vegansaurus!

06/01/2011

Guest recipe: Gnocchi with morels, peas, sorrel oil, pine nuts, and miso broth  »


When I run the world (fingers crossed), New Year’s will be on May 1
and we’ll all have off to celebrate the first farmer’s market of the year and the international struggle for a communist world. Just think about the spring greens—dandelion, stinging nettles, pea tendrils, baby mustard greens, sorrel. I know some crazy carnies (and I mean carnivores) that can just stand and chew on some fresh-cut baby kale stems and be super-happy about it. It’s an awesome time of year. We’d celebrate the whole month. While you might be sick of potatoes after winter’s doldrums, new white-fleshed potatoes can make awesome gnocchi, so here’s a very springy gnocchi recipe with a slight twist that really works. One thing to note: if you’re using frozen gnocchi, you will not boil them; instead, à la Jonathan Waxman, you’ll put them straight from the freezer into the frying pan and season with salt.

Gnocchi with morels, peas, sorrel oil, pine nuts, and miso broth
serves four to six

Ingredients
Gnocchi

2 lbs. white fleshed potatoes, new or old

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

Miso broth
1 small onion, cut in half
1 rib celery
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
4 cups water
1 Tbsp. white or yellow miso

Sorrel oil
1 bunch sorrel
¼ cup water
1 ½ cups olive oil
1 bunch early spring greens, rinsed and stemmed
4 to 12 fresh morels, cut in half (the more the merrier, although if you can’t find morels, other mushrooms work OK, like the dehydrated porcinis in the picture)
½ cup peas, shelled
½ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

Instructions
Miso sauce

Put the onion, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a pot with the water. Simmer for 30 minutes while you make the dough. Strain.

In a small bowl, place the miso. Whisk ½ cup of the stock into the miso. Taste. Add more stock in small quantities until the flavor is still pretty strong but balanced and it has a brothy consistency.

Gnocchi
Boil the potatoes, skin-on, in heavily salted water. When they’re done, you should be able to stick a knife into the center of the potato without resistance. Try to test as few as possible and disturb the skin as little as possible. Remove the potatoes when done.
Let the potatoes cool just enough to handle. Rub the skins off. Use a tammy/strainer or a ricer to thoroughly puree the potatoes.

Mix with ¾ cup of the flour and the salt. Work the dough with your hands into a manageable ball and knead altogether for two to three minutes. As the potatoes cool they will get stickier, so move pretty fast. If the dough sticks to your fingers, work a little more flour in until it stops doing that. It shouldn’t be firm like pasta dough but it should be firm enough to hold its basic shape when you pinch off a piece.

It is a learned skill to make gnocchi dough correctly and there’s no substitute for experience in this regard. This is an approximate ratio I’ve provided, but I do suggest before you start rolling and cutting that you test one out first by dropping a piece of the dough into simmering water. If it falls apart, you need more flour in the dough.

You’ve made the dough! Pinch off jawbreaker-size pieces and roll them out into ½-inch wide snakes on a floured surface, trying not to taper the ends too much.

Line these up next to each other and with a big knife or a bench scraper cut them all into gnocchi-sized pieces. If you want to dimple or tine them, now is the time. Sprinkle them with flour and let them rest for 5 minutes. If it’s not dinnertime yet spread them out on a sheet-tray, wrap the tray in plastic and put them in the freezer.

When you’re ready to eat, put up a large pot of salted water (unless using frozen gnocchi).

Sorrel oil
Tear up the sorrel, separating it from its stems. Put all the sorrel, ¼ cup water, and olive oil into a blender and puree for a good two minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the blender every 30 seconds or so. Season with salt and strain.

Schav is a sorrel soup that was a springtime staple for immigrants in the early 1900s. At its most basic, it was sorrel, water and salt, but it still was so delicious that people drank it out of mugs. I could drink this sorrel oil straight, but for a good schav just reverse the oil/water ratio here. Sorrel oxidizes super-quick after it’s chopped up or pureed, turning from bright springy green to army green to gray-green. It still tastes just as good but if you want to be classy just  make this oil right before you put everything together.

The final countdown
Warm the broth in a small pot. Make sure everything for the final dish is prepped and handy. If, like me, the largest pan you have is about 10 inches, you’re going to have to finish this dish one serving at a time, so divide up your mis en place accordingly.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling salted water. Heat a pan with oil. When the gnocchi float in the pot, put the garlic and morels into the hot pan and season them with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 seconds and then add the gnocchi to the pan, trying to spread them out so as to have one even layer. Disturb the pan as little as possible until the gnocchi start to brown on the bottom.

When the gnocchi are browning add the peas, pine nuts and greens and season them with salt and pepper as well. Toss together. Add more oil if you don’t see any on the floor of the pan. Cook for another solid minute, tossing every 15 seconds or so.

Put in the center of plates. Pour or spoon broth over the top so that it pools around the gnocchi. Drizzle the sorrel oil around the plate.  

Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at award-winning vegan and omni restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!

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