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May 21, 2006


I cooked dinner tonight! :) We usually eat Vietnamese or Chinese food for everyday dinners, as that’s the type of cooking my parents are have been raised on. However, my dad’s seems to be bored with everyday food…it’s a sad and lonely world when you get bored with what you’re eating! He loves carbs like bread and potatoes so I decided to surprise my parents with a dinner of focaccia and gnocchi.

I split a basic focaccia dough into six rounds, making various toppings. For my sister, a couple with only cheese, and lots of it! My mom liked the garlic walnut with pepper and the plain rosemary and sea salt with a good dose of the olive oil I chugged home from Mama’s in Queens. (Airport security thought I was quite a kook for carrying home this massive bottle of oil – one guy said to me, “just make sure it doesn’t break on the plane!”) Will do. The last, though certainly the favorite of the bunch was topped with tooooons of raw garlic, pepper and zucchini. The fun part of focaccia making is that you can finish the dough with practically anything you have lying around the house. I got the rosemary from the neighbors, used of the last few stems of zucchini in the fridge and what Chinese home doesn’t have a constant (and large) supply of garlic lying around?I’m cheap. Or I improvise. It’s all in your perspective.

I love eating gnocchi, like really really love! But here’s the catch, I’ve never had exceptional gnocchi that left me floating home with my head in the clouds (I am very much anticipating this day).I’ve had pretty lousy gnocchi from C&C Pasta and semi decent ones from the school dining hall (lo and behold!). I know I’ll love it when I have it. Doesn’t make sense? Soft dumpling like foods appeal to me, as well as simple foods given great care – put two and two together and you essentially get gnocchi. I’ll travel far for a great dish, so please leave restaurant recs, gnocchi of any type or form, just as long as it’s delicious!

Getting back to dinner. Fed up with unsatisfying gnocchi and many hours drooling over Bea’s post on Sauteed Gnocchi with Tarragon Tomato Sauce, I said “to hell with lousy gnocchi. I’ll make my own!” Well that was my intention, but before you click on the link please note that my culinary skills are far beneath Bea’s and that my reduplication of her recipe is a younger, not as fabulous cousin, at best. As my dad pointed out, “how come yours look nothing like hers?” I don’t know dad. I didn’t intend for them to look a million times less pretty. It just turned out that way. Or you can be more positive and think of my version as a more user-friendly home interpretation.

Eh, my parents complain but I honestly think they enjoyed it. The recipe is standard, with the addition of chives into the dough. Instead of shaping them into the traditional shape pressed with fork tines, the dough was rolled into logs, wrapped in plastic and boiled. After ten minutes, I removed them from the water, peeled of the plastic and sliced into 1/2” thick logs. A brief sauté in olive oil and the end result is quite an unusual take on gnocchi. You get a slightly crisp exterior breaking into a mouthful of light pillowy goodness. I served them pupu style, each topped with a little mound of fresh tomato sauce rich with onions and garlic. They are addictive, as it’s quite easy to pop one your mouth and savor the simplicity of the sweet tomatoes with potatoes in a duo of textures.

I was so tired after cooking that I could barely eat anything. I find that with cooking, I receive more pleasure out of the actual creating process than from eating the food. The most satisfying part is watching the plates being polished off by the one you’ve served, hearing mom and dad go, “that was excellent!” or in the case of Chinese parents, “Not bad. Could be better. But not bad.” It’s in making others and their tummies happy that makes me happy. Everyone benefits in the game of food. And it’s all delicious, just like it should be.

Have you noticed? We are a family built on a foundation of carbs. Maybe that’s where my pastry obsession stems from…

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