Sunday, January 23, 2011

Countdown, and some gnocchi

(Short story time folks. If you're looking for a recipe, scroll down to the bottom. But in the meantime, please indulge me...)

So today I went to a bar in the Bay Area and watched the Bears lose. It sucked, especially since we lost to the cheeseheads of all teams! Ugh.

Luckily I'm not a crazy sports fan, so their loss isn't going to mess with my whole week. But I love Chicago, and I always root for its sports teams, so it's a bummer they couldn't be in the Superbowl this year. Ah well, we always have next year, right?!?

And next year I'll be able to watch the Bears from Chicago.

How you ask?? Because in 10 weeks, I'll be moving back.


I love this city: view from (an overcast day on) Lake Michigan

I feel ecstatic, scared, sad, excited, and nervous all at the same time. I've been in California since I was 24. And I'm almost 31 now (although you wouldn't guess it by looking at me- hahaha).

But that's a lotta years, and throughout those years I've met amazing people that have become very close friends-- from grad school, masters swimming, cake club, rock climbing gym, and the museum. I'll miss them all, more than I think they even realize. But I know they will be friends for life, and they've all enriched my life is so many ways, so I tell myself not to be too sad about leaving.

Acknowledgement slides from my thesis defense, and this doesn't even 
cover all the people I've become close with over the years.

My Cancer Bio Classmates 
aka: My friends, saving grace, and support system during the 
(sometimes horrible) years of grad school 

My Lab
aka: The best people to spend endless hours in lab with

 My friends, in and out of Stanford
aka: The people who kept me sane

Edited to include photos of me and my best friend Sommer-- whose wrath I will endure unless I plaster her beautiful face on my blog. I didn't meet her in California, but she's originally from the Bay Area, and one reasons I decided to move out West. (That and the lack of snow.)

 On the biggest day of my life: my thesis defense.

On the biggest day of her life: her wedding day.

With how great things are right now, many people ask me why I'm moving back. And it's a great question, because California is an amazing place and I'm quite happy here. But you've probably noticed that I talk about Chicago so many times in my blog, because, well, it's home. And that's exactly why I'm going back.

I moved out here not only to start grad school, but to grow and mature on my own. And I have, in more ways than I possibly could have imagined 6 years ago. But I always left my roots back in Chicago, with my family (parents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, etc) and friends. And imagining a future without them nearby isn't something I want to do. Especially now that so many of my cousins are having kids and expanding our always-growing family.

So I decided it's the perfect time to go back. Before California woos me with it's gorgeous scenery and convinces me to stay here forever...

And I'll be back just in time to see the newest generation of babies grow up!

With my brother and my cousin's baby at Christmas.
(Can you believe my brother is 6 1/2 years younger than me?!?)

10 weeks folks, and I'm on a one-way plane back to Chicago.

Let the countdown begin!!

OK, that story has nothing to do with food, sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled food blog:

I first read about ricotta gnocchi from The Noshery blog. I've made gnocchi before, but the traditional way (with potatoes). I love gnocchi, but this sounded different, so I decided to give them a shot. And I'm glad I did!

They're quick, easy, and delicious. But they don't really taste anything like gnocchi. If anything, they remind me more of an inside-out ravioli.

Fluffy and light and a hint of creaminess from the ricotta

Because their recipes are often pretty damn awesome, I decided to use a Cooks Illustrated recipe. In hindsight, I regret using dried breadcrumbs instead of making my own (the pre-purchased stuff gave the gnocchi a weird taste), so I'd suggest either making your own bread crumbs like CI recommends or trying it sans breadcrumbs like The Noshery does.

One bowl mixin', this recipe came together in no time

But you can't really go wrong with cheese and flour in a tomato sauce, can you??


Buen Provecho,

Ricotta Gnocchi, from Cooks Illustrated


1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 container whole-milk ricotta (15- or 16-ounce)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)


1. Line fine-mesh strainer set over deep container or bowl with 3 paper coffee filters or 3 layers of paper towels. Place ricotta in lined strainer, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Note: This might be pointless, because nothing strained from my Trader Joes ricotta cheese. But the paper towels did get a bit moist, so perhaps they soaked some extra liquid from the cheese.)

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. Spread crumbs on rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and just beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes, stirring once during baking time. Let cool to room temperature. (You should have about 1/2 cup crumbs.)

3. Transfer drained ricotta to food processor and pulse until curds break down into fine, grainy consistency, about eight 1-second pulses. Using rubber spatula, combine ricotta, egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl. Add flour, Parmesan, and bread crumbs; stir until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. Check texture of dough (see photos below) and add more flour if needed.

4. Lightly dust work surface with flour. With floured hands, roll lemon-sized piece of dough into 3/4-inch-thick rope, rolling from center of dough outward. Cut rope into 3/4-inch-long pieces and transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, dusting work surface with flour as needed.

5. TO COOK GNOCCHI: Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce heat so water is simmering, then gently drop half of gnocchi into water and cook until all pieces float to surface. Continue to simmer until gnocchi are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer. Using slotted spoon, scoop gnocchi from water, allowing excess water to drain from spoon; transfer gnocchi to skillet with sauce and cover to keep warm. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi.

To freeze the uncooked gnocchi 
Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the gnocchi are firm (about 1 hour), then transfer them to a zipper-lock bag and store them for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen gnocchi overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking as directed.

Quick Tomato Sauce


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, mashed to break up into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp dried herbs


Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 20 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar; simmer until thickened slightly, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in basil. Cover to keep warm.


Yvonne said...

Jacqueline...Chicago welcomes you back with open arms! I bet your parents are so excited you are coming home!! After living in another state myself, I ended up coming back home too. I lived in Texas for 14 years, my son grew up there and still I longed for the streets of Chicago. It will be an adjustment to come back but you are doing the right thing. California will always be there for you to visit. ;-)
Good luck with the move!

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