Michael got me a food processor for Christmas. I asked for one. It was probably the last key piece of equipment I was missing from my kitchen.
It is kind of an embarrassing admission. A food processor should be one of the first additions, not the last, but I always seemed to get by without it. After using it once, I can totally see why they're so popular. This machine might change my life.
As I was using my shiny new food processor for the first time I couldn't help but think about when I first started cooking a lot in college. I had nothing. No food processor, no vitamix, no mandolin ... I barley even had a sharp knife. I had one pot and no pans, which meant sauteing was done in a pot. YEP. Sometimes I'd even roast things in that darn pot. I always got it done.
You know what .... it did not matter, because I loved to cook so much.
This recipe is for my old college roommate, Kara, who willingly ate my home cooked meals back then ... the good ... the bad ... and the way too garlicky. Kara will never forget my love for pesto and she recently requested that I do a beet / pesto recipe for the blog. Thankfully I have a much better grip on the garlic proportions now (note: less is always more).
Since I know she probably will not make this for herself, this is my way of coaxing her to visit me in NYC.
Gnocchi is easier to make than you might think. The ingredient list is short, and it is pretty hard to mess it up. The most challenging part is to get that dreamy, pillow-like texture. I give some tips in the recipe to tackle that. For this particular recipe, I used a gluten-free flour blend and I did not taste the difference from when I made gnocchi with whole wheat flour. If you would like to use all-purpose or whole wheat flour, just switch out the brown rice flour (same/similar proportions). You can also use an egg or not use an egg. I find that the eggs helps bind so that you use a little less flour, but if you do not want to use the egg, the recipe will work fine without it.
I just love the gorgeous color that the beets add to this dish. It would make for a great valentine's dinner for two, or this would also make a great meal for a friend who comes to town to visit (wink wink Kara).
red beet gnocchi with a meyers lemon pesto
For the gnocchi:
4 medium sized beets, tops removed and cleaned well
a drizzle of olive oil
salt+pepper to season
1 cup of brown rice flour (you might need a little extra)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of chickpea flour
1 egg (optional)
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra flour for dusting + olive oil for drizzling (+ toasting)
For the Meyers lemon pesto:
1 cup of fresh basil, tightly packed
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup of walnuts
the zest of a Meyers lemon
1 tablespoon of meyers lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
optional garnish: some lemon zest, red pepper flakes, some toasted walnuts or pine nuts
Start by roasting the beets:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400º.
- Place the scrubbed beets on a large piece parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Close the parchment paper tight by twisting the sides and place it on a small baking sheet. Bake for 40mins-1hour, until the beet are fork tender.
While the beets are roasting, make the pesto:
- Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times. Then while the food processor is running add the olive oil in a slow stream. I like to keep it on the lighter side with less oil - so you end up with a thicker pesto. You can add as much or as little oil as you like. Place it in a separate bowl, cover, and set aside until you're ready to serve. Clean out the food processor because you will be making the gnocchi here.
Make the gnocchi:
- When the beets are done, allow them to cool slightly and then peel off the skin. If you are using organic beets you do not have to remove all of the skin, but I like to get rid of the gritty parts. Place the beets into a food processor and pulse several times until you have a smooth puree.
- Then add the salt, pepper, and flour (and egg if you are using). I like to add the flour a little at a time until I have achieved a doughy consistency. The dough should be soft but not too sticky. Keep adding flour until it is not so sticky, however, the goal is to use as little flour as possible to achieve this. I have found that sometimes I need less flour than what I have recommended, and sometimes I need more. A lot of it depends on outside factors such as humidity and temperature so there is no set rule here.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. This will be used to test your gnocchi before making a full batch .
- Pinch off a small piece and roll it lightly in flour. Drop it into the boiling water. When it starts to float (after about 3-5 minutes) cook it for 30 seconds more. Fish it out with a slotted spoon and allow it to cool slightly. If it fell apart in the pot or it is falling apart or melting after it is cooked, add more flour into the dough. If it was not right the first time, keep on testing until you have it right.
- When you have it right, place a few pieces of parchment on a flat surface (to keep the beets from staining the counter) and divide the dough into four portions. Make sure the parchment covered surface is well floured, and roll each portion out into a snake that is about 1/2" thick. Using a knife or a metal spatula, cut the dough into 3/4" bites.
- Lightly flour a baking sheet and move the gnocchi over to the tray when they are done. Let them dry for an hour or refrigerate them for up to 1 day.
Cook the gnocchi:
- Prepare a large pot of boiling water. Set up a colander over a bowl near the boiling water. When the water is boiling, drop about 10 gnocchi in at a time. When the gnocchi start to float (after about 3-5 minutes) let them bob for about 30 seconds more and then scoop them out and place them in the colander. Lightly drizzle olive oil over them so they do not stick together. Repeat this process until all of the gnocchi are cooked.
Toast the gnocchi (optional step):
- In a large frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Place the gnocchi in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. You want them to be a nice golden brown color.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a serving plate.
Prepare and serve the gnocchi and pesto:
- Divide the gnocchi equally into bowls. Place a good sized dollop of the pesto on top of the gnocchi. If your pesto is more on the oily side, you can drizzle it over the gnocchi. Serve immediately.