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

To Serve:
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.

To serve:
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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Z, born in water October 17th, into his Papa's hands.

We're all enjoying him in these early, wonderful days. I'll get back to posting in a bit!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Tomato Coconut Curry

Here are some numbers for you:

5 gallons vegan spaghetti sauce
40 servings Tomato Coconut Curry
45 servings Posole Verde
2 dozen raw cacao brownies
4 cups crumble for Orange Rosemary Salads
1 pint Agave Mustard Poppyseed Dressing
1 pound kale chips (made from Simple Kale Salad)
2 pounds raw flax crackers

These are the things I've prepared and frozen or tucked away for after this baby arrives. It's a lot of food, yes. But in times like this--whether you've just had a baby, or are facing surgery, or working nonstop on a Master's thesis--cooking is the last thing you want to do.

Instead of facing piles of empty takeout containers (which is really a depressing image, isn't it?), or settling for packaged convenience foods, try making things from scratch in advance. A few evenings of prep, and you'll be rewarded with a freezer and pantry full of healthy, cost effective comfort.

Today's soup comes together so quickly, and pairs wonderfully with everything from salads to grilled cashew cheese sandwiches. I multiplied the amount listed below by ten for post-baby meals, but don't worry; it's perfectly good if you only stir together a single recipe.

Tomato Coconut Curry
4 servings
If you have leftover cooked vegetables like broccoli or carrots, chop finely and add with the tomatoes.

Fire roasted tomatoes are excellent here. Be sure to purchase crushed, rather than ground or diced, as this alters flavor and texture significantly.

1 teaspoon olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, roasted if available
1 cup water
½ cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
dash cayenne

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot. The soup can be made several days ahead and easily reheated.

To freeze for longer storage, I simply allow the soup to cool, then transfer to 1-gallon freezer bags. Glass jars (leave a little room at the top) are also excellent vessels for this.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Eating for Pregnancy

Me, eight months pregnant. One of several gratuitous belly shots because I haven't got any decent food ones today. Photo by Art Heffron.

I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy, and having such an easy time of it. I don't know if it's some odd blessing, or good nutrition, or being too preoccupied by another child to notice anything else, but I'm very grateful this has been my experience.

Good nutrition has certainly been part of it. While I'll happily eat the occasional pancake or portabella burger, this pregnancy has been very high raw since around the halfway point. Most days I eat lots, and have no trouble getting enough calories or nutrients. Here's an example of what I might have over the course of a day:
  • Smoothie: 2 cups pineapple, 2 cups strawberries, and the insides of 4 oranges
  • 6-8 cups Simple Kale Salad (see below)
  • 2 servings Vanilla Almond Smoothie (see below)
  • 10-12 cups Orange Rosemary Salad
  • Larabar (or other raw bar), a few pieces of licorice, or some chocolate
  • 1/4 of a large watermelon, sprinkled with sea salt

I might also have some DHA flax oil, a raw prenatal vitamin, or a vegan probiotic. To stay hydrated, I drink plenty of pregnancy tea, chia seeds with fresh orange juice, or water with lime and mint.

Some other things I've been enjoying lately:

Simple Kale Salad. When I first started massaging this salad together, I'd eat two pounds of it in one sitting. My ridiculous consumption of greens has waned a bit, but the salad is still in heavy rotation. One of the most interesting things about this pregnancy has been listening to my body's cues and discovering that I'm genuinely eating what my body needs. Some vegetarians crave protein and translate it as "steak," but it's exciting to crave protein and immediately think "greens," which are a more available source of protein-building amino acids anyway.

Simple Kale Salad
10-12 cups
The salad can also be made into crunchy, cheesy kale chips: simply cut kale into 2" x 2" pieces, massage everything together as directed, and dehydrate (or dry in an oven on low heat) until very crisp. Store in an airtight container.

2 large bunches kale (about 1 pound)
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 1/2-2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Thoroughly rinse kale leaves, and trim the stems, if you like (I prefer to keep them intact). Chop roughly into 1" pieces, and transfer to the largest bowl you have. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and sea salt, and massage well with clean hands. Add olive oil and nutritional yeast, and massage again. The salad will take on a slightly creamy cast; keep massaging until it feels silky in your hands.

The salad can be eaten right away, but for best results, allow to sit, at room temperature, for at least 20 minutes before serving. Eat as it is, or add to wraps, mound it on raw crackers, or use as part of composed salads. The kale keeps excellently for several days, refrigerated.

And for a different sort of kale salad full of avocado and Asian-inspired flavors, try this one.

Juices. I've always preferred green smoothies to green juices, but I'm really enjoying lighter, sweeter juices made in my Green Star juicer these days. My favorite blend is pineapple, carrot, cucumber, celery, apple, lime, and cilantro, sometimes with a bit of jalapeno tossed in.

Substantial smoothies. I find myself wanting lots of fat lately, and instead of digging into a bag of potato chips (which isn't necessarily a bad thing; I just want my food to pack the biggest nutritional punch possible), I blend up a heavy and satisfying smoothie. This one has been a favorite for the past few weeks.

Vanilla Almond Smoothie
2 servings
If you have a high speed blender, toss in the whole 1" section of vanilla bean, pod and all; the machine will blend it perfectly, and the exterior adds even more vanilla flavor.

Using fresh young coconut water in place of the water makes this beyond delicious.

2 frozen bananas
8 Halawi dates, pitted, or 6 Medjools
2 heaping tablespoons almond butter (toasted or raw)
2 cups water or young coconut water (not coconut milk)
seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean, or 1" of vanilla bean
2-3 cups ice

Blend everything until completely smooth. Drink right away.

And finally, simple, heavy foods. Step aside, sauerkraut, tangy fruit, and assertive salads; I want comforting stuff, like bananas, root vegetables, avocadoes, and coconut. Part of it is the changing season, when heavier foods ground the body, and extra fats compensate for the weather's drying effects on skin and hair. It's also convenient as a woman nears labor, when knowing exactly what you want keeps things you can tackle that 200-item To Do list.

This pregnancy has been great: plenty of energy, my body feels great, and I've stayed active with swimming and yoga. I've had none of the usual maladies that pregnant women experience, like swelling, back pain, or heartburn. And all that energy is being put to good use; I'm renovating several rooms in my house, finalizing the details of my cookbook, and running around relishing the last bits of my daughter's only-childness.

I'm also getting ready for all the usual baby stuff: birth, breastfeeding, ECing/cloth diapering, baby wearing, and seeing a sweet baby doze next to me. It's going to be an adventure, and I can't wait...well, maybe until I can check a few more things off that list.