A couple of days ago I met up with Jens! We are both touring Europe, so to speak. He is shooting photos, and I am doing some small freelance architecture projects, hanging out with friends and researching the niceties of Mediterranean cuisine. By the way, I should note that writing this “Surviving In New York” series for Jens’ blog gives me an added interest in food, which seems hardly possible, given the intense interest I had all along. But it gives me the sense that I have a *professional* interest in it, and that somehow makes it seem more legitimate for me to spend entire days with the wonderful sequence of: coffee in the morning, then some work, a long bath before lunch, finding the best food market wherever I happen to be, a lunch snack right there, followed by more coffee, coming home with all my new supplies, resting a little in the sun, and then planning and cooking dinner. This is life!
It was precisely on a day like this when Jens came by. He had emailed me in advance (he doesn’t like the phone), saying – in response to my question ‘what would you like to eat?’ – that, given that we were going to meet in Salzburg, he wanted an element of dumplings in the menu. But then he mentioned his all-consuming love for gnocchi. So there also needed to be some home-made gnocchi. Oh dear! If there’s one pasta dish in the whole world which I don’t like, it’s gnocchi. I don’t know of any woman who likes it – it’s simply too heavy, and if you get the standard variety, especially in Manhattan, a plate of gnocchi can feel like a heap of stones in your stomach. However, how could I deny a wish to the one who lets me write on Notes From Nowhere? (But did you note that his two favorite dishes are basically the same? *Every* man on the planet likes *every* variety of soft, round, heavy, and sauce-absorbing piece of cooking. Should I become a psychoanalyst? – He is already ‘seeing’ one, as you might have noted. A little upsetting for the likes of me, who think that food is the heal-all, the one thing which makes life go well. Who needs a talking-cure if there’s pasta, I ask you?)
Anyway, the evening before, I made some bread-dumplings. That’s an Austrian variety, made from cut-up stale rolls (of a certain kind), parsley, an egg, and some milk (full fat, otherwise things are not going to stick!). I wanted to upset Jens a little bit. Yes, he was going to get dumplings, but not the round and soft variety. For there’s a slightly new-modish, but really very delicious thing you can do with bread-dumplings: Let them dry, cut them up, and serve them with a Balsamico and olive oil dressing, with a tiny bit of arugula and tomato on top. A perfect appetizer!
But then, the gnocchi. I won’t bore you with my own way of preparing the batter. It involves rolling them around in flour at the end, to give a beautiful finish, which you don’t find in Manhattan. And for a stuffy summer evening, I can’t bring myself to making a true, heavy-sticky gnocchi sauce. Thus I plundered my aunt’s garden for lots of basil, and cooked a very light tomato sauce. Here’s what you do: Olive oil in a pan, low heat, add the gnocchi with lots of basil. Put tomato sauce of the plate, and then your basil-covered, lightly browned gnocchi on top. Prepared like this, even I could eat it. But I keep worrying about the psychological side of it all.
Coming up – No Coffee To Go: My Stay With The Lotus Eaters