In my quest to combine various textures in dishes, this Poppy Seed Potato Gnocchi in Spinach Salad ticks all the boxes. The gnocchi are served in a spinach salad with dry cherries, pine nuts and sprinkled with crispy bacon.
Look at these little gnocchi. A yellow beet and poppy seeds transformed them, from a plain potato color, to vibrant yellow, speckled little pillows. A traditional potato gnocchi is rather bland in flavor; surely when well prepared, they are pillowy and tender, but flavor-wise they are not ‘outstanding’ in their field. That’s why most potato gnocchi dishes involve a sauce or baking. In this Poppy Seed Potato Gnocchi in Spinach Salad dish, the crunchy, but still tender, gnocchi finds company in raw and wilted spinach, dried cherries, crispy bacon and toasted pine nuts.
Cook the beet and potato together, peel them and push them through a potato ricer for a lump-free mix. Once totally cooled, add flour, salt, pepper and poppy seeds and knead. Don’t add more flour than necessary, the less the better. To know whether your gnocchi will hold together, just make a test-run. Allow one small piece of dough to be the guinea pig and make it swim in boiling water. When it comes up for air and is still a well-formed gnocchi, you’re fine. If didn’t hold from, knead a little more flour into the mix.
Now you know your gnocchi dough works, you’ll have to do a few things at the same time.
- Cook the bacon to a crisp
- Toast the pine nuts
- Cook the gnocchi
Cook strips of bacon in a skillet until crisp. At the same time toast the pine nuts on a baking sheet in a cool oven that you’ll heat to 350 degrees F.
At the same time roll the potato dough into a rope of about max. 1/2 inch thick and cut the rope in small pieces of about 1/2-3/4 inch. Roll them into gnocchi. If you want to be fancy, roll each gnocchi along the tines (spikes) of a fork to get the traditional ridges, but you can do without as well (as I did). Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet with parchment paper. They should not touch each other as they will stick together. Boil water with salt, add the gnocchi and cook in portions, stirring once, until they float to the surface. This will take less a minute or so. Remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and transfer to another backing sheet with parchment paper.
Transfer the bacon to a paper towel and add the gnocchi to the skillet, into the bacon fat. Cook on high temperature for a few minutes, so they get some of the bacon flavor.
Now it is time to combine the elements. Half of the spinach goes into a salad bowl with the gnocchi, cherries and the pine nuts. The other half of the spinach goes into the skillet while it is still hot. Toss the spinach until it just starts to wilt. Partly raw and partly wilted spinach ties the entire salad nicely together; it is like the transition from raw to cooked. Empty the skillet into the salad bowl (spinach and juices); gently toss as you don’t want to damage the gnocchi and sprinkle with bacon.
I don’t think there is any dressing necessary; there is enough flavor, enough variety in texture and temperature that a dressing is not needed. If you do think you need some, I would suggest a simple vinaigrette.