Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gnocchi with pesto and wax beans

We finally rejoined a CSA after I get us kicked out of the very exclusive Be Wise Ranch CSA last year for (accidental) non-payment. This time we are trying out J.R. Organics from Escondido. The first box is interesting, really good lettuce and some other greens, excellent tomatoes, a whole bunch of oranges and a couple apples (weird time of year for both of them, but apparently that's what's growing right now), and among other things some really beautiful green and purple wax beans.

K reminded me of this great simple dish I used to get in Bernal Heights at (the very sadly closed) Valentina, which had spinach fettuccine with potatoes, green beans, and pesto. I decided to give it a try with gnocchi instead of pasta and potatoes, probably because I am obsessed with anything that involves making dough.

After the first batch that I murdered by boiling too long in too-hot water, the rest of the gnocchi came out pretty close to perfect, pillowy, and looking an awful lot like bay scallops. I had a good friend in college whose dad owned an Italian restaurant who pronounced it nacky or sometimes nee-yacky, so feel free to join me in pronouncing it like that, if for no other reason than to honor and make fun of Jim.

Ok actually I'm starting to get a little self-conscious about saying "gnocchi" so much; there needs to be some non-pretentious alternative, something with an s at the end... Potato dumplings maybe? The potato dumplings took about an hour and a half start to finish, which was maybe a little long for a weeknight dinner, unless you are someone who finds cooking relaxing after a long day of work :) Annnd now I need one more sentence here because of the ridiculous formatting of this post. How do those real food bloggers do it??

Here is the recipe for just the gnocchi. We steamed the wax beans with a pinch of salt and topped it with a dollop of pesto. I won't embarrass myself by posting a recipe for pesto. If you want to do it right, I'd predictably look here. If you want to do it like me just put all that stuff in the food processor (and skimp on the olive oil because damn, it is expensive).

Basic Gnocchi
About 1 pound of potatoes (supposed to be russet, yukon gold worked fine)
3/4-1 cup flour (supposed to be AP, bread flour worked fine)
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes whole with skin on for 30-45 minutes in salted water until they're very tender. Drain and let them cool a bit before peeling, which should be very easy with a small knife or your fingers.

Mash the potatoes with some salt and pepper. I used a wooden spoon but one of those wire potato mashers would work better.

Stir in half a cup of flour. Then add a little bit at a time and keep mixing until you can knead it into a smooth round dough. The goal is to add the least amount of flour possible that makes it a cohesive dough. You can pinch off a piece of the dough and place it in some water that is just shy of boiling to make sure it will stay together (if it doesn't, it needs a little more flour).

Roll a small piece of the dough into a snake about 1/2 an inch thick and cut it into small square pieces. Place a batch of the dumplings in almost boiling water. They will be done about a minute after they float to the surface of the water. I found the easiest way to handle the batches was to roll out all the strands first and then cut one strand right before adding it to the water.

They'll be best while they're still warm. Tossing with a little bit of olive oil in the meantime helped keep them from sticking to each other.

Mario Batali says that peeling the potatoes after you boil them is a big deal in Italy. He sounded a little dubious about the benefits of it but unwilling to mess with tradition, and so shall I be.


  1. i got some purple beans from a workshare a while ago, and was so disappointed to find that they turned green when you cooked them!

  2. Hi Jennifer!
    Kristen read about them online, so we were somewhat emotionally prepared for their turning (kind of an ugly shade of green too!)...I think she would've cried if we hadn't known ahead of time :)