Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Taking Care and Smiling Lots

Meet Pinot: possibly the sweetest and most loving kitten in the northern hemisphere. I'm not gonna tell you about all the sweet things he does and how cuddly he is and all the adorable places he finds for napping. Instead I'm gonna tell you about how interesting it's been caring for a living thing that is vulnerable and depends on me. Come to think of it, in the past few months I've done a lot of caring. At work too, I've been involved in quite a few of my students' personal issues this year. It wasn't something I had anticipated, but what do you do when someone shows up with bloodshot eyes and a lump in their throat trying to keep it together? I found myself in that situation quite a few times this year. Over cups of tea and hours on the swivel chairs in my office I've heard about parents' divorces, sibling drama, loss, anxiety, confusion, and many a break-up... Now that the term draws to a close, I grade their final papers and smile at all the little personal notes and e-mails they have sent me expressing their appreciation. I'm home a lot these days, grading papers and calculating marks... so I've been cooking a lot too. Here is what I ate today. The salad was for lunch and Pinot loved running after every stray pomegranate seed that escaped me... And the gnocchi was for dinner. I haven't even done the dishes yet.

Christmas Salad

Gala Apple
Pomegranate seeds
1 tpsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Balsamic /red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
salt+pepper to taste

I used my mandolin to get a quick and fine julienne of the cucumber and apple, and the arugula and pomegranate are pretty self explanatory. I have a whole entire post on how to deal with a pomegranate if you feel you need help with that.

I like making the dressing in a big bowl and tossing the ingredients in it. I find it all comes together better this way.

Potato Gnocchi

2 lb Russet or Idaho Potatoes
1 1/2 cups All purpose flour (plus a pinch of fresh ground nutmeg)
1 Large egg beaten
1/2 tbsp Salt

Flour for dusting and rolling.

Wash the potatoes and place in a large pot with the skins on and fill with water. Boil until tender but firm. 10-15 minutes should do the trick. Peel when still hot but cool enough to handle. You can use a paper towel if you still have any sensation in your hands, unlike me.

Put potatoes through a potato ricer onto a cutting board and shape into a well. Sprinkle the area with flour and put the egg yolk in the center of the well and begin your mixing and kneading, incorporating all the flour and adding a bit more if needed (if you've never done this before, use a large bowl to avoid messing it all up).

Knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together and doesn't stick, but not too much because you don't want to lose the softness of your dough. Let it sit for 30min-1 hour. This would be a good time to pour yourself a glass of wine and make a tomato sauce or a pesto...

Divide the dough, shape long strings that you can cut into 1inch nuggets and shape using a gnicchi board or fork. I recommend you look up a video to learn how to shape gnocchi. Try to find one starring an Italian grandmother... they're the best.

To cook, just bring a pot of salted water to a boil and toss in a handful of Gnocchi. When they float to the surface they are done. I like a simple lemon and butter sauce with whatever fresh herb I have lying around. To make it I melt a spoonful of butter with some lemon juice, zest, and a bit of thyme in a frying pan, and add my cooked gnocchi with a tbsp of the cooking water and toss until it looks saucy and right. Fresh cracked pepper, grated parmigiano, and you're good to go.

You could also eat these with any other sauce you like. And you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi if you've got any left.


  1. Mina!
    1. that cat is insanely adorable. So glad you have him. I think it's a miracle that we get to have such lovely creatures in our lives. They give me a world of joy. it sounds like wonderful timing for you...
    2. that salad looks divine.
    3. the gnocchi! oh the gnocchi!

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  3. this is such a good post in so many ways - i love all things arugula; i'm in love with your photographs; and with the fact that your cat is called Pinot - perfect! :)

  4. Catching up at last. Happy new year to you Mina and to pinot too. Lovely here as usual and now I'd like to sit at your table and have gnocchi and some of your salad.

  5. nice idea..thanks for sharing....