For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

October 16, 2011

Hurray For Your Own Way

When one doesn't really have a good reason or a special motivation to make variations or change already existing recipes, one has a harder time thinking outside the box. In fact, I'd even like to argue that it seldom happens. Could an ingredient be used differently or be replaced? Could something maybe work even better? Are not questions that come up just like that. Most people are lazy by nature and rarely do things that aren't totally necessary. A recipe is followed religiously to every detail and one doesn't need to think.

Something that I always find amusing when cooking for friends and family is the way they get astonished by the time and energy I use for turning other's recipes to my own and adding my personal touch. For me the reason is basically three fold. First of all, I have to get rid of gluten and sugar which is always an inspiring challenge. Second of all, I can't fully take pride of the dish I serve if I've simply copied someone else's creation. My ego gets more a hit than a boost if I get admiration for something that hasn't got my signature on it. Thirdly, I absolutely love to come up with new combinations of tastes. If one doesn't try one'll never come up with anything new and surprising.

There are however dishes and recipes that are harder to manipulate than others and still get great results. One of these mission impossibles is pasta. Pasta in all its forms and shapes. High quality wheat flour is a must for the right consistency, the right chewiness, for the "right" taste. I've been in search for the perfect gluten-free pasta since three years now. I've both made my own from start to finish, I've tired buying different labels, I've tried rice pasta, corn pasta, potato pasta, buckwheat pasta, you name it! There's a corn pasta brand which is actually pretty decent and after you get used to it, you even forget that it isn't the real thing. But still, real pasta is real pasta and everything else is something else.

Three days ago I bought a butternut pumpkin at the market. I thought it was the cutest thing! Pastel orange, round, a bit deformed. It caught my eye immediately. The cutie sat in the middle of the kitchen table for three days, just looking at me. Every morning as I was sipping on my tea I thought of ways of turning it into a delicious dish. The American Thanksgiving pumpkin pie I tried for the first time last year was blocking the flow of ideas. Sure it was tasty, but it didn't tingle my taste buds enough. On the third morning my thoughts went to pasta. My boyfriend loves gnocchi so I thought maybe, maybe I could replace the potato with butternut pumpkin and the wheat with some gluten-free flour mixture. I suggested the idea to my better half and he was totally in.

The butternut pumpkin gnocchi turned out to be pretty common variation of the conventional recipe. However, the recipes that I we found were all done with wheat flour. There was challenge after all. I started going through my cupboards to evaluate the different possibilities. What I came up with was almond flour, corn flour and the magic ingredient in order to get the right texture: Vietnamese glutinous rice flour! Step by step the gnocchi dough started to get workable texture. Then followed the real handwork. Cooking always makes me feel good, but rolling gnocchi made out of the cutest butternut ever made me ecstatic.

The first portion of cooked gnocchi was good, but not perfect. The dough was surprisingly tasty, but an improvement was totally doable. For the next portion, I added some truffle oil to the dough and made the gnocchi much smaller. I also fried then quickly in some butter after cooking them. Definitely a step towards the right direction. The improvement was huge! When I only had a bit of dough left, I even added a pressed garlic clove and squeezed on some lemon juice and topped it all with grayed Parmiggiano for serving. Explosions! Explosions of divine tastes! It was amazing. You could really taste the subtlety of all flavors. An experience of culinary handwork at its finest.

I'll make an exception and share this recipe with you. It would be a crime not to. Buon appetito cari amici!

Gluten free Butternut Pumpkin Gnocchi
(for about 4 portions)

1 butternut pumpkin
1 potato
1 egg
3 table spoons olive oil
1 dl almond flour
1/2-1 dl corn flour
about 300 g glutinous rice flour
(truffle oil, garlic, sage, butter)

Cut the butternut pumpkin in half and bake in the oven for 1h (or until it starts to bubble) in 200°c. Take them out and let them rest for a bit. Grate the potato and cook it for 5min in a frying pan. Add water not to make it too crispy.

Scrape off the flesh of the butternut pumpkin into a bowl. Add the boiled potato mass, the egg, the salt and the flours until you get a workable dough. Mix well.

Form pinky finger thick gnocchi balls. Use rice flour when working. Finally, use a fork to give them their right appearance.

Boil the gnocchi in a big pan. Wait until the water boils heavily. Make sure to boil them a little longer then normal gnocchi, even though they pop up to the surface. After boiling the gnocchi, you can fry them in a pan with some butter to get an even firmer texture and a nice crispy surface.

If you think the gnocchi lack in taste, give them some flavor by adding truffle oil and/or garlic into the dough or by adding sage to the butter in the frying pan.

And most importantly: Do your own variations!

1 comment:

Tell me what you think. Did I make you hungry?