My husband and I have quite the Valentine’s Day joke.
6 years ago I told him the only thing I wanted for Valentine’s Day was chocolate covered strawberries. I told him this around Christmas when the fruit came up somehow, but the two months between the two holidays led to him forgetting unfortunately.
The next year, I reminded him in February- still no berries come the 14th! This went on for TWO MORE YEARS!!! For whatever reason, my very considerate/loving/attentive husband could not remember to bring me chocolate covered strawberries even when I reminded him in February!!! He’s truly the most amazing husband I could have ever imagined, it was honestly mind boggling that he couldn’t master Valentine’s Day = Chocolate Covered Strawberries.
I had to wonder if he were doing it on purpose- how could a person forget year after year?! He even put it in his Google calendar a few years ago and reminded himself in time to order them, but it magically didn’t happen again. Instead of being angry, it just made me laugh- I honestly could not believe it. He would give wonderful cards (one year it was hand made!) and thoughtful gifts. But alas, no berries. Last year HE REMEMBERED (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and we enjoyed them as we laughed.
About two weeks ago, he said “Would you like chocolate covered strawberries this year? I want to get them for you but I don’t know where I will find them with organic chocolate and organic strawberries.” Now this was sweet- he knew I wouldn’t care for them now that I eat only organic foods (conventional strawberries are one of the most pesticide-sprayed fruits in the United States).
I would make an exception on a holiday (or the rare occasion we go out to eat) but the cost of buying conventional chocolate covered strawberries is insane when you can make them organically for less. He made them (using conventional ingredients) for me our first Valentine’s Day in 2006 so buying both organic berries and chocolate and making them here did come to mind- but I told him not this year.
This year I was going to give HIM some chocolate and strawberries- I made DINNER (not dessert!) using organic chocolate and strawberries. I bet you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. With a little creativity and imagination, ANYTHING, including Valentine’s Day dinner, can happen!
Chocolate Gnocchi with Strawberries, Peas, Candied Bacon, and Rosemary Balsamic
- 2 organic sweet potatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or more)
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (or more)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more)
- 1 tablespoon organic chocolate syrup
- 1 egg white (or you can use a teaspoon or two of almond or cashew butter to make these vegan)
- 1 3/4 cups organic flour (I used sprouted whole wheat)
- 2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar (use closer to 3/4 cup if you like your pasta saucier)
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey
- 1 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary (if using fresh remember to use about half!)
- 6 organic frozen strawberries
- 3 pieces organic turkey bacon (optional)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup for candying the bacon, if using
Peel and slice the sweet potatoes and boil in salted water until they are soft enough that they almost fall apart when stabbed with a fork. Drain and return to the same pot. Mash them with a fork or masher until there are no lumps.
Add the spices, salt, and organic chocolate syrup. I used Alaska brand. I have this on hand for when I want mocha as opposed to plain coffee- it’s really quite good and is free of all of the chemicals and additives- it’s USDA Organic AND Non-GMO verified! Stir until incorporated.
Taste the mixture at this point (before adding the egg!) to assess the spice/saltiness. Sweet potatoes vary in size and water content so each batch can be different. If you want more spice, add a little of each until you think it tastes just right! I DO NOT recommend adding extra salt because you will be boiling them in salted water which will add saltiness. Do remember though, that you will be adding a lot of flower and cocoa powder which don’t have spice in them so make sure the potatoes have good flavor.
Once it tastes flavorful (you may not need to add any extra spice- I didn’t!) add 1 cup of flour and the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Stir and add 1/4 cup of the leftover flour at a time until the mixture can be picked up and isn’t gummy in your hands.
Use a little flour and cocoa powder to dust a cutting board. Make sure to spread the flour/cocoa powder mixture very thin- leave a pile off to the side that you can take from if you need more. Take a small handful of the dough and roll it into a log on the floured cutting board.
Lightly roll the log into a snake, being careful not to squish the dough. Repeat making logs and snakes until all of the dough is used.
Cut the snakes into pieces that are about the same width as a finger.
I place the cut gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze them until I want to use them, even if it’s for only a few minutes (preferably about an hour, minimum). When the dough is room temperature, it can disintegrate and/or become too mushy. These cook in seconds so it is important that they are firm when they go into the boiling water.
Thaw the strawberries in a bowl or help them by placing frozen with a teaspoon of water in a small pot and heat over low heat. Set aside.
In a small sautee pan or pot, heat the balsamic vinegar and sweetener over high heat. I also poured in the liquid that came off of the strawberries when they thawed.Chop the dried rosemary (warning: this can be messy, the pieces like to fly everywhere so try to cover with your hand) and add it to the balsamic. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer- let simmer until the mixture begins to thicken (10 minutes or so).
If you would like candied maple bacon lardons (slices) in your dish, this is the time to cook the turkey bacon in just a tiny bit of olive oil. Lightly brown the slices on both sides. Add the maple syrup, making sure the slices are coated. Continue cooking the bacon, flip the slices after a few minutes. When nearly all of the maple syrup is gone from the pan, remove the bacon slices and let cool.
Heat a larger sautee pan with a little olive oil.
Salt a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in 3 batches once the water is boiling- they will cook in 30 seconds or less. Don’t wait for them to float to the top- they may be done already. After a few seconds, take one with a fork and taste it- if it’s heated through and doesn’t taste like raw flour, you’re good to go. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi and place them in the sautee pan.
Shake the pan to coat the gnocchi with the olive oil. Repeat the process until all of the gnocchi are cooked. In the pan they should all be barely coated in olive oil and slightly crisping up.
Heat the peas in a small sautee pan in a little water. Set aside.
Heat the strawberries briefly in the same pan until just heated through- you do not want them to disintegrate.
Stack the bacon slices if using and cut into small pieces.
Plate desired amount of gnocchi on a plate. Drizzle with the balsamic and top with bacon and peas. Top with the whole strawberries. Enjoy!!
This meal is a savory dish- it is not sweet even though you are using chocolate and strawberries. It was a very inexpensive way to cook something unique and special for Valentine’s Day. The only ingredient of expense is the balsamic vinegar (organic cocoa powder can be expensive but used in such a small amount only costs a few cents). The vinegar costs about $7.00 for a 16.9 ounce bottle- twice the price of conventional balsamic. If you use half a cup it only costs $1.64 (3/4 cup would be $2.46).
My husband looked at the plate and said “Wow!” I asked for more details for what “wow” meant, and he continued with “captivating, interesting, unique, colorful!” I told him what we were having and he laughed. After trying everything he said “unexpected, textural, complex, surprising, bursting flavor, scrumptious!” I’ll take it! Happy Valentine’s Day from our home to yours!