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.


Moving Update and Un-ravioli (Gnudi)

gnudi close

I was trying to think of clever titles for this post, but all I could think of was “Dancing in my Gnudi pants”, in reference to the Georgia Nicholson series, which I devoured one summer at my cousin’s house when I was fifteen.  But that really isn’t a good reference to make, when I’m trying to convince you to make this recipe for dinner…

Today is day two in our new house!  My Sunday was spent madly packing the last –okay, most of my belongings into boxes and bins and miraculously fitting, at least, 80% of my life into my car.  Tabby may be small, but she’s a beast.  Just saying. (Even more miraculous, I think she got better mileage while packed with stuff–like, 5 more miles to the gallon, better.  That, or I filled up the tank partway and forgot about it…but I don’t think that I am so exhausted as to forget a trip to the gas station). Anyways, Monday was moving day, and we did a lot of it.  Between picking up the U-Haul, picking up keys (the rental office did not open until 10am, which set our day back a little bit), grabbing a new dining table from a friend’s, and packing up the first load at M’s house, we didn’t actually get into our new townhouse until 1:30pm.  But, all of our belongings and furniture made it into the house by 5pm, which is a great achievement.  Now, we are stuck trying to unpack everything, which is really the hard part.

I did not, to my relief, cull down any of my kitchen supplies, but this move has proven how strange of an assortment of kitchen gear I own.  Brotform proofing basket? Check. Madeleine Cookie mold? Check. Bread proofer, crockpots, muffin tins, baking tins, measuring spoons, pot holders? Check and check.  But when it came time for dinner (M had already claimed making a curry), we had no knives or plates (the plates got left behind in the plot of a long explanation).  After four years in a college dorm and three solid years of regular cooking and kitchen experiments, it turns out that I do not (nor does M or S) own my own knives.  Or a vegetable peeler. Or measuring cups, mixing bowls, pots and pans, cutting boards, or spatulas.  I’ve always used my mother’s.  Or M’s mother’s, or whichever roommate had brought those tools for the year. It was an enlightening and disappointing discovery.  While I have lovely plans for a shopping spree for such essentials, my wallet does not support that plan.  We’ll have to see what we can get by on borrowing and buying piecemeal as we go along.

Luckily, S did own (and bring) a few pots, and with M’s pocket knife, dinner got on the table–in mason jars, the only containers that had made it into the kitchen.  It was an interesting end to the day, but I don’t know if I have eaten more delicious curry.  The next day, I bought a cast-iron skillet and a chef’s knife, and M grabbed some of the plates.  We may have enough tools to survive now! 😉 Since Monday was my last day off for a week, and the last day off for M and S for at least another 10 days, the actual unpacking process has been quite slow.  Some cooking is certainly happening in the little corner of counter space cleared by the stove, but I’ve been more lax in documenting it.  Last night, the boys grilled steaks while I tossed together an herbed mediterranean salad and skillet potatoes.  I’m sure I will be making both again soon–photos will have to be taken on the second round.  I’ve always been a little torn about posting salad-type recipes…I guess some of my favorites (this mediterranean, a two-bean salad from my sister, my mother’s ambrosia, or macaroni salad, etc) don’t seem to be very revolutionary.  Tasty, absolutely, but they are simple enough that I’m sure you could find another recipe on the internet.  However, since this blog was started to serve as an online collection of my recipes, as much for myself as for anyone else, I think I do need to share my salad “recipes”.  If I really get my act together, maybe I will have a salad week!  Especially with summer coming around.

Speaking of summer, it certainly isn’t here.  While we haven’t gotten any snow for a few weeks, it has now become reliably sunny.  Looking out a window is looking out to a glorious promise of sun and warmth…a promise that is, in fact, a lie.  It is still quite chilly with the wind, in spite of the sun beaming down.  Maybe it is because of this disconnect that I have found myself craving tea, constantly. I may, or may not, have just stopped to make yet another cup of Earl Grey. (See, I am not quite as random as I seem–only tangential!)  Even though it is April, and even after last night’s lovely salad, I am still wrapped in sweaters, holding a cup of hot tea, and thinking about the rich, warming stews, rich gravies, and filling squash dishes of winter.

