I have been trolling various cookbooks, websites and the annals of my own brain as well as asking family and friends and the greater www, for the perfect fall starter: one simple smallish plate that is visually gasp-inspiring and sensorily moan-inducing. Readers, what would turn you on?
For me personally, the answer would not be squash. Yet, I keep coming back to it again and again. I have ruled out a soup. I love soup, do not get me wrong and I personally enjoy soup as a starter but I cannot get over the feeling that soup is a boring starter. Send me hate mail. Tell me how wrong I am. I know, really I am on your side. But I just can't bring myself to do it. There is some sort of mental hurdle that stands firmly it.
But the squash hurdle is one I can navigate. I am going there. With my mad scientist coat on I am going to combine two different butternut squash recipes to see how this might work: a Pumpkin Gnocchi recipe, adapted from a friend with Sage, Hazelnut, Ricotta Salata Pesto taken from the Caramelized Butternut Squash Wedges with Sage, Hazelnut Pesto from melissav at Food 52.
Jiff's Gnocchi di Zucca (e Amaretti)
1 medium sized Hokkaido squash - to yield 2 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups Flour
2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Nutmeg
1. Quarter your the hokkaido, scrape out the seeds and put them on a cooking sheet in the oven at about 375°F for 40 minutes or until soft. Scrape out the flesh and let it sit in a siv until it has cooled. Then give it a whirl in the food processor until smooth but not runny.
2. While it is cooling, mix 1.5 cups of flour with the salt and nutmeg.
3. Make a little well in the center of the flour mixture and insert pureed pumpkin and Parmesan in the center.
4. Work the flour into the puree until you have a nice dough.
Optional: to do the gnocchi with Amaretti, crush them up and throw them in with the flower mixture.
5. Cut the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll them one at a time into little stretches of rope. Cut the rope so that you have 1 inch pieces of pillowy-soft gnocchi.
6. Put them on a semolina dusted baking sheet or tray and stick them in the freezer for two hours or until you are ready to cook them.
7. To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and throw them in. When they float up to the top, take them out. They are now done and ready to be dressed.
Tomorrow, to top them: Sage, Hazelnut and Ricotta Salata Pesto. And taste testers weigh in.