Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Cherry Tomatoes & Oregano
Even on a Monday evening, after a tough start to a new week... or maybe even ESPECIALLY on a Monday evening... it is nice to treat yourself to something nice occasionally- don't you think? Especially if you can make a dish as lovely as this with products so simple- you know you deserve to make that extra bit of effort for yourselves I hope! It's a little bit of work, but a whole lot of joy and pleasure in return!
Actually- this was not THAT much work- and didn't even take that much sweet potato! Believe it or not, this single serving took just 1/3rd of a medium sized sweet potato to make! With a little flour and 1 egg yolk the gnocchi were taken care of- and with 3-4 cherry tomatoes and a little fresh oregano, they became transformed into something really delicious! I really love cooking!
Normally, the best way to prepare sweet potatoes is to bake them, as they tend to be much softer in their consistency than regular potatoes and the baking helps to maintain a decent consistency and keep them from becoming to moist and soft... but as I was using such a small quantity, I decided to risk a different method. Instead, I grated the sweet potato finely and steamed it for 10 minutes... also not a bad idea!
I let the sweet potato cool off for 10 minutes or so, until it was just lukewarm, then added a couple of tablespoons of flour- just enough to soak up a little of the excess moisture in the potatoes and enough to cool them down a little more, so that I could add an egg yolk without it curdling. I worked the egg yolk in with a fork briskly, and once the mixture was smooth, added more and more flour, little by little, until the mixture became firm enough to form a dough that did not cling to the edge of the bowl anymore. I seasoned it with a good pinch of salt, a little pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg in advance... definitely a good idea with this sweet potato version.
Making gnocchi is a matter of your own judgement at the end of the day- as there are always variations in the varieties of potatoes or flour, the size of the eggs and so on and so forth. Just stay calm, use some common sense and your own judgment after reading these rough guidelines... and you will be fine!
The important thing is to not overwork the dough and to no knead it too much. Once the dough "comes together" nicely, but is soft like a pillow, stop working it, or it will become too dense and your gnocchi will be heavy and cloying and no fun to eat. Make sure to get plenty of flour on your hands, spread some on your work surface, and make rolls from the gnocchi dough of about the thickness of your thumb.
Once I had made my 2-3 rolls of dough, I lined them up together and cut them into slice of around 1". I then sprinkled these again with flour and rolled them over my groovy little wooden board to give them a nice ridged pattern... but of course you can always get the same effect using a fork. And then it was time to cook them... so exciting!
I brought my well-salted water to a very gentle, rolling boil and dropped the gnocchi carefully in... it took them just 3-4 minutes to cook and come floating up to the surface... and they came out just perfectly as you can see!
Whilst they were gently simmering away, I sautéed the cherry tomatoes, with a little crushed garlic, in a little olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Once they had begun to caramelize and turn a nice toasty color, I deglazed the pan with just a tiny splash of vodka- as I was eating alone this evening... but had I been making this dish for a family and children, I would have just used plain water.... the main reason was to pick up all of the good flavor from the base of the pan!
As soon as the gnocchi floated to the surface of the water, I took them out with a slotted spoon and dropped them into cold water to stop the cooking process. I know we always get told it has to be ice-water... but nah! Cold is cold enough! As soon as they were cool, I let them drip dry and then popped them into a frying pan just briefly with a little olive oil to bring them up to temperature again and give them a nice glaze. Being as I had interrupted the cooking process whilst they were boiling, the gnocchi had now become more firm and stable and held up to a brief toss in the frying pan with no problem and without falling apart.
Once they were warm again, I served them up with the simple but delicious, caramelized tomatoes, a generous sprinkle of fresh oregano leaves and a dusting of coarsely ground black pepper and finely grated parmesan... and my Monday evening feast was ready! And boy was it ever tasty! I hope you try it for yourself some time and hope you enjoy... buon apetito!