Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Last Night's Dinner

As promised, although a day late, here is a recipe I recently made for dinner. It's always a bit of a struggle for me to balance healthy, easy to make dinners with M's and my differing taste buds. In all my recipes I'll comment whether we both enjoyed the particular dish or just one of us... or neither... yikes.

I also find that I occasionally run out of dinner inspiration. The same recipes I usually make on a rotating basis start to feel boring and blah. That's when I know its time to hit up foodgawker or tastespotting for some ideas. I also start tolling the archives of some of my favorite sites like Smitten Kitchen (Did you see today's post? Double coconut muffins? Yes, please).

Butternut Squash Gnocchi 
Recipe adapted by me several years ago from a variety of sources
Serves 2-4

There are dozens of butternut squash gnocchi recipes floating around out there. Some use ricotta cheese, others don't. Some call for eggs and some don't. The most basic recipes are simply pureed butternut squash and flour. That's it. My recipe falls somewhere in the middle. This is one of those "little bit of this, little bit of that" recipes which work so well for me. If you're an engineer or scientist type (or just really, really Type A) this might not work for you. But who am I to say?


1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash
whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1-2 eggs

Method: Slice butternut squash in half length-wise and remove seeds and pulp from center section. Place squash halves cut size down on baking dish or microwave-safe dish and add 1/2 inch water to pan. Cook squash in oven or microwave until flesh is soft and cooked-through. Cool.

Squash and egg mixture before adding flour.
Once cool, remove flesh from squash and add to medium mixing bowl and mash with fork. To bowl add one egg, lightly beaten, and stir. Begin adding flour by the 1/4 cup to mixture until dough begins to form. Ideal dough is slightly sticky but workable. Add salt and pepper (or other seasonings) to dough if desired. Be careful to add only the minimum amount of flour necessary in order to keep gnocchi light and airy.

Slowly adding flour to form a dough.

Dough is almost ready. Note it looks less tacky than in the above picture.
Turn dough out onto floured cutting board or kitchen counter and knead briefly, work into an oblong-shaped. Slice dough in half and then slice each half into half again resulting in four pieces of dough. Keep one section of dough on the counter and place the other three sections back in the mixing bowl. Cover with a towel to keep moist.

Gnocchi dough ready to be cut into sections. 
At this point begin heating water in a wide-mouth sauce pan or wok over medium-high heat until water is simmering. You want gentle bubbles rising occasionally but not a full rolling boil. Keep water simmering while you make the gnocchi.

Roll your section of dough out into a long "snake" like shape much like making a pretzel. If your dough is too sticky to roll properly, add a little extra flour to your board and roll the dough to incorporate the flour until dough is more manageable. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough log into pieces a half inch in size or so.

Close up of gnocchi pieces before they've been shaped by the fork. 
Using your fork, gently press the tines into a small piece of the dough and roll the dough over the fork creating a cylindrical shape out of the dough. You should see little tine marks in each piece of dough when you're done.

Don't worry if all your gnocchi don't look alike. They'll still taste good.
Working in batches drop your newly shaped gnocchi into the simmering water. Simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the gnocchi begin floating to the surface of the water. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels or a baking pan to dry.

Remove another section of dough from your mixing bowel and begin rolling and shaping more gnocchi. Each time you shape the dough you'll get a little bit better and making even gnocchi but as long as they're all roughly the same size they'll cook just fine.

Gnocchi drying on a pizza pan.
I've found that I have just enough time to roll out and begin shaping one piece of dough before the previous batch of gnocchi is finished cooking. This means that there are a few minutes during the process each time that the water is simmering empty. That's a good time to check your water levels and make sure your pot is boiling dry. Also, I've found that by your 5th batch or so your water might be overly startchy and gloopy so its a good idea to add a little bit of fresh water to the pan every so often (when there isn't any pasta cooking that is).

And that's it! It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Give them a try. I love these little guys. If you're making these ahead and then serving the pasta later, you'll want to reheat them very briefly in simmering water before adding to your sauce unless your sauce is hot enough to warm them through.

I served my gnocchi with a pesto cream sauce this last time. I've also gone the more traditional route with a browned butter and sage sauce which is also very yummy. M isn't a huge squash fan so he only thought these were okay. I, on the other hand, ate two helpings.

Close up of the finished product.

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