Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aurora’s Gnocchi by Guest Author @LJKarst #recipe


Today the writers and cooks at MLK are delighted to welcome guest Leslie Karst! We love her books and can't wait for the new one. Meanwhile, enjoy her gnocchi recipe and add a comment to be entered in the giveaway for DEATH AL FRESCO!

Leslie Karst: The protagonist of my Sally Solari culinary mysteries comes from an Italian-American family who runs an Italian seafood restaurant out on the historic fisherman’s wharf in Santa Cruz, California. I’m not Italian, however, and my cooking expertise leans more to the French end of the spectrum. As a result, I’ve deemed it prudent to conduct research prior to writing many of the food scenes in the books (e.g., when Nonna prepares her Sunday gravy, in Dying for a Taste).

Happily for me, this research is ongoing. So when I was asked by a friend if I wanted to come to his house for a gnocchi-making demo by 90-year old Aurora Leveroni, I readily responded “Si, certo!” (This recipe has yet to appear in any of my books, but is sure to turn up soon.)


yours truly with Aurora and the finished product

The word “gnoccho” (the singular form) most likely derives from either “nocchio” (a knot of wood) or “nocca” (knuckle). These small dumplings have been eaten on the Italian peninsula since at least the days of the Roman Empire, when they were made of semolina and eggs. [See here.] After the potato was brought to Europe from the New World, the Italians incorporated it into their dumplings, creating what we now think of as the traditional potato gnocchi.

Aurora, who grew up in San Francisco, learned this technique from her mother—née Marie Dell-Era—who was born in the Lake Como region of Northern Italy.

We made a recipe for 30 servings, using five pounds of potatoes, but my directions here cut that amount in half. These are the ingredients:

2 ½ lbs. Idaho or Russet potatoes
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tbsp. olive oil
2-3 cups unbleached flour


Boil the potatoes with the skins on, until well done. (Waxy varieties such as Yukon Gold should not be used, as they have too much water content.) Do not pierce them or cut them in half, because you want as little water as possible to be absorbed (you could roast the potatoes at 400 degrees till tender instead—in which case you should pierce them first with a fork—but Aurora uses the boiling method and hers came out great).

As soon as the potatoes are done, peel them and put them through a ricer while still hot (or you can grate them over the large holes of a box grater):


Add the egg, salt, baking powder, and olive oil to the riced potatoes, and mix well. Using your hands is best. Then slowly mix in unbleached flour. The amount of flour will vary, depending on the weather, moisture content of the potatoes, type of flour, and other unknowable variables, but you want to keep adding it until the dough stops being sticky and is easy to work.


Transfer the dough to the counter to knead as you would for bread, three to four minutes.

The next step is to cut off pieces of the dough and roll them into long “snakes,” about ½ inch thick. Work from the center out, as you would if rolling out a baguette:


Next, cut the snakes into ½ inch pieces:


You can use the gnocchi as they are now if you like, but Italian gnocchi are typically made with ridges. To shape her gnocchi, Aurora uses the fork method, rolling the uncut, rounded sides of the pieces lightly on the back of a fork to make indentations:


Here’s a close-up of what the gnocchi look like after being shaped:


At this point you can either cook the gnocchi or freeze them for later use. If you’re not going to eat them right away, spread them (not touching) on a lightly-floured cookie sheet, sprinkle a little more flour on top, and put the sheet in the freezer. (See photo at top of this post.) After they are frozen, they can be transferred to zip-lock baggies and kept in the freezer until use.


Cooking the gnocchi is easy. Simply drop the frozen morsels into boiling, heavily salted water. Stir them once so they don’t stick to the bottom, and then wait until they rise to the top, which means they’re done. Drain them, and they’re ready to eat.


Gnocchi are best served with a simple sauce, so as not to overwhelm their delicate flavor. I served the bag that Aurora gave me drizzled with brown butter and topped with crispy sage (fried in the butter) and grated Romano cheese:


Buon appetito!


Leave a comment for a chance to win a hard cover copy of Leslie’s newest Sally Solari mystery, Death al Fresco!
  
About Death al Fresco

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari, inspired by the eye-popping canvases of Paul Gauguin, the artist for whom her restaurant is named, enrolls in a plein air painting class. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered during one of their outings when Sally’s dog sniffs out a corpse entangled in a pile of kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Sally’s father’s restaurant, Solari's, until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. But after witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing the old man to walk home alone at night. From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up a tall order in order to clear her father’s name.


The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. The next in the series, Death al Fresco, releases March 13th.


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You can visit Leslie on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lesliekarstauthor/ , and you can go to her author website  to sign for her newsletter—full of recipes and fun Italian facts!—and to purchase all her books.

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