In which I hunt for my mojo…

Author’s Note: I am fairly certain this post doesn’t make any sense, and I am 100% certain I didn’t edit it. Proceed with caution. Editing is for another day.

*tap tap* This thing on? Hi y’all – that is, if there is a “y’all,” and not a “you.” Is anyone here anymore? My name is Meghan. I used to write this blog? I loved it. And I made so much time for it. And I spent my days thinking about eating food and cooking food and deciding what I was going to cook the next time I wanted to eat food. And then I would come here, and tell you about it. This blog is about food for sure, but really, it’s about my life, and that’s where the problem lies. It’s hard to come here and talk to you all when I don’t really feel up to talking about my life. My life’s been a little blah lately. And that has carried over to my food and cooking. My food seems a little sad, and a little rote, and is missing something. I’m missing something. But there are glimmers of hope. Things aren’t all bad. I am LOVING my job. It is all consuming in a way that is different from my last job. This is all consuming in a good way. The hours are longer, the days are more focused and nose-to-the-grind, but I don’t spend the hours that I am not there dreading having to be back there again. And I am learning a lot. So yay! And there are glimmers of food hope too…every now and again I get inspired, and I start feeling the food love…so I don’t think it will be long before every thing is back to normal. But until then, baby steps…

Recently there was one small step for Meghan-kind, and that small step was cushioned by delightful, pillowy ricotta gnocchi.

with Marcella's tomato sauce

Gnocchi are a delight when they are delightful, and wretched when they are wrong. They should be light and velvety and pillowy and awesome, but they can be starchy, gummy, heavy bricks. They are frequently (most commonly?) made from potato, which are great, but if you like gnocchi, and you are nervous about making them because of the potential pitfalls, try these first. The idea is the same. The ricotta takes the place of the potatoes, there’s a little flour, a little parmesan, some salt and pepper, and that’s it. And it only takes about 15 minutes. And then three minutes to cook. Depending on your sauce choice, you could have homemade gnocchi on the table in 20 minutes. Homemade gnocchi!

And as sauces go, there is possibly not a more perfect one for homemade ricotta gnocchi than Marcella’s tomato, onion and butter sauce. Have you heard of this one? Marcella is Marcella Hazan, and this sauce is a tomato sauce that is spoken about in hushed and reverent tones across the food interwebs. The “recipe” – and recipe is only in quotes because it really couldn’t be easier, so it is barely something you have to follow – is a revelation. It is a can of tomatoes, a whole peeled onion, and 5 tablespoons of butter. Put them in a saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking down the tomatoes with the back of the spoon. I don’t understand the hows or whys, only the whats. This is perfect. Rich, tomatoey and perfect for gnocchi.

humble beginnings

The second time I made the gnocchi I sauced it with brown butter and sage. Easier even than the tomato if that’s possible. Half a stick of butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. Once it melts, add some chopped sage. Cook until the butter starts to brown and the sage is crispy and fragrant. Toss with gnocchi. Done and done.

And now, since this has taken me about 8 weeks to write and has all the oomph and punch of the back of a cereal box, I will get to the gnocchi. But first, a few musings…

1. I have an irrational hatred for those post-it notes that are made for pop-up dispensers? You know, the ones that alternate the sticky back so that the pad is stacked like an accordion? That is all we have in the office right now. I hate them.

2. I don’t have a winter hat. I have no wintery garments other than a scarf. It’s cold here.

3. I love my Christmas tree. I never want to turn the lights off, which makes me stay up late. It looks like this.

Happy Christmas!

4. I made Orange Chicken last night. Like the kind you get in a food court Chinese place. I am going to write about it sometime soon because IT WAS AWESOME.

oh yum.

5. I am making a list of B&G goals for 2011. It includes sausage. And duck. Not necessarily together, but actually, that could be rad.

6. If my life right now was a movie, this would be the soundtrack: Dog Days Are Over – Florence + the Machine, Sweet Thing – Van Morrison, Love the Way You Lie – Eminem and Rihanna, Runaway – The National, F*%k You – Cee Lo Green (sorry Gram), Sorrow – The National, Ragged Company – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Yep, I totally want to hang out with me too, oof.

7. Amaryllis (Amaryllii?) might be my new favorite thing about Christmas. Well, besides presents. And Christmas trees. And champagne everywhere. So they’re my new fourth favorite thing about Christmas.

8. I can’t seem to shake the desire to watch The Silence of the Lambs. This is one of the worst ideas I have ever had. Literally. It is a terrible idea. I still can’t watch Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (true story.) I am the biggest scared-y cat in the history of scared-y cats. I live by myself. I would likely watch by myself. The result of this would surely be an inability to function normally for maybe, ever, and yet, I can’t shake it. I don’t know what to make of this, and I don’t know what to do about it. I will keep you posted.

9. Ryan Reynolds and ScarJo have split. I wish that made me want to ruminate on the sad state of marriages, but actually, that just means he’s single. Yes, please.

10. The Yankees didn’t sign Cliff Lee…hahahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha. Ha. Yankees fans: heads up. If you throw things at a pitcher’s wife when she is trying to watch her husband pitch, and said pitcher-husband is a superstar soon-to-be free agent who actually LIKES HIS WIFE, you might not be doing yourselves any favors. I’m just sayin.

11. The interwebs is a remarkable and terrifying place. There is SO MUCH INFORMATION out there. No one is safe.

12. On a related note: I may have my missed calling as a private investigator.

13. I think poxes are widely underused.

14. Words of the day: miscreant, befitting, vagabond, velociraptor, benevolence

G’ah! As my petite friend Audrey would say: “focus Meghan, focus.”

To the gnocchi…(and here’s the problem. The recipe I used had measurements in weights rather than volume, but I realize many people don’t have a kitchen scale, so I tried to approximate.)

Ricotta Gnocchi (serves 1.5-there’s definitely not enough here for two people)

adapted from delicious days

250 grams (about 1 1/4 cups) fresh ricotta cheese

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp kosher salt

30 grams (with a microplane grater and a hunk of cheese, this is almost a cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

50 – 75 grams (75 grams is a SCANT 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the board.

pepper to taste

Sauce of your choice.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Mix the cheeses, the salt and the egg yolk in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir just to combine. The dough will be sticky, and you could add more flour, but the more you add, the heavier the gnocchi are going to be. Minimize the flour at this point.

Dust the counter generously and your hands lightly with flour. Take the dough a tablespoon or two at a time, and mound on the floured surface. Roll the dough with the palms of your hands (like you were making a snake out of play-dough) into a roll about a finger’s width thick. This has to be done very lightly, as the dough will squish easily. Using a knife or a pastry cutter, cut the roll into 3/4 inch – 1 inch long pieces. Put the gnocchi aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as you finish working the rest of the dough.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. You don’t want to crowd it, so do this in batches if you need to. Stir it once, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and cook for 2-4 minutes until the gnocchi float to the surface. Remove from the water with a skimmer and toss with your sauce of choice. Serve immediately. So good.

With Sage and Browned Butter