Friday, October 10, 2008

VeganMoFo: A Yummy Meal & a Contest, to Spice Things Up

Last night I had some time on my hands and sweet potatoes and mushrooms that were getting a little long in the tooth, so I decided to try my hand at gnocchi and sauce (and a salad). This was my first time making gnocchi (actually I think it was my first time eating it too).  It ended up being easier than an internet search would lead one to believe, although I definitely need some practice on shaping them.

I based my recipe on Mark Bittman's from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but I made it vegan and healthier. Directions for how to shape and cook gnocchi are pretty standard.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Mushroom Thyme Cream Sauce
This recipe serves four but is easily halved or doubled; I cut it in half for us. The sauce makes a lot, so if you don't like it too saucy you will want to scale it to your tastes.

For the Gnocchi
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, plus up to 1/2 cup more
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp yellow miso
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the potatoes however you like (boil, roast, even microwave) until tender. I roasted mine; if you boil them make sure to drain well. Once cooked mash in a large bowl. If you have a potato ricer, now would be the time to use it. I do not (yet...) so I just used a fork. They need to be as smooth as possible. 

Add in the nutritional yeast, miso, and salt and pepper to your liking and work in to the sweet potatoes until evenly distributed. Starting with 1 cup flour, mix into potatoes and stir until a dough starts to form. You may want to switch to using your clean hands at this point, it's easier to handle the dough. Knead lightly to incorporate the flour and bring the dough together. 

Your goal is to add as little flour as necessary and knead the dough as little as possible. I actually did not need even all the initial flour, but if you boil you potatoes I imagine they will require more flour to come together properly. Work in flour as necessary until the dough is tacky but not overly sticky. It should not be dry to the touch, but it should not stick to everything else more than itself either. It is preferable to work on a floured surface rather than incorporate more flour into the dough.  

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.

Test your gnocchi by taking a small piece of dough and dropping it into the boiling water. If it holds together the dough is where it should be. If it falls apart work in a bit more flour and test again.

Divide dough in fourths and work with one section at a time. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and have next to where you are working your dough. Take one section and roll it out into a snake 1/2 inch thick, like you did with play-doh when you were little. Cut the snake into 1 inch sections (perfection is not necessary - these are homemade). Take each piece and gently roll it on the tines of a fork using your thumb. One side should have fork impressions and the other should slightly curl around your thumb. This will help it hold the sauce. This takes some practice, but again, perfection is not necessary. Place each shaped piece on the wax paper as you go, taking care to not let them touch. Repeat with remaining sections of dough.

At this point to can set them aside to make the sauce if you haven't already done so. You want to serve them as soon as they are done cooking, so you need everything else ready to go when you drop them in the water as they only take a couple minutes to cook.

When you are ready, drop them a few at a time into the boiling water, stirring gently to prevent sticking. I put all of mine in together, but if your pan is very small you may need to work in a couple batches. Let cook for one minute more after they float to the top then remove from water with a slotted spoon. If you are going to use a butter sauce drain them well before adding, otherwise you can drop them right into your serving sauce.

Stir gently to coat with sauce and serve immediately.

For the Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound stemmed cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 large onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp yellow miso
4 cups (one whole container) plain hemp milk
1/4 cup roughly chopped thyme
2-3 tbsp cornstarch
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Preheat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add oil and mushrooms. Do not try to stir, mushrooms will stick unless you are using a nonstick pan. Just let them cook a few minutes and they will release enough liquid to free themselves. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and stir. Allow mushrooms to cook, stirring occasionally, until they are almost dry. 

Add onions, stir to incorporate, and lower heat to medium. Scrape up fond in pan and then allow to cook, again stirring occasionally, until onions soften and the pan is dry (take care to not let it burn!). Add garlic and wine. Scrape fond off bottom of pan, and cook until pan is nearly dry again. 

Work in nutritional yeast and miso until mushrooms and onions are evenly coated then pour in 3 3/4 cup hemp milk and thyme. Stir to combine and simmer for a couple minutes to allow flavors to come together. Reduce heat to low. Dissolve cornstarch into remaining 1/4 cup milk and add to pan. Stir to incorporate and return to a gentle bubble to thicken. The sauce should be the consistency of a reduced cream sauce - thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon, but not gloppy. That is also why I used cornstarch as opposed to flour, for a silkier texture. 

Hold over low heat while you cook the gnocchi. Follow directions above for cooking and saucing gnocchi. 

B's Favorite Salad
Serves 4

4-6 handfuls baby spinach, picked over, washed and dried
12-16 strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 cup pecan halves, toasted or lightly candied
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar reduction (if you don't have this lying around you can approximate it by doubling the balsamic vinegar and adding a couple tablespoons brown sugar)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
salt and pepper

Divide spinach, strawberries, and pecans between four plates. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. In a small sauce pan combine oil, reduction, vinegar and shallot. Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and whisk vigorously until dressing emulsifies. Quickly divide among salads and serve. 

If you make, or have access to, a vegan cheese that you enjoy eating out of hand this is the place to use it. You want something creamy and either mild, like chevre, or strong, like Stilton. Just crumble over salad and enjoy. Diced avocado would also be yummy and provide a nice, creamy texture.

A Contest
Guess what I'm making. If more than one person gets it right I'll put your names in a hat and draw one. The winner will get some of whatever this is sent to them! You have until Sunday at midnight, PST, to enter. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Pomegranate jam/jelly? If so...yummy!!

Bethany said...

pomegranate molassess?

thanks for the recipes. I love gnocci and definitely LOVE mushroom sauce.

I like baking the most for gnocci. I think it makes the gnocci have a great flavor. Plus I use the skins to make potato or yam skins. bonus snack and you get all of the nutrients from the skins.

randyhate said...

holy crap i love that sauce recipe. it looks so good. will have to try it soon.

as for what you are making, i'll go with cranberry chutney.

Bex said...

looks like pomegranate seeds. I'm hoping it's a pomegranate jam cause I love the pom.

Jen Treehugger said...

That Gnocchi sounds divine and Strawberries in a salad!!??

I think you're making Grenadine, trey's definitely Pomegranate Seeds either way.