Curious Cook: There’s a first for everything — even potato dishes

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You’d think that as much as I love all things spud, I would be a regular gnocchi eater.

And if you did, you’d be wrong, Gentle Reader. Until last week, I’ve never in my life had gnocchi.

And don’t ask me why — ‘cause I don’t have a clue. I’m Italian, I’ve known about them since before I could ride a bike. They aren’t hard to make, just a little time-consuming. It’s not because I don’t like old school marinara, because they’re amenable to any type of saucing; one of the most classic is sage butter.

One thing I did do that many gnocchi preparations don’t is to brown them in butter before dressing them. It added extra flavor (brown food tastes good) and we felt it kept them from becoming gummy when sauced.

I’m still not sure why I never had gnocchi before. Maybe I was too busy eating all the spuds in potato salad. But one thing I do know for sure.

The first time I made and ate gnocchi will definitely not be the last.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me with questions or comments at

Asparagus Class

Years ago, I spoke with an asparagus farmer, and he told me that “baby asparagus” is basically a con. Those thin reedy stalks are from either immature or played out plants. They taste like grass and no matter how skilled the chef, will never have good, asparagus flavor. The stalks that his family eats are as thick as your thumb, and full of real asparagus taste. The easiest way to bring out the best of them is a quick steam (4-5 minutes, max).

Then drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with plenty of salt.

The key to making children fans of asparagus? Don’t purchase pencil-thin examples, and don’t overcook. Asparagus should never be mushy or gray.

Fluffy Gnocchi

(From Serious Eats)


3 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced all over with a fork

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

3/4 cup all-purpose flour divided, plus more for dusting and as needed

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450°. Set potatoes either on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, on a baking sheet lined with a layer of salt, or directly on the oven’s racks. Bake until completely tender throughout when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.

Transfer potatoes to a work surface. Using tongs to hold hot potatoes, slice each in half lengthwise.

Using a spoon, scoop potato flesh into a ricer or food mill fitted with the finest disk. Press potato flesh onto a clean work surface, spreading it into an even layer, and allow steam to escape for a few minutes.

Drizzle egg yolks all over.

Scoop 1/2 cup flour into a fine-mesh sieve and tap to dust flour all over potatoes.

Using a pastry blender or bench scraper, chop down repeatedly all over to cut flour and egg into potato.

Using a bench scraper, gather up shaggy potato mass and pat into a loose ball. Press ball flat with hands, then fold in half using bench scraper and press down again.

Scoop remaining 1/4 cup flour into sieve and dust all over potato dough. Continue to gently fold and press, just until a uniform dough comes together. (Make sure to simply fold and press down; avoid the smearing motion more commonly used when kneading bread.)

Dust potato dough all over with flour and gently form into a log.

Clean work area well and dust with fresh flour. Using bench scraper, slice off a roughly 2-inch-thick portion of dough and roll into a snake about ½ inch thick; use a light touch as you roll, trying to use your palms more than your fingers, and dusting as necessary with flour to prevent sticking.

Using bench scraper, cut snake into 1-inch portions, trimming off uneven ends as necessary. Transfer gnocchi to a well-floured area or baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bring a large pot of very well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it foams. Add sage and fry until very aromatic and butter begins to lightly brown; remove from heat.

Using a bench scraper or slotted spatula to scoop them up, transfer gnocchi to boiling water. Stir once very gently with a spider or slotted spoon to prevent sticking. When gnocchi begin to float to the surface, wait about 20 seconds, then taste one; it should be soft yet cooked through, without any raw-flour flavor.

Finishing and Dressing

Melt butter in large non-stick skillet on medium.

Using spider or slotted spoon, scoop gnocchi directly into skillet with butter, allowing some of the water clinging to them to come along. Let gnocchi cook until dry and lightly browned on one side, (5 minutes), flip and cook until browned on the other side.

Remove from skillet to a shallow bowl and set aside.

Garlic Salsa Cruda


1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half length-wise

1 tablespoon toum; Lebanese Garlic Sauce (I buy mine from Trader Joe’s, in the salad section and called “garlic spread-dip,” or Serious Eats has a good recipe)

3 green onions thinly sliced on the bias, green parts only

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

In the same skillet you browned the gnocchi, add olive oil and allow to heat until it just starts to shimmer. Add tomatoes, season with salt and lots of pepper. Toss to coat tomatoes with oil.

Add toum and gently stir in to evenly distribute. Once the toum is mixed through, carefully add gnocchi and gingerly toss to coat.

Remove to serving platter and garnish with green onions and a final dusting of freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve with green salad or side veg and a glass of crisp white wine. Serves four.


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