Monday, February 15, 2021
Kale gnudi with mugwort brown butter
These tender dumplings, fragrant with lemon zest and sweet with heaps of slightly charred kale, are dressed with nutty brown butter and crisp spring mugwort. They are rustic and deeply delicious.
Why gnudi? Because of their high ricotta content, luscious gnudi are much softer (er, less rubbery?) than flour-rich gnocchi. And while blackened kale is uniquely sweet you can use any leafy green as a base (but blanched and squeezed dry - the meaty kale is neither blanched nor squeezed), bearing in mind that many leaves, like spinach, lose more volume than kale when cooked.
(See Variations below, for those weights and other spice and herb options.)
Tips: Use as little flour as you can get away with in the dusting process – it forms the lightest of skins, and that is all you need. The gnudi can be made a day ahead and kept cold (covered) in the fridge. Also, gnudi cook fast and do not like to be kept waiting once ready, so have the brown butter ready to go the minute they are all plated.
Gnudi: Makes about 36
1 lb washed kale
15 oz ricotta
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon microplaned lemon zest
½ cup microplaned parmesan
¼ teaspoon salt plus a large pinch
Black pepper to taste
1 large egg
Flour for dusting, about ½ cup or less
Mugwort Brown Butter:
4 tablespoons butter
20 tender mugwort tips or single leaves
¼ cup microplaned parmesan
2 teaspoons urfa biber (or black pepper)
1. Substitute 1.5 lbs spinach, garlic mustard, nettles, radish or turnip tops for the kale. Blanch in boiling water, shock in cold and squeeze very dry before puréeing.
2. Substitute ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg for the lemon zest
3. For the sauce: Substitute fresh or dried summer savory or sage for the mugwort.
For the gnudi: Fill a large, lidded pot with an inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Pile the kale leaves in and cover. Steam until they lose volume and start to soften. Turn them once or twice. Continue cooking over high heat as they lose their vivid color. As the water dries up their sugars begin to darken the bottom of the pot. Turn a couple of times so more of the leaves blacken slightly at the edges and turn a little crisp. The blackening makes them sweet. When they threaten to really stick to the pot, turn them out into a strainer set over a bowl to cool.
Transfer the kale to a food processor and pulse until very smooth. Turn the purée into a mixing bowl and add all the other gnudi ingredients except the flour. Mix well. Taste for seasoning (unless you are worried about raw eggs and Salmonella). Add more salt or pepper. If you have the time, place the bowl in the fridge to chill the mixture for 30 minutes – it just makes it easier to handle.
Sprinkle flour evenly on a work surface. Using a spoon, scoop portions of the mixture onto the flour: I use a dessertspoonful to make gnudi about 1 ½ inches long. Shape the scooped mixture into a small log between your palms, denting the top to hold some warm butter, later. Lightly dip each side in flour. Place on a lightly floured plate while you make the rest. When one plate is full keep it chilled in the fridge while you work on the second batch.
Chill the shaped gnudi for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
To cook: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. (While it is heating start the brown butter sauce.) When the water is boiling drop the gnudi in gently one at a time, working in batches if necessary. They are done when they bob to the surface (they remind me of the barrels in Jaws). Use a perforated spoon to scoop each one out at once, resting the spoon briefly on a clean kitchen towel to absorb dripping water, before transferring to a warm waiting platter or individual plates. When they are all done, top quickly with a flurry of extra microplaned parmesan, black pepper or urfa biber, and the waiting, hot brown butter.
For the brown butter: Make this while the gnudi-water is coming to a boil. Melt the butter in a pan over medium high heat. When it foams add the mugwort leaves. Cook, tilting the pan so the butter runs over the leaves, until the butter begins to turn brown. Turn the heat off at once. Just before serving, heat the butter again briefly and spoon at once over the plated gnocchi.