Monday, February 21, 2011

Who's a Big Whiner Then?

Yep, wasn't long ago I was whining about my crappy tomato crop.  Not enough, slow to ripen, too many bugs, whine, whine.  Well turns out I was just being impatient (surprise, surprise)!   I've been getting lots of cherry tomatoes.  Sure some of them have holes where the bugs have attacked, but now that they're all ripening I realise I have stacks.  Almost too many.  Who could imagine that I could grow too many tomatoes?  

Of course, Littlest Monkey has decided he no longer likes tomatoes now that we have bucket loads.  Same as he's decided he no longer likes pies.  I discovered that pies were a good way of getting some vegetable into Little Monkey - polenta pie, rice pie, pasta pie, pastry pie.  Veggies with carb.  Couldn't go wrong there for a few months provided I called it a pie.  Now he tells me "I don't like pie remember!"  Like I'm some crazy, dementia-suffering slave mum.   So last night I tried the trick of the name twist.  "I've made a yummy polenta pizza.  Look crispy polenta pizza crust, veggies and an oozy cheesy topping."  He was having none of it.  Wouldn't even try.  Just ate the salad.  Some of it.  Three pieces of carrot, three pieces of cucumber and left the three cherry tomatoes.  


But I do know that Littlest Monkey will eat gnocchi.  Loves gnocchi since they made it last year at kinder.  Apparently he wasn't going to try it but perhaps persuaded by his four year old peers had a little taste and what do you know, liked it.  Had three bowls.  So I thought tonight I might turn this basket full of tomatoes into a pasta sauce and serve it with gnocchi.  

Until last year, I'd only tried making gnocchi a couple of times.  Both times were complete failures.  Chewy little potato rocks.  And I've found that eating out can be a bit hit and miss with gnocchi too.  Nothing worse than paying for chewy gnocchi in a restaurant.  Surely if it's on the menu they can get it right?  Many years ago an ex's sister's new Italian boyfriend (confused yet?) attempted to impress us all with an afternoon of gnocchi making.  But they turned out to be dreadful chewy little potato rocks too.  Even the super polite potential parents-in-law couldn't fake smile their way through them.  I suspect he hadn't spent much time in nonna's kitchen.  

Anyway, last year we bought a cookbook Little Kitchen by Sabrina Parrini.  It's a cookbook for kids with lots of pictures and simple step-by-step instructions.  And that's how I learnt the trick to making gnocchi - don't over-mix the dough. Over-mixing makes chewy gnocchi.  So there you go - took a kid cookbook to teach me this simple lesson for melt in the mouth, super soft gnocchi.

Gnocchi & Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce (from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion)
• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 onion finely chopped
• 1 bay leaf
• 500g tomatoes chopped
• 2 cloves garlic
• 8 sprigs basil
• salt & pepper
• extra basil to serve

Heat oil in a large non stick pan and cook onion with bay leaf over medium heat until soft.  Add tomato, garlic and herbs.  Cook stirring frequently until tomato has collapsed.  Stephanie says this is a fast cook recipe and recommends cooking for 10 minutes only.  I forgot about mine and cooked it on low for much longer.  Tasted great.  She next recommends using a food mill to push all the tomato mixture through and get rid of the seeds and skins.  I've made the sauce without doing this step and it's fine.  But I recently got this wizzy gadget that I call The Squisher and it was fun for Eldest Monkey Boy and I to use.  It also served the dual purpose for this meal of squishing the potato to a mash for the gnocchi.
Add salt, pepper and extra herbs and serve with the gnocchi.

Gnocchi (from Sabrina Parrini's Little Kitchen)
• 500g potatoes, peeled & chopped
• 3 tbs plain flour for dusting the work surface
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 cup plain 00 flour
NB - This recipe is supposed to feed 4 but I reckon it must be four teeny tiny tummies not four greedy, hungry for gnocchi tummies like we have in our family.  

Cook the potatoes and allow them to cool in a colander.  Sprinkle 3 tbs of flour onto the work surface.  Push the potatoes through the squisher (or mash them) onto the flour.  Sprinkle on the salt and 1/3 cup of flour over the potato.  Mix it in quickly.  Add the rest of the flour in two more batches, mixing each quickly and lightly.  Divide the dough into thirds and roll each into a long rope about 2cm thick.  Cut each rope into 2cm pieces.
Drop batches of gnocchi into a large saucepan of boiling water.  When they rise to the surface they are cooked.


  1. Ooohhh, gnocchi, my favourite!!!!! And yes, it is one of the ultimate recipes for disaster as proven by many restaurants who cannot put up a decent dish to save their lives. Home made is the only way to go. Looks delish!

  2. BTW, gorgeous tomato yield. Only a small amount of tomato envy here...there WILL be ripening here in my part of Victoria, one day.

  3. Thanx for the lovely cherry tomatoes and wow! what nice recipie,I will try with mine when I harvest them, just transplanted my cherry tomatoes and other ones for the first time. Hoping for a good harvest as yours, :) noted that i wont boast of my tomatoes ;)

  4. Yum, they look delicious! Also yay for cherry tomatoes saving the day.

  5. Nice juicy little tomatoes, love to eat them raw!

  6. Oh, the joys of parenthood! When our kids were small we had similar battles to get them to eat stuff, but we didn't push it too hard, and now both of our daughters have developed into first-class Foodies, so I just advocate patience. When the kids see you eating and enjoying things they will eventually follow suit (in their own good time!)
    If you end up with too many cherry tomatoes, try semi-drying them very slowly in the oven.You can then keep them in a jar of olive oil for a week or two.

  7. I see you are making full use of your lovely harvesting basket at last! You are a good mum! I think it is probalby just phases that they are going through - forming their own individuality.

  8. just found your blog and loving it. especially the title!

  9. You've inspired me to have another go at making gnocchi (maybe). I've only ever made the chewy tastless little rock variety so decided I didn't like it.

  10. Good recipes...but the real highlight of this post are those gorgeous Little Monkeys of yours.

  11. Yes Hazel they are gorgeous but they are monkeys too. Good luck Missy it's worth having another try as Daffodil says home made is the only way to go. Thanks Bianca hope you'll come back. Africanaussie and Mark I think it is just a phase. Although I have a friend who survived on potatoes and vegemite until she was 18 so hopefully it's not a long phase! Kat and p3chandan cherry tomatoes are yum in fact there's nothing like home grown tomatoes. And I've been eating them with almost every meal every day and I'm not sick of them yet. Manisha and Daffodil good luck with your tomatoes, hope they ripen soon.

  12. yummy must try that recipe tomorrow. I have only ever tried making gnocchi once before many years ago and it was made with semolina and they all disintigrated when I tried to cook them. x

  13. My 5 year old boy just loves tomatoes! I just found your blog and think it's great, will follow too!

  14. Wow, homemade gnocchi! Just heavenly!

  15. I just made your gnocchi for dinner and it was so good! (it fed 2). SOOOO GOOD and EASY! I didnt wait for the potatoes to cool before I mashed and floured and it was still fab! Will be making it again AFTER WORK! I came home at 6 and had it on the table at 7:15 including sauce making time! Just loved it! thanks VG!

  16. I'm so glad it worked Phoebe. Gnocchi is yum isn't it. I must make it again soon.


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