The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.
I have a confession to make. While I’ve eaten gnocchi before, I’ve never made it. That is, until yesterday. Making gnocchi has been on my radar screen ever since the folks at Curbstone Valley cooked up a batch last fall, using some of their abundance of heirloom winter squashes. I drooled over the photos, but that was as far as I got. Then I ran across them again while looking at some of the Dark Days meals at AnnieRie Unplugged. And again, my mouth watered
I decided I could easily make some SOLE gnocchi using ingredients on hand. Since we have an abundance of sweet potatoes, I decided to use them instead of winter squash. And I ground some of the local red wheat for the flour. Add a locally sourced egg, and I had the basics for making some gnocchi!
The recipe I loosely followed can be found here. The raw ingredients for the gnocchi are shown in the photo above. After scrubbing, I baked the sweet potato in a 425°F oven for about an hour, until it was really soft and tender. While it was baking, I ground enough wheat to make 2 cups of whole wheat flour. After the sweet potato cooled, I scooped out the yummy orange flesh and fluffed it up a bit with a fork. Then I added the lightly beaten egg, some grated nutmeg, and a bit of salt.
I mixed in about 2 cups of the flour for the amount of sweet potato I had (15 ounces). Once I got the dough right, I divided it into 4 pieces, shaped into logs, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Lacking a gnocchi board, I used the back of a fork to form grooves in the gnocchi. Then I cooked them in small batches for about 2-3 minutes, until they floated.
For a sauce, I made a brown butter sage sauce using some freshly harvested sage leaves, and a little butter. Our sage plant has gotten huge, and is loaded with soft grey green leaves. I don’t use sage in a lot of dishes, but I love it in herbed butter creations.
For a side vegetable, I sauteed a little of our Black Tuscan (aka Lacinato) kale. For seasoning I sliced two cloves of our 2011 garlic and added a bit of olive oil and salt. While the kale was cooking I soaked a few of our dried tomatoes in water to soften them. The kale cooked in no time. I threw in the tomatoes, and it was time to plate up the food and eat!
Once again, I have to say the kale stole the show for me. My first attempt at making gnocchi was so-so. I think when I make it again I will stick to a more traditional recipe and use softer flour and add either ricotta or Parmesan cheese (or both). It is possible to ruin a dish by trying to make it too healthy, and I think the whole wheat I used was just too much for the gnocchi. Plus I overcooked one batch, and that didn’t help either. But that didn’t stop us from cleaning our plates though!
I’ve already got a dish in mind for next week and the Dark Days Challenge. I am thinking comfort food, and something I’ve made a hundred times. I have all the ingredients on hand, and I’ll be back later to report on the results.