purple sweet potato gnocchi [+ excuses]

I feel like a blogging delinquent. Therefore, in my accordance with my ceaseless – and forever invalid – quest to come up with excuses for everything I fail to accomplish, I shall outline the nominal business that has invaded my life as of late. [Please note that in reality the lack of posts recently stems from nothing else than my own laziness. And lack of inspiration.]

I, along with my dear mother and youngest brother, took a four-day trip to Tennessee to visit Grandma M for Mother’s Day.

Less than a day after our arrival back home, both parental units hopped on a train and left. That is to say, they took an Amtrak to Baltimore for an ADD conference for the entire and extended weekend. Who does that? Trains exist in American? I was envious. And bored. There was no one to talk to. I aimlessly wandered the house reciting melancholy Shakespearian sonnets aloud to myself. [I wish.]

As soon as the parents returned, our house was invaded by five friendly red-heads, who had been abandoned by their own dear mother, who had herself arranged her cunning escape under the guise of “homeschool planning” at a beach house with various other mothers. Yeah right. The freckled bunch stayed for three days, give or take a few hours. We like them.

The very next day, after acquiring some oral (not aural, as on my first trip) antibiotics for an ear infection I somehow contracted from flying to Grandma’s house with a cold, Mother and I stepped foot into our brand new Whole Foods for the very first time! Our town became ten times better in my mind the minute I walked in that door. I always thought I could never live here for the rest of my life. I still do not think I would want to, but with Whole Foods in town and Trader Joe’s coming within a year, I think I would survive. I am in love with that store.

After that, we had my best friend and her family over for supper. Hannah spent the night, of course, so we could stay up until 1am watching the final episode of season two of Sherlock together. I am in love with that show. Watch it. You must.

Over the rest of the weekend the Stanleys came over for lunch, kayaking (yay, Mrs. Stanley!), and animal petting, and we attended a graduation party. They had blueberry cheesecake. It was delicious! And I do not like cheesecake.

Hannah and I spent nearly the entirety of Memorial Day shopping. I needed clothes. I still need clothes, but she was an invaluable asset and I purchased several items. I attempted shopping with Mother the next day, but it just was not the same. All I could find to buy was sweatpants and soccer shorts – comfort clothing; my favorite!

Then, yesterday, it poured for most of the day – the uninteresting side effect of sub-tropical storm Beryl (what kind of name is that?) dragging its decrepit, disorganized rain bands across our part of the sky. Everyone knows that international law requires that nothing can be accomplished during pseudo-hurricane conditions. One must press one’s nose against the nearest window, watch the rain, comment on the puddling – or flooding, as the case may be -, pray the power does not go out for more than an hour or two, and make hourly mad dashes out into the rain to unclog the drains. That is what I did, at least.

So, here I am, typing this blog post after spending the morning at the beach yesterday, writing a bit of this post in the afternoon, and feeling thankful for air conditioning after running at the beach this morning. It is humid out there, people.

All that to say that after a lengthy spell of blogging slothfulness and apathy, I have a recipe about which I am excited to post. And I owe it to Whole Foods, which made it possible.

I keep recipe ideas on sticky notes on my computer. As unromantic, impersonal, and classically 21st century as they may be, my blue notes never get lost in the piles of papers on my desk, and their marker felt font is reliably legible, something I cannot always claim about my handwriting. Several months ago – three at least, maybe even four or five or six; when I was in Peru? – I added purple potato gnocchi – you know, that Italian potato pasta that is supposed to be made by rolling dough across a fork. When I wrote the note to myself, I meant my gnocchi to be made from normal potatoes, not sweet potatoes. I recalled the cute, purple fingerling potatoes we grew with reasonable success last summer. However, Whole Foods changed my plans.

I have been unable to locate normal purple potatoes in our local grocery stores, so I had nearly given up. Then, while my hungry eyes flew gleefully around the wonderfully brilliant and varied produce section of Whole Foods during that fated first trip there, they paused on a sign for purple sweet potatoes. I had never heard of them before; naturally, I bought three.

I think I must have something of a fetish for purple vegetables. I love eggplant. We grew some white ones last year. They were ugly. Why eat a white eggplant when you can have a purple one? I want to grow purple cauliflower and green beans. Why bother with the normal varieties when purple is possible? Who wants red raspberries when black [really purple] raspberries exist? I really must find a purple tomato.

In any case, these purple sweet potatoes were a lovely deep violet hue on their lumpy, veined exterior and an incredible, almost fluorescent purple inside.My fears of a light-purple-almost-unappetizing-grey gnocchi fled the instant I peeled back their skin.  So beautiful! Even the red whole wheat flour I used to make the gnocchi could not contaminate the gorgeous coloring.

Being so pleased with my purple sweet potatoes, one would think that I would treat them well and make them into proper gnocchi. Nope. Rolling gnocchi one by one with a fork is one of the more tedious kitchen tasks I can think of. I take the lazy simplest approach: rolling the dough into long ropes and cutting them into bite-sized pieces. Hey, it gets the pasta to your mouth, and that is all that counts in the end.

The other benefit of cutting the gnocchi instead of rolling it is that it lends to being easily arranged in neat little rows on the counter, which produces what looks like acres of gnocchi and hours of hard work. Really, it takes no more than 15 minutes.

With such a stupendous time savings from cutting the gnocchi, enough time is left to boil them in smaller batches. Why smaller batches? So you do not waste as much milk! I boiled them in milk because [as I told my mother, altering my story until it arrived at the truth] that is what you do/that is what I read online you are supposed to do/that is what I read on one website you are supposed to do/that is what I read on one comment on one website online that you are supposed to do/that is what I read on one comment by one random person on one website online that you are supposed to do. I should have tried some in water to see if it made a difference. Oh well.

A sauce for my fancy milk-boiled gnocchi had to be considered. The logical choice for a sauce for such a dramatically colored and cooked gnocchi was, of course, a (normal) sweet potato sauce; in my mind orange is the opposite of purple. Also, I decided a tomato sauce, besides looking just wrong with the purple pasta, would not go well with the slight sweet potato flavor of the gnocchi, and I just made a pseudo-white sauce last week, so that was also out. Sweet potato sauce? Perfect.

I think the sauce did turn out quite well, if I do say so myself. Perhaps I should have added more milk, though. It might have been a bit stiff.

Regardless, I was extremely happy to have at long last made purple gnocchi. And I am going back to Whole Foods tomorrow for the third time. Wheee!

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sweet Potato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium purple sweet potatoes, cooked (I microwaved them)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (you may need slightly more or less, depending on the moisture of your potatoes)
  • 1 (normal) sweet potato, cooked (microwaved)
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • 2 cups milk (maybe a bit more)

Smash the purple sweet potatoes well. Mix in the egg, salt, and flour to form a playdough-like dough. Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about an inch in diameter. Cut into pieces about 1/2 an inch thick.

Saute the onion and garlic in a small sauce pan with olive oil until soft. Place onions and garlic in a food processor. Add the normal sweet potato, sage, and parmesan. Puree.

Bring the milk to a boil in a small sauce pan (same one as the onions, for convenience). Toss the gnocchi – 10 or so pieces at a time – into the milk to cook. They will rise to the top of the milk when they are done. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to drain fully and cool slightly. Save the cooking milk.

After the gnocchi are cooked, mix 1 cup of the milk into the sweet potato sauce. Serve while everything is still warm. Enjoy!

[Please, someone tell me I am not the only person who thinks Whole Foods is the best thing since whole wheat flour was re-invented?]

[I’m on a brackets, dashes, and parentheses kick. Can you tell?]

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