Saturday, November 12, 2011

Try New Things - Pumpkin Gnocchi

Recently, I've noticed that I can overdose on sweets.  My mum used to berate me all the time for eating too much sugar, but now I prefer a smaller, high-quality dose instead.  For the past week months, I've basically baked non-stop to the point of actually running out of things like vegetable oil and all-purpose flour.  I'm halfway through my latest 10-lb. bag, and this is my second in three months!  Perhaps that doesn't seem like a lot for more experienced bakers, but I'm also a full-time engineering student involved in 3 clubs and research.  Urk.  This sweets thing is getting out of hand.  It's time for some sustenance food, the kind that can get you through your next 20 research papers without reaching for another slice of pie. 

Healthy vegetables.  Look, a mise en place!  I learned something from Jen of use real butter :)

My last project was a pumpkin bread, which left me with a half a can of Trader Joe's organic pumpkin.  Although I tossed around ideas for another loaf, I happened to be checking some food blogs when Pumpkin Gnocchi from the blog Happyolks came up.  I mentioned this to my boyfriend through Skype, and he positively lit up.  For a moment I felt some apprehension, having eaten gnocchi perhaps twice before in my life.  I had certainly never made it, and my boyfriend is part Italian!  What if it turned out a rock-hard, soggy mess?  But everything involves a risk.  Sometimes the risks are small, sometimes not so small.  This risk, I'm glad I took.

I cooked these as instructed, then served them in a instant (I'm a poor college student, kindly forgive my transgressions) miso-packet broth with stir-fried vegetables and a poached egg.  I think I overkneaded the dough, but I also made the mistake of carrying them down to the kitchen in a bowl.  As a result, all the gnocchi that I had carefully rolled and cut blended back into one amorphous blob and I had to form them again.  This may have worked out to my benefit, as I rather prefer chewy foods and these cooked up perfectly chewy and soft, with a mild pumpkin flavor.  My boyfriend thought they could use more pumpkin flavor, which I considered augmenting with cinnamon.  I lost patience with the gnocchi after forming it the second time and just chucked it into the pot without the scoring, but I think they're much cuter with those grooves.

Pumpkin Gnocchi slightly tweaked from Happyolks
Makes roughly 4 cups of cooked gnocchi

2 cups all-purpose flour (originally white whole wheat) 
1 cup cooked pureed pumpkin (I used half of a 15-oz. can)
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt

Any vegetables or soup you'd like to add (I bought my vegetables from the salad section of one of our school's food courts)
2 or 3 eggs

1 large mixing bowl
1 rubber spatula
¼ cup dry measure
¼ teaspoon measure 
Flat surface for rolling out dough
Sharp knife and cutting board (can double as flat surface) for cutting gnocchi
Flour for reducing stickiness of dough
1 fork for scoring the dough (if you are more patient than I)
1 pot for boiling gnocchi


1. Mix together the egg, pumpkin and salt until combined.  Add the flour a ½ cup at a time and fold until a soft dough forms, adding more flour if necessary. 

2. Roll out pieces of the dough to form ropes about ½ inch in diameter, then cut to form gnocchi.  If you have the time, press with a fork to form adorable, traditional gnocchi.  Otherwise, just cook as they are.  They look kind of like fried tofu (which make me happy), and are just as delicious in a different way.

3. Bring water in the pot to a rolling boil, then drop in a few gnocchi at a time and stir occasionally.  When the gnocchi float to the surface, remove them from the pot, set aside and replace with more gnocchi.

4. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, rinse out the pot and boil some fresh water or broth.  If you live in an actual house, there's a decent chance you have some homemade or canned soup stock around.  That's perfect.  I live in a dorm and used some instant miso soup packets.

5. Dump the gnocchi back into the soup and cook for a minute, to heat it back up.  Add in any vegetables or meat that your heart desires, and crack in 2 or 3 eggs to poach.  Once the eggs are cooked but the yolks are still runny (personal preference), serve!  Enjoy :)

Gnocchi, miso broth, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, a touch of garlic and an egg.

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