August 05, 2010

Pumpkin: It's Not Just For Hallowe'en

In North America, pumpkin is primarily used for pie and jack-o-lanterns. That’s pretty much it. In New Zealand, where pies are usually savoury and Hallowe’en doesn’t exist, pumpkin takes on an infinite number of other roles. It’s available in the supermarket pretty much year round and it’s just your ordinary, everyday vegetable. However, as anyone who’s ever carved a pumpkin will know, they’re difficult to dissect. If you’re planning on roasting your pumpkin, there’s a much, much easier way than taking a knife to it, which I learned from my favourite baker/cook/awesome person, Dorie Greenspan. Simply wash and dry your pumpkin, place it in a roasting pan, rub it with a little oil and then roast it whole in the oven until a knife can easily be inserted into the skin. When you take the pumpkin out, it’s soft and easy to cut into. The guts can be scooped out and discarded and the perfectly roasted pumpkin flesh can be scraped away from the skin, ready to use in whatever you’re making. I chose to turn it into some delicious pumpkin gnocchi.

Gnocchi is a relatively new addition to my everyday cooking repertoire. I used to think it was difficult and fiddly to make, but like most things, the more you practice something, the easier it gets. It also helps if you learn some tips along the way that simplify the process. The first few times I made gnocchi, it was of the plain potato variety and I used both flour and eggs. I’ve since eliminated the use of eggs, to no adverse effects. I’ve also found that I like different flavoured gnocchi, like sweet potato, squash, or in this case, pumpkin.

Making consistently good gnocchi doesn’t require a recipe so much as a feel for what you want. Because the water content in your potatoes or pumpkin can vary quite a bit, it’s difficult to give according measures of flour. If you add too much floor, your gnocchi will be tough and if you don’t add enough it will fall apart or turn to mush in the boiling process. Knowing how much is the right amount requires practice, trial and error or a good teacher who can help you along the way. Don’t be afraid to mess up gnocchi a few times before getting it right, because once you do, there will be no stopping the flavour combinations that you can come up with. And with only 3 ingredients, this gnocchi is about as simple as it gets so there‘s no reason not to give it a shot.

Simply roast a pumpkin, scoop out, mash and salt the flesh and then begin adding flour until you’ve got a kneadable dough. Let your dough rest for a bit, (you can use this time to get some sauce underway or maybe even clean up the kitchen) and then divide the dough into manageable sections, roll it into a snake and cut your gnocchi to desired size. If you want to be fancy, you can roll each piece of gnocchi with a fork to give it that cool, grooved look, but if I’m feeling lazy, I skip that step. All that’s left is to cook the gnocchi like pasta, in a big pot of boiling water. The gnocchi will initially sink when you put it in and then float to the top when it’s done. That’s all there is to it! I chose to let the natural sweetness of the pumpkin shine and went with an easy butter sauce with cinnamon basil, but there’s no end to the different sauces you could pair with gnocchi.


sara said...

i love sweet potato gnocchi, so i can't wait to try making pumpkin gnocchi this fall! i've always been intimidated to cook with pumpkin because it looks impossible to peel -- i'll try your roasting method, sounds so easy!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And like a lot of things, you do it once and you wonder WHY did I try this ages ago.
But gnocchi actually took me several trys;-)
Pumpkin gnocchi is gorgeous!
Like the roasting idea.

Deb said...

Welcome to NZ!! Like you, I have stopped blogging for the same reason, but still read loads of blogs!! I always enjoyed following your blog so pleased to see that you are back :-) Love the idea of the gnocchi...Like most good Kiwis I have a few pumpkins lying around waiting to be eaten!! You will be pleased to know winter is nearly over and it does start to warm up soon!!

++MIRA++ said...

yum, yum yum!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

looks delicious, and i love the color! when i first moved to sydney, i was surprised (and a little confused initially) to find all types of winter squash called "pumpkin"

james said...

Its really wonderful..
Keep it up..

Robert White……
Hotels in Pakistan

thepassionatecook said...

recently went on a home visit to vienna and had the national dish "tafelspitz" there. with it, they served an unusual side of pumpkin with a lovely tart dill sauce... yum! must try and recreate, then post.
love the sound of your gnocci!

Diana said...

Wow! what a great idea! So pleasing in the eyes! Must be pleasing in taste too.Love this pumpkin recipe.