Sweet potato gnocchi and spicy spinach sauce

Sweet potato gnocchi

Sweet potato gnocchi

    “And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight, than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air. Roses, damask and red, are fast flowers of their smells; so that you may walk by a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea though it be in a morning’s dew. Bays likewise yield no smell as they grow. Rosemary little; nor sweet marjoram. That which above all others yields the sweetest smell in the air is the violet, specially the white double violet, which comes twice a year; about the middle of April, and about Bartholomew-tide. Next to that is the musk rose. Then the strawberry-leaves, dying, which yield a most excellent cordial smell. Then the flower of vines; it is a little dust, like the dust of a bent, which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth. Then sweet-briar. Then wall-flowers, which are very delightful to be set under a parlor or lower chamber window. Then pinks and gilliflowers, especially the matted pink and clove gilliflower. Then the flowers of the lime-tree. Then the honey-suckles, so they be somewhat afar off. Of bean-flowers I speak not, because they are field flowers. But those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild-thyme, and watermints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”

Francis Bacon on gardens. It’s an essay in the middle of The Essays or Counsels, civil and moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St Albans. In between essays on religion, judicature, faction and ambition, lies a beautiful little essay about gardens. It’s civil and moral discourse, because he believes it’s important to have a garden, and to attend carefully to the arrangement of it. He names every flower that will bloom every season of the year in London where he lives, and he suggests that you discover what will grow year round where you live. And then he has this lovely little section on the scent of flowers, which has such odd and particular language it reads like a poem. Secret roses that hold their smells fast? Strawberry leaves when they’re dying? Honeysuckle though it be somewhat far off? What is a little dust? What is the dust of a bent? But let us not speak of bean-flowers, because they are field flowers.

Spinach and jalapeno sauce

Spinach and jalapeno sauce

We got some sweet potatoes from the farm, and I decided to make these little baked gnocchi with them, and then some spinach sauce to dip them in. The gnocchi are based on a choux pastry batter. They’re somewhat denser than regular choux pastry, because of the sweet potatoes, but pleasantly so. I flavored them with sharp cheddar and sage, and the sauce is flavored with jalapenos, almonds and lemon.

Here’s Tom Waits with Trampled Rose.

THE GNOCCHI

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup milk
4 T butter
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1/2 t. thyme
3 or 4 sage leaves, chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar.
salt and pepper

Drop the parsnips into salted boiling water and boil for about 15 – 20 minutes, till they’re soft but not completely mushy. Purée them – you should have about 1 cup.

Put the milk and butter in a saucepan with the thyme and sage. Bring to a boil, and take off the heat and stir in the flour, all at once.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well so that they’re thoroughly mixed.

Stir in the sweet potato purée and the cheddar.

Using two teaspoons, drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet that’s been lightly greased. They’ll puff up, but they won’t flatten out like cookies, so you don’t need to leave more than about an inch between them.

Bake at (preheated) 400 for 20 minutes to half an hour, till they’re puffed and starting to turn golden brown.

THE SAUCE

2 T olive oil
1/4 pound spinach (about 2 cups packed) cleaned and trimmed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 jalapenos, de-veined, de-seeded and minced
1 t brown sugar or honey
1/2 cup almonds
large handful fresh basil, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 handful cilantro, cleaned and chopped
juice of one lemon
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Drain and roughly chop the spinach. In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, stir and cook about a minute. Add the garlic and jalapeno, stir and cook about a minute. Add the spinach, sugar and a few spoonfuls of water, and cook until it’s wilted.

Transfer the spinach to a food processor or blender. Add the almonds, cilantro and basil and the juice of one lemon, and process until completely smooth. Add a little warm water to help smooth and thin the mixture. Season well with salt and pepper.

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5 thoughts on “Sweet potato gnocchi and spicy spinach sauce

  1. Well, ‘bent’ is grass – but as for the dust of a bent, I have no clue. I’d like to get hold of some of his double white violets though.

    • Bent is grass!! Who knew!! Treefrog, Bacon lived in London, so you’d probably like his list of what’s seasonal…

      I do hold it, in the royal ordering of gardens, there ought to be gardens, for all the months in the year; in which severally things of beauty may be then in season. For December, and January, and the latter part of November, you must take such things as are green all winter: holly; ivy; bays; juniper; cypress-trees; yew; pine-apple-trees; fir-trees; rosemary; lavender; periwinkle, the white, the purple, and the blue; germander; flags; orangetrees; lemon-trees; and myrtles, if they be stoved; and sweet marjoram, warm set. There followeth, for the latter part of January and February, the mezereon-tree, which then blossoms; crocus vernus, both the yellow and the grey; primroses, anemones; the early tulippa; hyacinthus orientalis; chamairis; fritellaria. For March, there come violets, specially the single blue, which are the earliest; the yellow daffodil; the daisy; the almond-tree in blossom; the peach-tree in blossom; the cornelian-tree in blossom; sweet-briar. In April follow the double white violet; the wallflower; the stock-gilliflower; the cowslip; flowerdelices, and lilies of all natures; rosemary-flowers; the tulippa; the double peony; the pale daffodil; the French honeysuckle; the cherry-tree in blossom; the damson and plum-trees in blossom; the white thorn in leaf; the lilac-tree. In May and June come pinks of all sorts, specially the blushpink; roses of all kinds, except the musk, which comes later; honeysuckles; strawberries; bugloss; columbine; the French marigold, flos Africanus; cherry-tree in fruit; ribes; figs in fruit; rasps; vineflowers; lavender in flowers; the sweet satyrian, with the white flower; herba muscaria; lilium convallium; the apple-tree in blossom. In July come gilliflowers of all varieties; musk-roses; the lime-tree in blossom; early pears and plums in fruit; jennetings, codlins. In August come plums of all sorts in fruit; pears; apricocks; berberries; filberds; musk-melons; monks-hoods, of all colors. In September come grapes; apples; poppies of all colors; peaches; melocotones; nectarines; cornelians; wardens; quinces. In October and the beginning of November come services; medlars; bullaces; roses cut or removed to come late; hollyhocks; and such like. These particulars are for the climate of London; but my meaning is perceived, that you may have ver perpetuum, as the place affords.

      Nice, right? I love the amount of detail and thought. He LOVED gardens!!

      • Well, it’s always warmer in London, of course – I’d have a job to grow some of those! And wouldn’t have room for them all anyway. But I have got quite a few. I’ll send it to my sister who’s making a new border that she can see from the house, and hopes to have colour in it all the year round.

      • I’m not sure I completely understand the essay (well, I know I don’t) but he sets forth his perfect garden, and then he says, this is just in drawings, and in this I have spared no cost! So we could all dream of a perfect garden, no matter our budget or our space.

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