Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Sweet potato gnocchi topped with grilled cheese.

Sweet potato has been cheap lately. I like it cubed and cooked and turned into a warm salad with torn spinach and segments of vine-ripened tomato and toasted pine nuts, all dressed with a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish and a touch of mayonnaise. A large bowl of that makes a meal in itself, if you add a couple of freshly poached eggs and some lightly-toasted batons of Turkish bread.

But here’s how I cooked it recently:

Sweet potato gnocchi.

Peel and chop one Beauregard sweet potato. Boil it until soft. Mash it or press it through a ricer, and place it in a mound on a bread board or marble work bench. Let it cool for ten minutes. Open a bottle of shiraz and pour a glass.

Now make a crater in the top of the mound. Crack one egg and the yolk of another into the crater.

Using your hands, gradually work in up to half a cup of flour, a scant tablespoonful of polenta and a finely diced clove of garlic. Press and knead the mixture lightly, adding more flour until it holds together.

Form the mixture into cylinders the diameter of one of those old D-size batteries that had a picture of an electrified cat jumping through the closed loop of a figure 9. Pour another glass of shiraz, trying not to get flour everywhere, and wonder where all the old batteries went.

An average sweet potato should give you two to three 12-inch cylinders. Slice the cylinders into half inch-thick discs, and drop the discs into salted, oiled boiling water. Watch. Within seconds they should shoot to the surface before settling back into the churning water like fresh flotsam off a sinking ship.

Let them bob about for a few seconds, then lift them out with a slotted spoon. Drain them thoroughly before placing them directly into serving bowls.

Top the sweet potato gnocchi with some crumbled fresh ricotta, snipped parsley, a basic Napoli sauce (chopped onions, garlic, white wine, tomato puree, basil, oregano, salt, pepper), plenty of cracked black pepper and a liberal amount of grated parmesan, or any other cheese.

Place serving bowls under the grill for a few seconds to melt the cheese and give it a faint crunch.

Have another shiraz. There's plenty left.