Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine’s Day Pesto Gnocchi

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A week later and I hope your Valentine's Day was happy and full of love!

Valentine's Day isn't huge for hubby and I, but we acknowledge it nonetheless. Back when we just met, Valentine's Day was one of the first dates we went on. As a freshmen in college, Hubby invited me over to his apartment for a dinner he had prepared. It was super cute and thoughtful, and after we were married, I found out he had made the entire dinner ahead of time to make sure it would work out! What a sweet guy, at the time I had no idea what effort was put into the dinner.

Hubby has been cooking fantastic food for me since that first Valentine's Day Date. This year he deserved to be cooked for, and I knew just what to make. Hubby loves anything cheesy. And gnocchi.

So Gratineed Pesto Gnocchi fit the bill, with a side of Sautéed Broccoli.

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To finish the meal, a Flourless Chocolate Torte from Let Them Eat Cake.

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Potato Gnocchi Gratineed with Mozzarella and Pesto

from Cooks Illustrated

Potato Gnocchi

(Potato Ricer is needed for this recipe. I have never made gnocchi without the ricer, so I am unsure of an alternate to a potato ricer)

2 lb russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 1/4 cup All-Purpose Unbleached Flour, plus extra if needed
1 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Pesto Sauce, recipe below
4 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

1. Pierce the potatoes with a fork several times on each side. Place potatoes on a microwaveable plate, and heat in microwave for 12 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 450F.

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2. Place microwaved potatoes in oven straight onto oven rack, horizontal of the rack, so not to fall through if over baked ( I have had one potato fall apart and totally yucky up the oven, so since then, I place an empty baking sheet on the shelf underneath the potatoes, just in case. I haven't had a potato fall apart since, of course.).  Bake potatoes in oven for 20 minutes. (Make pesto sauce while potatoes are baking, using following recipe)

3. After potatoes have been taken out of the oven, use an oven mitt to hold potato in one hand, and peel potatoes with knife. Discard skin. With the potato ricer, rice potatoes into a large bowl. Let potatoes cool for about 15 minutes, until they are no longer hot. Don't turn the oven off, place it on broil to use later.

4. Sprinkle flour and salt over potato, and knead until the dough is soft and smooth. If sticky, add more flour, up to an additional 1 1/2 cups. Make sure the dough isn't sticky, or you will have to add more flour after you attempt to roll the dough into a rope, as I did.

5. Pinch off a quarter of the dough, and roll into a rope. If the rope falls apart, add more flour and start again. Cut the rope on a horizontal slant, 3/4 inch wide. Repeat with remaining dough.

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6. Bring a salted pot of water to a soft boil. I cooked the gnocchi in two batches, as not to crowd the pot. The original recipe said it would take the gnocchi about 2 minutes to cook and float to the surface and be done. My gnocchi floated in that amount of time, but it was a total of about 5 minutes for the gnocchi not to be too starchy.  When the first batch is done, take the gnocchi out with a slotted spoon and place in drainer. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi.

7. Transfer gnocchi into medium mixing bowl and toss with melted butter. Mix prepared pesto in with the gnocchi, starting with a small amount, and adding more until you are pleased with the ratio. I added about half of the prepared pesto, about 1/2 cup.

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8. Transfer gnocchi into gratin dish. Cover with mozzarella cheese.  Place in oven and broil for 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Take dish out of oven and let cool for several minutes.

Pesto Sauce

8 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 cups fresh basil, stemmed and trimmed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (Original recipe said not to use substitute fat-free ricotta, but that was what was in the fridge. I added about 2 tbsp heavy cream to the ricotta)
2 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

1. Toast garlic in a medium skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing garlic in the pan occasionally. Place garlic on a cutting board to cool. When cool, peel.

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2. Place trimmed basil in a large ziploc bag, and use a heavy object to bruise the basil. Original recipe suggested using a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. We don't eat meat and don't had a tenderizer, so I tried the rolling pin, which didn't work well. I then used a heavy lemon juicer, which worked wonderfully.

3. Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed.  My final product with the pesto was a little chunkier than I would have liked, so  I mixed in some additional olive oil.

4. Place pesto aside until needed.

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