Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gnocchi!



It still hasn't ceased to amaze me how many things are already out there that actually don't require gluten at all in order to come out properly. I was spending a leisurely evening at home watching The Food Network. I know a lot of people don't like them. Or maybe that is too strong. I know a lot of the other blogs I read don't find them useful at all. I wouldn't be here writing about food if it weren't for Rachel Ray and Emeril. I spent long seasons growing up without stepping foot in the kitchen for more than a glass of ice tea. When I began feeling the urge to step into the kitchen I had no frame of reference. How to chop vegetables, handle raw meat, and the differences between simmer and boil were completely foreign to me.


Since my mother lives 3,000 miles to the North of me, and she has lived there since I moved to Colorado at the age of 17, I can't toodle over to her house and lean over her shoulder to watch her. Rachel and Emeril have become my kitchen "Mom" and "Dad". I guess that makes Alton my "Uncle". I watch these three regularly. It probably seems silly to a lot of people, but I watch them for context as much as content. I really have no idea what I'm doing when I step into the kitchen. Rachel made me believe that I could do it. She had no pre-chopped ingredients off to the side. She chopped everything right there in front of me. Emeril made it exciting.

The first time I saw Emeril I was at a friends house. This was sometime over the past year. I know he has been around for quite a while and it must sound as if I have been under a rock. I just didn't ever do anything with food except eat it, and usually on the go. We were chatting as Emeril was puttering around his sound stage inside the box, when suddenly "BAM!" He scared me clear off the couch. It upset me quite a bit. I didn't think that scaring the bejeebies out of people and cooking really went together. It took a couple of months, but I ended up watching him again. Slow night on TV I guess. He went long enough without yelling at me that I fell in love (kind of like my husband....).

Had this not coincided with my discovery of Gluten-Free Girl, it probably wouldn't have gone anywhere. Shauna is like a cheerleader for gluten-free home cooking. Her anyone can live this way happily attitude has really kept me going. She romanticized the kitchen and cooking for me. I needed to go do something in the kitchen so that I can be just like Shauna when I grow up.

All of this of course leads up to my adventure with gnocchi. I could hardly wait all week in anticipation of the weekend when I would have time to make this Italian potato pasta. Discovering foods that are by their very own nature essentially gluten free is always a moment of glee for me. When I saw Rachel Ray eating these little noodles and she mentioned they were made out of potato...I set out to investigating.

It didn't take much. I spent very little time actually, because of the amazing resource Epicurious. That is where I found this recipe. The only real modification that I made to the recipe was the type of flour I mixed into the potatoes. I just substituted Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour.

Well...I also had a serious lapse in brain-power. Until I started to make the gnocchi, the potatoes were already boiling, I didn't realize that it called for a potato ricer. I honestly had to look it up to make sure I knew what the recipe was calling for. In order to get the potatos to the propper consistency and keep them light you are supposed to use a potato ricer. I don't have one. Yet.

I used my hand mixer on the lowest setting and only for a minute. I still didn't comprehend the full ramifications until I had them spread out on the counter cooling and I could see all the little pieces of whole potato still lingering. All description of gnocchi are light and fluffly. Not chunky. Still I held out hope.

I needed the dough with the egg and spices and began adding my bean flour. I would have blamed the bean flour for the sticky texture were it not for the warning in the recipe that this dough will stick to your hands and work surface. "Repeatedly rub this rough dough from your hands and scrape it with a knife or dough scraper from the work surface back into the dough as you knead."

It then recommends washing your hands. This is actually quite a task as the starches from the potatoes had bonded to my hands like super glue. After plenty of scrubbing and some time later I was able to continue this adventure...

I proceeded through the recipe, having skimmed it in speedy fashion, of course. I cut my rolled potato and bean flour dough in 1/2 inch sections and began dropping them into boiling water. While waiting for the first batch to float I realized that I had made another error. Each 1/2 inch section was supposed to be rolled into a ball and then across a fork. They are supposed to come out looking like this. Obviously not my gnocchi, nor is it my photo. I hope Tyrannosaurus Reflex doesn't mind my use of this picture to demonstrate how truly inept I can be in the kitchen. Had I done enough research I would have seen what they were supposed to look like. It might have clued me in a little.

In the pot however, these were proceeding exactly as the recipe had indicated. They would begin to float and I would skim them off the top. I put too many in at one time on the next batch and by the time I got the last ones skimmed off they had been in too long and were disintegrating in some fashion.

Essentially what it is the picture above is my first feeble attempt at gnocchi. They were delicious in spite of the tiny whole potato bits and the dumpling shape. Yes dumplings. That is what came out of the pot. All my gnocchi hopes went in, and potato dumplings came out. They were gluten-free and delicious and warm and filling, and I recommend you try them yourself as soon as possible. I ended up covered in flour and laughing at myself (in an incredibly ego-boosting healthy way), and no matter your level of experience you should have a go at these as soon as you can.

I recommend salting them and adding as much fresh ground pepper as you like, before adding the sauce of your choice.I quickly whipped up the creamy tomato sauce pictured above. I like a lot of fresh ground pepper. I never knew that I did, but in gathering the ingredients for this recipe I finally broke down and bough a pepper grinder for home. Wow! If you haven't, you should. IMMEDIATELY! I'm peppering everything now. I ate a microwave meal last night (Late night, no excuse, right? Thank goodness for Amy's Organic Gluten-Free Microwave meals!), and even put fresh ground pepper on that.

I will be trying these again very soon. As usual, I'm always sure I can do better. And being new at this is always a good excuse to make a mess of things.

Look, Ma! I can cook!


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4 comments:

Nic said...

Great post, Sasha. I'm glad that you kept going with the recipe, instead of just giving up because of a few little potato bits (as so many people would have done). They look lovely!

Sasha said...

Nic,
Thank you for the comment. I love your blog! If I had given up we'd have had something frozen from a box for dinner. Blech!

Shauna said...

Sasha, these look scrumptious. And after all -- it's really about the taste, isn't it? This new blog of yours is gorgeous. I'm so happy to have been an inspiration, let me tell you!

(Oh, and the cake mix arrived yesterday. I couldn't have been more moved. THank you. Thank you. Sometime in the next week, I'm going to make it and do a post about it, and tell everyone about you!)

Sasha said...

Shauna,

Thank you for all of your wonderful encouragement. Meeting you was definitely one of the highlights of 2005 for me. I hope you enjoy your chocolate cake!