Thursday, October 28, 2010
Sage Ricotta Gnocchi
Nearly 10 years ago, Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café popularized the idea of gnocchi made with ricotta cheese instead of potatoes. This version uses a tofu ricotta mixture, which yields light, tender gnocchi which hold together without fail. Having tried both, I can honestly say the vegan version is comparably good (if not better!) than its dairy counterpart.
I'm so pleased to share it as a comforting, seasonal meal, and hope it will become a regular in your home, as it has in mine. Vary the herbs, skip the squash and toss with tomato sauce or pesto, top with sauteed vegetables...whatever you like.
The gnocchi and squash can also be made in advance: Simply freeze the uncooked dumplings in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag. To prepare, boil as directed straight from the freezer. Follow the directions below for cooking: wait for the gnocchi to float—this may take an additional 2 or so minutes—then cook 1 minute more. Continue as directed.
Sage Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Squash Mash
4 entrée servings
For the Gnocchi:
16 ounces extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves (about ¼ cup whole leaves)
additional flour, for dredging
For the Mash:
2 pounds hard winter squash (butternut, delicata, and kobocha are good choices)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh sage leaves
Ground black pepper
Make the gnocchi: in a food processor, combine tofu, fresh lemon juice, zest, garlic, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and oil until fairly smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in flour and sage. Cover the dough, and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to shape the dough, line a baking sheet with waxed paper, or dust liberally with flour. Set aside. Pinch off thumb-sized bits of ricotta dough, and gently roll into a ball between the palms. Using your thumb and forefinger, roll the dumpling over the tines of a fork, pressing to make an indentation, then allowing it to drop onto the prepared baking sheet below. Flick it gently to turn and coat with a bit more flour. Repeat with remaining dough; you’ll have 40-50 gnocchi. Transfer baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill for at least an hour and up to a day.
Make the mash: Heat oven to 400ºF. Halve squash, and scoop seeds from the center; reserve for garnish. Cut squash into several pieces, and toss with 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and black pepper. Place cut side up on a baking sheet, and bake 40-45 minutes, turning several times for even roasting. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle, then scrape flesh into a medium bowl. Set aside. Reduce oven to 350°F to roast squash seeds.
Meanwhile, rinse seeds and pat dry. Toss with a generous pinch of sea salt and a few drops of olive oil to coat. Roast in the 350°F oven until lightly golden, 12-15 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a very large pot of salted water to a boil. Your water should be quite salty, like the ocean. Have the gnocchi at hand, along with a colander in which to drain it. Leave it all to wait for a moment while you finish the squash.
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and sauté garlic for 1 minute. Add reserved squash, remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook, mashing with the back of a spoon, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the squash has the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Remove from heat, and cover until ready to serve. The mash can be prepared up to a day in advance and reheated over low heat before serving.
To cook the gnocchi, gently drop the dumplings into the boiling pot. Cook until they begin to float, 3-5 minutes, then cook for one minute more. Drain, and leave in the strainer while you get on with assembling the dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Toss in whole sage leaves and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Add drained gnocchi to the skillet and gently toss to coat with oil.
Divide gnocchi evenly among 4 plates. Place a large dollop of mashed squash over each portion, and top with fried sage and toasted squash seeds. Serve immediately.