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Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Gnocchi.

Gnocchi Who?

Gnocchi your socks off.

What?

Gnocchi three times.

Excuse me?

Gnocchi Three Times on the Ceiling if You Wa-ant Me. . . Twice on the Pipes. . .”

Okay, I think that’s quite enough.  

You shouldn’t gnocchi a guy when he’s down. 

I said that’s it!  That’s all I’m gonna take!

Oh, come on. Be nice to me.  I went to the School of Hard Gnocchis.

All right, buddy, you asked for it– 

Look, don’t gnocchi it ’til you try it.

*    *   *   *   *   *

Now, judging by my little preamble here, you might surmise that I don’t take my gnocchi quite as seriously as I should.  I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.  I fully understand the gravitas of gnocchi, believe me; in fact, I take them just as seriously as my job (extremely); or saving for retirement (nerve-rackingly); or even the well-being of The Girls (all-consumingly). 

(“Well, Mum, you know that we both take your well-being very seriously too, right?  Because if anything ever happened to you, how would we get our dinner?”)

I am well aware that the genesis of a good gnocchi is more art than skill; and also that I am, in that particular realm at least, neither artistically inclined nor very skilled.  Because the process usually requires planning, talent, and the equanimity of a Stepford wife, I have rarely ventured to attempt the challenge.  A shame, really, as I adore gnocchi.

In my long-ago wheat-eating days, I would snatch any opportunity to sample one of those freshly pinched and simmered Italian dumplings.  The HH and I patronized quite a range of small, family-owned Italian restaurants in our early days, and each boasted its own version of the little pasta pillows: smothered in Arrabiata with extra jalapenos mounded on the side; lightly pan-fried in olive oil, then sprinkled liberally with springy sage and dusted with freshly grated Parmesan; tossed gently in a vodka cream sauce with black olives and capers–I loved them all. I loved the slightly gooey exterior, the softly yielding chew, the smooth and subtle flavor that demanded a potato ricer to achieve.

Before today, I had yet to sample a spelt-based version of gnocchi.  (Seems they don’t serve spelt gnocchi in most Italian restaurants I’ve frequented. Quel surprise!). The few times I endeavored to cook up some of the light, spud-based morsels using a traditional recipe in the past, the result was a total flop.  Either the gnocchi were so hard and dense that they could be shot from a BB gun, or they turned out so soft and mushy that one might wonder where the pasta was hiding in this white, slushy gruel. And yet. . . and yet. . . they persisted in beckoning to me.  

So, last night, I threw caution to the winds, and allowed my passion for the little rascals to lead me into temptation.  I knew I’d likely get gnocchi’d up for my efforts, but just didn’t care.  After all, the outcome would be a bowl brimming with my delicious, darling pasta babies! Besides, I thought gnocchi would be the perfect submission to Ruth’s weekly Presto Pasta Night over at Once Upon a Feast.

I started with a fairly simple recipe for Spiced Carrot Gnocchi that I found in Gourmet Vegetarian by Jane Price, and adapted it according to my own dietary restrictions: no eggs and no wheat (replaced with silken tofu and a combination of whole spelt and oat flours, respectively).  I topped the gnocchi with a creamy, cheesy sauce of my own invention (I’ve had great luck with sauces in the past, thankfully), and sprinkled some chopped fresh parsley over top. 

How did it end up?  Well, let’s just say that the sauce was rich, creamy, and delicious, as expected.  As to my experiments with my potato nemesis? Well, I must confess that, once again, success eluded me.  Don’t get me wrong–they weren’t awful; in fact, the mildly sweet and dense chewiness was well complemented by the velvety, cheesy sauce.  Still, if you’re looking for the traditional version of this pasta, you won’t be satisfied with these. 

And I hate to admit it, I think I will finally put this kitchen quest behind me, once and for all.  That’s right–it’s time to gnocchi it off for good.

Spiced Carrot Gnocchi in Cream Sauce

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The contrast between the dense, slightly chewy gnocchi and the velvety sauce is a pleasing one. These gnocchi were a little heavy and slightly sweet; if you’re okay with non-traditional pasta, you may enjoy these.

Spiced Carrot Gnocchi

Adapted from Gourmet Vegetarian by Jane Price

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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Butterscotch Mousse Pie

March 12, 2008

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]

 

I have to admit that I was never much of a pie person until very recently. 

