I am so happy to participate in the first ever Daring Cook's Challenge. This recipe was chosen from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers. We were able to make any variation on the recipe as far as sauces and toppings were concerned. I chose sauteed spinach, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese. The final result was a light cheesy pillow with more flavor than I expected. I was impressed with what became of such humble ingredients. The final dish was simple, light, fresh and flavorful.
Here are the ingredients needed for the gnocchi:
1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi
Step One: Prepare the Ricotta
The recipe calls for fresh ricotta, but there were those of us who could not find this product. I had to use regular old ricotta in the container. When I opened the container, it did not appear wet, but you wouldn't believe how much liquid finally came out of it. I lined a colander with cheesecoth, placed it into a bowl, and laid the ricotta in the cheesecloth for about 36 hours. The next morning, there was very little liquid in the bottom of the bowl. I decided to wrap the cheesecloth around the ricotta and squeeze. This squeezing method proved to work for me and after a couple hours of intermittent squeezing I was ready to begin step two.
Step Two: Prepare the gnocchi dough
The ricotta need to be smooth. Mash it with a spatula or spoon to see if there are any more curds and if there are put the dough through a strainer to make cheese more smooth. Mine was smooth and I skipped this step. I halved the recipe so my dough was a little different. To the strained and smoothed ricotta I added:
1 cold egg, slightly beaten
half tablespoon melted butter
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
The batter should be soft and fluffy and not have any streaks. Everything should be mixed in well.
Step Three: Forming the Gnocchi
Fill a small pot with water and add a generous amount of salt. Bring this pot to a boil and then keep it at a simmer. You will use this to test your first gnocchi to make sure the dough is correct. If the dough fell apart in the pot then you would make adjustments to your dough.
On a sheet pan or other large surface create a bed of a/p flour. Scoop up 2 - 3 tsp. of dough and at an angle use the spoon to roll the dough into the flour. Gently cover the gnocchi with the flour and put in the simmering pot for 3-5 minutes. The gnocchi will bob to the top when it is finished. If the gnocchi falls apart than it means your ricotta was probably too wet and you can add 1 tsp. egg white to remedy this situation. Repeat the process of testing one to see if this corrects the problem. If your sample comes out heavy, beat 1 tsp. beaten egg to the batter and test again. Once you have the right dough, you can put 4-6 gnocchi into the flour mixture and set them all aside on a sheet tray until you are ready to cook them. Judy Rogers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour to allow them to firm up. Or, if you are impatient like me you can cook them right away.
Step Four: Cooking the Gnocchi
You will need a wide pan filled with 2-3 quarts of water. I started with this pan to begin with (for the testing). I am not into washing loads of dishes!! I had my sauce/topping close by in another pan so that I could toss the gnocchi with the final ingredients directly after cooking them. Bring your wide pot to a boil and salt in generously. Keep the water at a simmer and drop the gnocchi in one at a time. Cook them for 3-5 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove gently with a slotted spoon and toss with sauce or toppings. Serve immediately. When my gnocchi were finished cooking I tossed them with some sauteed spinach and garlic. I topped the dish with some parmesan cheese and black pepper.
When the dish was complete I was very impressed with what I had created from rather humble ingredients. Cheese, egg, a dusting of flour and some flavorings and I had a rather impressive dish. The final product was like a soft and fluffy cheese pillow. There was a little bit of tang from the lemon zest and the spinach and garlic complimented the gnocchi very well. I enjoyed this recipe and did not find it complicated at all. All the steps make it seem like it was very involved, but it wasn't. The overall dish was light but very satisfying. I was very pleased with this first challenge.
If you are interested in joining the Daring Cook's, head on over to http://www.daringkitchen.com/ and check out the details.