"All ingredients need salt. The noodle or the tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It's not so: it doesn't reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself" - Tamar Adler
I have been in desperate need of a reset button this week. It has not been enjoyable, and while I sat down to write something about the fickleness of intimacy and the rut I am stuck in, I am going to actively change gears. There is a disconnect between writing about the struggles of being mindfully present and then actually being present. Heidegger was on to something, I suppose…
Jordan and Isabel held an informal Passover Seder again this year. We gathered around their small coffee table covered in the required accoutrement last night—this year the lamb shank was replaced with a reindeer whistle and we undertook a light-hearted and earnest exploration of Pesach. Thirteen of us, all with varying levels of knowledge about Jewish ritual and history, read from the haggadah, drank the required glasses of wine, and joked about the weirdness of Elijah. It was the perfect encapsulation of both Jordan and Isabel—playful and practical at the same time. We may run out of spoons and mixing bowls, giggle at our feeble attempts to read Hebrew, and cringe as the gefilte goes down, but I am always so touched to be a part of it all.
I’ve known these two for what feels like countless years, having spent mostly every waking minute of our college experience together. They are the types of individuals others flock to, who make every situation feel inviting and warm. I don’t know how they do it, and quite frankly, I don’t think they do either. It’s part of their charm.
So as I sat yesterday, surrounded by so much love in one room, pulled out by a ritual so few of us had roots in, I was overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. A feeling that these people, these gorgeous, wonderful, and caring people will always be the reset button I need. And for that, I cannot be thankful enough.
I spent this afternoon trying to uncover that sense of space, the feeling of contentment in myself. I needed to get my hands dirty, to make something that would linger under the fingernails, and get caught between the cracks of fingers as a reminder of that fixed quality, the belonging, the anchors still present in my life.
The result was the most yielding and tender potato dumplings, engorged with a homemade marinara quickly infused with anchovy filets and oregano. They sang in the wintery dust of Parmigiano-Reggiano and found harmony with a basil chiffonade.
I can’t hit reset in the way I want to. But as I eat this dish throughout the week, I want to remember that I am nothing without those around me. That together, we are everything I find beautiful. That I too am beautiful in those moments, in the same way the process of making gnocchi transforms the potato from squished mess to elegance.
Potato Gnocchi with a quick marinara
Gnocchi recipe taken from Cook’s Illustrated
You will definitely need a ricer to make these gnocchi. It seems odd, but you can’t get the right texture without one. Also, be sure to use russet potatoes here as you need the additional starch.
For the gnocchi:
2 lbs. Russet potatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ c. plus 1 T. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
For the marinara:
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy filets
½ t. red pepper flake
1 t. dried oregano
½ c. dry red wine
1 can whole tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)
Handful of basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Poke the potatoes with a paring knife on all sides (8 or so holes). Microwave for ten minutes, turning halfway through. Place potatoes in oven and bake for 20 minutes.
While potatoes are hot, use a potholder and a paring knife to remove the skins. Using a potato ricer, process potatoes and spread evenly onto a cooking sheet to cool (about five minutes). Transfer three cups of the potatoes to a bowl and combine with egg, flour, and salt until no pockets of flour remain. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and slightly tack, adding flour as needed to avoid sticking.
Line two cooking sheets with lightly floured parchment paper. Divide the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each part into a rope, about ½ inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4 inch lengths. Roll each length of dough down the backside of a fork, leaving you with one grooved side and the other with an indent from your finger. Place each completed gnocchi onto the lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining seven parts of the dough.
For the marinara:
Add extra virgin olive oil, shallots, garlic, anchovy filets, red pepper flake and oregano to a cold skillet. Turn on low heat and cook until shallots begin to sizzle and anchovy filets break apart and dissolve. Pour wine into pan and deglaze any sticky spots. Add the tomatoes and reserved liquid and bring to a simmer.
Bring 4 quarts of water with a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Once rolling, add the gnocchi to the water by using the parchment paper as a funnel. Cook about 90 seconds or until the gnocchi are floating and then immediately add them to the sauce.
Gently stir the gnocchi into the sauce. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil and serve.