The other night I made garlic basil gnocchi to pair with grilled pork chops and grilled shishito peppers. All components of my meal that night were very simple to assemble, but served different purposes. The grilled pork chops and peppers were very flavorful with their charred exteriors, but needed a starchy component to round out the experience.
The gnocchi was perfect with its pillowy softness en-robed a simple sauce of fruity olive oil accented by the beautiful nuttiness of toasted garlic and pungent flavor of basil, topped with the parmigiano reggiano. Having frozen gnocchi made a home meal a little more special, with very little effort. Enjoy everyone!
Of course, when you move anywhere new, you expect to make new friends. While it always takes me a few months to get acclimated to a place, I have always been pretty lucky to find pretty good people to hang out with be it through work, book clubs, yoga classes, etc…
After I had lived in the Midwestern part of the U.S. for a few years, a new girl started working in my department. For me, it was a rare role reversal that I had not experienced before. I was no longer the newbie, she was. We hit it off instantly. Though she was from Puerto Rico, we both grew up in hot cultures and loved wistfully talking about all of the foods we wish were still available to us.
On a few occasions, we invited each other over to one another’s house to not only eat, but to also participate in the cooking process. This is how I became aware of what my friend with her beautiful accent would lovingly call “sofrito.” From how she explained it, sofrito is a base seasoning for many Puerto Rican dishes. That distinguishable flavor profile that is intangible to the untrained palate. Back in Puerto Rico, her family used different peppers than the green bell pepper, but those are not readily available here, so she adapted the original recipe using green bell peppers. She would make huge amounts of it and save in small containers in her freezer. While the weather is warming up, I will, as a tribute to a friend I miss dearly, start this week off making some sofrito to use in a few dishes this week.
When I was a college student, I remember taking lots of classes based on the psycho-analysis of “the process” of doing. I was an art major and by nature, artists are compulsive, that is what makes them artists; their compulsion to create. However, this is a fairly new way of thinking.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the idea of art for art’s sake came about. Before then, anything artistic was commissioned works and were in effect utilitarian to the propaganda of another person. I relate it to modern day marketing, the commercials and billboards that give you an opinion of any entity, be it a person or corporation.
Out of the idea of creating objects that didn’t have to fulfill any role, be it moral or utilitarian, came a freedom to actually create items that were morally subversive. In my feminist art history classes I learned of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s 1970’s “Womanhouse.” An exhibition of performance art within a 17 room home that became a repository for the daydreams that women had while they washed, baked, sewed, cooked, and ironed their life away. They implemented the use of shock value and exaggeration to evoke emotions from any viewer.
Now I think back to my college days, while I find myself enjoying my own compulsive process. I enjoy the entire process of baking, the research, pulling my supplies together, prepping my area and my ingredients, following the directions, and cleaning up afterwards. My mind quiets and I am completely at peace in the moment. I like to partake in the food but love it more to watch others enjoy my creation.
As I sit over my dishes though, I worry, am I regressing, have I not evolved with the times? A woman who likes to cook and to clean….
Wait, if it were a man who liked to do these things, we would all praise him…
Okay, yep, the hidden feminist inside of me is back, everything is right within the world again! Ha…
Anyway, in respect of the one’s of you that want a simpler (and healthier) dish to make, here is a dish that you will be eating in 30 minutes flat.
Linguini in Garlic Oil
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound linguini
1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water and stir; cook, according to package directions, until al dente.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add red-pepper flakes to skillet with garlic Add 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and stir to combine.
Drain pasta and add to skillet. Toss to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley, feta and tomatoes; toss again. Serve immediately.