Monday, March 21, 2011

Farmers' Cheese and Cinnamon Gnocchi--For the Lazy Ones

Although in a culinary history they probably belong to the gnocchi family, we consider them very Polish and call them "leniwe pierogi" (lazy dumplings) or simply "leniwe" because they are based on essentially one ingredient and do not require much work. Similar to the Italian ricotta gnocchi, they are made with "twarog" (farmers' cheese that resembles ricotta), which is very common in the Polish cuisine, for example to make cheese cakes, and always has a more or less sour taste, as it is made of sour milk. Thanks to that, our cheese gnocchi have a distinctly Eastern European flavor.

I meant to post this recipe for a long time. It is a very easy and basic dish that everyone in Poland knows and all Polish kids love. The farmers' cheese (for example, the Friendship All Natural Farmer Cheese) you can get in the US is not exactly like our twarog (or German or Swiss quark) but it is close enough to make decent leniwe. You have to keep in mind though that the American farmers' cheese is not as sour as the Polish version but instead it is more salty. I gave it a try last week to make leniwe for a dinner for my kids.

At this point, I must say that sweet dinner meals have always been, and I suppose still are, very popular in Poland, especially on Fridays. We make many such sweet meals (not just desserts)--dumplings, noodles, pancakes, crepes. These gnocchi are just one example. We eat them sweet, sprinkled with sugar, dusted with cinnamon, and with hot clarified butter poured on top. Cinnamon is what really makes these gnocchi taste unique. I use the Vietnamese cinnamon that I bought some time ago, which I has an unbelievably strong aroma, unlike any other I have tried. If you are a great cinnamon lover I think this cinnamon is just for you.

Farmers' Cheese Gnocchi
(Serves four)

2 packs (about 15 oz) Friendship All Natural Farmer Cheese,
1 egg,
1 cup all purpose flour,
1/4 cup sugar,
4 tbsp melted butter,
cinnamon powder.

1. Place the cheese in a large bowl and pressing with a fork mush the cheese into small crumbles.
2. Add bitten egg and flour and knead the whole mix in a dough. Try not to use more flour than 1 and 1/3 cup as the dough will become dense and gnocchi will be hard.
3. On a surface dusted with flour form 2-3 dough snakes and cut them diagonally.

4. In a large pot cook 6-8 cups water with a tbsp of salt. Drop gnocchi on a boiling water and cook them until they appear on the surface plus 1-2 minutes. It is important not to overcook them because they will loose they shape.
5. Drain gnocchi on the colander and put on a serving bowl. Pour melted butter on top, sprinkle them with sugar, and dust with cinnamon--as much as you like it.

Serve warm, soaked in hot butter, which brings out the cinnamon's flavor.

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