Category Archives: gnocchi

Homey fare reinvented.. Green banana gnocchi

Pan fried green bananas are not something you find in Indian restaurant menus. Sliced thin and fried golden brown with salt, turmeric, chile powder and a pinch of asafetida. and if the oil is coconut, all the more flavorful.

In fact this dish isn’t all that common even in South Indian homes. Green banana ‘kari’ is one of those dishes that people absolutely refrain from serving a house guest. The starchy vegetable is mostly relegated to  menus for days that call for austere introspection and remembering the ancestors. You’re most likely to find it on the menu on Amaavas (New moon day) served up with a ‘moar kuzhambu’ , a thick stew made with yogurt and fresh coconut, with different vegetables thrown in for the sake of variety ( given that the bananas are invariably done the same way).
I have no idea why this is a constant menu and could not find any suitable explanations as to why this is done. Perhaps one of you readers can enlighten me.

The green bananas are a treat to savor when spooned out fresh out of the cast iron wok in which they’re pan fried. but once they become cold, the starch tends to harden and become mealy and that is the end of the dish. Reheating does not do much to bring it back to its original texture.

Given that this is such a traditional ‘homey’ dish, I simply had to work on this unsung vegetable and much to my delight, a gnocchi fashioned on similar lines to the potato version, worked perfectly in the initial ‘feasibility’ experiment. The added bonus, the pan fried gnocchi taste just as good when cold. I made this dish two ways, One similar to a classic pasta presentation, and the other served up with traditional rice noodles.

Green banana gnocchi in a coconut and yogurt sauce.

For the gnocchi: (makes about 40 pieces)
2 raw green bananas (the Cavendish variety , NOT Plantains or the other kinds from the Indian store)
3 tablespoons Cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
1 pinch turmeric
table salt to taste.
Oil for pan frying

Cut the green bananas in half  and boil (enough water to submerge the vegetable)   for 15 minutes (the  flesh will begin to ‘peep’ out of the peel). remove fro. the water and allow to cool till they can be handled with the fingers. Peel off and discard the discolored green peel.

Add the salt and corn flour. Mash to a crumbly consistency.

Heat the oil and add the spices to ‘bloom’. (feel free to substitute other spice blends such as garam masala or harissa). Add the oil to the banana mix and, using your fingertips, bring together into a ball of dough.

 Pinch off marble sized bits of dough and roll into  a pill shaped ‘gnoccho’. Run each bit over a gnocchi press or the back of a fork to get the classic striations.

Heat the oil in a non stick pan. add  about 10 pieces at a time and pan fry until golden.

Coconut Yogurt sauce:

For the masala paste:
1 tablespoons split pigeon peas
1 tablespoon rice
2 tablespoons cumin
1-2 arbol chiles
1/3 cup fresh frozen coconut

Soak in 1/2 cup of warm water for about 15 minutes before grinding into a paste.

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups fat free yogurt (preferably slightly tart)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
1/2 cup diced tomatoes , (or your choice of vegetables such as butternut squash, okra or chopped greens)
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split white lentils (Urad dal )
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 red arbol chile
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Whisk the masala paste with the yogurt, salt and water until the mix is smooth and lump free. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add the mustard, Urad dal, fenugreek and the arbol chile. When the mustard sputters, the fenugreek, chile and the lentils turn a golden brown, add the vegetables and saute until soft. Add the yogurt mixture and making sure that the mix does not boil, heat until the sauce loses its ‘raw’ aroma.

Serve the gnocchi either directly over the yogurt sauce ,

or mixed with the sauce over the rice noodles (prepared as per the instructions o the package).

Bon appetit!

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Happy Thanksgiving – Roasted Yam & Butternut squash Gnocchi

Come this Thursday, i.e, Thanksgiving day, I’ll be one of the few who will retire in a stupor that decidedly will NOT be induced by that ‘Turkey-philic’ amino-acid, Tryptophan. Mine will be a blissful state of lethargy brought about by sheer Carbo loading, despite my best efforts to acheive a balanced feast.. All it takes is the dessert pies to upset that apple cart!.

I’m far from deciding what I’ll actually make for our Thanksgiving family dinner except that I plan to definitely include the traditional ingredients as far as possible. Squash, sweet potato, corn & beans..and a cauliflower soup that I had made a month ago and still crave.

Its been a while since I tried my hand at making gnocchi and I had a little gnocchi shaping gadget that I was itching to try. There is absolutely no potato involved in this pasta, but the results were better than I expected. The sweetness of the roasted squash and Sweet potato is offset not by heat from chile pepper,but from the spiciness brought about by the addition of a tablespoon of fresh ginger extract.

Roasted Yam and butternut squash Gnocchi. (makes 4 servings of about 12 pieces each)

You need:

1 medium sized Yam (the golden sweet potato)
1/2 a butternut squash cut up lengthwise
1/2 cup each of all purpose flour and cornstarch, sifted together
Salt to taste (about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger extract ( Grate a chunk of fresh ginger and squeeze out the extract)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 L water for boiling the gnocchi

For the Sauce
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch and AP Flour mix (from the gnocchi ingredients above)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorn
10 – 12 sage leaves
3-4 pieces of sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
1 cup whole or 2 % milk
Grated Parmesan cheese

 
 Preheat oven to 425 F. Scrub and pat dry the sweet potato.

Brush the cut surface of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place the sweet potato & squash onto a baking sheet with the and bake for about 25 minutes till the tuber  is done.

Remove the sweet potato and bake the butternut squash for about 20 more minutes until the surface appears blistered and a knife completely slips through the flesh.

Allow to cool completely before scraping the flesh of the squash and peeling the sweet potato.
Add the roasted vegetables into a food processor along with the Ginger extract, salt and nutmeg.

Keeping the appliance running at a low speed, add the cornstarch and AP flour mixture (you will need only about 3/4th of a cup, too much flour and the pasta will turn chewy & tough) until the mixture just begins to come together into a ball of dough.

Drop the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Divide into quarters. Leaving one piece on the floured surface, wrap the other three pieces in a Saran wrap until ready to use.

Roll the piece of dough gently into a long rope of about 12 inches long.

Using a dough scraper, cut the rope into 1 inch pillows.

You may either leave the pasta as is or using the back of a folk, gently slide along the tines to create the grooves. I used a gnocchi  press that tended to elongate the pillows. The final pasta resembled baby carrots! Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the pasta on a floured plate and allow to dry for about 1/2 hr while you bring a large pot of water to boil, and prepare the sauce.

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a non sick skillet. Gently fry the Sage leaves on low heat, until they turn crisp. remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of the flour mixture to the butter and toast the flour until it turns a golden brown.

Stir  the seasonings into the ‘roue’ and whisk in the milk. Whisk well to avoid any lumps and allow the sauce to thicken. Transfer to a container, covering the surface with Saran wrap to prevent a skin from forming. rinse and dry the skillet. Place back on the stove and add the remaining butter.

Lower the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the gnocchi (about 12 at a time) when the pasta begins to bob up after initially sinking to the bottom of the pan, allow to cook for about 1/2 a minute.
 Remove the pasta with a spider skimmer gently agitate to shake of any excess water and add the gnocchi to the sizzling butter in the non stick skillet.
Shake the pan to coat the gnocchi with the butter and gently toss till the pasta just begins to develop brown spots.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate, and gently spoon the required amount of the sauce. Garnish with the sage leaves and serve warm, with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled over if you prefer.

Here’s wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.
 Bon Appetit!!