Monday, July 6, 2009

Lemons into lemonade (OR botched mozzarella into gnocchi, if you will)

Photos by David Wheeler

First of all, there are some things you should know about me:

1) I firmly believe that there are few problems in the kitchen that cannot be solved with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and good cheese.

2) I'm paying way too damn much money of farm-fresh milk to throw out a messed-up batch of homemade mozzarella.

So, here's how I ended up making this fabulous, fresh ricotta gnocchi. I intended to make pizza with homemade mozzarella (as documented here and here), but I got confused and microwaved the whey too long and ended up with a melted cheese sauce instead of a lovely ball of mozzarella. After a bit of cursing and imaginary throwing of kitchen tools, I decided this was a perfect excuse to try the ricotta gnocchi recipe my friend and colleague, Alix, had sent over only a few days before. Now, what I was working with wasn't exactly fresh ricotta, but it was extremely similar. I figured I had nothing to lose.

As per her directions, I prepped the gnocchi and put it through a first boil. It then sat ready in my fridge for a couple of days while I decided what to do with it. Honestly, I was a little afraid. I thought it might be a bit like eating bowling balls, and my stomach just wasn't up to the task.

Imagine my surprise when I boiled the gnocchi for the second time and found they were light as air. Tossed with a fresh pesto and some of the first summer tomatoes and we were good to go. (Indulge me for a moment: you know the song Sex on Wheels* by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult? That is what was brought to mind when cutting into the first summer tomato. I don't know if that makes me really sensual, culinarily speaking, or really pathetic, but there it is!)

Gnocchi with Pesto

Here, courtesy of Alix, is the recipe for the gnocchi. I've included a rough recipe for my pesto, but I don't actually measure when I make it.

Batali's ricotta gnocchi:
1.5 lb fresh goat's milk or regular ricotta
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
olive oil

Put ricotta in a fine sieve set over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and
refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight, to drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the drained ricotta, flour, eggs, parsley, salt,
pepper and nutmeg and stir together gently until a soft dough forms. Add a
little more flour is the dough is sticky when poked with a fingertip. (I
would go easy on the extra flour--use a clean fingertip and don't poke
hard and it's not likely to feel sticky.)

Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into balls, using about 2 T
dough for each one. Place gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with a lightly
floured kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, bring 6 QT of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 T salt.
Set up an ice bath next to the stove.

Gently slip as many gnocchi at a time as will float freely into the
boiling water, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to separate them, and
cook until they rise to the surface, abt 7 min. Test one for doneness by
cutting into the center: it should be the same color and consistency all
the way through. Scoop them out of the pot with a wire skimmer as soon as
they are cooked and transfer into the ice bath.

When cool, drain them and transfer into an airtight container. Toss with
olive oil to coat and refrigerate until ready to cook.

When ready to cook and eat them, boil another 6 QTs of water with 2 T
salt, add gnocchi to boiling water and cook until they float to the top.

Julie's pesto
In the food processor, blend:
A large bunch fresh basil
2-3 cloves garlic
julice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
handful of pine nuts
small hunk of parmesan

Toss over gnocchi and add a bit more pepper and parmesan.

* Ok, really?! You don't know the song Sex on Wheels?? Allow me to educate you. ;-) Yet another example of how I'm just an 80s girl after all!

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