Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly Recipe #54: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

By Gwen Hill MS, RD, LD

Happy Sweet Potato Month! Sweet potatoes are what we consider a “nutrient dense food.” They are filled with many important nutrients that your body needs and are low in the nutrients you should limit. One medium sweet potato has only 100 calories, less than one gram of fat and 41 mg of sodium. Yet it gives you a high amount of several important nutrients, including:

Fiber - 13% of RDA
Vitamin C - 25% of RDA
Vitamin A - 730% of RDA!

All of these nutrients are important for different reasons. Fiber helps our body regulate blood sugar, reduce bad cholesterol and stay regular. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, helps maintain our immune function and is a key player in collagen synthesis, which gives our skin its healthy and resilient qualities.

Though many great nutrients are found in this vegetable, Vitamin A is the real star. Sweet potatoes have a high amount of carotenoids, which are a precursor to Vitamin A. Carotenoids are responsible for the signature yellow/orange color - the deeper the color, the richer the level of carotenoids the veggie contains. Vitamin A plays many roles in the body, including helping the body determine which white blood cells it needs to make in order to fight infection and other immune functions. It is also important for vision. Vitamin A deficiency is the most significant cause of blindness in the developing world.

Eating nutrient dense foods, like sweet potatoes, will help improve your overall health. The recipe highlighted this week incorporates sweet potatoes into gnocchi. As a starchy vegetable, it is easy to see how this potato could provide necessary hearty components to this dish. Enjoy the recipe after the jump!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Gourmet

(Serves 6-8)

1 1/4 lb russet potatoes
1 (3/4-lb) sweet potato
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sage leaves (from 1 bunch)
1/3 cup pine nuts, very thinly sliced
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Make gnocchi:
1. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.
2. Pierce russet and sweet potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a 4-sided sheet pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through ricer into sheet pan, spreading in an even layer. Cool potatoes completely.
4. Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
5. Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a small bowl.
6. Gather potatoes into a mound in sheet pan, using a pastry scraper if you have one, and form a well in center.
7. Pour egg mixture into well, then knead into potatoes. Knead in cheese and 1 1/2 cups flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some of flour.
8. Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form one piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour.
9. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
10. Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with tips of tines touching work surface. Working with one at a time, roll gnocchi down fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on one side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to baking sheets.

Fry sage leaves and pine nuts:
1. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in three batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt.
2. Fry pine nuts in three batches, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. Reserve oil in skillet.

Make sauce:
1. Add butter to oil in skillet with 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cook gnocchi:
1. Add half of gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to skillet with butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to skillet as cooked.
2. Heat gnocchi in skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat.
3. Serve sprinkled with fried sage and pine nuts and grated cheese.

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