Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth

I'm sure you've heard me talk and blog about Annie's Eats.  When I first started cooking, most of my recipes came from her blog.  She tries out all sorts of things and has great how-to pictures for trickier recipes (hence she got me to to try out bagels and croissants!).  However, I have also been able to find lots of new bloggers - some through Annie's recommendations, and others through my own browsing - that I love just as much if not more than Annie's blog.  For example, I am really obsessed with A Couple Cooks.  They are what they call "flexitarians" who are flexible enough to eat whatever is fresh and seasonal and local, but most of the time they eat - and cook - vegetarian.  They have awesome recipes like vegetable sushi bowls and roasted tomato almond dip.

But let me introduce you to Smitten Kitchen - or Deb Perelman.  I've liked her for a while - she brings great recipes like the jacked up banana bread and potato knish.  Of all the blogs I follow, I think I like her pictures the best simply because she shares so many of them.  She lives in New York City in a tiny kitchen, so she says if she can manage all these recipes, so can anyone.  She used to be a vegetarian - although she isn't anymore - but she still has lots of good veggie recipes.  Anyway, the reason I am gushing about her is that Mark bought me her new cookbook.  We went to the North End in Mom's birthday back in October, and we stopped in a cute little bookstore that had lots of great cookbooks.  I totally wanted The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook but was too cheap to buy it for myself; little did I realize that Mark secretly bought it for me! (Luckily I also secretly bought him a pair of sneakers so we surprised each other that day!)  I really recommend this book; I've made a number of recipes from it and love them all, along with the pictures and the clear instructions.   She has some recipes that are on her blog as well, but most are brand new.

But this recipe is possibly the most exciting one I've made in a while, because let's face it: gnocchi is amazing, but who the heck knows how to make their own!?  One time I tried to make ricotta gnocchi with disastrous results, but I've always wanted to try out my own potato gnocchi.  I went though about 5 years of ordering gnocchi any time I saw them on a menu; they are so light and pillowy, so soft and comforting, and so. Damn. Good.  I'd always thought you'd need a potato ricer to make your own, but Deb wrote, "I learned that if you didn't have a potato ricer, you could use the large holes of a box grater to a similar effect."  I felt great when I read that.  To make it even better, Deb assures her readers that gnocchi do not have to have those cute little ridges in them, although if you really want to add them, you can use a fork.  When I read all that, and saw her cute little pictures of gnocchi resting in a thin homemade tomato broth, I immediately set out to make them for dinner.

Here's the best part: these are so easy!!!  What took the longest was baking the potatoes, so I have already said any time we have extra baked potatoes I plan to make gnocchi immediately.  Once the potatoes are baked and peeled, you grate them on box grater, which worked perfectly, and add an egg, salt, and gradually add flour until you have a sticky but workable dough.  Roll it out into a rope, cut into little pillows, and boil.  Voila: you have gnocchi.  That's it!   So simple.  And rather fun.

The broth is just as amazing.  It's made from carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and even some white wine, chicken broth, and a can of tomatoes.  The recipe calls for it to be strained at the end so you only have broth, but I usually ignore that kind of instruction: why get rid of the vegetables!?   I kept them, and the sauce was so amazing that I ended up eating it with other recipes that I will share later this week.

So, delicious gnocchi and equally-as-delicious tomato broth: you basically have no reason not to make this recipe this week.  Maybe you even have leftover baked potatoes!?  If not, just get up right now and toss some potatoes into the oven; you'll be eating gnocchi in no time at all.  I'm so relieved and excited to tell you that potato gnocchi is easy to make.


gnocchi in tomato broth
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman


tomato broth:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup white wine
1 28-ounce can whole or chopped tomatoes with juices
small handful of fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds Russet potatoes (3 or 4)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface


1) Bake the potatoes: preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Bake potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size, until a thin knife can easily pierce through them.  Meanwhile, prepare the tomato broth.

2) Make the tomato broth: Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Once it's hot, add the carrot, celery, and onion, and cook together for 5 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if they begin to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Pour in the wine, and use it to scrape up and browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then cook the wine until it is reduced by half, for several minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, mashing them a bit with a spoon if whole, and the basil and stock, and simmer until the tomato broth thickens slightly, for about 45 minutes.  Strain out the vegetables in a fine-mesh colander (I chose to skip this step) and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside until needed.

3) Make gnocchi: let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes after baking, then peel them with a knife or peeler.  Run the potatoes through a potato ricer, or grate them on the large holes of a box grater.  Cool them to lukewarm, about another 10 minutes.  Add the egg and salt, mixing to combine.  Add 1/2 cup flour, and mix to combine.  Add next 1/2 cup flour, mixing again.  Add 1/4 cup flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is a good consistency - soft and a little sticky, but able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope.  Knead the dough together briefly on the counter - just for a minute.

4)  Divide the dough into quarters.  Roll each piece into a long rope, about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut each rope into 3/4-inch lengths.  At this point, you can use a floured fork or a gnocchi board to give it the traditional ridges, but I never bother.  Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray.  If you'd like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray; once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag.

5) Cook the gnocchi: place the gnocchi, a quarter batch at a time, into a pot of boiling, well-salted water.  Cook the gnocchi until they float - about 2 minutes - then drain.  Frozen gnocchi will take a minute longer.

6) Assemble the dish: meanwhile, reheat broth to a  simmer.  Add drained gnocchi and reheat through.  Serve gnocchi and broth together, garnished with extra slivers of basil and/or a dollop of fresh ricotta or some parmesan shavings to taste.

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