We’ll Always Have Gnocchi
In case you haven’t picked up on this by now, I like scouting around for unusual recipes for those vegetables at the farm that start to rise above the crowd of crops to become my favored few. Thus far there’s been awkward kohlrabi, sunny squash blossoms, tangy tomatillos, and now sumptuous swiss chard. While everyone’s yammering on about heirloom tomatoes and the likes (which I’ll be the first to admit are worthy of high praise), I’ve been in whirlwind love affairs with each of these outsiders to the more popular veggie cliques.
As with any love affair, there’s the initial intrigue – flirtation really – with perhaps a simple recipe just to test the waters. Then there’s the heated intensity of lusty passion that pulls me into the fervor of more complicated dishes that I might not otherwise try. And finally, as so many lovers seem to experience as the passion cools, there’s the sad end when the veggie of my eye slows its season and leaves me longing for its return. Sometimes I try a half-hearted recipe with what’s left of it, hoping to rekindle what we once had, before listlessly walking the rows in the fields, wondering what became of that leafy life we had together. Then, while walking, a newbie to the field – a veggie that’s just come into its own – catches my eye, and I’m off to the races again!
Boy, what a rollercoaster it’s been! No wonder I’m rather depressed at the thought that the frost is not far away, almost certainly ensuring that there won’t be any new loves for several months. Thus, I’ve really been throwing myself into what will probably be my last [fresh] veggie fling for this year; swiss chard, current love of my life, don’t fail me now!
With only beets, turnips, spinach, and the occasional handful of carrots on the horizon, all of which are quite “respectable” but not what really makes my heart flutter, I decided to take several bunches of swiss chard with me to my Super Secret Getaway last week, dreaming of dancing around my cabin’s kitchen with this handsome vegetable. After which I planned to sit on the porch, warmed by the flames in the outdoor fireplace, having a romantic dinner with it. For the occasion, I thought I’d try something totally out of my realm of experience – gnocchi with swiss chard folded into its dough.
While I’ve tried my hand at standard potato gnocchi before, I wasn’t so sure about this hybrid. But wanting something extra special for me and my SC to keep the magic alive, I gave it a go. If it worked, it would be the most healthful gnocchi ever invented since it called for cooking down a whole bunch of swiss chard to put into two servings of gnocchi. If I were a better mathematician and nutritionist, I’d figure out exactly how much vitamins K and A and magnesium that much swiss chard would put in a single mouthful of gnocchi. But I’m not so I’ll just generalize – it’s a boat load!
And if I was going to go to all that trouble, I was darn well not going to use your everyday run-of-the-mill tomato sauce called for by the original recipe. Instead, I thought I’d mix up a batch of my white bean sauce and use lots of fresh herbs to perfume the air with peppery, piney scents. Bach’s Cello Suite in G Minor on in the background, I got to work and felt electrified with anticipation as I worked the dough and blended the sauce. It was going to be such a wonderful evening.
For once, love’s heightened expectations didn’t disappoint. It was all that I’d hoped it would be. The gnocchi had a lovely texture and flavor, the sauce was velvety, and the herbs more aromatic than usual as the fire glowed and my bowl emptied. Perhaps it was just the cool air of twilight in the mountains, but I’d like to think the memories of what SC and I had that night will last me through the cold dark winter months as I sigh “we’ll always have gnocchi.”
And if it doesn’t, well, I just saw kohlrabi’s back in town!
Swiss Chard Gnocchi in Herbed White Bean Sauce
Adapted from Cooks.com
2 t. butter
2 t. finely minced shallots
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 t. white pepper
1/8 t. freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 c. part skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 c. + 2 T. grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 c. cooked Swiss Chard, well drained and well chopped
15 oz. can of white beans, either cannelloni or butter
1/2 c. light cream
1 T. finely chopped fresh oregano
Generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a medium skillet, heat butter until hot and bubbly before adding shallots to sauté until softened. Transfer shallots to medium mixing bowl and add flour, ricotta cheese, 1/3 c. of parmesan, the egg, chard, nutmeg, and pepper. Mix well to form a dough. Cover and chill for a few minutes to make it easier to handle.
Divide dough into four equal parts and roll each into a rope about 3/4” in diameter. Cut each rope into 1/2” bits and, using a fork, roll quickly to form traditional gnocchi shape. You can also use your thumb and forefinger to press an indent in the dough instead of using a fork.
To make the white bean sauce, drain beans and place in a blender along with cream and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Stir in chopped oregano and heat in a small sauce pan over low heat while you cook gnocchi.
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi a few at a time, so as to not interrupt the boil. When gnocchi rise to the surface, cook until al dente – about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove gnocchi from water and arrange on a serving platter and top with white bean sauce. Toss gently and top with remaining 2 tablespoons for grated parmesan and garnish with fresh basil or oregano.
(serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side)