Eric Tucker, author of The Artful Vegan: Fresh Flavor from the Millennium Restaurant (Ten Speed Press) and executive chef at Millennium, hosts monthly dinners with winemakers to educate his guests—and staff—about the ways in which his dishes pair with wines, many of which are local. The following is a favorite of his, excerpted from The Artful Vegan.
Wine recommendation: A California Merlot, such as the version from Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley, hits all the right notes with this composition. Its lush texture matches the silkiness of the gnocchi, while the red fruit and subtle oak shadings complement the beet, cherry and toasted nut notes in the finished dish.
For the gnocchi:
6 large yellow Finn potatoes, peeled
1 Russet potato
2/3 cup unbleached flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
For the roasted beets:
4 small red beets, peeled and quartered
4 small Chiogga beets, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the beet-Merlot reduction:
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
6 shallots, halved
1 red beet, peeled and quartered
1 fresh thyme
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/3 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups roasted vegetable dark stock or mushroom stock
2 cups Merlot
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
fresh ground black pepper
For the gnocchi, part two:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
6 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
6 teaspoons tarragon oil, for garnish
1 tablespoon drained green peppercorns in brine, for garnish
To make the gnocchi: Preheat oven to 400Â°F. Prick the skin of the potatoes with a fork. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced. Let cool to room temperature.
Scrape the flesh of the potatoes into a bowl and mash. Add the flour and the salt. Knead for about two minutes to form a soft dough.
Cut the dough into quarters and roll each piece into a 1-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch long segments and pinch in the sides of each piece of the dough so that it looks like a bow tie. Place the finished gnocchi on a floured pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
To roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 400Â°F. Toss all of the beets, canola oil, vegetable stock, allspice, ground clove and salt together in a bowl and place on a roasting pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the beets are just tender.
To make the reduction: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 10 minutes, or until lightly caramelized. Add the beet, thyme, rosemary, salt and porcini and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock and wine. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until reduced by half. Strain mixture into another saucepan, add the dried cherries and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced by a third. Add the vinegar and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To cook the gnocchi: Boil at least 1 gallon of salted water. Add half of the gnocchi. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, until the gnocchi float to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer
the gnocchi to a plate. Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the gnocchi and sauté, shaking the pan often to prevent sticking, for two minutes, or until the gnocchi start to brown. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and toss together.
To serve: Divide the gnocchi among four large dinner places. Spoon 1/4 cup of reduction around the gnocchi on each plate and place 6 to 8 segments of roasted beet around the plate. Sprinkle the gnocchi with 1 tablespoon of the chopped walnuts, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the tarragon oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the peppercorns.