A while ago, I promised recipes from my weekend learning advanced culinary techniques. For one particularly special dinner, I drew inspiration from my favorite restaurant in Boston, Bistro du Midi. I combined techniques like making light but solid gnocchi, blanching and pureeing vegetables, toasting nuts, and getting everything to the plate in a beautiful manner while still piping hot. Other than juggling many different steps at once, each individual component was actually pretty easy to achieve.
First, I made the gnocchi. The best part of this recipe is that it does not require the perfect boiling, peeling, and mashing of potatoes (and it tasted better). All it took was creaming together goat cheese and egg yolks, while slowly adding flour. Dump onto a floured surface and roll into long snakes. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and chill for up to an hour, until firm enough to cut. At this point, cut into small pieces and either store in the fridge until ready to cook (up to an hour), or cook immediately.
To cook, just gently lower the gnocchi into boiling water. It will sink to the bottom, and then float up as it finishes cooking (about 2-3 minutes), which is surprisingly entertaining. Use a skimmer or spider to remove the gnocchi to a strainer as they finish cooking, which will be in groups.
While the gnocchi was in the fridge, I took care of the accompaniments. I made a pistou, which is like a pesto without nuts, out of the beet greens from my roasted beet appetizer. I blanched the greens and then pureed them to oblivion with a clove of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in my Vitamix to create a lovely bright green sauce.
Blanching is simple- just boil the vegetables in boiling water from 30 seconds to a minute before removing and directly placing in ice water to stop cooking. Stopping cooking is crucial to preserve the bright colors of vegetables at this stage- enzymes that prevent vegetables from reaching their peak color are destroyed, but the pigments themselves have not yet begun to break down.
I also crushed some cashews in my Vitamix into a fine crumble. I toasted these until they just became fragrant, then added a touch of olive oil and salt to make them a little more flavorful without letting them burn. I set those aside and tore up some prosciutto into small pieces, then seared it in the same pan until it was just crispy and warm. Finally, I chopped asparagus and cauliflower into pretty, bite-sized pieces and blanched those as well (in the same water to save time).
To create the dish, I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of the plate, then added gnocchi and vegetables. I sprinkled the prosciutto and nuts on top and served the extra on the side with some cheese. I drizzled a bit more pistou on top and then took a lot of pictures because it was gorgeous! I loved the combination of the tangy goat cheese, the crunchy vegetables, and the salty prosciutto and nuts. Despite the many steps this meal took, I’ll definitely be making it again. I felt like I had taken a trip to another wonderful land in just a bowl.
- 8 oz goat cheese
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup flour, approximately
- 4 cups beet greens or other leafy green
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- Salt and pepper
- 6 spears asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cups cauliflower, sliced into planks
- 1/2 cup cashews or other nuts
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 slices prosciutto
- In bowl of an electric mixer combine goat cheese yolks.
- Cream mixture, adding flour, a bit at a time, to make dough that is just barely coherent enough to be worked by hand. Season to taste. Roll dough on floured surface into long snakes, about 3/4 inch thick, and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Chill until firm. Cut each cylinder into 1-inch pieces.
- Boil in salted water for 2-3 minutes, until they float to the top. Drain and serve with sauce and accompaniments.
- To make the pistou, blanch the beet greens for about 30 seconds before plunging in ice water.
- Blend leaves with all other ingredients until homogenized.
- Blanch the vegetables until just barely softened.
- Crush the nuts into a crumble in a blender or food processor. Toast over medium low heat in a saute pan until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and salt and toast until crispy. Set aside.
- In the same pan, heat the prosciutto until crispy, about 2 minutes.
- Top the gnocchi with the sauce, vegetables, nuts, and prosciutto. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.