One of the few – VERY few – things I miss about Maine is my parents’ garden. There’s nothing like veggies fresh from the garden to make dinner awesome.
My mom is really rad and sends me things every once in a while that will survive the journey – a little dried lavender, and potatoes. Purple ones. Hooray!
I don’t have the mad gardening skillz that my parents are endowed with, but I have been able to keep a little basil plant from the Green Market alive and thriving for about a month now. He’s doing so well that I named him Luigi and bought him a couple of friends (Rosario the rosemary and Virgil the mint). And, now that I have a steady supply of tasty fresh herbs on my windowsill, I have to come up with uses for them!
I initially made a tasty little pesto thingy with some of the potatoes, some wonderfully fresh, sweet green beans from the Green Market, pasta and cannellini beans, but once that was gone I wasn’t sure quite what to do with the rest of my purple little friends. I considered making fried rosemary potatoes, but wasn’t really feelin’ it. So I waited until my weekly grocery run for inspiration to strike.
Big fat juicy tomatoes? Tomato sauce…on GNOCCHI. Truthfully I had only tried to make gnocchi once before and I screwed them up pretty badly – I let the potatoes cool too much before mashing and they came up lumpy and heavy and too chewy. But this time I was extra careful and better equipped, setting everything up ahead of time and handling the dough oh so delicately. And I was definitely rewarded for my effort.
Purple Potato Gnocchi (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
- About 1 lb. purple potatoes (4 small-medium ones – I forgot my scale at school and couldn’t weigh them so there was some guessing involved)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup AP flour
Scrub the potatoes and cut them in half. Place in a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Once tender, remove and quickly slip off the skins. Mash thoroughly (I was able to do a decent job with just a fork but if you happen to have a food mill or potato ricer go nuts) and spread out slightly to let cool. Don’t cool completely – you just want the potato to not be hot enough to cook the egg when you add it. Ok, make a little well in the center, fortify the outside potato walls and add the egg in the middle. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the flour and use a bench scraper to scrape the potato into the egg and flour, turning it from the edges over into the middle. If it’s really sticky add more flour until it is a uniform, cohesive but delicate dough. Divide in fourths and roll each fourth into a potato-y snake about 1/2-3/4″ thick. Cut into 3/4″ pieces and roll on the tines of a fork. Bring some salted water to a boil (you can use the water you originally used to cook the potatoes if you want; mine had too many little bits of potato in it so I started over with a fresh batch) and drop the gnocchi in, about 10 at a time. When they float to the surface, count 10 seconds, then remove them with a large slotted spoon to a serving plate. Repeat until they are all cooked and top with a sauce of your choice.
My gnocchi weren’t perfect in texture or shape but they were a vast improvement over my original attempt at them. Plus, they were PURPLE!
To make my tomato sauce, I chopped up 4 medium-large tomatoes and threw them in the blender with a few chopped garlic cloves and some olive oil and pureed to oblivion – I don’t like chunks in my sauce. I then cooked it down for a couple of hours to get rid of that raw tomato taste that I also do not care for. I added some dried basil and oregano about halfway into cooking, and some sugar, salt and pepper at the end to counteract the acidity of the fresh tomatoes. As you can see, Luigi sacrificed some of his bigger leaves for a yummy chiffonade to top the dish off.