beet gnocchi with walnut-sage butter (and a few other thoughts)


Last night I poured myself a big glass of red wine, put my feet up on our new ottoman, and wrapped myself in a blanket that my great-grandmother crocheted about 60 years ago. The boys were sleeping and I was ready to catch up on GIRLS. I was up to the 3rd episode of season 2, "Bad Friend," also know as the rave episode. 
It took me back about a decade. For there was  a time, when on occasion, I would wear clothes that were a bit too transparent, dance at random warehouse parties, and surround myself with fabulous gay men (that, thankfully, hasn't changed as much as the other stuff). A day later my friend Richard sent me an email reading:
Just plugged into this show.  
Lena Dunham (Hannah) is like you personified.  
Only younger (sorry).
And that's the funny thing about age- you know it's happening, but you're also sort of thinking no one notices (until an email points it out).  I've spotted a few little lines (they give me character!) and I've been "managing" a few sprouting grays (they're like highlights!). But for the most part, the 37 year old me feels about 24/25 -  give or take. Well, with more confidence,  stable finances, a house and two kids. Right, and reading glasses. Gah! But I still don't really get it. Like, the other day. I went to a bar with some friends and I was carded at the door. Feeling flattered, I immediately said, "Why thank you!" I might have even been blushing. But the doorman dryly replied, "It's policy. We card everyone who comes through the door." Oh yeah, right...sure, that makes sense.
Anyway, I'm trying to embrace the changes (gracefully). Not that there's anything I can really do about the passage of time anyway. There's no way of slowing it down, so best to just enjoy the ride. I've embarked on a new career path (which is completely unrelated to law, hooray!) and I've got a busy life that requires juggling motherhood with my own personal interests. In my down time though, I really do like watching GIRLS...even if it makes me aware that I am (in fact) a little bit older. And on that note, I'm thinking of dying my hair red.
Speaking of red (I'm grasping for a connection here), I throughly enjoyed this beet recipe. 

Notes on the beets: They were sweet and earthy and I would make them again. I made the entire dough recipe, but I used only half of it for dinner and then stored the other half in the freezer (which should be used within a month). My only adaptation was with the butter- I used less than the recipe called for. I topped the beets with some sage, walnuts, butter sauce (not too much) and a dollop of fresh ricotta. Oh, and when I make this again I'll cut the gnocchi into smaller pieces. Enjoy!

Beet Gnocchi with Walnut-Sage Butter (Adapted ever-so slightly from Food & Wine Magazine)
These intense beet gnocchi are eaten in northwestern Italy. They are sweet and earthy and so delicious, they barely need a sauce. When the beet greens are fresh enough, you can add them to the walnut-sage butter.
+ See notes above.
Ingredients
2 pounds medium beets, scrubbed
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 ounces), plus more for serving
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed (I used less, about 1 stick for the entire recipe.)
16 small sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Optional: fresh ricotta for topping, lightly sauteed beet greens for topping. 
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375º. In a 9-inch square baking dish, brush the beets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake the beets for about 1 hour, until tender. Uncover the dish and let the beets cool completely.
Peel the beets and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Transfer the beets to a food processor and puree.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, combine 1 1/2 cups of the beet puree (reserve any remaining puree for another use) with the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, the 3/4 cup of Parmigiano and 1 tablespoon of salt and mix at low speed until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the side of the bowl. Sprinkle on the 3 cups of flour and mix at low speed until the dough just comes together, about 1 minute.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until smooth but still slightly sticky. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and generously dust with flour. Cut the gnocchi dough into 10 pieces and roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer the gnocchi to the prepared baking sheet.
Lightly oil another baking sheet. In a large, deep skillet of simmering salted water, cook one-fourth of the gnocchi until they rise to the surface, then simmer for 1 minute longer, or until they are cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining uncooked gnocchi.
In a very large skillet, toast the chopped walnuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Add the butter to the skillet and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for 20 seconds, then stir in the lemon juice. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1 minute, tossing gently. Season with salt and transfer the gnocchi to plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top and serve, passing grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.

MAKE AHEAD
The gnocchi can be prepared through Step 5 and frozen on the baking sheet, then transferred to a resealable plastic bag and frozen for up to 1 month. Cook without thawing.
SUGGESTED PAIRING
Walnuts can taste quite bitter when paired with a tannic red wine, so pour a full-bodied white with this dish instead, like an Arneis or a white Burgundy.

+++
...more beet recipes...
casunsiei (beet ravioli with butter and poppy seeds)


beet and pomegranate salad (scroll down to the bottom of the raspberry picking post)