“I mean, really,” I would ask pie-lovers, “What is it if not just an oddly-shaped fruit (or veggie) sandwich? Apples and cinnamon between two layers of crust. Blueberries between two layers of crust. Pumpkin between two layers of crust.”  Bah.

Oh, but that was just my cynical self, the one with pie envy, talking.  Once I learned to produce a truly great crust, all my counter-crust sentiments dissolved, like butter under your fingers. 

Traditional pastry, it seems, relies on the unique chemistry between cold fat and dry flour, cut into little bullets of butter or lard that subsequently melt and expand while baking, thereby creating pockets of air space.  If you’re not using solid fat in the mix, the crust simply doesn’t work out the same way, even if you DO refrigerate it; it just never achieves the same degree of tender flakiness.  As a result, I never had much success with pie crust. And because I don’t use margarines, the option of Earth Balance isn’t a possibility for me, either.

Every time I used to attempt a pie, I’d end up feeling a little like Jan, the “less-than” sister of the Brady Bunch: all I could do was clench my fists and wail, “Crust, Crust, Crust!!” 

Well, once I discovered vegan baking and nut-based crusts, those floury flakes lost their ability to bully this baker! Even though I don’t make them very often, I now truly enjoy a good vegan pie, and the crust is just as appealing to me as the filling (though I still favor non-fruit fillings). 

After experimenting with various combinations of ingredients, I was completely euphoric to discover that a mixture of ground nuts and oats, with a healthy sprinkling of flour added in, served as an ideal base for vegan pie crust.  With that discovery in hand, there was no stopping me!  First, I made variations on traditional fruit-filled versions; then I moved on to explore pumpkin or sweet potato fillings; finally, I graduated to the much-loved vegan chocolate mousse and other “cheesecake” fillings.  But what next? (“How about a dog-friendly pie, Mum?  You know we love your crust!”)

Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I am either blessed or cursed with the strange ability to remember numbers of all types–phone numbers or addresses that I’ve encountered once, weird statistics (like, did you know that 1 in 3 Americans can’t properly decode a bus schedule?), or single numerals from something I learned long ago (for instance, all I now recall from high school chemistry, a course in which I excelled at the time, is Avogadro’s Number: 6.02 x 1023 ). Similarly, I do remember that Pi is 3.14 (more or less)–though of course, I’ve never had a single occasion to make use of that fact. 

Except for now!  As it turns out, Kitchen Parade is hosting a Pie/Pi event this month: “Pi Day: Recipes for Homemade Pie.” Well, that suited me just fine, as I’m now happy to participate with both types of “pie/pi.”  And I immediately thought of the perfect filling for my entry. (“Yay! A pie for us! What a great Mum!”)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was recently fortunate enough to spend a week testing out my new cookbook, Vegan Express by Nava Atlas, and  fixed my sights on the very last recipe in the book, Butterscotch Mousse Pie.  Butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors after chocolate–and guess what?  This pie has both!  Soft and airy, the filling is a cross between a mousse and a custard, with a butterscotch flavor well represented by brown rice syrup and butterscotch extract.  It was a big hit with my HH , who is normally a cow’s dairy kind of guy. (“But Mum. . . you know we can’t have chocolate. . . Aw, Mum, crust, crust, crust!”)

Nava has kindly allowed me to reprint the recipe here, so I’m going to copy it verbatim from the book (with any adjustments I made in square brackets beside the original instructions).  I gussied it up a bit with my own version of whipped cream (the recipe for which I’ll post anon), so hope you like it!

To make the entire pie gluten-free, just use a GF pie crust; the filling and topping are both already gluten free.

Butterscotch Mousse Pie

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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Nava notes: “As I mentioned in Butterscotch Apples, I adore this seductive extract.  If you do too, the scent of the pie as it bakes and cools will drive you mad. And I can almost guarantee that the rich flavor won’t disappoint. You can find good-quality graham-cracker crusts in natural foods stores or the natural foods section of supermarkets.” 

Buttery, Rich Oat-Nut Pie Crust

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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This version, while unlike a traditional pastry crust, is nevertheless rich-tasting, and crumbles delicately, melting beautifully on the tongue.  

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.