Why are they called “Spring” gnocchi? Well, partly because of the color – the green ones, that is. And partly because the chives in the second version are among the first greens we have sprouting up in our yard every March. I could have combined everything into one batch of gnocchi, but I thought it would be fun to have two different flavors, and two different shapes. Plus – twice as much gnocchi!
So here’s how it all evolved…
One night last week while I was at work, Bill decided to cook some lentils as part of dinner for him and the kids. He cooked them in chicken stock…and cooked them…and cooked them…and they just weren’t cooking.
At one point he said he thought to himself “I smell…peas…” but dismissed the thought. Until, eventually, he realized he’d been cooking split peas instead of lentils.
So he put the partially cooked peas in a bowl and started over with lentils. (That meal, with the lentils, turned out fabulous. I’ll have to get him to duplicate it some time for you.) The peas hung out in the fridge for several days while I tried to decide what to do with them.
Finally, yesterday, I decided I’d use them in a batch of gnocchi. First off, I finished cooking them. Once they were nice and mushy, I ran them through the ricer.
This part was fun. I love the ricer. I love the squiggley wormy strands. And I love the light texture riced starches provide.
I ended up with two cups of riced peas – about half of what I needed for the gnocchi. I riced enough baked potatoes to get another two cups, then added flour, salt, dried basil, olive oil and eggs to it to make the dough.
I wasn’t in the mood to roll the dough out into strands, cut them into pieces and then roll them down the tines of a fork to get the traditional gnocchi look.
I decided to make quenelles instead.
You need two spoons.
First you take a little blob of dough on one spoon…
Then, with the other spoon, you scoop in between the dough and the first spoon, transferring the dough from the first spoon to the second. As you do this, you are smoothing the sides of the dough and shaping it into something like an egg.
Do this several times, alternating spoons, until the blob of dough has smooth sides and an almost egg-like shape. It takes me about three to five scoops with the spoons to get the quenelle shape.
Of course, I said “quenelle,” but Alex said they look like something else. He laughed and ran out of the room, forcing me to chase after him reprimanding him in my Scolding Mom voice.
He’s so nine-years-old. I love the kid.
Anyway, I had just about two full cookie sheets’ worth of green quenelles…and I was hungry. I love gnocchi. Bill loves gnocchi. The kids love gnocchi.
I decided – right at that moment, that I needed more gnocchi, otherwise there’d be no leftovers.
So I riced some more potatoes and made the second batch.
This batch had potatoes, flour, salt, black pepper, olive oil, eggs, fresh chives – and goat cheese. Not enough goat cheese, in my opinion, but it was all I had. Next time…
Rather than do quenelles again, (and I still didn’t feel like going the rolled out/cut/fork tine route) I rolled bits of dough into little balls about the diameter of a nickel. Give or take a coin.
All the little round ones fit on a single cookie sheet.
Oh, by the way, I put all cookie sheets of gnocchi into the fridge to firm up a bit before cooking. You probably don’t have to do that. You could also freeze them first. I couldn’t, because the pans are too wide for my side-by-side freezer section. So – the fridge.
I brought a pot of salted water to a boil and started cooking the gnocchi in batches. You don’t want to put too many in at a time, because you don’t want them all smushing together into one big gnocchi blob. Give them room to sink to the bottom and gradually drift upward as they cook.
When they float, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and gently tilt them into a warm bowl. I tossed mine with a drizzle of olive oil.
While I cooked the gnocchi in batches, I melted some butter in a pan and tossed in more chives and a bunch of sage leaves snipped from the plant that grows in a crack between the driveway and our house, right outside the back door. So handy! I melted the butter very, very slowly, and didn’t let it start to brown until it was almost dinner time. How much butter? About a stick. And then about another half a stick. But this was for two batches of gnocchi, so, you know, I needed a lot. Or something like that.
Oh – funny little snippet of a story – Alex walked through the kitchen while the butter, sage and chives were getting friendly, and he sniffed the air a bit and said “I smell fish.”
No, I corrected him, you smell the sage butter we use on trout most of the time.
“I love sage butter!”
I love my kids. They like this stuff!
To serve, I gave everyone equal portions of the green pea gnocchi and the goat cheese and chive gnocchi (I’m calling it goat cheese and chive even though goat cheese is fairly low on the ingredient statement, because in some of them the blobs of chevre were big enough to taste. Yum!), and everyone devoured them.
P.S. I had some of the leftovers this morning for breakfast with an egg yolk on top. Very very good!
Recipes are below…
Split Pea and Potato Gnocchi
1/2 lb dried split peas, cooked in water or stock until very soft, then drained
2-3 russet potatoes, baked
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil (or herb of your choice. Mint would probably work nicely with the peas…)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs, room temperature
What to do:
1. Put the cooked peas through a ricer or puree in food processor or with immersion blender. Place in large bowl.
2. Put baked potato through ricer and measure out about two cups. Add to peas.
3. Add flour, salt and basil to peas and potatoes and toss together with a fork. Add olive oil and eggs, slightly beaten, and continue to toss together with the fork until a soft dough forms.
4. Shape dough into desired gnocchi shape and place on floured or parchment-lined sheet pans. Chill or freeze until needed.
5. To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in batches of 15-20 at a time. They will sink to the bottom at first, then rise to the top as they cook. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in warm bowl until all gnocchi are cooked. Toss in the sauce of your choice.
Chive and Goat Cheese Gnocchi
4-5 russet potatoes, baked, peeled, and put through a ricer
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped fine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons good goat cheese, crumbled
What to do:
1. Measure out about 4 cups of the riced potatoes, place in large bowl. Add flour, salt, pepper and chives, and toss everything together with a fork.
2. Add olive oil, eggs, and crumbled goat cheese, and continue tossing everything together lightly until a soft dough forms.
3. Shape gnocchi as desired and place on floured or parchment-lined sheet pan in fridge or freezer until needed.
4. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in batches, 15-20 at a time. Gnocchi will sink to the bottom at first, then rise to the top when cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and hold in a warm bowl until all gnocchi are cooked. Serve with the sauce of your choice.
* Each batch of gnocchi serves 4-6 as a main course, depending on appetites. Serves more if you’re just using it as a side dish.
Chive and Sage Browned Butter
Place 1 1/2 sticks salted butter in a pan over low heat. Allow to melt. To this, add whole sage leaves and chives cut into 2” pieces. Stir around to coat herbs with butter. How much you use is up to you – I probably used about 20 sage leaves in assorted sizes, and probably the same number of chives – part went into the gnocchi and what was left went into the browned butter.
Just before you’re ready to serve, turn the heat up a bit on the butter and cook, swirling everything around in the pan now and then, until the butter is brown. Not tan – brown. It may seem like you’re burning it, and yes, if it gets really black you probably did. But browned butter is incredibly flavorful, so don’t be afraid of the darkness.
Pour browned chive and sage butter over gnocchi and serve immediately. The sage and chives should be crispy at this point, which adds a nice little crunch to this otherwise soft, comfort-food meal.