Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Smoked Apple Sage Sausage

Is it fall yet? I’ve had enough of this heat. And so has our poor lawn, but at least we haven’t had to mow it. More time for cooking!

Here is a dish that I will definitely be making this fall. I had some Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages to try. With the sage flavor, I thought they would work well with gnocchi, and I have been meaning to try a sweet potato version. I’ve always bought gnocchi in vacuum-sealed packages in the pasta aisle, but it’s easy enough to make at home. Golden flax seeds stand in for the egg, and offer Omega 3’s and fiber while they bind the mixture together.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Apple Sage Sausage

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tbsp ground golden flax seed
2 tbsp water
1 1/4 cups semolina flour
all-purpose flour for kneading and rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
2 Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages, sliced
1 tsp ground sage

In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp ground golden flax seed and 2 tbsp water. Let stand to thicken while preparing potatoes.

Scrub and peel sweet potatoes, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain.

Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Stir in salt and nutmeg. Add flax mixture and 1 cup of the semolina flour. Mix gently, gradually adding remaining semolina flour 1/4 cup at a time until mixture forms a moist dough. It should not be sticky.

Dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Turn gnocchi dough mixture onto floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes. Dust with flour as necessary. Divide into 8 portions with a knife, and roll each portion into a snake, about the width of your thumb. Slice each snake into 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle pieces with flour to prevent sticking.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil while you shape the gnocchi.

To shape gnocchi, hold a fork by the handle so it points downward, resting the tines on your work surface. Place a piece of dough near the top of the fork tines, and gently press downdard with your thumb to roll the gnocchi down the fork, and imprint it with a ridged surface. The gnocchi will curl around your thumb. The ridges in the gnocchi will help to hold your sauce.

This video demonstrates the technique:


When you are finished, drop about 1/3 of the gnocchi into the boiling water. Stir gently to separate. Boil for 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi begin to float. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and keep warm in a bowl covered with a clean towel. Cook 2 more batches of gnocchi in this manner.

To serve:
Melt Earth Balance butter in a saucepan. Add sage. Brown slices of Field Roast sausage in butter until golden on both sides. Add gnocchi and remove from heat. Stir gently to coat with butter sauce.

Makes about 4 servings.

Refrigerator Dill Pickle Slices

refrigerator dill slices

Dave says these are “the best pickles ever.” A gallon jar usually lasts about a week around here. I use tons of garlic and a good-quality blend of pickling spices from Penzeys. (We like the star anise.) The slight red hue on this batch comes from dried chipotle peppers, crumbled into the jar across each layer. The result is crunchy pickle slices with a lot of heat and smoky flavor.

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup canning salt
1/2 cup (packed) fresh dill
1 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
6-9 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 1/2 to 4 pounds cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced (I used four of the english variety cucumbers, and 1/4 inch slices)
4 tbsp pickling spice (I used Penzeys)
2-3 dried chipotle peppers, crumbled (optional – if you like them spicy!)

Sterilize a 1-gallon glass jar and lid by immersing in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water, and set aside.

In a large non-reactive saucepan, combine 6 cups water, cider vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and then simmer mixture while proceeding with recipe.

Place a third of the dill in bottom of jar. Top with a third of the onion and garlic.

Arrange 2-3 layers of cucumber slices over garlic. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of pickling spice and 1/3 of the chipotle peppers, if using.

Continue layering until jar is full, packing jar tightly.

Place jar in sink, and carefully pour in hot vinegar mixture into jar to fill it completely. Gently shake jar to dislodge any air bubbles. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

If using metal lid, line with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap before fastening lid to prevent corrosion.

Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Remove jar from basin, and wipe clean with damp sponge.

Refrigerate jar for at least 24 hours before eating. These pickles will keep for up to a year in the refrigerator, but will probably not last that long!

refrigerator dill slices


Spatula City!

I’m not a big fan of kitchen gadgets. I’m just a knife-and-cutting-board person. But there are a few items in my kitchen which are both nifty and essential, like these one-piece silicone spatulas from Trudeau.

Trudeau silicone spatulas

Unlike a lot of spatulas, these are one solid piece of silicone, with no seams or joints to clean. A rod completely embedded in the silicone makes them rigid and tough. They’re heat resistant to 482°F (250°C). As much as I try with turmeric-laden Indian food and blueberry jam, I can’t stain them. They clean up easily in the sink or dishwasher. I own the three varieties pictured above, and use them every day for stirring and serving. They’re available on Amazon.com.

Sadly, I could not find them at Spatula City.



Veggie Burgers and Pretz-A-Bagels

I have had mixed experiences with store-bought veggie burgers. Some are tasty, and some try too hard to be meat-like. My favorites are those which have interesting flavors, such as the Gardenburger Original (cheese, rice, and mushrooms), the Morningstar Tomato Basil Pizza Burger (self-explanatory, soy-based), or the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger (mostly beans and corn). All of these contain cheese and/or eggs, and many other vegetarian burgers contain dairy and egg ingredients.

Why not try to make veggie burgers at home? There are a ton of recipes to be found on the web using easy-to-find ingredients. I picked up The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, an excellent book that’s a virtual world tour in burger form. It’s a complete celebration of the burger, offering plenty of recipes, including buns, condiments, sides, and even homemade bacon bits. Most ingredients are easy to find in supermarkets.

I’ve made other veggie burgers before with great success, and I love that they freeze well for later. Just separate them with waxed paper or parchment, and pop them into a bag or plastic container.

Tonight’s high-energy cooking session produced two patties. First, a Millet and Black Bean Burger recipe from Terry Walters’ book “Clean Food”, spotted last week on the No Meat Athlete blog. These were very good on their own, or eaten in a wrap. I topped mine with cilantro lime mayo, onions, and salsa.

millet black bean burgers

I had to add some extra water and lime salsa to make the mixture stick together, and as the last patties were assembled there seemed to be too much corn left that didn’t stick in the patty. I would use less corn next time.

The Bacon Cheeseburger patties come from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I used some unrefined sugar (less than called for) and water. Next time I would eliminate the sugar entirely, and cut back on the peanut butter. They’re a little too “peanutty” for me. We’ll see how they reheat. My barbecue sauce may also have been too sweet. Overall, these are very good, and definitely have a “cheesy” flavor from the nutritional yeast.

bacon cheeseburgers

And they’re really not burned, I swear! I just like them very crispy. I plan to take one or more of these to work, along with these new bun-like things I discovered: Mini Pretz-A-Bagels! They’re like a bagel on the inside, with a chewy, caramelized texture of a soft pretzel on the outside. Lance likes them for sandwiches in his lunch. I like them dipped in hummus.