Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A cooking lesson with Lidia

This morning the snow was falling so thickly that Shadow-dog and I couldn't see downtown across the river from Strathearn Park. He had to galumph through the snow, his short legs barely making it over the berms along the edge of the bikepath. By the time we arrived at my dear Italian friend Lidia's, he was half black and half white, but she welcomed us in with a warmth that melted the snow in a hurry.

"Today you come for gnocchi?" she asked. I told her that I couldn't stay for lunch because I had a physio appointment to attend. That did not make her happy.

"I cook potato, we make gnocchi." She went to her fridge and brought out a large baking potato, skin on, that she had boiled yesterday, and proceeded to give me the gnocchi-making lesson I had jokingly suggested during my visit last week. After peeling the potato, she sliced it into her Italian potato grater, a piece of stainless steel sieve-shaped equipment that fits over a bowl, with a crank and an augur-like piece that pushes the finely-shredded potato through the bottom. I wasn't very good at operating the thing -- it kept going cockeyed -- so she took over and had the job done in two minutes (after I had been trying for five). 

"Two potatoes, two eggs. One potato, one egg," she said, mixing the one egg with one tablespoon of olive oil and beating it in a small bowl. She poured it onto the grated potato, and threw in a few handsful of flour.

"Lidia! You cook like my grandma," I teased. "You don't measure. How am I supposed to follow your recipe when my hands are bigger than yours?" 

She laughed and shrugged. "You tell by how it feel, not too hard, not too soff." When she had kneaded everything into a nice dough, she started to roll it into thin ropes, and chop it into small pieces that she tossed into a bit more flour. 

Then, the magic. 

She took a fork and rolled a piece of the dough on its tines with one finger, and voila! A beautiful little gnoccha. I laughed out loud! So that's why those little potato dumplings are so pretty! I got my own fork and we bent over the task together, me grinning like the Cheshire cat, exclaiming over the process. Doesn't take much to delight me! Hers had nice plump shapes, but mine looked like they were underfed.

By the time I had to leave, we had enough gnocchi for my family's supper. Of course Lidia sent it home with me, along with a jar of her wonderful homemade tomato sauce (with real Italian basil, grown by Ralph last summer) and instructions on how to put it all together. I told her she should be the star of "Cooking with Lidia" on TV, and she waved me off, saying I should go and get my own potato/tomato grater at the Italian Centre.

How I love my tiny Italian mamma!

I can't wait to eat supper tonight!

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