March 29, 2012
Recently, I read an article entitled 'Helpful Hints for Successful Parenting'. Among the suggestions: "Share the things you love with your children…Teach him that his environment is filled with things that have meaning to you. As he grows, give him a part in family traditions."
I think this happens naturally, in some ways, as we go about our daily routine. But sometimes, it takes a little effort. Guillermo and I try to give importance to honoring both our cultures, and especially remembering Argentina's special traditions. We want our kids to be proud of both sides of their heritage. But honestly, sometimes it feels like a huge effort even to get dinner on the table. With a new little one in the mix, we are busier than ever. There's always someplace to be and an excuse to skip the special stuff.
This post was supposed to be part of a group post on the wonderful tradition of eating gnocchi in Argentina on the 29th of every month. To be posted yesterday. Alas, spread thin as I am, I was ready to pitch the whole thing and order a pizza. But I also felt obligated to participate, so I started making the gnocchi.
The group that made regional alfajores was about to tackle another ubiquitous Argentinean dish. And post all the lucious photos to Flickr. Alas, again. Five pm, lousy kitchen lighting and 70s goldenrod countertop–with one adorable kid rolling out gnocchi. It may not be food-photography worthy, but it's my life right now.
Right away I had my 'sous chef' jump in, insisting, this time, in his ever-growing desire for independence, that he cut the gnocchi and also be allowed to drop them into the boiling water. Carefully supervised, he got to do both. But as I felt the deadline of this group blog event looming, I tried to shoo him to the table to eat. Newly five, he is small but mighty and he refused.
I mean, he REALLY wanted to make the gnocchi, and took great pleasure in rolling them out. So I gave up. I knew this was a battle I could stand to lose, so I let go of my stress, my need to control the situation and 'get it done'–and enjoyed the moment so much more. I let myself have fun–something I've been a little short on lately. It was a great lesson in being present, in going with the flow, and also in realizing that we have done something to carry on traditions that are important to us. Maybe he doesn't quite understand the meaning behind 'gnocchi day' yet, but he will, in time.
Finally, as the gnocchi were on plates, I found myself upstairs at the changing table instead of the dinner table. I overheard something that made my heart melt. Esteban, said, "Aren't these gnocchi the best things in the WORLD?" And to him, with his ownership of making dinner, they absolutely were. And they really were!
Photos: Top–Esteban rolling the gnocchi at age five. Center–In Argentina with 'Bula' making gnocchi at age four. Bottom two–first gnocchi, at around fifteen months, and rolling them out, in 2008.
The other ladies that joined this group blog post made some sumptuous gnocchi indeed. Many talked about the reason behind the tradition of serving gnocchi on this day. And so around the world, the gnocchi day tradition is being carried on, in all its delectable forms:
and Mine, which of course is Plain Old Potato Gnocchi, Prepared by a Five Year Old
But seriously,wouldn't you love to sit down to dinner at their tables?
Without further ado, though, here is a tried and true recipe for a simple, traditional potato gnocchi. Even the kids like it.
Receta de Ñoquis del 29
Recipe for 29th-of-the-month Gnocchi
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.)