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The Vegetarian

Gnocchi as Main Dish or Starter

February 02, 1989|DIANA SHAW | Shaw is a free-lance writer in Los Angeles.

Serve gnocchi as a first course or as a side dish in place of pasta or rice. Use hearty baking potatoes instead of the more delicate red or white varieties, and experiment until you find the most pleasing proportion of flour to potato: a dumpling that is firm, chewy and light.


(Potato Dumplings)

2 pounds russet or other baking potatoes, peeled, boiled, drained and mashed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 to 3/4 cup flour

Cheese Sauce

Using potato masher or back of wooden spoon, mash together potatoes, cumin and flour, adding more flour as necessary to make dough that is soft but not sticky. Measure out dough with soup spoon, taking spoonful of dough and shaping into fat oblong with palms of hands. Place on wax paper. Repeat until all dough has been used.

Fill large kettle with water and bring to boil. Drop gnocchi into water and boil until gnocchi rise to surface, about 2 minutes. Transfer to baking dish with slotted spoon.

Top with Cheese Sauce, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more. Makes 6 servings.

Variation: For saffron gnocchi substitue 2 teaspoons dried oregan for cumin. Top boiled gnocchi with Saffron Sauce, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, then bake, uncovered, 5 minutes more.

Cheese Sauce

1 cup nonfat milk powder

2 cups water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 pasilla chile, roasted, peeled and chopped, or 2 tablespoons canned jalapeno chiles

Combine milk powder, water and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Heat, stirring with wire whisk, until thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cumin, chili powder, Cheddar cheese and chile. Makes about 2 cups.

Saffron Sauce

1 small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped

1 sweet red pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes with juice

1 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water

Saute onion in olive oil until tender. Add yellow pepper and red pepper and stir to blend. Add wine, tomatoes and saffron with soaking water. Stir, cover, and simmer over low heat 15 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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