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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Gnocchi are sturdy little bite-size dumplings that are often made with mashed potatoes, but other veggies can form the basis for them too.  They usually have an egg as a binder, and I like that this recipe uses an alternate (therefore allergy-free and vegan) binder that takes advantage of leftovers, if you have leftover rice.  There original recipe comes from a PBS vegan cooking show called Christina Cooks.  I choose to serve mine with a non-vegan browned butter and sage sauce.

The tricky thing about this recipe is controlling for moisture content...you can't.  Your pumpkin may have more or less water than average, and even how soon you puree and use your cooked rice alters its moisture content.  I made rice special for this recipe and (as usual) made too much.  I pureed all the rice immediately (thinking I'd freeze some as "rice cereal" for the baby) and clouds of steam poured out of the food processor.  By the time I finished the gnocchi dough, the rice left in the processor was dry and sticky...I suspect that if I'd used the rice at that stage, I would have needed less semolina in my gnocchi dough.  I also suspect using leftover rice rather than freshly prepared hot rice would have had the same effect.  So the amount of semolina you use is very approximate...keep adding until it's the right consistency.

Which, by the way, is like a soft cookie dough.  You want the dough to hold together when you boil the dumplings but you don't want the dough so stiff that the dumplings are like concrete when you cook them.  So you want a dough that can be controlled with a light dusting of flour on your hands and work surface when you roll it out, but not as stiff as, say, a pie dough or cutout cookie dough.

And the semolina...I don't know if you could easily substitute regular wheat flour for the semolina flour.  They're both wheat products, but the semolina feels like cornmeal.  It's also a higher-gluten flour than regular all purpose flour.  You can't substitute cornmeal either because cornmeal doesn't form gluten bonds and therefore won't bind properly.  I didn't have a hard time at all finding semolina flour...it was on the baking aisle at my decidedly non-fancy grocery store with "specialty" flours.  Bob's Red Mill was the brand available.  For what it's worth, I've made other gnocchi-type dumplings before from different recipes that used regular flour and I thought they were heavier and chewier than the gnocchi I made with the semolina.

Lastly, this recipe calls for 1 cup pureed pumpkin.  I used canned pumpkin.  1 cup is about 1/2 a 15 oz. can.  I HATE having half-a-can of stuff leftover.  You could double up the recipe (especially since you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi!) or make pumpkin muffins, pumpkin seafood chowder, or pumpkin pancakes.  You can use homemade pureed pumpkin or I bet even other types of pureed squash though, again, these changes will affect the moisture content of the dough and change how much semolina you need.

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Makes 6 servings (about 1 lb. pasta)

1 cup cooked white rice
1 cup pureed pumpkin (about 1/2 a 15 oz. can)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 cups (or more as needed) semolina flour

Put the rice and pumpkin together in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Scrape into a medium bowl and stir in salt and oil.

Put 1 1/2 cups semolina in a medium bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into the center.  Mix by drawing a little of the flour into the wet ingredients.  Mix gently until flour is all incorporated.  Add more flour if needed until the dough is the consistency of a soft cookie dough.  Knead in the bowl about 10 minutes, adding sprinkles of flour as needed.

Roll dough into 1" logs and cut into 1" pieces.  Mash each piece lightly with the tines of a fork.  Put each piece on a baking tray sprinkled with semolina (if you want to freeze, do so now).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Drop the pasta into the water.  Boil about 2 minutes, until the gnocchi float.  Drain and serve with desired sauce.

Browned Butter and Sage Sauce (not vegan)
Makes enough for 1 lb. of pasta

1 stick butter
1/3 -1/2 cup fresh sage leaves

Put all in a skillet over medium-low heat.  As butter melts, sage leaves will fry.  After about 5 minutes, butter will start to brown.  Watch carefully so it doesn't burn!  When butter is brown around the edges of the pan, take it off the heat. Pin It

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