Purple Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Beets
Gnocchi are a lot easier to make that one would think. The dough is made of mashed potatoes, flour and eggs. The preparation is very basic. The gnocchi bathe in boiling water for a few minutes and they're sautéed in a little butter.
To make it more fun and playful for the kids to eat, I used purple potatoes, called Okinawan sweet potatoes. They look very similar to a white sweet potato and are oval-shaped with pointy tips. To repeat the purple-colored theme, I paired the pasta dish with roasted beets. I also added sage for flavor and almonds for crunch.
We eat with our eyes first, and the vibrant color of this dish is sure to capture the attention of even the pickiest eater. After the reception it got from my girls, I expect I'll be making it fairly often.
Yields: 8 servings3 red beets
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or regular salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 Okinawan sweet potatoes (1-3/4 pounds), purple-colored potatoes
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (7 ounces)
2 tablespoons ground almonds (see tips)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
8 fresh sage leaves, torn in thirds
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup whole almonds, roasted and coarsely chopped
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter, diced
1 cup vinaigrette (see tips)
For the roasted beets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wash the beets. Scrub them under tap water. Remember to trim off a little piece from the ends of the root. Cut into thirds, horizontally. No need to peel the beets. Once they are roasted, the peels will rub right off.
Place in a large bowl and add the sage leaves. Drizzle with 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Toss well. Wrap each beet (3 pieces) in aluminum foil. Place the aluminum wrappers on a baking sheet.
Roast for about 50-55 minutes. Let the beets cool for about 20-30 minutes. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, wipe the skins off using paper towels.
Peel and dice the beets into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.
Boiling the potatoes:
Brush and wash the potatoes. Place them whole in a large pot (no need to peel them). Fill it with cold water until the potatoes are barely covered. It's important to start with cold water so the potatoes cook evenly. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to medium-high (if you cook the potatoes at a full boil, they might fall apart). As soon as the water reaches a boil, cook for about 25-30 minutes. Test, using a fork; the potatoes should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from the pot. Drain the potatoes thoroughly and let them cool a little (do not rinse and let the liquid evaporate). Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle and have dried thoroughly, remove the skin.
Forming the gnocchi:
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs using a fork.
Reserve about 2 tablespoons of flour.
Using a potato masher or a potato ricer, mash the potatoes. Add the finely ground almonds and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure the potatoes are cooled enough, so the eggs don't cook. Form a well in the center of the potatoes and pour in the egg mixture. Add about ½ cup of flour. Mix until the batter is smooth. Do NOT over-mix. Add about 7-8 tablespoons of oil. Add the rest of the flour and knead the dough until it becomes a smooth dough ball.
Create 4 (1-¼" diameter) 16-inch logs. Using a paring knife, cut the logs into 1-¼" pieces.
This step is aesthetic and optional: Using the back of a fork, flatten the gnocchi, creating a striped-pattern on one side. Flip the piece over and then fold the edges together to form a round shape. Dust the formed gnocchi with flour.
Boiling the gnocchi:
Bring about 3 quarts of water to boil. Add the gnocchi, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 3-4 minutes total until the gnocchi float to the surface. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the gnocchi and the gnocchi will be fluffy and more tender) and keep gently stirring every now and then so the gnocchi doesn't stick to the bottom.
When the gnocchi are cooked, reserve about 1/3 cup of pasta water and drain the gnocchi (do NOT rinse). Let stand in a colander.
In a large NON-STICK sauté pan, heat the rest of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until they're slightly golden. Add the gnocchi pasta and butter. Toss the gnocchi by moving the pan in circular motion (the pan should be lifted in a low angle to facilitate the movement). Season with salt and pepper. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add the reserved pasta water. Drizzle with lemon juice. Add the roasted beets and almonds. Transfer to a large serving platter.
Garnish with fresh sage leaves (I decorated the dish with sage flower from our garden and added a few sprigs of parsley). Serve immediately with vinaigrette on the side.
You can also add parmesan cheese to add a subtle saltiness and nuttiness to the dish if you like.
Here are a few tips to prevent beets from staining yourself and your kitchen:
- Rule #1: Wear dark-colored clothes.
- Rule #2: Grease your hands with oil before touching the beets.
- Rule #3: Do not cut (or place) beets on a marble baking slab!
- Rule #4: Use a plastic cutting board. You can eventually toss it or bleach it later.
- Rule #5: If unfortunately, you stained your wooden cutting board, just as you would for wine stains, sprinkle a little kosher salt on the stain and spray a little water. Wait for an hour then rinse.
Roasting almonds: To release the flavor and oil of the nuts, I like to roast them in the oven before using them. Spread the nuts onto a baking sheet. Place the tray in a preheated oven at 170°F. Roast the almonds for about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely and coarsely chop them.
Making almond flour: You can either buy ready-made finely ground almonds or make it yourself. Grind the roasted almonds in a food processor or a blender. Make sure you stop before it turns into nut butter. I love the Vitamix brand blender. The dry blade really turns the nut into a fine mill. It's well worth it if you cook a lot or if you're a smoothie drinker.
A big no-no is to mash the potatoes in a food processor or a blender; the texture will be gooey and sticky and the result won't be good. The best way is to use a food mill, a potato masher or a potato ricer. You can also manually mash the potatoes using food service disposable gloves. And most important, do NOT over-work the mashed potatoes.
I bought Okinawan sweet potatoes in a Korean store called Galleria. The address is 3531 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95061.
You could also used purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes, Vittelotte potatoes or simply used regular Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes if you don't really care for the purple-colored flesh.
I served a very simple vinaigrette made of lemon juice, mustard and avocado oil.
Count about 10 gnocchi per person.Published By: on March 25, 2010.