* This post originally appeared here, in collaboration with Hervidero de Ideas a spanish platform dedicated to sustainability and ethical consumption.
Besides being since nearly a decade a passionate home cook and a photographer -with a mouth bigger than her own eyes- , I’ve also always been a person in active search of her own way to approach a more sustainable lifestyle. I truly believe that especially around the food themes the smallest changes in our routine are the most effective ways to change things on a bigger and higher level.
I’ve been blessed in the last two years to be able to divide my time between the city of Madrid and a small village on the island of Mallorca, where it is ridiculously easy to find local organic farmer growers and nearby markets to sustain a certain type of commerce. But I do believe that, no matter where we are living, there are 3 small easy and changes we can put into practice easily: the first step, which is always been the red line all through my blog, is to actively follow the seasons and, more or less strictly, just start to eat vegetables and fruits of the season in which we are, of course LOCALLY SOURCED (and organic, wherever is possible). And If you want to learn more about this topic, take a look at my “Veggies Diaries” section, where I’ve been publishing monthly calendars with the list of the seasonal fruit and vegetables through downloadable sheets and give tips and recipes about how to cook with them.
The second obvious, but definitely more challenging, step is to avoid as much as possible processed food and to start over from the ground zero of the kitchen, back to learn the basics: how to prepare your own dough, preserves, sauces and mix of spices. This is how I began to change the rules of my own kitchen some years ago. Of course it’s a process and the sky is just the limit, in fact honestly the only limit we can crash upon is the lack of time, even if we are more than keen to learn and practice.Through these years I managed to incorporate the “basics” pretty fine in my kitchen routine so I’ve been lately been exploring more… exciting and adventurous trips into the world of homemade fermented veggies, homemade cheese and pickled food. And I will stay a while around those themes, I guess, because it’s a big world to explore!
But if all this sounds to you like a way too much in terms of compromise, time and organization..you know what is the most effective gesture anyone should seriously considering to start yet? To finally learn how not “throw away” half the food we buy! Most of the vegetables and fruit we consume loose on the way to the frying pan or pot, many of its valuable parts: skins, seeds, external strata, leaves, filaments.
Think about the last time you prepared a soup or a smoothie: in proportion how much vegetable has finished in the pot or the blender and how many parts directly went straight to the garbage bin?
That’s why this new section seems to me like a good opportunity to spread the knowledge about sustainability that I’ve been discovering along my journey to a more eco-friendly kitchen, basically larning to take advantage not just of left overs but to actually learn how and what to cook out of those scraps, which will help you create a more “circular” kitchen and to avoid the waste of food.
Pumpkin Gnocchi ·upcycled·
Taking advantage of the fact that we are in the most beautiful season for pumpkins, it is now easy to find in markets some different variety of color and form than the all over available butternut squash.
And yes, I love pumpkins but I confess that peeling its skin off makes me totally lazy. In fact most of the time I just skip the peeling step and just bake it or stew it as it is. Once it’s cooked it’s really much easier to remove the skin (great trick, believe me). But there you are: what to do with all these super easily removed scraps of the skin? I make gnocchi out of them! I am a fan of this recipe, which I originally found in a book edited in Italy by a guru of the zero-waste kitchen, Lisa Casali, one of my favorite italian bloggers! So, now you know, I totally recommend you to keep advantage of fall and start to freezing all the scraps of pumpkin skin you can produce, to make a great batch of gnocchi the day that you crave!
(for 90-100 small gnocchi for 2 as maindish or 3-4 as sidedish)
350 gr of pumpkin skins fresh or previously frozen (the scraps of 1 kg of an entire pumkin)
130 gr of whole-grain or spelt flour
10 gr sea salt
Nutmeg and a crushed leaves of sage or tarragon
How to prepare pumpkin gnocchi:
Cook with the pressure cooker for 30 minutes your skins in salt water. If you do not have a pressure cooker you can steam them, adding water from time to time in the pot, until they are very soft. Drain and press well to get out as much water as possible.
Pass the skins through the mixer until obtaining a sticky paste. If you want you can mix in a few leaves of sage, tarragon… to add some flavor. Finally add a touch of freshly grated nutmeg (a classic). You can also switch to some exotic touch like ras el hanout, cumin, turmeric or ginger bits … Be creative!
Prepare the table to make the gnocchi, empty the space and consider to have at least these 30 still minutes just for you.
In front of you, in the center, the tray or table sprinkled with flour and a knife that cuts very well also passed through flour.
To the left a big bowl with the spiced smashed pumpkin inside.
To the right a container with the whole grain flour we will start to add to make the gnocchi dough.
From now on, the procedure is identical to the traditional one. Slowly pour the flour to the pumpkin smash with just one hand (this is pretty important, imagine if…phone rings); incorporate it gently in the big bowl. At the beginning it will be sticky but little by little it will be possible to form a ball more or less acceptable. Avoid incorporating too much flour, nothing happens if the dough is “a bit” sticky. The more flour you add, the more we move away from a real gnocco, to create a hard and low-digestible stone. With the knife cut a piece of dough the size of a pair of walnuts and with that one only hand, sprinkled with flour, go sliding the dough gently up and down creating a cylinder about a couple of cm in diameter. Cut the cylinder with the knife in about ten-twelve pieces. Only practice and a thousand videos on youtube can improve you;) Round each piece to form a ball, more or less perfect. Voilá the first upcycled gnocco is created.
Continue like this until you finish the dough*.
Now it’s time for confessions:
the 80% of time I prepare handmade gnocchi I start diligently preparing them with the classic oval shape and the marks of the fork as every good Italian grandmother teaches you at home (and of course mine perfectly taught me how to do it) but I end up making simple rounded balls…why? Pure lazyness but also, listen: ..time is money, right? Also forgive me but in the moment I start preparing gnocchi I usually got irrationaly hungry right after and any step that is not fundamental and actually just stretches the process that will lead to the celebration of the feast..you know, I totally skip it.
So, time for cooking: while you prepare the sauce that you crave, put salted water to boil. Once water is boiling, Throw gnocchi in all together and wait at least 3-4 minutes to get them out. If you do not cook them all, you can freeze them without problem, being careful to arrange them the first hour or two in the freezer on a tray and well separated. Once they got hard enough, you can put them in a container and freeze them all together. This procedure prevents them from sticking and becoming a sticky gummy mass.
I usually dress them with a sauce of pesto or a stir fry of mushrooms. Of course I love the concept of “pesto”, in fact it is a great way to give a second chance to veggies or herbs scraps.
And what about if you don’t throw away the water you used for cooking your gnocchi? It may be a perfect base for your next soup …
Pics © Picniquette
* A small suggestion: if you have a lot of pumpkin scraps leftover, separate at this point a small part, add tahini, ev oil , lot of fresh lemon juice, salt and half of a table spoon of ras el hanout (or hot paprika) and crushed fresh pistachios..voilá a vegan pumpkin spread for an improvised afternoon snack!
And waht about the seeds? you can prepare a very good vegetable milk leaving them to soak one night and beating and filtering them; Or prepare minichips in the oven, which can be a different snack, baking them for about 20 minutes with oil and spices to taste about 150 ° until they are dry and golden.
And how do you usually re-use the less your veggies scraps?? Meet me in the comments!