When I called this thing “well fed, flat broke,” it was because payday was looming on the not-too-distant horizon and we had no money, but the quality of our meals did not suffer. And I thought it was appropriate, because even on nights when we literally have nothing left to show for all our hard work, we still manage to eat fantastically well.
This is in part due to my compulsive tendency to hoard when times are good – we always have a fridge full of basics that can be spun into something you’d want to eat. I think it’s also because our cute little existences would end in very clumsy suicide if we had to come home to Kraft Dinner and wieners every night once the cable’s been cut off (it has) and our astronomical debt rears its ugly head (it continues to). I cook because we love to eat, and because we don’t care to be reminded all the time about how many ways we suck (so stop calling, Canada Student Loans). A good meal makes us feel better, like regular people who are good at life and who manage to live on what they earn. A crappy meal reminds us that we are little more than 26- and 27-year-old children playing grown-up. So we are well fed.
And, today, we are flat broke.
But I have basil in the fridge, and sundried tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, and I felt like dining in a spot of sunshine and pretending I was anywhere else, and preferably somewhere where sand in my bathing suit would be my biggest worry at any given time. It’s very easy to indulge those fantasies – all you need is a little bit of preparation.
Oh! Before I get started, I wanted to show you what I mean by “two medium sweet potatoes.” I find that the size of vegetables is very subjective and varies from place to place and depends on what time of year it is.
Sweet potato gnocchi
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, baked (bake in a 400°F oven for one hour – cool completely before working with these … I recommend doing this the night before)
- 2 1/2 cups flour (plus additional flour for kneading – the amount will depend on how much moisture is in your sweet potatoes)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp. orange zest
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
In a large bowl, mash your sweet potatoes. Add the flour, the egg, the orange zest, and the nutmeg, white pepper, and salt.
Mix these together until the whole thing forms a dough. It will be a very soft dough, which means that you will need to work a bit more flour into it. As mentioned, this amount is variable, and depends on how wet your potatoes are – I needed an additional cup, plus some to keep the gnocchi from sticking together once formed.
Once a dough is formed, divide it into six chunks of about equal size. I saved one, and threw the rest into the fridge to keep them cool while I worked. Roll the chunk out into a long dough snake. (Official term.) I rolled mine until it was about a half-inch in diameter. Then, cut the dough into small pieces, about half to three-quarters of an inch. If you know how to roll the gnocchi with a fork to make it look nice, go for it. If you’re like me and you just mangle the shit out of it, then you can call the little pieces done. Put them on a tray lined with floured parchment while you cut apart the rest of the dough.
Throw these in a pot of boiling water, and then when they rise to the top, they’re done, about seven minutes. You’ll probably end up with more than you can eat, and if that’s the case then you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi for another fun time.
Once cooked, I tossed these in a pan with two tablespoons melted butter, a 1/2 cup of chopped sundried tomatoes, a whole roasted garlic (with the cloves squished out), and a generous smattering of basil (reserve a bit to top the pasta with). I also threw in a handful of parmesan cheese.
Serve topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Imagine you’re somewhere drenched in sun that smells like lemons. Drink red wine. Eat. Enjoy.