Friday, November 11, 2011

Marina di Chioggia Squash Puree and Gnocchi

It has been an exciting year watching the beautiful heirloom squash grow. Our intention was to have these age for several months, but after having to take one of the three Cucurbita maxima Galeux d'Eysines (top left) to the mulch pile, Marina di Chioggia (top right) was not going to face the same destination. Fruit flies circling had my attention and as a portion of the stem was beginning to soften, it was time.

The deep dark green of the newly harvested squash quickly began to fade over the last month toward a softer blue-gray tone. Interesting turban-shaped bottom, don't you think?

The outer shell is quite hard, so a very sharp knife is needed. Carefully cut the squash into sections, remove the seeds (set aside... see below) and scrape away the filament. Line cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper, and place the squash cut side up.

Heirloom Squash Puree
from Diana's kitchen

extra virgin olive oil
8.5 pounds roasted Marina di Chioggia squash
4 TB softened butter
1 TB raw unfiltered honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 TB heavy cream

Brush the flesh with extra virgin olive oil. Roast the squash 45 to 90 minutes at 375°F (190.6°C) or until the squash is fork tender. It depends upon the size and variety as to the length of cooking. Roasting this one took all of 90 minutes. This 24 pounder filled the entire oven.

Once the roasting is complete, allow to cool slightly, then scoop the flesh out and into a large bowl. Add all the ingredients, combine and puree in food processor in increments. The 24 pound Marina di Chioggia yielded slightly over one-third or 8.5 pounds of puree. I must say that we could eat it just like this. The flavor is so fresh and gently sweet, almost seductive.

What will I do with the puree? Squash ravioli is at the top of my list, followed by a bit more soup per dear husband's request, will freeze some and perhaps I will try my hand at some gnocchi.

Note: All the seeds were soaked in water for about 15 minutes, washed and dried. Half are still drying for next season's garden and for anyone who would like to try their hand at them. Robin, Thomas... ?

The other half was roasted in the oven: toss with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt, sprinkle of cumin and bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce  from Diana’s kitchen

1 egg
1 cup Galeux d'Eysines (Butternut or any other favorite) squash puree
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
zest from 1 small lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
10-12 sage leaves, thinly sliced

Transfer the puree to a fine sieve, set over a bowl and let drain for about an hour.

Slightly beat the egg in a large bowl; add the puree, ricotta, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest and cheese. (Be careful to not get the white of the lemon, only the outer zest.) Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the semolina and stir until a soft dough forms. Do not overwork the dough.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Lightly dust a work surface with semolina and roll each piece of dough into a 1-inch-thick dowel. Cut the dowels into 1 inch pieces. You can press the gnocchi lightly against the tines of a fork to make a ridged pattern or role them upward on a grater for small indentations.

Freezing: line a baking sheet with waxed paper and arrange the gnocchi in a single layer. Once they are frozen, remove each one and place them in freezer bags for cooking at another time.

Refrigerate those you will be cooking for several hours. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Sage Brown Butter Sauce

In a large skillet, melt the butter, add the sage and cook over moderate heat until the sage becomes crisp and the butter begins to brown.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until they float to the surface_ about 4 minutes. Drain the gnocchi in a colander and immediately transfer them to the skillet with the sage butter until lightly browned.