Friday, January 28, 2011

Potato Gnocchi with Figs, Hazelnuts and Winter Squash

Photo by Sergio Salvador
www.salvadorphoto.com
If you've ever had freshly made gnocchi, perhaps you (like me) fell deeply in love with their creamy, delicate texture that melts in your mouth. The good news is, they're actually not that hard to make, with the right proportions and technique – the gnocchi in this recipe are from the authoritative Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon, and it works for me every time.

I'm finally cutting into the last of my heirloom pumpkins - the Black Futsu, which is a great keeper (here's a picture of it). Figs grow well here in Albuquerque, as long they're in a warm, protected spot such as a south-facing wall, and they store well dried so you can enjoy them all winter. They're also a great container plant - I bring mine in for the winter and put it back outside in summer (if you're interested in growing a fig tree, see Lloyd Kreitzer's website, www.landofenfigment.com).

2 ¼ pounds potatoes
2 T. olive oil
3 C. winter squash, cut in 1-inch chunks
½ C. dried figs
½ C. hazelnuts
2 C. cream
1 garlic clove, smashed
Pinch of nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1 3/4 C. flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 t. salt

Peel potatoes, cut in quarters, and steam 25 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the squash cubes and toss to coat with oil. Add about a cup of water, sprinkle with salt, cover and simmer until squash is tender and most of the water has evaporated. Fry a few minutes longer to brown the edges.

Soak figs in boiling water about 15 minutes, until soft – if they are really hard, you can simmer them on the stove a bit. Chop them into ½ inch chunks. Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet for a minute or two, and chop roughly. Simmer cream, garlic nutmeg and pepper in a small saucepan until reduced by one-quarter, then season with a pinch of salt.

Mash the potatoes while hot, then stir in flour, egg and ½ teaspoon salt. Knead for a few minutes, until a soft elastic dough is formed. Shape the dough into ropes about ¾ inch thick. Cut into ¾-inch sections, pulling them off and setting them on a dish towel dusted with flour as you go.

Boil a large pot of generously salted water and drop in gnocchi, no more than a dozen at a time. They are done when they float to the top (just a few minutes). Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon and set directly onto serving plate. Top with squash, figs, hazelnuts and sauce. Serves 4.
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