farmwives kitchen: purple gnocchi

It’s been the kind of winter that will empty our cupboard.  At the end of last winter, we still had green beans and corn in the freezer, and lots of leftover salsa.  This year, it looks like we will be using it all.

In early March, when it’s still too cold to hope for anything new from outdoors, the cook has to have a little fun.

Remember those purple sweet potatoes I’ve gone on and on about?

It’s time to make Purple Gnocchi.

Here’s how it goes:

Bake a sweet potato (a purple one, if possible).  Cool it off and remove the skin.  Mash the flesh up until it’s nicely smooth.  Add a little salt if desired.

Now, sift white flour over the mashed sweet potato.  Sift some on, stir it in, then sift some more.  Go slow, watch your dough.

When the dough gets smooth enough to begin to hold together and roll, that’s enough.

Roll some nice long snakes of dough, maybe 1 inch thick on a floured surface (I love a pastry cloth for this).  Cut the snakes into little bites.  Then roll then gently over the tines of a fork.  (Sorry I don’t have photos of this, but my hands were messy)  Kids love to do this, and it’s hard to mess up, so let them at it.making gnocchi

Keep the rolled gnocchi laid in one layer – if they get piled up they may start sticking together, which is a real mess.

Drop ten to fifteen gnocchi into a pot water at a rolling boil.  Stir quickly to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom, then wait.  It’s like magic.  They float to the top when they’re done.  Scoop them off with a slotted spoon and lay them on a plate, maybe in a warm oven, to keep while the others cook.

While you cook the gnocchi, whip up a batch of nut pesto.  Green pesto is great on these too, and the colors are tremendous, but nut pesto is easy and delicious when you’re out of basil.nut pesto

Combine chopped nuts (I like almonds best) and garlic in a skillet with some butter or olive oil.  Toast until fragrant, not black.  Pour that sizzling stuff over the gnocchi and enjoy.

To be honest, our children didn’t enjoy eating the gnocchi as much as they enjoyed making it, which was OK, because it meant there was more for the grown-ups.  Yum.purple gnocchi

Traditionally, gnocchi is made with white potatoes – same plan, but probably with the addition of an egg to help things hold together.  This recipe should work just fine with regular sweet potatoes, too. Variation is a beautiful thing.

the farmwives kitchen: pesto

It’s green, it’s garlicky.

It’s chunky and creamy at the same time.

And it’s good all winter long.

It’s pesto, and we love it.

My record-keeping has improved over the years, but I still lose track of exactly how much pesto we freeze to keep us going.  A LOT.

Here’s how we like to do that.

Cheese – blocks of hard cheese – Parmesan or the like.  Pecorino Romano works particularly well, in my opinion.  I cut the block into pieces, then process them in a food processor until they are fine, but not pulverized.  Put the cheese in it’s own bowl.

pesto cheese1

pesto cheese2

Nuts – Pine nuts are irrefutably wonderful, but it’s rare to find them affordable enough to churn out gallons of pesto.  So, lightly toasted walnuts are ok, though I sometimes get a bitter taste with them.  Brazil nuts are quite nice, and one year we were gifted macadamia nuts.  WOW.  Mac nuts are GREAT.  So, maybe mix it up – pulse them in the empty food processor until just right.  Again, not pulverized – just finely chopped.

pesto nuts

Garlic – Throw it to it.  I chop this separately as well, after I do the cheese and nuts, so I have an idea of what ratio to peel.

We use about: 1 cup cheese, 1 cup nuts, 4 (or more) cloves garlic. 

Basil – Picking basil leaves is a family affair.  If we were to do it while the basil was in its prime, it would be easier.  Usually, we wait until the end of the season and take apart whole plants at a time.  We pack the leaves into large measuring cups to get a picture of quantity.  Pack the trusty salad spinner for a quick wash and dry cycle, then buzz the basil in the food processor until pulverized.

pesto leaves

Then, lickety split, we combine: 4 cups packed basil leaves (before they were pulverized), 1 cup nuts, 1 cup cheese, and approximately 4 cloves of garlic.

We pour nearly a cup of olive oil into the mix, stir quickly and pack into pint or quart freezer bags, mashed thin for easy access later.  We do this part as quickly as possible so the basil doesn’t oxidize and darken.

finished pesto

Of course, we taste it as we go, the cheese salt on our fingers is irresistible, and the whole family basks in the intoxicating aromas of basil and garlic that permeate the house.  Sweet dreams of gnocchi and pesto in the long winter ahead…

pesto blended