I grew peas this year. A lot of peas. And when I have a lot of a certain ingredient, I like to see how many different ways I can get them on a plate. So this recipe is some pea-on-pea-on-pea action.
Fresh peas, right from the garden. A quickly made pea broth with the pods. And the centerpiece, pea gnocchi made with pureed peas. A trio of dairy products tie it all together: butter (of course), parmesan cheese and some whey I had leftover from making the ricotta that goes into the gnocchi. (Don’t have whey? No problem. Read on for a substitute.)
Nailed it. Everything is so light, so happy.
It’s a warm spring day with a cool night, a breeze, a freshly opened flower. It’s just about as feminine a dish as I’ve ever made — and it’s vegetarian — but don’t let that stop you from making it. After all, you can serve this alongside a grilled steak or a piece of fish and it would be just as wonderful.
This is a deceptively simple dish where there's a lot going on. There are some unusual ingredients here, too, but you can substitute: If you don't want to make the pea broth, use chicken broth. If you don't want to make your own ricotta (it's really easy, though -- follow this recipe), which will leave you with whey, just skip it and add some lemon juice at the end. Whey is acidic, so it helps brighten things up. Finally, if you don't have nettle or spinach powder hanging around, which is highly likely, just skip it; I use it to make the gnocchi a bit more verdant.
- OPTIONAL PEA BROTH
- About 2 pounds pea pods
- Green parts of 1 green garlic stalk
- 3 green onions
- Stems from a bunch of parsley
- 1 cup peas, thawed or fresh
- 1 egg
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- A healthy pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon nettle or spinach powder (optional)
- 1 to 2 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup whey (see above)
- 1/2 cup pea or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup peas
- White part from a stalk of green garlic, or 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin
- To make the broth, bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add all the ingredients, and salt to taste. Boil this hard for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the broth steep while you make everything else.
- To make the gnocchi, buzz the peas into a puree in a food processor or blender. You might need to add a little broth (pea or chicken) to loosen things up. I push the puree through a fine-meshed sieve, but you don't need to. You will need 1/2 cup of puree. Put the puree in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients except the flour.
- Now add 1 cup of flour and mix with a spoon. The dough should be wet and tacky and not quite workable. Add just a little flour at a time until you can form the dough into a rough log about 1 inch thick. This is not pasta dough, so it should be very soft and very tricky to work with -- the key to great gnocchi is to add as little flour as possible to make the dumplings. Under no circumstances should you need more than the maximum of 2 cups.
- When you have your 1-inch-thick log of dough, cut it into 1/2 inch pieces. Very gently roll those pieces off the end of a gnocchi board or a fork; this creates texture that the sauce can adhere to. You can skip it if this freaks you out, though.
- Boil the gnocchi in a large pot of salty water until they float, then for 1 minute more. Drain and set in a baking sheet so they don't touch each other.
- To finish the dish, heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it has melted, add the whey, broth and whisk in the grated cheese. When the cheese has melted, add the peas, green garlic and gnocchi and toss to combine. Turn off the heat, grind some black pepper over everything and serve. You can add a little more cheese if you want, and lemon zest is a nice touch, too.
These gnocchi don't freeze or store well, so make and eat them the same day.