Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One Gnocchi at a Time

When I was younger, I wanted to change the world, revolution-style. I lived for the play Les Miserables (had the entire three-disc soundtrack and have seen it live--twice); I defied gravity (or wished I could) like Elpheba from Wicked; I wanted to embody the spirit of the cast from Rent; the only books I ever read were about poor people by critics of society (we're talking Dickens and Dostoyesvky here); I had a huge dissillusionment with the American dream phase and read all Fitzergerarld, Hemingway and Steinbeck. When I thought about my future, I wanted to change things so people weren't poor or hungry or terrorized, and I wanted to do it in a big way. I thought by being a foreign aid worker I could end social injustice, or by teaching English I could give someone a new opportunity. Listening to Underdog by Spoon, I think "Yeah! You've got no fear for the underdog/that's why you will not survive!" But then I wonder if I've become the person smoking a pipe in my living room with my slippers set out for me.

I'm not making any changes. I have a desk job, which I love, but I write about luxury travel and restaurants. I volunteer with pretty privileged high school students. I am no where near rich, but I do own a car and rent a really nice apartment with a great roommate, and I have great friends and family and somehow have found contentedness even though, or perhaps because, I go to bed before 11 on weeknights, watch episodes of Friends on DVD and make handmade gnocchi on long Sunday afternoons. That contentedness, I want to cling to it.

So it seems the only life I can change is my own.

I'm just a little person, who can barely barely barely do (or say) the right thing--ever. I don't even have the energy to teach 200 Thai kids how to say "Hello, my name is Cheerawat. What is your name?" in English. I have no vision for the big picture that God is painting because I'm in the picture, dancing around on the canvas doing my own thing. But I have a gut feeling that is what I'm supposed to do. I'm not better than the picture, no matter how much I want it.

I think, I think what God wants me to do is love. Love him, love my friends, love my family and even love people who break into my apartment. It's so little yet so big. So excuse the metaphor, but love is one tiny, bee-shaped gnocchi, made over and over again.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi: from Gourmet
2 medium baking potatoes
1 big sweet potato (there should be twice as much baking potatoes)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
handful sage leaves
handful sliced almonds (original recipe calls for chestnuts)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450. Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Peel and let cool completely. Smash together with a fork on the baking sheet until consistency is pretty smooth. Pile up and form a well in the middle of potatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper. Pour part of the egg mixture into the well of the potato pile. Knead a couple times. Add half of the flour and continue to knead. Add some parmesan cheese, knead. Add the rest of the egg mixture and enough flour (knead here too) to make the dough cling together but still slightly sticky. Rip off a portion of the dough and turn it out on a heavily floured surface. Roll into a snake (just like PlayDough) that is about 1/2-inch thick. Cut snake into 1/2-inch pieces (they look like pillows). Place pillows on a baking sheet while you roll out and cut the rest of the dough in the same manner. When finished cutting the gnocchi, roll each pillow into a ball. Then using a fork run the balls of dough over the tines with your thumb and pinch at the back. (Follow the pictures below for visual instructions.) The rivets and oblong shape allow the gnocchi cook quickly, with the inside cooking without the outside over-cooking. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil until it is shimmering. Drop the sage leaves into the oil and fry for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drop the almonds into the oil and fry for another 30 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. (The original recipe calls for chestnuts, which I'm sure are devine, but I knew they would be impossible to find--almonds worked really well.) Reduce heat to low. Leaving the oil in the skillet, melt the butter until it is lightly browned.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in half of the gnocchi and boil until they float (takes about 3 mintes). Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in the melted butter-oil. Simmer for a couple minutes, stirring to coat. Cook the remainder of the gnocchi and place in the melted butter. Serve topped with sage leaves, almonds and parmesan cheese.

1 comment:

Jess said...

I understand the theory that gnocchi is not very hard, but the mere fact that I have trouble pronouncing the word intimidates me. you go, girl! they look great!