Ciao readers, what a time to be blogging. Without stating the obvious, like how unbelievable reality feels right now and somehow we’re adapting to this new normal, I’ll get right to it.
The world is cooking more. But I miss restaurants so much, I miss cocktails and while I could make them at home, something feels so out of place (for me) making a negroni at home vs sitting at the bar pondering their gin, bitter and vermouth collection with a friend after a massive feast out. There is of course takeout, but honestly as someone whose income has been hammered to smithereens, take-out is not exactly a luxury many people can afford right now even if I’d so very much like to. So, instead of usually writing about restaurants I’ll be posting more recipes like this one for gnocchi in a zucchini and almond sauce.
I know a lot of people are baking more, making pasta and carb-rich such things and accepting the extra pounds they’ll pack on but I sorta feel the opposite! Not in a humble braggy way, but I realized I’ve been super hungry these days and it hit me as to why: I’m eating out less and drinking less (what has become of me, if I am not a lush then who am I really). I definitely have adapted the Italian way of 3 square meals, with 2 of them being a bit smaller and little snacking in between minus the occasional aperitivo pre-dinner bite. So being stuck at home is somehow making me eat less, or maybe its the stress of living during a global pandemic. Meh?
I cannot WAIT to dress outrageously every day and eat out too much once this is over! It’s gonna be leopard print, shiny onesies, pleather, sparkles and sequins and oysters all day every day, baby! I think I’ll burn all my pjs and canned beans and sleep in a glittery gown for at least 6 weeks and eat caviar and champers for breakfast to make up for my current pathetic state of fashion and one egg and cracker breakfasts. A girl can dream, right?
But man, do I achingly miss restaurants and my usual petty shitshow life as a 30something (you know, stressing about dating or ways to streamline my business (i.e. fancy for keeping-my-head-above-water in a heavily competitive rat race)- vs now a 30something who has no life, barely brushes her hair and is essentially unemployed under lockdown during a pandemic) This will all pass, and of course I am grateful for being sheltered, fed and healthy and don’t dare to ignore the miseries abound. Have to inject some self-deprecating humor occasionally to make it to this marathon’s finish line. (Will there be a finish line?)
I digress in my dining longing. (“didn’t you say you’d get right to the point?!”)
Since we cannot eat the labors of love from cooks and chefs who sacrifice literally everything to run restaurants, I will be sharing more recipes from my lockdown kitchen and the kitchens from the instructors my food tour business collaborates with for cooking classes in Florence.
The recipes I’ll be sharing under this “Cucina Lockdown” category will be focused on comfort Italian recipes which are influenced by the principles of “la cucina povera”, peasant/poor cuisine/cooking. Meaning in part, using affordable nutrient dense ingredients which pack the most bang for their caloric buck. I’ll be posting new recipes every few days so be sure to subscribe to the blog so they arrive to your e-mail inbox.
This one a recipe from one of our cooking lesson instructors Cinzia in Florence, Italy. This woman has been a friend of mine for years and has taught me a great deal about Italian home cooking. When we first met, we exchanged English lessons for cooking classes in her home. These were some of the most beautiful memories I have in Florence. She welcomed me in her home, I got to know her mom and daughter (understanding more of Italian family living quarter dynamics and how Italians don’t abandon their elderly parents like we do in the states, shoving them in nursing homes and forgetting to call) and learned priceless techniques like how to properly roll out pasta by hand. Enjoy!
Gnocchi di patate con salsa di zucchine/Potato gnocchi in a zucchini sauce (serves 4)
Ingredients for Gnocchi:
- 4 medium potatoes
- 200gr “00” flour
- 1 egg
Procedure: Boil potatoes with a pinch of salt, skin on. Once cooked, remove skin. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes or use a potato ricer and add the flour and egg- mix well until uniform. Once you have the ball, cut off bits and roll into a form of a snake and cut into small pieces. Roll the small pieces over the back of a fork or gnocchi board to give the desired ridged form. Boil in salted water until they all float to the top. Drain, then coat in your sauce.
Ingredients for zucchini sauce:
- 4 or 5 large light green zucchini
- 2-3 cloves of garlic or shallot (finely sliced)
- 4 tablespoons of (good) extra virgin olive oil
- a handful of almonds (finely chopped)
- a handful of Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
Wash and dry the zucchini. Cut the zucchini into small pieces. Heat oil, add garlic or shallot in a pan (careful not to burn) add the courgettes, deglaze with white wine if need be. Add salt and pepper, stir occasionally and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the chopped almonds in an empty pan. When the sauce is ready (you’ll know when the zucchini are soft) toss in the gnocchi or other pasta of choice in the pan. Once coated, plate the pasta and dress with the toasted almonds and grated parmesan.
For wine, I’d suggest to pair with something zippy in acidity but with a bit of nutty body. So maybe a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or an Etna Bianco (volcanic wine made from Carricante grapes grown on active Mt. Etna) or even an Inzolia from Sicily or Tuscan Ansonica.
FYI- if you’d like a personal, one-on-one cooking lesson with one of the culinary instructors we work with at Curious Appetite or virtual wine class with our sommelier guides in Florence, we are offering simple online lessons starting at $45. People like Cinzia will be giving fun step-by-step lessons on making fresh pasta from scratch, additional recipes and the little family-passed down tricks and tips in between the lines of these recipes. Info HERE on all our online classes which if you are in a position to, will greatly support our team during this unexpected storm.
In your cucina lockdown trust,