Little Pillows of Heaven

I did it. I made potato gnocchi.

It’s not on my usual roster of food items to make from scratch. But when Greg shopped for Thanksgiving he brought home two, five pound bags of Russet potatoes from Idaho. We only used one bag to feed our Thanksgiving revelers.IMG_3869 

I love gnocchi. A little phrase that could appear on a bumper sticker on my 2007 Lexus.

I searched for the perfect recipe but they were mostly the same.

Two pounds of Russet potatoes cooked, not mashed but riced through a potato ricer. Then added to a pile with flour, eggs, salt and pepper. Knead it up. Cut the dough into pieces, make balls from the pieces.  Roll the ball into long cylinders about the width of your first finger. Finally cut the cylinders into one inch pieces.

IMG_3870Easy enough. But then come the rules.

  • Too much flour makes your gnocchi chewy.
  • Too much kneading and your gnocchi get tough.
  • Too little flour and they fall apart as they cook.
  • Cook immediately, refrigerate or freeze. Do not let them sit out for long.

The tricky part is how to form the gnocchi. One recipe said just make little pillows.

Then there were the videos, long explanations, pictures, and traditions around making the gnocchi have little ridges.

There’s a tool for this.  An ancient, finely ridged board that makes gnocchi become real gnocchi. Since Greg and I have a rule about single purpose kitchen items (we rarely buy them or we would be taken over by the smallest of things like a mushroom cleaning brush, potato ricer, or avocado slicer), I opted for clumsily rolling them down the tines on the back of a fork. Very old school.

As I struggled I wondered why gnocchi had to have ridges. Duh — to hold the sauce. An ancient solution to a technical problem.IMG_3871

Since I had five pounds of potatoes I doubled the batch. I should have thought about that a bit more before I started. I was kneading, making cylinders, cutting and rolling little pillows of heaven for hours.

Most of them are in the freezer. I left a few out and gave a big batch to my friends Kris and Tom. Tom showed me his Italian Grandmother’s technique for the two-finger, gnocchi board pillow making. He also taught me how to properly pronounce gnocchi. Not sure I quite mastered the Italian pronunciation.

A few hours later they texted. The gnocchi passed the test. They were delicious.

By that time I’d already eaten all of mine, sautéed in butter (and olive oil), and covered with melted parmesan cheese.

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It’s Next Week Already

It comes so quick. First you decide the location. Okay, this year my house works.

Then you invite the people. Who can come. Who might be alone. Who wants join us.

The final piece is who brings what.

Thanksgiving 2017 is underway.

For years we celebrated at our Tollhouse Ranch in Caliente, California. My dad’s brother Philip and sister Mimi would arrive with their large families. Twenty or more people would sit at the heavy wood table eating round one. Then round two. Trying to save room for Aunt Jackie’s Pumpkin Chiffon pie. It was hard but we did it.   

Mom cooked all the food. Dad carved up the turkeys. We used the big ceramic turkey platter to stack the sliced turkey, divided between dark and light meat. My dad sharpened his carving knife with a metal steel. It was lots of work to carve those two 20 lb turkeys but it was done to Milton perfection. Being a meat man, Dad knew how to carve a turkey.

But at some point along the way he decided to have others carve.

One year my Melissa’s in-laws Gerda and Marc Faye came. They drove from their farm in Knights Landing to join the celebration. After dinner was eaten and everything cleaned up, Gerda fished out of her purse an onion, a stalk of celery and some carrots determined to make turkey soup. Which she did as we looked on in amazement. It was like Mary Poppins pulling the hat rack and flower pot out of her bag.

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As we grew up things changed. My sister started traveling to Kauai for the Thanksgiving holiday. She’d start her meal with a Mai Tai.  

One year my mom declared, after 50-some odd years of cooking, she was done. That’s about the time we started having Thanksgiving in San Jose. 

There always was the option of walking across the street to the Fairmont Hotel and picking up an already cooked Thanksgiving-feast-in-a-box. But no, Greg and I determined to keep the tradition alive started cooking.

We had two Thanksgivings at the Marine’s Memorial Hotel in San Francisco. The dessert table alone was worth the visit. Cakes, pies, puddings, even a sundae bar. It was shortly after our 2014 San Francisco trip we realized how sick my papa was. As he stoically trudged through the weekend he got paler. His normal dry sense of humor missing as the cancer took over. 

In 2015 my sister hosted her extended family and our mom in Squaw Valley. For some reason, Greg and I stayed in San Jose. We ate salmon at the McCormick and Schmidt’s bar with a cozy group non-cooking feasters.

Our first Thanksgiving in Reno was last year. Greg and I cooked for my mom, and Melissa’s family. Eric’s brother and sister in law came with their daughter Keira. We had a couple of folks from our new community of people It was a pot luck. Greg and I cooked the turkey, ham, mashers, and gravy. Everything else skillfully brought by the happy revelers. 

And here we are with Thanksgiving a week away. The turkey and ham are in mom’s fridge. The potatoes and onions in the pantry. The bread for stuffing on cookie trays getting stale. The cranberries ready for fresh and cooked sauce. We are gathering the fixings for another year of grateful feasting.

When we at last sit down around 3 p.m.,Thursday, November 23 my mom will read her yearly prayer.

O, Heavenly Father, we thank thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service, that the gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and May God Bless you and your family.

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September 9

Yesterday started like most Saturdays — with a cup of coffee and the English Premier League. Arsenal vs. Bournemouth.  

After Arsenal won 3 zip, I journeyed to artsy-hip Midtown Reno to meet with the Sierra Arts Foundation Creative Director at Blue Whale Coffee. He needs some help for the Reno Mural Project. Totally cool event where 28 artists from all over the world spend the weekend painting murals around Reno. I said yes. 

After coffee I came home and baked a birthday cake. Not for me but for another Virgo birthday. A high-altitude yellow cake with chocolate buttercream icing. Baking in high altitude deserves it’s own blog.

A quick workout in the gym then home to get ready for the final act of the day. Dinner with family and friends at Garwood’s.

My birthday starts the end of summer and it was a summer like no other. Our first living in the high desert weather wonderland. There’s heat and rain, hot and cool, hail, smoke, and big thunderhead skies.
The good news is the hummingbirds finally found their feeder and from our garden we ate kale (and more kale) and basil. Even dahlias grew.

Mom, Melissa and I went to Disneyland. Mom rode the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, and every ride in Fantasyland. She was going strong long after I found a resting spot on a bench near the Carousel. We  saw the Main Street Electrical Parade. Mom says it wasn’t like the old one. Melissa and I weren’t so sure about that. It looked the same to us. 

Greg and I visited the remodeled San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Diebenkorn and Matisse exhibit. According to the curators, Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993) was “profoundly inspired” by the work of Henri Matisse (1869–1954). The exhibit shows their artwork side by side. It’s clear not only was Diebenorn inspired by Matisse he copied his colors, painting structures, and everything else.

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Summer included an eclipse, an Oakland As baseball game with Doug, and a fabulous barbecue dinner to honor my friend Bonnie who passed away too soon. 

There were yoga classes and book club. In my weekly script writing class we realize it takes no time at all to write a script and the rest of our lives to edit it.  

Last night Greg and I were driving to Garwood’s and Herbie Hancock’s eclectic version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” came on the radio. It’s an ever-current message, and my birthday prayer to you as we end this beautiful summer.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.

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