when nothing else will do

After work, I rode to the Rockland Public Library to see John Piotti of the Maine Farmland Trust give a talk called “Are Farms the Key to Maine’s Future?” The short answer: Yes. The long answer: If $50 million dollars doesn’t get poured into agricultural conservation easements,  property value will force farmers (more specifically, family of deceased farmers) to sell their property to developers instead of other farmers. Luckily, the Maine Farmland Trust, which was founded 12 years ago, is optimistic about raising these funds and achieving their goal to preserve 100,000 acres of farmland by 2014.

One the drive home from this talk, my coworker shared that Waldoboro, the town where my office lies, used to be the pumpkin capital of New England, growing the majority of the pumpkin for canning by One Pie. As far as I know, nary a commercial pumpkin patch exists in Waldoboro anymore, but all this talk of pumpkins got my stomach screaming for pumpkin gnocchi.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Gnocchi
Adapted from this recipe on Tastebook
Serves 2

I lost the recipe I used to use to make these, but after going through ten or so Google search results, I settled on a recipe that called for whole wheat flour. Normally, I look at whole wheat pastas in disdain because the larger flour grains fail at mimicking the texture of white or semolina flour, but I was running seriously low on all-purpose flour, so whole wheat would have to do. These gnocchi turned out so light and lovely regardless, and the choice of grain made me feel a little better about eating a bowl of (basically) flour and cheese.

When I made these in the past, I would pan-fry them in browned butter after a quick boil to add a contrasting textural element to the edible pillows, then serve them with fresh pesto. (Sometimes, I even opted for cilantro pesto with pumpkin seeds and red onion and cumin to make my Italian relatives turn in their graves.) This time, I had pesto butter (!) in the refrigerator from Borealis Breads, so I used that to cover my butter and pesto bases then topped my dinner with grated cheese and pumpkin seeds.

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (or homemade pumpkin puree, drained thoroughly)
1/2 cup Parmesean or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg white, whipped until frothy
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of your favorite butter or oil

Fill a large pot with water (and some salt) and let it get boiling. (It takes about as long for a large pot of water to boil as it does for this dough to come together. Amazing!)

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, cheese, salt, black pepper and nutmeg. Carefully fold in the frothy egg whites. Next, fold in the whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Add the all-purpose flour until just incorporated. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle about 1-inch high. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch pieces, as shown above. (Another method is to roll the dough into 1-inch-wide snakes and then to cut each snake into 1-inch pieces.)

Put some butter in a frying pan and set it to medium heat. Add your gnocchi to the boiling water, give a quick stir, and leave them be until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the buttered frying pan. Toss a few times until they are at your desired level of doneness, transfer to a bowl, top with more cheese, and enjoy.

I was cooking for one so after I finished eating, I shaped the rest of the gnocchi and went at them with a fork to get a more traditional gnocchi look. (With the job I did, I think I caused my Italian ancestor grave-turning, but taste matters more than presentation, right?) I placed them all on a cornmeal-dusted cookie sheet, threw them in the freezer for about 90 minutes, and then transferred them to a bag. They will be ready to greet my tongue and tum in the ides of March when I am as likely to find pumpkin as I am to find gold at the end of a leprechaun’s rainbow.


One response to “when nothing else will do

  1. How did you know I was in need of a gnocchi recipe? Sounds heavenly!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s