Thursday, May 1, 2008
Fava bean gnocchi
There hasn't been much time for experiments in my kitchen lately. That doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking, just that for the past couple of weeks most meals have consisted of leftovers from my cooking classes or the handful of dishes that I can make again and again without anyone in the house tiring of them.
This week, leftover monkfish from bourride - fish stew with aïoli - and its accompanying new potatoes came back as Thai yellow curry thanks to a tub of spice paste at the back of the refrigerator and a can of coconut milk. For lunch every day I ate a big plate of mesclun with buttery local avocados and the juiciest lemons from the organic shop across the street. With Georges' goat's cheese grilled on pain tonique - sourdough bread with sultanas, pistachios and hazelnuts - from the Moulin du Païou bakery, the meal was complete. Last night I fell back on spicy herbed meatballs served with instant couscous, cinnamon and raisins, my favorite use for the steak haché that is ground in front of me at my local butcher's. It's even better if you replace the couscous with cooked bulgur and whip up some hummus to serve with it.
Today being a holiday in France, I was in the mood to try something new and went looking for inspiration on the astounding blog B comme Bon (never mind if you can't read French, just admire the pictures). Her idea of making gnocchi with leftover fava bean purée appealed to me, even if I can't imagine ever shelling enough fava beans to have leftover purée. The instructions were charmingly vague, which made me a bit nervous as I've had some disasters in the past with non-potato gnocchi. Still, the knowledge that gnocchi and fèves are Sam's two favorite foods in the world - after chocolate, of course - gave me the incentive to try my luck.
For this recipe I looked for fully grown fèves rather than the smaller févettes, which are delicious raw but too tiny to consider using for purée. I came back with what looked like a big bag of the long, knobbly pods, but experience has taught me that no matter how many fava beans you shell, there are never enough. I ended up with about 2 cups of beans, which thanks to Sam's expert help became 1 cup of peeled beans and (sigh) about 1/2 cup of emerald green purée.
To this I added a beaten egg and a pinch of salt, as instructed by B comme Bon, then just enough flour to form the dough into long sausages. I kept in on the very soft side, for fear of producing tough little dumplings. At this stage, Sam got involved again in rolling and shaping the gnocchi. I resisted the urge to demand that they all be the same size and shape, concentrating instead on sautéeing thin strips of smoked duck breast to use as a garnish. I also mixed some chopped chives with crème fraîche, which I dolloped on top of the cooked gnocchi.
The verdict? "Génial," said Sam, who didn't mind that they were firm compared to the fluffy potato gnocchi we usually buy. I enjoyed them too, but wasn't sure that they made of the most of market-fresh broad beans. So please don't feel in the least bit guilty if you are tempted to use the frozen kind - I won't tell.
Fava bean gnocchi
Serves 2 as a main course, 3 as a starter
2 cups shelled fava beans (broad beans), unpeeled (I started with 1.2 kg of beans in their shells)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
A pinch of salt
About 1 1/4 cups flour (I used Italian 00 flour but all-purpose will do)
Good-quality olive oil
Crème fraîche or fromage blanc mixed with chives
Smoked duck breast or bacon, cut into matchsticks and fried until golden
Blanch the shelled broad beans in boiling water for 1 min, then drain and rinse with cold water. Pop each broad bean out of its skin, making a small slit in the opposite side from the pointy tip. You should have about 1 cup of peeled beans.
In a small pan, cook the beans with the olive oil and water until very soft, then purée in a food processor or put through a food mill. (I cooked them in the Thermomix for 5 mins at 100 C and puréed them on Turbo for 30 secs).
Transfer the beans to a bowl and add the egg, salt and 1 cup of flour. Mix well to form a dough using a rounded pastry scraper or wooden spoon, then add a little more flour bit by bit until the dough is sticky but workable.
Divide it into three and roll it as best you can on a heavily floured board into long sausages. Cut into short lengths and place on a floured plate. (My gnocchi could have been smaller, as they swelled up in the water.)
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of boiling water. Add 1 tbsp of coarse salt, gently add the gnocchi and cook for about 2 mins, until the gnocchi have been floating at the surface for about 30 secs.
Drain, toss with a little olive oil and top with the garnishes.