Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Year's Thoughts & Gnocchi di Zucca/Butternut Squash Gnocchi

The last few weeks I stepped back from blogging, and I apologize. I always find myself drawing inward at year end and the beginning of a new year. I take stock, analyze myself and my life, look at what I accomplished in the past year, how I have grown and ways that I wanted to grow, but didn't. I don't make resolutions for the new year, but I fine tune the path I have set for myself. It picks up from my frame of mind at the beginning of the previous year and adjusts it accordingly. One annual exercise I do is to write quite a bit about how my life is (present tense) at the end of the coming year. So, for instance, I write: "at the end of 2008 I am more unapologetically Jeni." (Yes, this is one of my main desires.) By putting my path and my desires in the present tense, and committing it to writing, I have always found that it fills me with a sense of already having accomplished it, which is a very powerful tool.

Over the last week, in addition to my introspection, I got my life more organized, my office and yoga/meditation studio more in order and inspiring, and cleaned up some of those old piles of "to do" things that had collected dust for months and months. This type of mental and physical cleaning house makes me feel ready to meet the new year with enthusiasm and inspiration. Indeed, I do feel that way and am working on several different exciting work projects already.

...and now back to my blog...

Today I bring you one of my favorite fall/winter recipes - Butternut Squash Gnocchi. For those of you who read my blog regularly already know that I am a big fan of butternut squash and sage, and recently presented another recipe with these ingredients. If you don't like these ingredients, well, you can stop reading now, or look through some of my other recipes for different inspiration.

Adapted from Biba Gaggiano's TRATTORIA COOKING
Serves 6 as a "primi" or first course, or 3 as main course
1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs) cut in half lengthwise (seeds scooped out)
1 large egg beaten
1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for coating and rolling
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (with more for the table)
For the sauce:
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. high quality olive oil
A handful of sage leaves (more or less 30 medium to large leaves)
salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush the squash halves with olive oil and bake on a sheet, cut side up until tender, about 45 minutes. (This can be done a day ahead.)
Cool squash. Scoop out flesh and put all of it into a clean, dry kitchen towel. Squeeze out most of the juice, but not all, approximately 1/2 cup.
Put the squash pulp into a bowl and egg, some salt, flour and Parmigiano. Mix well. Place the mixture in a floured bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Freeze for about one hour.
Spread some flour on a baking sheet. Remove the dough from the freezer. With you fingers, take about a teaspoon of the dough at a time and roll into a ball, then roll the ball into the flour. Place gnocchi on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used. This gets to be pretty sticky business, so you may have to clean your hands off from time to time. Place gnocchi in refrigerator until ready to use, up to several hours.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (I add about 1 Tbsp. of salt to the water.) Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and add sage leaves. Cook on medium-low heat until butter begins to brown and the sage gets crispy. (Be careful as cooking this too quickly or with too much heat can lead to the butter and sage burning easily.) Add a little salt to the oil and butter mixture.
Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and boil for about 2 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the pan with the sage butter. Coat all gnocchi well and transfer to a platter or large bowl. Be sure to pass fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the table for topping these tasty little morsels.
For wine, I find a light red goes well with squash dishes. Try a Dolcetto, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Nero d'Avola or Chianti Colli Senesi.
Buon Appetito!

Happy New Year/Buon Anno!


rowena said...

Oh yes I am very well aware of your love for butternut and sage. I love them too!

But in regards to hibernating for a bit...I think the xmas holiday season makes it even more difficult to keep up online when there's a gazillion things to do. I need to commence organizing around here myself. With the extra stuff in the house I don't have anywhere special for morning meditiation...argh!

african vanielje said...

I love the look of these Jeni. I will have to try them and let you know. Kody loves gnocchi but is not so keen on butternut. I'll have to see what she thinks.

katiez said...

I made pumpkin gnocchi earlier this winter - I can see I was too afraid to use flour. I had a bit of a time with them sticking - to me, the fork, the counter...
They cooked up fine and tasted great, but...
Thanks for the tips

Pasticcera said...

I love all types of gnocchi and these look fat and tasty. Your book post is daunting, but very interesting indeed.

Rebecca Lemke said...

I admire you for taking the time to make homemade gnocchi. I've never made it because I always thought it would be too time consuming and messy to make and what with a great little Italian restaurant called "Spumoni" just a few blocks from my house with their "gnocchi bar", I go there just for their gnocchi when I want a treat. Butternut squash is wonderful right now - I'll probably purchase some at this weeks Santa Monica Farmers Market. And if I get brave, I'll make gnocchi. For me, good gnocchi is "Italian Comfort Food." Capice?

The Passionate Palate said...

Rowena - Yes, hibernating is the right word.

AV - Hmmm...might be a problem for Kody, although they don't really taste "squashy" as much as sweet.

Katie - I find the extra flour on the outside does not equate to a floury taste, as if it were on the inside.

Pasticcera - Oh dear! My book post looked daunting. Didn't mean for it to.

Rebec - I'll have to check out that gnocchi bar with you!

Chloe said...

Glad you’re back. I don’t make resolutions either but, like you, I think of what I would like to fine tune. Cooking is one of the things I enjoy but often don’t make time for. I'm looking forward to trying some new recipes this year and your mouthwatering photos are great inspiration.

Dana said...

So glad to see you back! I think there's something about this time of year that lends into to introspection and some time alone, especially when you've been through so much lately.
The butternut gnocchi squash looks delicious! I've never made gnocchi by hand, but I have a butternut squash in my kitchen that might just have to be made into delicious gnocchi!

John said...

Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the recipe!