Accidental Locavore’s Recipe for Swiss Chard Gnocchi (Merda de can)
When you live in Maine, most people have gardens, both vegetable and flower. The Accidental Locavore’s parents have neighbors with amazing gardens and now that summer is at its peak, they’re all looking to share the wealth. Part of the problem with gardens is that there often just aren’t enough people to eat it all and while some vegetables like beans and cauliflower can be pickled or preserved, the same just isn’t true for things like Swiss chard. We were the happy recipients of a huge bunch of chard and it gave the Accidental Locavore an excuse to try a Nicoise specialty-gnocchi made from Swiss chard and locally referred to as Merda de can. Since wifi is not easily accessible at my parent’s house, we had to make due with those twentieth-century artifacts, cookbooks. Found a reasonable recipe for spinach gnocchi in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and went from there. Here’s the recipe we adapted which fed five with leftovers to send as a thank-you to Lola:
- 1 pound Swiss chard, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1tablespoon onion, finely chopped
- 2 strips bacon cut into 1/4″ squares (recipe called for prosciutto or ham, chopped)
- 3/4 cup fresh ricotta
- 2/3 cup flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Cook the Swiss chard until tender; we microwaved it for about 5 minutes. You can also sauté it in a little olive oil or butter until tender. When it is cool enough to handle, drain it and squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can (wrap in paper towels and squeeze). Chop it until it’s pretty fine and set aside.
Put the butter, onion and bacon in a small sauté pan over medium heat and cook until the bacon is cooked and the onion is golden. Add the chopped chard and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Put the mixture in a bowl and when it’s cooled to room temperature, add the ricotta and flour. Stir until well mixed. Add the egg yolks, grated Parmesan and nutmeg and stir until combined. Taste and add salt or nutmeg as needed.
Make small balls of the mixture by rolling them in your hands. They should be about 1/2″ in diameter. If the mixture is too sticky, dust your hands lightly with flour.
To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Drain the gnocchi in a colander, or remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon. To serve them, we made a simple sauce of butter and fresh sage. Melt a little more than half a stick of unsalted butter in a big sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add about 20 fresh sage leaves. Let the sage leaves cook in the butter until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Gently add the gnocchi and toss to coat with the butter. Serve with additional Parmesan and enjoy!
This is not really the traditional Nicoise way, which uses potatoes with the chard, however these gnocchi were light and flavorful and tasted delicious. You could also serve them with a traditional tomato sauce, or a tomato/cream sauce if you wanted something fancier. If you wanted to make it vegetarian you could leave out the bacon.