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Potatoes - the healthy food no one told you about (and a gnocchi recipe)

February 03, 2016 Rachael Guth

So my husband, who spent the better part of his childhood in the kitchen of his Hungarian grandmother, and knows all about food consisting of long, hard-to-remember names, has a special fondness for two things - chicken krumpli (I don't even have to tell you it's not super healthy) and nokedli. Nokedli is similar to gnocchi, but it's smaller and made differently.

When you consider the main ingredient, potatoes, you probably imagine starchy, heavy, and generally unhealthy things. In actuality, the potato has a bad rep due to how it's processed, cooked, and eaten and not because of its natural properties. Cooking potatoes at too high a temperature (think French Fries) can create cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide. If prepared without the grease and fat, potatoes are amazing for antioxidants, kukoamines and allies (for treating sleeping sickness and reducing blood pressure), and vitamin B6 (helps with stress, depression, and possibly ADHD).

The Washington State Potato Commission reports that potatoes contain other beneficial "ingredients": potassium, protein, essential amino acids, fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and are fat-free, saturated fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. The United States Department of Agriculture even sponsored some serious potato research to find out more about the health benefits of these phytochemical-producing tubers.

So the next time you plan a meal with starches, consider having some healthy potatoes on the side.

Now back to that gnocchi!

Being the amateur experimental chef I am, and wanting to attempt a gluten-free version of this dish he drools over, I searched for something that would suit both our tastes, and this is how it went down.

First, if you're going to make gnocchi or nokedli without flour, it's NOT going to look or taste the same (although there are a few chef tricks to disguise this fact), and you definitely should not tell your Hungarian grandmother (my Hungarian-born mother-in-law was doubtful but pleasantly surprised when it actually worked).

As with all ingredients, there are two things you should consider before even considering to crack open this recipe.

Potatoes are very very different.

Huh?

While most people are familiar with red and white potatoes, there are a vast amount of "other" potatoes out there, so many that you might think their status is veiled by a secret potato society that is hiding them away for the own culinary purposes. Potatoes come in a variety of sizes, colors, tastes, and textures. Not only that, but some have a higher starch level than others, and starch is definitely what we're going for here.

You'll need to find the starchiest potato your local grocer offers, and use these for your gnocchi.

Second, while boiling potatoes seems the way to go, it will only make your gluten-free gnocchi mushy and sticky. Potatoes soak up a lot of water when boiled, so baking is the best option.

I scouted countless recipes online and found the consensus to be about the same on amount of potatoes, eggs, and flour, however I changed it as I kneaded the dough, since recipes never seem to match when you're actually standing over the kitchen counter. I did make a smaller batch than was suggested by most, as I didn't plan on feeding a herd of starving children and adults, so keep that in mind. The steps required were borrowed from a recipe with a beautiful cover photo of gorgeous fork-dented gnocchi (I tend to use Google Images as my rating system for recipe success).

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 medium sized potatoes, baked, peeled (if desired) and mashed
  • Appx. 1 cup of rice flour (I only had rice flour on hand, but most recipes suggest something called "sweet" rice flour, as it holds together better). If it seems too "wet", add more flour.
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp. of oil
  • pinch of salt - take it or leave it, salt isn't required but does add to overall taste. If you're on a low-sodium diet, leave it out, and substitute with something tasty like garlic.

Steps:

Bake potatoes. Once finished, cool, peel if desired, and smash the heck out of them.

Combine dry ingredients, and sprinkle on a clean counter-top.

Place potatoes on top of flour.

Combine eggs and oil, drizzle on top of potato and flour mix.

Knead until the dough seems fully combined and can be rolled into a nice ball.

Cut the dough ball into quarters.

Roll each dough ball into a long "snake" and press fork tongs to create indents. I actually tried a few variations of this step, as the dough was soft and sometimes stuck. I indented one side, flipped it, and then did the other side. After it was done, I then cut into sections, but had to "re-indent" some areas.

      

Boil the gnocchi, or freeze for later.

Alternatively, other ingredients can be added, like fresh garden herbs (coriander, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or basil), veggies (spinach or sweet potato), or even spirulina! Just remember if you add something with high water content, you'll need to even it out with extra flour.

Happy Eating!



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