Autumn Expectations and Butternut Squash Gnocchi

gnocchi title

We had the first glimmers of autumn here in the past few day: a gentle crispness in the mornings when we take Punc out for her walk and cool breezes throughout the days.  I, of course, pounced on this brief respite from the heat and took my cue to start thinking of all of the stereotypical fall plans.  Pumpkin-everything, baking apples nine different ways, sweaters, and cool days and long, darkening evenings.  Yes, I harbor a deep love for fall, for all of the stereotypical reasons.  As mentioned, with my primary job working with children, our schedule revolves around theirs.  We can segment the year into Fall, Spring, and Summer.  Naturally, the oncoming of September each year has developed into a transition-type period in my life, and the hints of a season change only strengthens that feeling.  After a long, hot summer, I am longing for the blustery, cool weather.  This year especially, I find myself earnestly awaiting the season’s shift.  Fall feels fresh; encouraging cozy clothes and the promise of fires in the hearth.  As much as I have dreamy musings of wanderlust (long walks, new places, all colored with autumn leaves); I find myself craving stillness even more.  I want stretches of quiet, allowing for reflection and reading.  I want a quilt, a cup of tea, and a new book to keep me company as the day creeps from afternoon to night.  I fully plan on getting what I want–I’m drafting up quite a list of books waiting to be read, and I’m compiling simple or long-and-slow cooked recipes for dinner, to simplify my evenings after work.  Less stress, more rest–that is my plan for the coming few months.

gnocchi close up

I have been putting more effort into socializing as well.  Living with my significant other and a roommate fulfills my basic need for conversation and camaraderie, but I do miss spending time with other girls, and the friends that have been close to me for years.  It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of a daily routine: See roommates at home, see coworkers at work, come home, dinner, tv, bed, repeat.   With my strange arts schedule keeping me working on weekends, meeting up with people with more “routine” schedules is all the more challenging.  I am trying harder to keep connections as more friends are getting engaged, getting married, having babies, and moving across the country.  Everyone is busy, but the initiative to see one another has to start somewhere.  I am putting more effort into taking that initiative.  (Plus, then I have an excuse to go to brunch/coffee/dinner–why didn’t I start reaching out earlier?)

gnocchi close

I also feel like I haven’t really been listening lately.  Not in a “can you repeat that” sense, but I have noticed myself interrupting more, and pushing to express my opinion.  I am giving the people around me only half of my attention as I think about my own response–before they are even finished speaking.  So there is another goal for this season: give all of my attention and listen fully to another’s story, anecdote, complaint, idea, sentence until it is complete.

gnocchi

This recipe for butternut squash gnocchi fits with all of my goals and with my seasonal obsessions:  squash is one of my quintessential ‘fall flavors’ and these gnocchi make a filling, comforting dish.  Plus, the preparation of the dough is a simple, meditative task that, while somewhat time consuming, allows for mindless relaxation or a long conversation with whomever you can lure into the kitchen.  I’ll pour M a drink and force him to sit with me!

gnocchi salad plate

Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats

Serves: 6|Prep time: 60-90 minutes|Cook time: 5-10 minutes

  • 2-2.5 lb butternut squash
  • 1 c. brown rice flour (or white rice flour)*
  • 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour (or millet, oat, teff, or a heaping measure of quinoa flour)*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp tapioca starch*
  • Up to 1/2 c. additional flour (2 Tbsp. tapioca starch + 6 Tbsp. brown rice flour or more of the mix)
  • Additional flour for coating the rolling surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp sage, ground, optional
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

*Or use 1 1/2 c. total of your preferred GF flour mix–a low starch mix is preferred–my combo here is around 20% starch.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with oil.  Pierce the squash several times with the tines of a fork or the point of a sharp knife.  Split the squash in half.  Remove the seeds and discard, or save for roasting.  Roast the squash, cut side down, for one hour.  Remove the squash from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then scoop out the flesh.  Mash well, then spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool completely.

In a large bowl, mix the cooled, mashed squash with the egg and parmesan cheese.  Whisk together all spices and flours in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 cups of flour mix to the wet mixture, stir and knead until a smooth, uniform dough forms.  If too wet, add up to 1/4 c. additional flour, in small increments, kneading in between, until dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch.  The dough should pull away from the bowl.  Refrigerate dough for 10-15 minutes.

Flour your work surface and your hands well.  Split cooled dough into large segments.  Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface.  The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter.  Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour.  You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle.

To Serve Immediately: Boil a pot of salted water on the stove.  Drop the gnocchi in one-by-one in small batches, stirring once after 30 seconds to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi floats at the surface.  Ladle out the pasta, into a saucepan with 1 Tbsp of butter+1/8 tsp. ground sage (per serving of gnocchi).  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring gently, until gnocchi is lightly browned.  Serve with grated parmesan or crumbled goat’s cheese, or feta and balsamic vinegar.  I’ve also made it with sliced sausage, onions, and wilted greens as ‘add-ins’ that can be added to the gnocchi in the saucepan.  This gnocchi would be delicious with a variety of sauces.

To Freeze and Cook Later: Before placing kneaded dough in fridge, knead in an addition 2-4 Tbsp of flour mixture*.  Place in fridge for 10-15 minutes. Flour your work surface and your hands well.  Split cooled dough into large segments.  Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface.  The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter.  Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour.  You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle.  Place formed gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze flat overnight.  In the morning, transfer to a freezer-proof bag.  Cook from frozen–do not thaw.

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