"The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go." - J. P. Morgan
Today is Gnocchi Day, an event celebrated on the 29th of each month in Argentina. The tradition comes from Italian immigrants who were regularly short of money just prior to payday and needed an inexpensive meal to fill their stomachs. The frugal housewife learned to make gnocchi from potatoes, flour and an egg, and could serve up a tasty meatless meal for the entire household even when the larder was looking quite bare. It became customary to place a peso under your plate when you ate gnocchi, with the hope that your coin would multiply in the month ahead.
Making gnocchi is a hands-on process which becomes easier as you get a feel for the right consistency and texture. Russet potatoes are boiled and mashed, then mixed with a small amount of flour and an egg binder to form a dough. Depending on the moistness of the potatoes, I find the dough more workable with the addition of a tablespoon of water. (A scant tablespoon, as too much water will make the gnocchi hard.) The dough is rolled by hand into cylinders on a floured board, and then cut into bite-sized lengths. Each gnocchi is carefully pressed with a thumb against the tines of a fork to create the classic look; a row of parallel indentations on one side and a petal-shaped curvature on the other. Cooking gnocchi is as easy as dropping them into a pot of boiling water and waiting until they float up to the surface to be scooped out with a slotted spoon.
Fresh basil from the garden
Gnocchi can be served with tomato or cream-based sauces, but the best accompaniment for the dumplings is growing right in the front yard, in my herb garden. A bouquet of basil, chopped and blended with garlic, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil makes a fragrant, green pesto sauce. I add ground almonds as a substitute for the standard pine nuts which are, unfortunately, not available in San Rafael.
We selected a bottle of Bianchi DOC Malbec 2007
to pair with the gnocchi. This wine is produced by the most prominent Italian family in San Rafael, third generation descendants of Don Valentin Bianchi and his wife Elsa, who settled in Rama Caida in 1910. Valentin Bianchi worked in railway administration, started a bus line and founded a timber company before being elected to City Council in San Rafael. He opened his own bodega called El Chiche in 1928, and by the time he died in 1968, the re-named Bodegas Valentin Bianchi
had become one of the most successful wineries in Argentina. Today, the Bianchi wines are exported to Australia, the U.S, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Singapore. The family has also enriched San Rafael's cultural life by creating a foundation for the arts which presents fine art exhibitons, dance performances and musical concerts at the bodega. A bottle of Bianchi DOC Malbec costs 17.85 pesos at Vea supermarket.