May 26, 2011
This is why we pinch pennies all year long, spend our limited vacation time from work to visit family on the other side of the planet instead of go to Disney World, and travel from Denver to Dallas to Santiago to Mendoza and then drive three hours to Bowen; transit time: about 24 hours each way.
It's so Esteban can make gnocchi with his abuela, and it's totally worth every sacrifice we make the other 364 days of the year. Those moments are priceless to us.
On our last visit, we happened to be at my in-laws' house on the 29th–which Argentinaphiles will recognize as 'Ñoqui Day'–the day each month in Argentina that everyone eats gnocchi.
Florencia, my mother-in-law, cooks in a humble kitchen–no high-tech gadgets (not even a microwave), the same pots and pans and dishes–featuring a ring of interlocking pink roses around the rim–they've always used. It's not fancy or glamorous, (in fact, I'm always reminded of how well we can live while 'doing without') but the best tasting food is created in that kitchen. Is love the secret ingredient?
Maybe. And a good measure of simplicity–wholesome ingredients, food mixed and made by hand, the recipes made from memory–from years of cooking every day. But the essence of what makes the meals we eat at my inlaws' house taste so different–tastier–is conviviality–that spirit of sharing a meal–that we miss when we eat a breakfast burrito behind the wheel of our car. What makes the meals we eat together so special is the time taken, with hands weathered alongside hands small, to make that meal.
And to sit down around the table–Ñoquis, a carafe of table wine, a siphon of seltzer, and literally break bread.
There's a proverb in Argentina that goes "Panza llena, corazón contento." Or, 'a full belly makes a happy heart'–which to me encompasses just what it is to see my son rolling out gnocchi dough with his grandma, and then sit down, family style–to enjoy the delicious results. My heart sings, and my belly is full.
Make some gnocchi on Sunday the 29th! Following is the recipe I posted some time ago (at the link above) and here is a link to a recipe for both tomato and pesto sauce. This recipe makes a plenty of gnocchi–enough for a group (we served 3 hungry men, plus myself last week and still had leftovers) or to freeze. The freezing process will change the texture of the gnocchi slightly, it's a bit mushier. The dough can also be frozen, defrosted and rolled out; if you do this, err on the side of less flour in the dough so you can add some more to firm up the texture when you are rolling it out.
(And I'm still working on the facebook icon to go with the twitter one above. If you haven't already, please join our group From Argentina With Love–get updates, events, and giveaways. Thanks as always for your support!)
Ñoquis del 29
Gnocchi for the 29th
2 lbs. baking potatoes (about 6)
1 cup fresh, good quality ricotta cheese
2-3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
Peel and quarter the potatoes, putting them in a medium stock pot with enough water to cover the potatoes with one inch of water. Add a scant handful of salt. Put the potatoes to boil until they are tender when pierced with a fork , but not mushy. Drain the potatoes.
Put the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, and ricotta, and mix well using your hands or a fork until a consistent dough is formed. Be careful not to overmix.
Add the flour a half cup at a time, mixing each time by hand until there is a soft, pliable dough. The dough should not be sticky, and it should not be hard. If it's too sticky or soft, the gnocchi will be mushy, but if there's too much flour, the gnocchi will be chewy and tough. (This is the challenging part!)
Knead the dough a few times until uniform, and divide the dough in half . Flour a work area, and roll the dough out into a long thin roll about 3/4 inch thick. Cut these tubes of dough into sections about 1 inch long. Meanwhile, bring a stock pot of water to a boil.
There are a variety of ways to 'mark' the gnocchi-all just a style choice, since at this point, they are more or less done. Here are some suggestions: Mark an indentation in the center of each gnocchi with your index finger; or roll over the side of a cheese grater to make patterned indentations; or roll over the backside of a fork, or roll over the center of a wooden gnocchi tool.
At this point, the gnocchi can be frozen laid out on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. After they are frozen, they can be stored in a freezer bag. Frozen gnocchi are just put into the boiling water like the unfrozen ones.
Drop the gnocchi one at a time into the boiling water. They are cooked when they rise to the top. Collect with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Serve with the sauce of your choice. (Some nice choices are walnut Gorgonzola, tomato or white sauce.)