We have been invited to play along with at Kitchen PLAY and Knuckle Salad during Munch Madness. This fun event is being sponsored by the United States Potato Board. To familiarize you with Munch Madness, it is a bracketed playoff where eight food bloggers share their recipes to compete for the title of 2013 Munch Madness Champion. All recipes will use potatoes to create healthy, light and fresh recipes that would be perfect for spring. We have a feeling you are going to go mad about this recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Minty Pea Sauce.
Being a lover of food, I am often asked what I would want as a last meal. I always say the same thing, creamy mashed potatoes. I am a sucker for a big bowl of homemade mashed potatoes with a hunk of butter on top. In fact, I am a sucker for any dish involving potatoes. I am not biased, I love them roasted, baked, mashed, sautéed, raw, etc…. you get the picture.
Unfortunately, with all the fad diets out there, the potato has been given an unfavorable rap. I admit I have fallen into some of these diet traps, but I never gave up the potato. Honest. After all, it is a vegetable, and vegetables are good for us. Did you realize that one 5.3 ounce potato (considered medium in size) with the skin left on contains 45 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. My grandmother always said to eat the skin of the potato, do not leave it! That same medium potato has more potassium than spinach, broccoli or bananas. And the best part for you calorie counters, there are 110 calories, no fat, cholesterol or sodium.
Yes, potatoes are starchy, and they are carbs, but they are not unhealthy for you. The USDA MyPlate.gov recommends that women aged 31 – 50, who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity should have 5 cups of starchy vegetables per week. You can enjoy 1 cup of mashed, 1 medium baked or 20 french fried potatoes. As well, potatoes are a carbohydrate, but they are a complex carbohydrate which is an excellent source of energy. Your body needs this to push through the day or to help you ride that bike up the hill! Much better for you than a sugary drink! What makes your dish or recipe “not healthy” is not the potato but what ingredients are used when cooking that potato. If you pile on mounds of butter and sour cream, that is another issue. For instance, when I make mashed potatoes, I use chicken stock or heart-healthy olive oil to create a creamy texture, and they are just as good as mashing with cream or butter.
One of my new favorite ways to work with potatoes is by making gnocchi. I had always been a bit timid to attempt this recipe, but, after buying many disappointing brands of pre-made gnocchi, I jumped in. If Noona could do it, so could I.
The key to perfectly light gnocchi is the potato and how it is prepared. I have tried using white potatoes as well as russets. I find the russets work much better as they are starchier than others. They also have a grainy and light texture, that is a bit drier than the creamy whites. I tried a few different approaches from boiling and steaming of the potatoes, which I felt left the dough too moist, and resulted in puddles of boiled gnocchi. I tried adding more flour, but then the gnocchi came out heavy and gummy. Then I read a tip that baking potatoes would produce a drier dough, which would make for a lighter gnocchi. It worked brilliantly!
I bake my potatoes in kosher salt, as the salt helps draw out unwanted moisture. As soon as the baked potatoes come out of the oven, I immediately cut them in half, then let them sit at room temperature until I can handle them. Cutting them in half helps the drying process.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to hold, I run the cooked flesh through a food mill. This is key. I have tried mashing with a fork, but the texture does not come out as light as fluffy. The next step is crucial; adding the flour. I use Italian 00 flour as the texture is lighter and I find it more flavorful. If you cannot find this type of flour, regular all-purpose is fine. You will need to run it through a sifter 3 times, and you will need a little less of it. I add a little flour at a time to the potato/egg mixture; you do not want the dough to be gummy. After the dough is finished you will want to work quickly, by rolling the dough out and cutting into gnocchi. The longer you let the dough sit, the harder it is to work with. Be quick!
Making the gnocchi just takes patience. It may take you a couple times before getting it just right. Don’t give up, keep trying, it will be worth it.
With the essence of Spring in the air, I have been serving this pillowy gnocchi with a fresh pea and mint sauce. The sauce is lightly seasoned with a little lemon zest, chili flakes, and parmesan cheese. It really pairs perfectly with these little potato pillows to create a light and refreshing meal.
Recipe: Potato Gnocchi with Pea Mint Sauce
5 medium russet potatoes
1 box kosher salt
1 cup 00 flour (all-purpose may be substituted; see post for instructions)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
10 mint leaves or more if you like a stronger mint essence
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
1 zest of one small lemon
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425F. While the oven is heating, using a fork, prick the potatoes all over. Pour the box of kosher salt into a baking dish. Bury the potatoes in the salt; it will be okay if their tops pop out. Bake for 60 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the oven. Immediately cut the potatoes in half, then let sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh into a food mill, and process into a large mixing bowl.
Spread the potatoes over a clean working surface, using a pastry scraper. Sprinkle the pepper over the top, and drizzle with the beaten egg. Lightly sprinkle 1/2 of the flour over the potato-egg mixture. Using the pastry scraper, begin incorporating the ingredients, and continue doing so until almost combined. Keep adding the flour until you reach a thick consistency. It may become necessary to use your hands towards the end to continue combining the ingredients. This last mixing step will only take a few moments. Once the dough has come together, divide into 4 equal pieces.
Clean your work surface and dry well. Lightly sprinkle a little 00 flour over the surface. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 1/2” rope, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces of gnocchi. After cutting the dough you can opt to use the tines of a fork or a gnocchi board to make grooves into each piece. I prefer not too. Completely up to you.
Set the gnocchi pieces onto a baking sheet that has been lightly covered with semolina flour.
Begin preparing the sauce. Fill a saucepan full of cold water and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Immediately drain into a colander and stop the cooking process with an ice bath. Drain again. Add the peas, mint leaves and garlic to a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add the lemon zest, chili flakes, and cheese. Pulse. With the food processor running add the olive oil. Season with salt.
Fill a large heavy pot with cold water. Season generously with kosher salt; this helps season the gnocchi. Bring to a boil. Add pieces of gnocchi, one at a time, cook only until they float up to the top (about 2 – 4 minutes). Scoop out and lay on top of paper towels.
Lightly toss with the pea sauce. Serve and pass more grated parmesan cheese.