For today’s recipe, especially since I am still bogged down with unpacking, I have a recipe that I made several weeks ago, when the season, definitely, could still be counted as winter.  I came across Giada’s recipe for Gnudi and was intrigued by these “nude ravioli”.  Filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini and chinese dumplings, were a staple in my house when I was young.  After going gluten-free, I have had one dish of GF ravioli that was actually passable (in fact, it was delicious!) at a local restaurant.  I was very much interested in trying gnudi as a substitute.  A creamy mix of ricotta under thick tomato sauce would be the perfect warm and comforting dish to make for dinner.  (Ultimately, my binge-cooking got the best of me, and I made cabbage rolls to go along with this.  Recipe for those coming soon!)

My expectations for this recipe were, honestly, entirely wrong.  Though the ingredients make up the soft, creamy filling of ravioli, I should have thought more about their counterpart in name: gnocchi.  Gnudi are dumplings, in the “chicken and dumplings” sense–thick all the way through, rather than holding the soft ravioli center.  This didn’t diminish their tastiness, but it was rather surprising when I came to the finished product.  Because I was expecting these to be a tad softer, I made them into larger rounds, like the dinner-sized raviolis of my childhood.  Next time, I will definitely keep gnocchi in mind and form my gnudi much, much smaller into little bite-sized pillows of cheesy awesome.  But their large size wasn’t much of an issue–two gnudi made the perfect snack, three were great for dinner with a side dish.  M, ultimately, ate these with his fingers, dipping them into the marinara sauce like I have photographed.  Either way you form them, big or small, gnudi are a delicious option for any meal.

gnudi plate

Gnudi 

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6 | Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1 c. whole-milk ricotta, undrained*
  • 2 c. kale leaves
  • 1 c. grated parmesan or pecorino romano (please use REAL cheese, not the Kraft Green Bottle stuff)
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. (each) salt and pepper
  • 6 tsp gluten-free flour mix + extra for dredging(I used 2 Tbsp, each, White Rice Flour, Sorghum Flour, and Tapioca Starch)
  • 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
  • Pasta sauce (marinara, bolognese, vodka sauce, etc)

*Stir the liquid at the top of the ricotta into the rest, then scoop out ricotta to measure

Rinse and dry the kale leaves.  Chop finely.  Mix the ricotta, kale, cheese, eggs, egg yolks, and spices in a large bowl.  Whisk 6 tablespoons of flour mix and xanthan gum in a small bowl until well-combined.  Stir in flour mixture, incorporate well.  Refrigerate for ten to fifteen minutes.  This rest will help the flour begin to absorb the liquid, as well as firm the mixture slightly.  The mixture may still be rather loose and “goopy”.

After mixture has chilled, place a large pot of water on the stove.  Heat to boiling, then turn down to a simmer.  Add additional flour to a wide, shallow bowl. Using a spoon or two, scoop out desired amount of cheese mixture for one piece of gnudi.  Drop mixture into flour and coat lightly (I spooned some flour over top, then rolled a little bit).  Once coated, the gnudi will be able to be picked up by hand, but will still be delicate.  Drop gnudi into simmering water in small batches and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, until the gnudi are cooked through and float to the surface.  Drain and keep warm until serving.

Continue shaping, dredging, and cooking gnudi in small batches.  Serve warm with your favorite pasta sauce.

gnudi top

Would you make small gnocchi-size gnudi?  Or keep them big (and potential finger foods)?  Do you have the same everlasting love for tea?  Do you name your car? (Fun fact: Tabby’s full name is Tabitha.  And my KitchenAid Stand Mixer is named Henrietta.  Those are the only inanimate objects that have names, though.) Have you read the Georgia Nicholson books?