A culinary creation invites food for thought
A beautiful blend of raw plant-based and vegan cuisine, this gnocchi made from parsnip from the kitchen of Jennifer James and Guinevere Aide, owner/chef and executive chef, respectively, of Honest Herb Catering, offers an alternative to the traditional boiled potato dumpling. Intentionally light on seasoning, this dish highlights nature’s flavors by incorporating raw ingredients and preserving their nutrient-dense value. Let’s prepare it!
Parsnip Gnocchi with Red Pepper Cream, Hazelnut Gremolata, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Beet-Stained Pearl Couscous (serves 4)
1½ cups parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 cup cashews, soaked overnight in water
1½ tsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
1½ tsp. olive oil
1/16 tsp truffle oil, optional
2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
2 tbsp spelt flour (or gluten-free flour)
Pulse parsnip and cashews in a food processor until finely minced. Add nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper; quickly pulse to incorporate. Add the olive oil (and truffle oil) and fresh oregano; pulse to incorporate. Making sure there are no large chunks in your mixture, transfer to a bowl to start forming your quenelles (pronounced “ke-nel”), a smooth oval shape, similar to a football, and lightly dust a cutting board with spelt flour.
To make the quenelles, take two same-sized spoons, two butter knives, and a four-pronged fork. Holding a spoon in each hand, use one spoon to take a spoon full of your parsnip mixture and run the empty spoon on top of the full spoon from back to front, scooping up the mixture as you drag it through, hand over hand. Repeat several times till you have a smooth, even three-sided shape.
Placing the quenelle on your dusted cutting board with enough space in between to work with them individually, use a fork to gentle press and drag through the top of your quenelle to create the visual of lines on top. Then, using an upside down knife in each hand, flatten the four sides of your quenelle to create a rectangle. If you have a large peak on the top of your quenelle on either side of your fork lines, use your knife to gently pat them down. Lightly sprinkle smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, and lastly a dusting of spelt flour on your gnocchi for seasoning and ease of cooking. Check the bottoms of several gnocchi to assure that the flour dusting they are resting on has lightly coated the bottom of your gnocchi so that it won’t stick during cooking. Set aside.
Note: Preparing your mis en place (culinary phrase meaning “everything in place,” essentially all your ingredients prepped and measured out ahead of time) will cut down on start to finish time significantly. This can be done with the other components of the dish as well.
Note: Soaking your cashews overnight, verses the commonly seen two-hour soak, will help to further break down the cashew’s enzyme inhibitors, making them easier to digest, and will also further neutralize the nut’s flavor to render it a more neutral fat.
Beet-Stained Pearl Couscous
1 cup pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous)
1½ cups water
¼ tsp salt
2 slices of peeled beet, ¼ inch thick, cut into quarters
Salt and black pepper to taste
Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered till the water is absorbed (roughly 10 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in your beet, and let stand, covered, for 2-3 minutes. Remove the beet from the couscous, and very lightly dress with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.
Note: The use of beet in your couscous will both color your grain and impart an earthy flavor.
8 tbsp hazelnuts (can use pine nuts instead, reduce to 6 tbsp)
2 cups fresh parsley leaves
6 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor till broken down into fairly uniform small pieces. Add the remainder of your ingredients; pulse till broken down into a pesto appearance. Set aside.
Note: Gremolata, unlike pesto, doesn’t use oil and a citrus rind is added. Traditionally, gremolata is made with a fresh herb, lemon, and garlic. However, the strong flavor of garlic tends to overpower raw dishes, so our gremolata is garlic free. A small amount of garlic can be added if desired.
Red Pepper Cream
½ cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp smoked paprika
5 turns black pepper
2 tsp lemon juice
A pinch of cayenne
Set aside ¼ of your chopped red bell for later use. With the remaining red bell, lightly dress it in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and sauté in a frying pan over medium-high heat until edges brown. Combine all ingredients, including both the cooked and raw bell pepper, into a high-speed blender; blend till smooth. Add water slowly as needed for blending ease.
Note: By using both cooked and raw red bell in your cream sauce, your sauce with be enhanced by both the natural flavor profile of your bell as well as an earthy roasted bell flavor.
Pan-Fried Shiitake Mushrooms
16 small shiitake mushrooms, dry rubbed (not washed)
2 tsp cooking sherry
1 tbsp walnut oil
Black pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix together the mushroom, sherry, walnut oil and pepper. Heat 1 tsp walnut oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, cooking 4-6 minutes, covering with a lid during the last minute of cooking. Place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil; set aside.
Note: By covering the mushrooms for the last minute of cooking (known as “sweating”), the steam pulls excess moisture from the mushrooms and enhances its natural flavor profile.
Cooking Your Gnocchi
Return your pan to the burner, and reduce to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of walnut oil to the pan, per 4-6 gnocchi. Cook lightly till golden (less than 1 minute), then carefully flip your gnocchi and cook till golden. (The oil should naturally lightly cook the sides.) Place on plate with paper towel to absorb excess oil, and repeat till all the gnocchi are cooked, adjusting heat as needed.
4 cups arugula
Salt and pepper
Pistachios, shelled and chopped
Toss arugula in a small bowl with a light dressing of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, and reserve for plating. To plate, place a small amount of sauce in the middle of each plate. Place a handful of arugula on each plate and arrange 5-7 gnocchi per plate. Next, place a large spoonful of couscous on each plate, and randomly place several mushrooms. Lastly, use your fingers to sprinkle the gremolata, then pistachio shavings on each dish.