Cooking Local

A Tel Aviv Chef's Unbeatable Beet Gnocchi

Owner of one of the city’s tastiest spots for local cuisine divulges the recipe for her specialty dish.

Beet gnocchi by Yahaloma Levi.
Beet gnocchi by Yahaloma Levi. Limor Laniado Tiroche

Yahaloma Levi prepares the tastiest local cuisine there is. Her home-style cooking is creative and rich in flavor. She grew up in an Egyptian household where simply seasoned, briefly cooked vegetables were revered; meals were kept light and fresh, with vegetables at their center. Later on, Levi was influenced by Italian and Turkish cuisine, and developed lovely entrees with a personal touch.

The bistron (a combination of “bistro” and “miznon,” Hebrew for buffet) that Levi established in south Tel Aviv two years ago is on the outskirts of the Levinsky Market, with its abundance of legumes, nuts and Mediterranean ingredients. One can taste the market’s aromas and atmosphere in Levi’s cuisine.

But among the entrees, sandwiches and fresh salads, the gnocchi stands out as the star. Levi plays with the dough, combining potatoes and root vegetables, which allows her to change the starch ratios. The combination of beets, parsley, celery or eggplant creates a range of flavors with a natural, delicate sweetness.

The accompanying sauce adds sour, salty and spicy flavors, creating a harmonious dish. The flour that is added to the gnocchi dough is coarse, yellowish durum wheat pasta flour that has been ground twice, which makes the mixture easier to work with and less dense and sticky. The gnocchi can be stored in a sealed container in the freezer with wax paper between the layers. It can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Beet gnocchi

This is Yahaloma’s flagship dish: lovely and wonderfully delicious.

Bistron in south Tel Aviv.
Ilya Melnikov

For the gnocchi:

4 small Desiree potatoes (roughly 400 grams)

2 very small red beets (roughly 100 grams)

30 grams butter1 egg yolk

1 pinch Atlantic sea salt

100 grams (yellow) twice-ground durum pasta flour, plus flour to dust the work surface

For the sauce:

Half a cup of delicate olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

Half a bundle of basil leaves

350 grams of spinach leaves (Turkish spinach preferred)

Half a teaspoon of Atlantic sea salt

1 pinch of ground black pepper

1 pinch of ground chili

Half a cup of blanched, coarsely-chopped hazelnuts

6 canned artichokes, cut into thick pieces (imported from Italy)

For serving: grated lemon peel and grated parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the potatoes and beets in a roasting pan, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Poke with a toothpick to make sure they are soft. Allow to cool slightly, peel and grate the potatoes and beets finely, with a grater, in a large bowl. Add butter and mix slightly. Add the egg yolk, salt and flour. Knead briefly until the mixture becomes a slightly sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball.

Dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Divide the dough into four balls and roll into long, thick cylinders (two centimeters in diameter). With a knife or peeler, cut the cylinder into pieces at least two centimeters long. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the gnocchi until it floats. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi to a tray covered with baking paper. Make sure the gnocchi forms only a single layer in the pan, and allow to cool slightly.

Pour olive oil into a wok and saute two garlic cloves with the basil and spinach leaves. Season with salt, pepper and a little chili and stir-fry lightly. Add the artichokes and hazelnuts and stir-fry for about two more minutes. Add the beet gnocchi, stir-fry for two to three minutes and place on a plate. Grate a little lemon peel and parmesan cheese and serve immediately.