By Cat, June 2009 (Photo collage, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Includes: 1. Gnocchi introduction; 2. Spring Vegetable Stew, with Herb Ricotta Gnocchi
Gnocchi is pronounced correctly as nyoh’-kee (the ny sound is similar to ñ in Spanish), but commonly mispronounced as nyah’-kee or noh’-kee. (You can listen to the pronunciation at howjsay.com (1)). An alternate spelling is ‘ñoqui’. Wikipedia (5) suggests the word means ‘lump’ and is derived from the Italian gnocchio (knot in wood), or nocca (knuckle).
Ricotta gnocchi, with or without spinach, is probably one of the original versions, from where gnocchi originated in the Middle East. The people around the Mediterranean were making gnocchi for centuries before the introduction of potatoes from the new world. Semolina or ricotta gnocchi were very common.
Spring Vegetable Stew, with Herb Ricotta Gnocchi
This recipe is also adapted from the May 27, 2009 Daily Inter Lake, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times (6). Serves 6.
Fava beans are very similar to lima beans, but are harder to find in American groceries. You could substitute fresh or frozen lima beans, and thus eliminate step 3. Bulbing onions are a spring specialty that look like scallions with swollen bases. I’m growing some in my garden from white onion sets; instead of allowing them to grow to full size, I just harvest them early.
If you want to try this dish, but don’t want to make your own gnocchi, try a package of potato gnocchi if you cannot find ricotta gnocchi. Add some ricotta to the veggie stew, when you add the onions and asparagus tips.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- one recipe Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 pounds baby or medium artichokes
- 1 cup shelled fava beans (about 1 ½ ponds in the pod); or frozen lima beans is a good substitute
- 2 pounds asparagus
- ½ pound bulbing onions (or large scallions)
- ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp minced shallots
- ½ cup dry vermouth or other white wine
- ¼ cup filtered water
- 2 tsp minced fresh tarragon
- large bowl
- cast iron skillet, with lid
- stock pot or large saucepan (for cooking gnocchi)
- Prepare gnocchi as above. If using frozen gnocchi, you do not need to thaw them first.
- Clean artichokes: fill a large bowl with cool water ad add lemon juice. Trim away each tough outer leaves, then cut off the top ½ inch of the tip and peel the base and stem (discard for compost). Quarter the baby artichokes or cut larger chokes lengthwise into 8 pieces. Keep them submerged in the lemon water to prevent browning, and set aside.
- (Skip this step if using frozen lima beans). Place shelled fava beans in large bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Let stand until water is cool enough to touch. Use thumbnail to cut a slit in the thin membrane surrounding each fava, and squeeze the bright green halves into a bowl. Discard membranes for compost. Repeat with all favas and set aside. See Fava Beans (About) for more detail.
- Snap tough bases off asparagus and discard for compost. Cut off tender tips and reserve. Peel stalks (optional) and cut cross-wise into 1″ sections.
- Trim roots and most of the green stems of bulbing onions and halve lengthwise.
- Melt butter in skillet over medium heat, and add shallots. Cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add prepared artichokes, white wine and ¼ cup water. Cover tightly and cook until artichokes are just tender enough to pierce with a paring knife, 5 – 15 minutes (time varies depending on freshness and type of artichoke).
- Add asparagus sections; replace cover and cook until they are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in bulbing onions, asparagus tips and tarragon. Cook until the tips are bright green and tender, about 3 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper; reduce heat to simmer to keep warm.
Assembly of Gnocchi and Stew
- Bring wide pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Reduce to slow boil and add gnocchi (reducing heat helps to keep tender gnocchi from breaking up). Stir gently lift them from the bottom of the pot and cook until they float to the surface, 1 – 2 minutes, then cook an additional 20-30 seconds and retrieve them with a strainer, transferring them directly to the vegetable stew. If you used pre-made potato gnocchi, stir ricotta into stew when you season.
- Increase heat under stew to high and add remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Stir gently to coat the gnocchi with the glaze adn divide among 6 heated pasta bowls. Sprinkle grated parmigiano over the top, and pass more at the table.
- Serve immediately.
- howjsay.com on pronunciation of gnocchi (howjsay.com/index.php?word=gnocchi&submit=Submit)
- Italian food.about.com, Kyle Phillips’ gnocchi recipe (italianfood.about.com/od/gnocchi/a/aa010298.htm)
- How to Make Potato Gnocchi video (video.about.com/italianfood/How-to-Make-Potato-Gnocchi.htm
- Brett Moore’s recipe for potato gnocchi (gourmetfood.about.com/od/cookingtechniques/ss/gnocchistep.htm)
- Wikipedia on Gnocchi (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnocchi)
- Daily Inter Lake, May 27, 2009, originally from the Los Angeles Times (latimes.com/food/la-fo-calcook20reca-2009may20-story.html)