It’s mid August and my family loves this time of year. The weather is beginning to cool, anticipation of fall is building and peak harvest season for some of our best produce is ramping up.
At its peak this time of year, are two of our favorites, Cauliflower and Basil. Both are versatile cooking staples, especially if you’re watching your diet and blood sugar. The challenge though, is using these ingredients in a way that is creative and exciting. Thinking outside of the box and making a great meal that will surprise and delight your taste buds. We believe this is one such recipe. An amazing dish that’s full of flavor, uses just a few ingredients, and is a great, filling comfort food.
We are making skillet style Cauliflower Gnocchi.
Gnocchi is classically made with flour, egg and either ricotta cheese or potatoes, then boiled. Our recipe swaps a few of these traditional ingredients and enhances the cooking method. This lowers calories, carbohydrates and sugars, preserves fiber and boosts nutrients (compare the nutritional data below). The cooking method of sautéing the gnocchi opens up a variety of creative ways to utilize this Italian menu staple, enhancing both the flavor and texture. Gone are the potatoes and ricotta cheese and instead, we are using cauliflower as our gnocchi base. Additionally, while tomatoes are also in season, this is not your everyday gnocchi served with tomato sauce. It’s better! So no tomato sauce, instead, we are highlighting the freshness of the basil by making it stand out.
Basil has a sweet, almost anise flavor that pairs with cauliflower perfectly. It’s a versatile herb that has a lot of possibility and when fresh, a little goes a long way. At this point, some of you may be thinking, “Basil pesto!” Well, stay with me, because you’re on the right track.
Pesto is essentially a spread made with herbs, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil blended together into a paste. For some people, pesto can be intimidating to make and it can also be expensive. At the time of writing this, pine nuts are averaging $31 dollars a pound. Add to that a good olive oil at $15 per bottle, and your pesto has become very pricey.
Our recipe removes the preparation time and expense while keeping true to the flavors of traditional basil pesto by deconstructing the pesto itself. Substituting the pine nuts for walnuts, reducing the amount of olive oil and cooking the ingredients together with the sautéed gnocchi eliminates the complex steps, saving you time and money as well.
Before we jump into the recipe, take a look at the both the nutritional comparisons to a popular classic potato gnocchi recipe and our recipe and its impact on my blood sugar. I think the results speak for themselves.
Skillet style Cauliflower Gnocchi
- 1.5 Cups Riced Cauliflower Steamed and Warm
- 1 Each Whole Egg
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Salt if desired
- 2/3 cup Carbalose Flour
- 3 Tablespoons fresh Basil cut into thin ribbons
- 1 – 2 teaspoons fresh Garlic sliced or minced
- 1/3 cup Walnuts chopped
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- The cauliflower rice can be either fresh or frozen. Be aware that steaming time will vary depending on which you use. When using cauliflower rice as part of a dough, I will typically stream fresh cauliflower rice for 10 min and frozen, about 8 minutes. This timing makes the cauliflower softer than if you were cooking it for a traditional rice dish.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt and continue to boil.
- Using a large bowl, combine the warm cauliflower rice, egg and olive oil together.
- Then add the Carbalose flour and mix together until the mixture holds together like a dough and no more raw flour is visible.
- Note: depending on your cauliflower, you may need to add more flour to your mixture. This should be expected, just make certain to add a little at time until the dough comes together so it will not be tough.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Depending on how you're managing your carb count, you can use regular flour at this point. A few sprinkles of all purpose flour for the purpose of cutting the gnocchi will not affect the carb count dramatically.
- Form the dough into a ball, and divide the dough ball into either 2 or 4 pieces. Set aside and cover all but one piece of the dough.
- Working with the uncovered piece of dough, roll it into a 1 inch thick rope or log. Be sure to add flour as needed if the dough is sticky. Once the rope is done, cut the rope into 1 inch thick sections using either a knife or a fork. Separate these pieces with a bit of flour.
- To finish shaping the gnocchi, you'll need to make the ridges that will help the gnocchi hold onto the sauce or garnishes later on. To do this, you can use the back of a fork or a gnocchi board. Using a fork, take a piece of gnocchi dough and roll it on the back of the fork, pressing lightly so that the tines of the fork create the ridges you want. The motion is like flicking the dough off the back of the fork with your thumb. If using a gnocchi board, use the same idea although, I like to use my palm to push the dough off the board rather than using the flick motion. The palm method stretches the piece out to a longer oval shape which I prefer. See our video below as we demonstrate both of these methods.
- Note: At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi. They freeze beautifully, by simply flouring a plate, and laying the gnocchi in a single layer on the plate and removing them to a ziplock bag for storing once they are fully frozen.
- To cook the gnocchi, carefully drop them one at a time into the boiling water. Once they are all in the water, cook the gnocchi until the pieces float to the surface for 15 seconds. Then using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the pieces to a plate and set aside.
- If not already made, this is when you can prepare the basil, garlic, walnuts and cheese for cooking.
- Using a sauté pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and heat through, about 30 seconds.
- Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan, do not over crowd the pan. The goal is to brown the sides of gnocchi, creating a crust. After 1 – 2 minutes turn each piece over and repeat the browning on the opposite side. Working in batches if needed, this browning step should take 1 -2 minutes per side.
- When both sides of the gnocchi have been browned, add the chopped walnuts to the pan and toast the nuts for about 30 seconds This will intensify their flavor and complement the browned gnocchi.
- Add the garlic to the pan and stir. Once you smell the garlic, add the basil, and stir for 15 seconds. Turn off the flame and add the parmesan cheese, keeping some for garnishing the plate.
- Stir in the cheese and serve immediately. Finish with additional fresh basil, cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy.