Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Tofu Gnudi - Two Recipes

tofu gnudi made from the Washington Post recipe
Gnudi is a funny-looking word. It's not, however, pronounced as spelled. The G is silent, "noo-dee." Yes, it sounds like "nudie," and essentially that's what the word means--naked. Gnudi are ricotta dumplings that could be the lovechild of gnocchi and ravioli filling, less-starchy than the former and more-starchy than the latter. Generally, they are made from ricotta cheese and enough flour to keep them from becoming cheese sauce once they hit boiling water. I like gnudi, and find them a bit easier to make than gnocchi. (I tried making potato gnocchi exactly once, with disastrous results, and have no plans to try again.) But now that I am lactose intolerant--and a bit of a broken record on that point, sorry--it doesn't make sense for me to make ricotta dumplings of any sort. When I found a gnudi recipe in the Washington Post that suggested firm tofu could replace the dairy, I made them post-haste.

Sadly, there was far too much moisture between the combination of spinach, artichoke hearts, and tofu, and the dough was too soft and sticky to make proper dumplings. Perhaps if the recipe had instructed cooks to press the tofu in addition to draining it, and omitted the artichoke, they could have been better? In any case, the artichoke added no discernible flavor, so why waste the money? I added nearly twice the flour called for and doubled the seasonings, so the dumplings ended up tasty but messy. The first batch leached so much of themselves into the cooking water, it was hard to see what was dumpling and what was just lumpy water.

Washington Post Tofu Gnudi
The Post recipe called for a beurre blanc-ish sauce of vegan butter, white wine, and lemon juice, which sounded boring. Instead, I made a raw tomato sauce. Pesto would be nice, as well. And because I like a little crunch with my soft and squishy food, I crushed up some garlic croutons and hazelnuts for the top.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 ounces fresh spinach (regular or baby), roughly chopped
One (14-ounce) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
1 cup (8 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour

In a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook the spinach in batches.)

In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, artichokes, nutritional yeast, zest, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, add the wilted spinach and process until the mixture is a uniform green, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and process until incorporated, about 30 seconds more. Taste, and season with more salt, if desired.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two large spoons, shape dumplings slightly larger than cherry tomatoes (roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons’ worth) and begin to carefully slide balls of the batter into the boiling water. Work in batches and avoid crowding the pot. Boil the gnudi until they are bobbing in the water, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer them to a platter and repeat with the remaining batter, if needed.

Tofu gnudi with spinach and a raw tomato sauce, made from a recipe generated by Chat GPT.
There was potential in the tofu gnudi concept, and I was willing to try again. Rather than search for another recipe on the web, I turned to Artificial Intelligence. The very first recipe I generated via Chat GPT seemed reasonable. I was pretty sure it would work better than the WaPo recipe, but I worried that it could have the opposite problem: dryness. Perhaps an egg would be needed to bind it all together. I wasn't sure that the small amount of lemon juice and oil would be enough.  

I used a food processor instead of my hands or a fork because I didn't want to work that hard. Rather than adding the ingredients to the processor in the order they appear in the recipe, I put in the tofu, nooch, basil, and 1/4 cup of the flour (I used oat flour) and whizzed that into a bunch of moist crumbs. I then added the lemon juice and oil and gave it another spin. Surprisingly, the dough came together quite well. I pinched a bit off and was able to roll a clean ball in my hands. I scraped it into a bowl and allowed the dough to rest in the fridge until I was ready to make dinner.

About half an hour before dinner, I removed the dough from the fridge and formed it into 28 sorta-equal balls, each of which I flattened lightly with a fork. I poured water into my largest sauté pan, enough to fill it about 2/3 of the way, and brought the water to a boil. After adding a pinch of salt, I put ten of the gnudi in the pan and hoped for the best. After 3 minutes, I gently flipped them with a fork and cooked them another 3 minutes. There was very little leaching of the batter into the water, though there was some. It was impressive how well the gnudi kept their puck-like shape. I cooked the rest in two batches, adding more water to the pan each time. I placed half of the cooked gnudi into a container with a light film of olive oil and put it in the fridge for later in the week. The rest I served with a raw tomato sauce and some sautéed spinach.

This version I will make again. Next time, I'll flavor it with a couple tablespoons of dehydrated tomato powder and cut back on the nutritional yeast. Perhaps I'll try artichokes again, but as part of the sauce.

ChatGPT-generated Tofu Gnudi 

14 ounces (400g) firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, crumble the drained and pressed tofu using your hands or a fork.

Add nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, flour, chopped basil, chopped parsley, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the bowl with the tofu. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly combined and form a cohesive dough-like consistency.

Dust a clean surface with flour. Take a small portion of the tofu mixture and roll it between your palms to form a small ball. Place the gnudi on the floured surface and repeat until all the mixture is used. You should have approximately 20-24 gnudi.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a gentle boil. Carefully drop the gnudi into the boiling water in batches. Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Remove them using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.

Note: If desired, you can sauté the cooked gnudi in a little olive oil until lightly browned for added texture before serving.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

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