Sunday, July 5, 2009

Okara gnocchi

This recipe is the originating inspiration for my blog. While many recipes exist on the internets for okara, this one, as far as I am aware, is an original. Okara, if you happen not to be familiar with the word, is a byproduct of soymilk. Soymilk is made, basically, by soaking soybeans in water, then grinding them up in more water and straining the resulting liquid. I use a Soyquick machine to make my soymilk, but no matter how you make it the process always results in some strainees, what's left in the strainer after the milk is made, okara. The straining process has by no means exhausted the nutritional potential of okara, but what to do? You can dry it in the oven at 200F until it becomes crumbly, after which it has many uses, including the most delicious, as an addition to homemade granola (to be blogged at a later date), or you can add it to baked goods or bread dough (but I don't bake that much except bread, and I don't find okara adds much to bread except protein and a heavy moist texture), or you can make gnocchi!

I was hesitant about this process at first, hardly believing something so simple could be so delicious, and complicated my early efforts with cornstarch, arrowroot, and herbal flavours. No need. It's good on its own, but the recipe, as I've discovered, is immensely versatile and forgiving, so if you want to add extra flavours, go for it.

This is the basic recipe:

1 batch (approx. 1 cup) okara, straight from the machine
1 ½ cup flour (any kind will do, but I prefer whole wheat)
½ tsp salt

1. Place the okara, hot from the machine, in a large bowl. Add salt and flour, mixing until a soft dough is formed. Depending on the water content of your okara, you may need to add a little more flour.

2. Knead briefly, just to mix, and form the dough into a ball.

3. Take about an egg-sized lump of dough and roll it out into a snake about 2/3 inches in diameter. With a dull knife, cut the snake into square-ish dumplings.

4. You can stop here, but I never do. The next step takes only a few extra minutes and adds versatility and style to the dish. Take the dumplings and toss them gently about in some more flour, to get them coated so they won't stick to you or your fork in the next step. Now take one dumpling, and roll it along the tines of a fork until the dumpling is squished fairly flat on top but nicely marked by the tines on the bottom. Roll the little dumpling up off the fork and set it aside (on a cookie sheet is what I do).

Continue the process with all the dumplings. The fact that they are now spiral shaped will help them cook faster and more evenly, and the little spirals hold sauce better than a pillow-shape.

5. Once all the dumplings are done, generally I just put the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze them. You could cook them immediately, but it would be a rare day that I would make soymilk in the evening just before supper. In a few hours, when they're good and frosty, scrape them up with a spatula and place them into plastic bags for storage. One batch makes two hefty servings.

To cook, set a pot of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, drop in the gnocchi (fresh or frozen). They'll sink to the bottom. When they're done, they'll rise to the top. If you plan to bake them, scoop them out as soon as they're floating; if you're just going to smother them in olive oil or pesto, let them alone for a minute longer, then fish them out with a slotted spoon and place into a serving dish.

Tonight, I took a homemade tomato sauce (about one cup), added two cloves of pressed garlic, some salt and pepper, and lots of olive oil, poured it over the gnocchi and put it into the oven at 375F for about half an hour.

Since my serving dish is small and my oven large, I also took the opportunity to roast some new turnips, beets from my parents' garden, and sweet potatoes, in more olive oil and a little lemon pepper.

When all that was nearly done, I chopped and cooked the beet greens in the pot I had used to boil the gnocchi in, et voila, an excellent supper with minimal fuss and minimal cleanup.

These gnocchi are perfect for weeknights when you come home late from work feeling sorry for yourself. They're a treat without effort, delicious comfort food that is actually good for you.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely an original, will try this for sure! I just got a soymilk maker and already have 4 batches if okara in my fridge....