Sunday, May 31, 2009

Homemade gnocchi with chard, chickpeas, and tomatoes

**This is not a gluten-free recipe and was posted before I eliminated gluten from my diet. **

Homemade gnocchi with chard, chickpeas, and tomatoes, adapted from Culinary in the Desert/CountryI've been wanting to make real gnocchi for a few months, but I was somewhat worried after reading many horror stories about the dough not having the right consistency or the gnocchi falling apart while cooking. I finally got the courage to try it out while I was in Florida because I had more time and much more space (one of my favorite parts of cooking at my parents' house). I noticed that one of my favorite blogs, Culinary in the Desert Country!, has several tasty looking recipes using gnocchi, and this might have been the reason that I originally got the gnocchi idea stuck in my head. By pure luck, Culinary in the Desert Country! happens to be the blog of the month for Palachinka's FBI gloves food blogging event. The basic idea is to make one of the recipes from the blog and then record your observations. I jumped on this opportunity to try a gnocchi recipe.

Homemade gnocchi (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole white wheat flour

Prick potatoes with a fork and bake at 400 until they're tender (45-60 min), turning once. Let potatoes cool slightly, then peel them and press them through a ricer*. Add egg and salt to potatoes and mix well. Then gradually add small amounts of flour, kneading between additions, just until the dough sticks to itself and no longer sticks to your hands (I added about 1/2 cup, but it will vary depending on your potatoes). Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes (do not over knead!). Divide the dough into 6 pieces, and roll each piece into a log (about 3/4" diameter). Cut each log into 1" pieces, and roll the back of a fork across each piece (so that the piece is slightly flattened and retains the indentations from the fork tines). At this point, you can boil the gnocchi (they're done about a minute after they float to the top), or you can saute them as I describe below.

*I was originally planning to grate them, as described at Smitten Kitchen, but was pleasantly surprised to find that my parents have a ricer!

Sauteed gnocchi with chard, chickpeas, and tomatoes (slightly adapted from Culinary in the Desert Country!)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 recipe fresh gnocchi (see above; or you can use 1 lb. packaged gnocchi)
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
1 large bunch of chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded parmesan

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add gnocchi and saute until they are brown on each side (I had to turn them over individually so that they didn't stick together before they got firm). Remove gnocchi and set aside. Add onions to the pan and saute until they begin to soften (about 5 min). Then add garlic and water, cover, and cook until onion is very soft (about 5 min). Stir in the chard, recover, and cook for a few more minutes until chard is wilted. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, chickpeas, and salt and pepper, and let cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the gnocchi and cheese, cook until cheese melts, and serve. Serves 4-5.

The gnocchi experiment went fairly well. I was very stingy about adding flour, which is apparently the key to gnocchi success. I thought that sauteing the gnocchi would prevent problems with the dough falling apart in water, but in retrospect this might have been more difficult because they tended to stick together in the skillet. In addition, because I had to flip them individually to prevent the sticking, some of them got a little bit more brown than I would have liked. Perhaps next time (and yes, there will be a next time), I'll give the traditional boiling method a shot. Or, I bet that letting the gnocchi sit in the refrigerator for a while would allow them to firm up and prevent problems (which is probably why it works well with packaged gnocchi).

I loved this recipe with the mix of chard, chickpeas, and tomatoes because I could really taste all of the components and it included a nice mix of textures. I love the combination of greens and tomatoes, but this had several more layers added on top of that, and they worked perfectly together. My parents really enjoyed this, too, which was exciting given that Dad generally prefers to have meat on his plate.

I'm glad that I finally tried gnocchi, and now that I have a bit more confidence with the process, I will definitely be trying out some of the other recipes from Culinary in the Desert Country!, particularly the brown butter gnocchi with spinach and pine nuts, baked gnocchi with ricotta and spinach, and gnocchi with broccoli rabe, caramelized garlic, and parmesan.


Julia said...

I like this combo! I have some kale in the garden, ready to harvest, and I bet it would be great in this recipe!

Katie said...

I'm sure kale would be just as good. In fact, I wasn't sure that I would be able to find chard at the co-op, and kale was my back-up plan. They happened to have some locally-grown chard, though, so I stuck with the original plan.