For the first Daring Cooks challenge, esteemed founders Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, of Daring Bakers' fame, have chosen Ricotta Gnocchi, a recipe from The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. I have had the good fortune of eating at Zuni Café (in San Francisco) a couple of times and have good memories of those occasions. Thanks to our gracious hosts for a great challenge.
I am thrilled to be part of this new enterprise by Lis and Ivonne, which, if history is any guide, will be wildly successful. Last, but not least, I could not miss a chance to use my homemade ricotta (ricotta fatta in casa). You will find the recipe chosen for this challenge here. A while ago I wrote a post on gnocchi, where I mentioned gnocchi di ricotta: it is about time I made some.
Having just come back from a week vacation and being a bit behind on several fronts prevented me from making cheese and from then making my preferred ricotta using the leftover whey as main ingredient. So, for the task at hand, I used a recipe I had tried in the past, as recounted here, from the book The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley. From one quart of milk (I used 1% fat this time) and one cup of cultured buttermilk I obtained 9 oz. of ricotta, enough to make half the given recipe, or gnocchi per due (for two). I drained the ricotta for two hours the day I made it, then the morning after I placed it on a piece of cotton cloth a few hours before using it for the task at hand.
To flavor my gnocchi I used a hint of grated lemon zest and a hint of nutmeg (noce moscata). For the sauce, I let the farmers' market decide. This time of the year, each week brings new products to the tables. When I visited it, the first zucchini were available and, with them, the first zucchini blossoms (fiori di zucca): I yielded to the temptation of splurging on a nice bouquet of them to be used promptly. While the gnocchi were resting in the fridge, according to the recipe, I cooked a thinly sliced leek in a pan with olive oil and the leaves of two sprigs of thyme (timo) until quite soft (adding some water, as needed, to keep the leek moist), then added nine zucchini blossoms, washed, stem and stamen removed (they were all male) and cut lengthwise into 4-5 pieces. I let them cook for a couple of minutes, then set aside the pan, covered.
I cooked the gnocchi as directed, 8 at a time (I had 24 total, so I made three batches), keeping the cooked gnocchi in a covered bowl until they were all ready. While the last batch was cooking, I added a tablespoon of the cooking water to 1 oz of ricotta that was left over from what I had made and mixed it into a creamy paste, then added it to the leek and zucchini blossom mixture. I adjusted salt and pepper and then added this to the cooked gnocchi.
The whole enterprise was a lot of fun and a resounding success. While my dish met unqualified approval from the quality assurance department of our household (a.k.a. my husband), my photos of the dish were almost all unfit for showing and hence were deleted. You can barely see what my gnocchi looked like, but you'll have plenty of opportunity to admire the beautiful creations of my fellow Daring Cooks. I will definitely make gnocchi di ricotta again soon.