Ever since I got back from Italy for a vacation, I’ve become completely obsessed with wine and cooking at home. One of the things that I really enjoy doing now is going to vineyards. I really didn’t get it for a long time, but now I get it and just last Sunday I was hanging out at Wolffer Estates having a Chardonnay and enjoying the wine stand (which is such a great little spot).
But when I was drinking wine through Sienna and San Gimignano, one of the things that I got to do with my tour with Le Baccanti Tours, was learn how to make homemade pasta and homemade gnocchi, as well as gelato.
And since I’ve been back, you’ve guessed it, that’s what I’ve been cooking pretty much day and night. [expand]
In Italy, the diet is almost completely vegan when you think about it. There is a lot of pasta, a lot of vegetables like zucchini and tomato sauce, and there is very little meat. I guess if you are drinking wine, that counts as your fruit, at least when it comes to Italian living. But I was amazed at how little meat I ate while I was in Italy. [expand]
Back home in my kitchen, there is flour all over the place. One of the most complicated dishes I’ve been able to pull off is homemade gnocchi. It’s a daring thing to make, because there are countless moments during the cooking process when things can go dramatically wrong, all the way up until the end.
On Friday I cooked dinner for my Dad and his wife Christine to show off my cooking skills. Let me tell you something, if I can make homemade gnocchi, then you can too. I was like the king of the kitchen for the evening, which is a great feeling that all chefs learn to love. It’s such a great feeling to see people be completely amazed how good your food is.
Homemade gnocchi requires a bag of yellow potatoes that are peeled and then boiled until they are very soft. Then you drain the water and run cold water into the pot to let the temperature get cool. After that you completely drain the pot of water and begin mashing the potatoes like you would if you were making mashed potatoes.
At this point, you add all-purpose flour into the pot along with a dash of salt. The ration of flour to potatoes should be about one cup of flour to four cups of potatoes. You then have to knead this entire mixture into a sort of bread loaf.
After you do this, you break off a handful of the loaf and roll it into one long, single piece, then you but it into little gnocchi pieces and repeat the process until you are done with the loaf. When you are done slicing it into pieces, you throw them all into a pot of salted boiling water for only five minutes, strain and serve with your favorite pasta sauces. I’m now into making my own tomato and cream sauces, which aren’t as hard to make as you would think. The result is a potato pasta that literally melts in your mouth. You don’t even have to chew. It’s insanely good.
I’m turning into a bit of a crazy cooking guy, but one thing that I have noticed more than anything else when it comes to cooking is that it is very much an art, and is really, in no way, a science. I’ve noticed that many people I know who like to cook, like to follow recipes to the letter, I’m not a believer in that. A recipe to me should be a guideline and nothing more. Food is an ART!