boil. When the water comes to a boil, generously salt (6 - 8 gr per liter or 1 heaping teaspoon per liter of water). When the water returns to a boil, add up to 20 – 30 gnocchi at a time (depending on the size of the pot). Gently stir the bottom so the gnocchi don’t stick to it or to each other. They are cooked when they float to the top, normally a couple minutes at most. Gently scoop them out with a slotted spoon or spider and place them on heated plates.

|||  While the water is heating, thinly slice the onions crosswise—you can add a bit of the green tops, if you wish. Just before the water comes to a boil place the peas, onions and bay leaf in a skillet. Add the pea-pod cooking water. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Drizzle in 60 ml || 4 tBsp olive oil and a couple spoonfuls of the pea purée. Cook for another minute. Add the mint leaves and give a stir then place the peas, along with a generous couple of tablespoons of the sauce around and on top the gnocchi. Garnish with a bit of grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and dried lemon zest. Give a couple three generous twists of the pepper grinder

Leave out the egg, which will require adding a bit more flour, and sprinkle your gnocchi with this almond meal garnish :

|||  Spread your leftover almond meal (from making almond milk) out on a large baking sheet. On a sunny day simply set out the sun, stirring from time to time to make sure the hot air reaches all the nooks and crannies. Count 3 – 4 hours for the meal to be completely dry. If there is no sun, place the baking sheet in the oven, preheated to 120 ˚C (250 ˚F), leaving the oven door ajar. Stir from time to time until completely dry, 3 to 4 hours. Place in a chopper or wide-bottom blender and grind into finer flour.

|||  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Add the almond meal and cook until just beginning to take on a golden hue, stirring constantly. Transfer to a bowl and season with a bit of nutritional yeast and sea salt to taste. Let cool. Will keep in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 1 week, 2 at most.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for your post of the most wonderful