That’s right, dear readers—the time has come once again for the fourth biannual congregation of members of the plant-based blogosphere, known as Virtual Vegan Potluck. Organized by four talented vegan bloggers, Virtual Vegan Potluck connects vegan bloggers worldwide in an online extravaganza of animal-free recipe-sharing and food-gawking. Each participating blogger signs up to post a recipe for an appetizer, a beverage, a bread, a salad, a side dish, a soup, a main dish, or a dessert at exactly the same time on exactly the same day, simulating a real-life potluck for our beloved online vegan community. With 146 bloggers participating, this round of VVP will surely produce some impressive noms.
My first foray into the Potluck took place last May with the creation of a stunning (if I do say so myself) salad of pomegranate-infused brown rice, roasted butternut squash and cauliflower, toasted hazelnuts, and arugula. This time around, I’ve ventured into the realm of Main Dishes, drawing upon an abundant arsenal of autumnal edibles for inspiration. Indeed, why wait to enjoy root vegetables, sage, and maple syrup at three separate meals when you can combine them all into one?
I first conceptualized this dish after learning of the “featured ingredient” of this month’s Virtual Vegan Potluck: beets. Immediately recalling the hugely successful beet gnocchi with meyer lemon pesto with which I experimented this summer, I sought to again imbue the soft, pillowy pasta with the sweet, earthy flavor of beets. ”But wait!” I thought. “How can I possibly call myself a seasonal cook if I don’t highlight butternut squash…or parsnips…or celeriac in this dish?” Thus, due to my undiscriminating love toward all of my cold-weather vegetable children, I envisioned a vibrant dish of magenta, creamy white, and deep orange gnocchi.
Also wanting to incorporate a sauce, I opted to create a pesto-fied version of my all-time favorite hummus: the deeply flavored, warming, grounding, and quite timely Rosemary Pistachio Hummus. Unfortunately, on the night that I actually cooked this dish, one of my Ferry housemates had commandeered all of the rosemary off of the potted rosemary bush in our dining room, relegating me to using the sage from the farmers market (woe is me). Needless to say, the sage provided a gorgeous substitute for the rosemary, maintaining the pesto’s presentation of a savory autumnal herb.
Imbued with the subtly sweet flavors of six different root vegetables and coated in a rich, maple-y pesto, this gnocchi is sophisticated comfort food at its finest.
A note on the flour: I’ve made gnocchi with brown rice flour, chickpea flour, and spelt flour in the past. All have produced pretty darn tasty results, though the brown rice performed the best with its light texture and neutral flavor. The chickpea flour yielded light gnocchi but maintained its strong, beany flavor; the spelt flour let the veggie’s flavor shine but created a rather dense gnocchi. Feel free to experiment with your flours, though!
Onto the yumminess…
Mixed Root Vegetable Gnocchi in Sage-Pistachio Pesto—Soy Free, Low Sodium.
Makes a whole lotta gnocchi.
For the pesto:
2 shallots, minced
10 leaves of fresh sage, minced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp tahini
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Olive oil to thin, as needed
For the gnocchi:
1/2 of a butternut squash, seeded
2 large beets, peeled
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 medium celeriac, peeled
1 large parsnip, peeled
1 medium turnip, peeled
4-6 cups brown rice flour, divided, plus more for dusting
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wrap the beets, sweet potato, celeriac, parsnip, and turnip each individually in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Place the butternut squash, face-down, on the baking sheet, as well. Roast all of the veggies for 45-60 minutes until you can pierce through them with a fork. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallots and sage. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the sauté to a food processor along with the rest of the pesto ingredients, except for the olive oil. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides as necessary. As the motor is running, drizzle in olive oil to achieve the desired consistency.
Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
Once the veggies have cooled, puree each of them separately in a food processor (or mash them separately with a potato masher) and place the purees into separate bowls. Make sure that you process the beets last so as not to stain the other veggie purees with a magenta hue. Combine the purees of celeriac, turnip, and parsnip. You’ll have four bowls of puree in front of you: one deep orange (butternut squash), one light orange (sweet potato), one magenta (beet), and one white (celeriac, turnip, and parsnip). Combine each of the purees with 1 cup of brown rice flour, adding more to each bowl to achieve an ever-so-slightly sticky consistency (the butternut squash and sweet potato purees will require less than the others).
Dust a work surface with additional flour. Divide each dough into two portions and roll them into snakes about 1/2-inch in width. Cut each snake into 10-20 gnocchi and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Once the pot of water is boiling, drop the gnocchi—ten at a time and only with gnocchi of like color—into the pot. Cook until the gnocchi floats to the top, about 30 seconds. Remove the gnocchi from the water and place in a colander sitting over a bowl to allow the water to drain.
Combine all of the gnocchi in a large bowl (at this point, the boiling will have sealed their color, so it’s safe to combine them). Add the pesto and stir well to coat. Serve warm.
Until next time, Ali.