Friday, March 28, 2008

Peasant food

Joy has a variation on boiled cabbage which is quite good: she chops the cabbage, and boils it with onion (we used leeks), apples, vinegar, red wine, salt — the standard fare — and honey. The flavor is quite good, but I think she makes it too sweet.

Along with our cabbage, we ate gnocchi, cooked in sage-butter and a little cream, and with grated grana padano on top. It was very good, but mild and comfort-food-tasting; I think the gnocchi could have handled a gorgonzola cream sauce, our original plan.

Gnocchi (meaning "lumps") is very simple, and there are as many recipes as there are Italian and Latin American families, times starches. Most Americans are most familiar with potato gnocchi.

Wash, peel, boil, and mash, and allow to cool, three pounds mashing potatoes (I like yellows, e.g. Banana, Butterball, or Yukon Gold), or use leftovers. Knead in one egg, and enough flour so that it's not particularly sticky: expect about one cup of flour per pound raw potato. Since you want the gnocchi to be light, work until consistent, but do not overknead.

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Working on a well-floured surface, cut the dough into workable chunks, and roll each chunk into a long log, about half-inch in thickness. Chop of gnocchis, and either transfer to a well-floured environment (do not stack your raw gnocchi in a bowl, as they will stick together), or, better, set up an assembly line so that the cut gnocchi move immediately to the boiling water.

Add gnocchi to the water few-at-a-time, so that they don't stick together. They will sink at first, but after just a few minutes they will float, at which point they are done and can be removed with a slotted spoon. It's ok, though, to leave them in the water for a while. In any case, you will probably decide to remove some before the others have been added; they won't stick together too much, but you may decide to drizzle each layer in a bowl with some melted butter. When all the gnocchi are done, prepare sauce and combine and serve hot.

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