I feel there are many gifts wrapped up for us during Quarantine, if we can just take a deep breath and choose to open them. One of them is un-rushed time in the kitchen with family. I’ve got all 3 of my daughters back at home during quarantine, so we thought it would be fun to broaden our cooking skills and master some new techniques. We’ve been looking for recipes that challenge our usual run-of-the-mill meals and also make for a fun and festive evening. It’s been giving us a little something fun to look forward to on these quarantined weekend nights. It’s also proving to give us some special, positive memories during such a crazy and negative time.
Last week was homemade traditional pasta, this week we took on “gnocchi”. (nyow·kee, ˈnȯ-kē, ˈnyȯ-, ˈnä) Gnocchi is also known as potato dumplings or “pillows of love”. Just like pasta, gnocchi’s texture is so much better if it’s homemade. I’m allergic to wheat, so I challenge myself to make gluten free recipes where my family can’t taste the difference. I think we have all decided over the years that many of the gluten free flours even have more flavor and a better texture for certain recipes. The recipe I’m leaving for you can be made with all purpose white flour or gluten free flour. (See link in recipe)
We had a lot of fun making the recipe and also trying to figure out the correct pronunciation. Ask five different people how to say it and you’ll get five different pronunciations. Regardless, it’s hard to say without getting the giggles. However, if you make your own, you don’t have worry that you’re not pronouncing it correctly to the waiter, and you can “speak gnocchi” however you want 😉 Enjoy!
1 cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese (more for topping when serving)
In a large stock pot boil potatoes with their skins on. The skins will protect the potatoes from getting water logged and mushy. Don’t over fill the pot with water just enough to cover the potatoes. Depending on the size of the potatoes, it should be “about” 15-20 minutes of boiling. You want them to just be fork tender, no more, no less. Cooking them too long will make the potatoes too mushy to grate/rice.
Drain all of the water well. Remove potatoes. Allow them to cool for just a bit in a colander.
Peel the boiled potatoes. At this point it’s easily done by hand.
Now rice the potatoes. If you have a potato ricer use that. If not you can just use a grater. That’s what we did and it worked well.
Mound the grated potatoes on the middle of a large cutting board or on a very clean, dry countertop. Top with flour. Sprinkle with salt.
Using your hands, make a well by scooping out the center of your mound.
Drop the eggs into the center of the well. Whisk the egg with a fork.
Very gradually start pulling in the flour to the potato and egg mixture with the fork. Then begin to use your hands to really combine ingredients to form the dough. Make it a slow purposeful roll so you combine it but not over work the dough as you knead. Don’t be tempted to keep adding flour at this point or it will give you dough that’s hard to work with and in turn, hard gnocchi. Eventually shape the dough into into large rectangular shape.
Then cut the rectangle into into 8-10 pieces of dough, about 4 inches long.
Roll each piece into a long rope by gently pushing softly with your fingers spread. Try to make an evenly sized ropes.
Using a sharp, non- serrated knife (a pastry cutter is quicker if you have one!) cut dough ropes into pieces. We cut into 1-inch pieces. You can play with various shapes and sizes but make the whole batch as uniform as possible so it cooks evenly.
To prevent sticking try to cook the gnocchi as soon as its made or at least keep it in a cool area. Be sure to toss them with a little extra flour while they’re waiting to be cooked.
To cook, drop them gently into a large boiling pot of salted boiling water. If you have a hand strainer, that works great to drop them in without getting burned or smashing their shape. Cook gnocchi until they start floating. They shouldn’t take more than about 2-5 minutes so taste test after 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the water with a hand strainer or slotted spoon.
At this point there are lots of sauces and ways to prepare it. We immediately dropped them into a greased baking dish that had a layer of marinara sauce already down. (We preheated the sauce) After all the gnocchi was in the baking dish, we lightly tossed them with the sauce and with a cup of grated fresh parmesan cheese. We saved a little sauce for the top & topped that with fresh sliced mozzarella and fresh basil leaves-Then baked it off quickly until the cheese was melted and sauce was bubbling. About 10 minutes at 350.
We watched a few tutorial videos online and found that very helpful. It’s pretty straightforward and easier than we thought it would be!
As if going to the grocery store right now isn’t stressful enough–We work up the courage to go, then as we play human checkers, we seem to be on a scavenger hunt to find what we went there for. I’m sure everyone who is overly “stocking up” has their own reasons, but it certainly is making grocery shopping even more challenging during such an already challenging time.
I love to get in my greens and fresh veggies of all types but I’ve been feeling a little nervous about eating uncooked fresh produce right now. With 5 of us trying to work out of the house, lunch time can sometimes last for hours by the time each person frees up time in their schedule, comes to the kitchen and pulls out their choices, etc. It’s a lot of different ingredients to keep an inventory of when you’re trying to eliminate some trips to the grocery store. It also creates a lot of different messes, so I decided making a giant pot of healthy soup here and there might help with some of that.
I have a couple of go-to healthy vegetable soup recipes I like to make, but this last shop at my local market had me scratching my head for usual ingredients. Many things were cleaned out so I found myself substituting quite a bit for recipes. With some of our favorites gone, I bought the produce that was left unloved. I’ll admit it: fennel and rainbow chard aren’t regulars on my list, but they sure will be now.
I couldn’t find cannellini beans or canned tomato paste either, so I subbed in garbanzo beans and tubed tomato paste for the soup I was trying to make. The unexpected substitutes made a soup so delicious, it deserves to be in my regular repertoire. Since many of us are finding ourselves in similar positions, I thought I’d share my make shift recipe with you. It’s very forgiving so you can also substitute where needed.
As terrible as Coronavirus and quarantine time is, I really feel it’s telling us so much if our hearts are open. I don’t mind life teaching me to be more flexible, creative, patient, healthy, generous…and loving among many other things. It’s funny, shortly after I worked so hard to “score” my items, I was asked to donate to a local group collecting food for people in need. Of course I did because we need to help take care of each other. Everywhere I’m turning, I’m seeing opportunities for spiritual renewal and growth. That’s what’s bringing me comfort through this whole experience.
I hope you enjoy this soup, my family loved it. It felt especially meaningful to eat a warm and healthy bowl of soup all together, at the same time today in our kitchen. With busy schedules and locations we haven’t been able to do that too often in recent years. I think I’ll call this recipe: Healthy “Quarantine Hug”-Soup for the Soul.