Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! I’m not going to lie, though. Unfortunately this day makes me a little bitter. Not because I’m not all about the love, but because I work in the restaurant biz. Of all the dreaded “dining out” holidays (New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day), February 14 is the MOST hated. Think about it: a whole evening of uncomfortable guys who would rather be at a sports bar guzzling a beer than a bottle of red (of which they picked the cheapest, mind you), and gussied up girls too worried about fitting in that little red dress to actually eat. Oh, the delight!
But I digress. Despite the dread in my stomach as I gear up for work, it doesn’t mean I have to be totally bah humbug. I made this beet and ricotta gnocchi for my *fiancé* today; we enjoyed it as lunch on the couch, followed by an annual appearance of my favorite Kahlua Truffle Triangles. We may have even stolen a kiss, but don’t tell my fellow V-Day naysayers.
Whether or not cupid is in the air today, consider making this festive dish for someone you love. Even if that someone is you.
BEET AND RICOTTA GNOCCHI
This recipe comes from Angeli Caffe, my favorite (now closed) restaurant in Los Angeles. It was just a quick stroll away from my West Hollywood apartment, and my sister and I frequented it often. Although at the time I was a beet hater, this ricotta gnocchi made a believer out of me. It’s equally good with spinach, though, if you just can’t get past the color. (And please note: this recipe is best started a day in advance, something I didn’t realize until it was entirely too late to pull back.)
Source: Evan Kleiman, owner of Angeli Caffe
Serves 2 – 4
1 medium or two small red beets, washed
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
1 organic or free-range egg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
Fresh sage leaves
Place a cheese cloth-lined colander over a bowl and drain the ricotta overnight, or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, open aluminum foil and let beets cool. Slip the skins off with your hands. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl on the large hole of a box grater. Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to the beets. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add 2/3 cup flour to the ricotta mixture and whisk together to mix. Set the mixture aside for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Can be made up to two days ahead.
Use a spring form scoop to measure out the dough. Use your palms to form dough balls about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll the ball into a bowl of flour, carefully turning to lightly coat all sides, tapping off any excess. Lay each dumpling on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue forming the gnocchi until all the mixture is gone.
Add the dough balls into a pot of gently simmering salted water and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water as they are done and place them on a platter. Use a paper towel to soak up any excess water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter together with the sage leaves in a skillet over medium heat. Let the butter lightly brown and the sage leaves become nice and crispy, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked gnocchi to the skillet and toss with the butter to warm them up a bit. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve immediately with fresh Parmesan for grating.