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17 April: Friday

Rome, Italy: Day 35 of our confinement. How y’all doing? I think some of you have not been in lock-down as long as California? We went down early and we went down hard. Still 84 deaths in California today; 10 in our county (Riverside). It is not slowing down. Not tapering. Stay home, people.

We did not stay home today - we walked and rode bicycles inside our resort. Easy to do, especially on Friday when construction crews are not allowed inside the gates. So few campers remain, I can basically walk around the entire 1.5 miles perimeter without seeing another soul. I was joined today by My Husband, after he finished his bicycle ride, and was joined for a bit with our friend, Susan. “Joined” is a polite way to say Susan walked on one side of the road and we walked on the other. It was nice to hear another voice, other than the one in my head, for a change.

On my walk today, I brought my camera (not my phone camera!) so I could take photos of our resort. Something different to photograph than our dinner?

Remember when we used to go to the clubhouse for a cocktail? Brunch? Dinner? Lunch? The “Top of the Falls” restaurant has been closed for weeks now. The clubhouse was the heart of our resort. We miss our staff so much!

This is the “out” view from the Motorcoach Country Club security gate. Guests/owners are checked in and out. The exit gate does not open until one of our crack security staff sees who is leaving. Pretty easy job these days. No one is going anywhere.

Dave and I walked both golf courses this morning and I snapped a few photos (with a real camera):

Cormorants in a palm that had sprouted dates
All three swimming pools are closed
The golf course is closed (we can still walk along the cart paths)
Pretty bridge in east golf course
(Joshua Tree National Park in mountains beyond)

Surprise! Bonus coverage! Lunch photo! The left-over salmon from the other night, made into a lovely salad for lunch today:

I have nothing to do all day except exercise, needlepoint, and cook... and there were a few getting-old russets in the larder. Let’s just say these potatoes were seeing better than me at this point. No better use for old potatoes than gnocchi. All the starch makes them fluffier. (PS: Don’t use Yukons for gnocchi. Russets are best.)

The taters baked while I was walking. I let them cool a bit, removed the skin and mixed them with a little salt, one egg and flour. The potatoes weighed about 1.5 pounds before baking, so I needed about 3/4 cup all purpose flour to make a nice soft dough. You can rice the potatoes, but who has a ricer in their RV? I used a potato masher, but grating the baked potatoes, or smashing the flesh with a fork will work just as well. There may be a bit of potato chunks in your dough. Don’t worry.

After the dough is kneaded just a bit, (you are going to need a lot of flour for rolling the dough) it is portioned into about half-cup segments, then rolled-out in long sausage-shapes - about the thickness of a thumb. The “sausages” are then cut into one-inch-ish portions. Each portion is then (three options): 1) rolled on a gnocchi board 2) rolled along the tines of of a fork 3) nothing. Makes no difference, just make sure they are dusted with flour. Apparently the ridges in the dumplings help to hold the sauce?

Gnocchi, rolled on a gnocchi board (purchased in Italy early 2000’s. $2.)
Gnocchi rolled along the back of a fork.
The fork probably cost more than the gnocchi board!

My beloved Biba restaurant in Sacramento makes some of the best gnocchi ever and she doesn’t roll her gnocchi at all. It just isn’t important.

Wouldn’t this be a great project for little kids? Most kids love red sauce, but gnocchi are super delicious with only butter... and maybe a little Parmesan?

The dough I made today produced about six dozen dumplings! I used half for our dinner tonight and froze the other half. (Freeze the gnocchi on a baking sheet for one hour and then give them a good shake, or turn them to separate, then freeze for another hour. Transfer frozen gnocchi to a freezer container/zip top bag for another meal. Open a jar of red sauce or make some pesto, and dinner is served!)

They don’t need to be/look perfect - they puff to double the size while boiling

Our appetizer plate tonight consisted of little toasts with roasted red pepper bruschetta, walnuts, radishes, smoked cheddar and Manchego cheeses.

Don’t forget: we are camping.

The gnocchi boiled-up perfectly. Gnocchi only need to be dropped into salted boiling water, and are finished when they float to the top. (Frozen gnocchi will take a minute or two longer.) I added the gnocchi to an (frozen) Alfredo/bechamel sauce left over from a lasagna, and it was perfect... though this photo does look like gnocchi soup!

Isn’t soup night Thursday?

Maybe, but it was like being transported to Rome this evening... and that was a very nice thing.

Our salad tonight was a composed arrangement with artichoke hearts (not marinated), cherry tomatoes, and black olives, over a bed of mixed spring greens - drizzled with a vinaigrette with shallots, tarragon, and grainy mustard.

I am leaving my gnocchi recipe below. Sorry my recipes are STILL not up on the blog.

Until my next update, when we are going to Taiwan, I remain, your fluffy dumpling correspondent.

Here is my recipe for potato gnocchi - fluffy little pillow-like dumplings. Tossed with butter, a red sauce, or a little pesto, gnocchi are a tasty little addition to your usual Italian repertoire. Plus, they are fun to make. This really isn't a recipe, so to speak. Egg, salt and flour are added to warm riced/smished potatoes until a smooth dough is formed. The cook needs to go more by feel and intuition, more than following precise measurements.

Two large russet (baking) potatoes, about one pound
1 egg, beaten
Approximately 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour,
(plus additional flour for dusting the work surface)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Start with two russet potatoes, about one pound of Idaho's finest will do. Bake them for about one hour at 400°. When the potatoes are tender, about one hour, remove them to a plate and let the potatoes cool for ten minutes. Cut the potatoes in half length-wise and use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a bowl. Discard the skin. Run the hot potato flesh through a ricer, a box grater, or simply fluff the potatoes with a fork.

Then, while the potato is still pretty hot, mix in a beaten egg. Stir quickly so the egg does not cook and then add about 1/3 cup of all-purpose white flour and the Kosher salt. Mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon, adding a little more flour until it feels like a very soft pizza dough. The amount of flour is going to vary with the size of your potatoes and the size of your egg, probably 1/2 to 3/4 cup. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it for about one minute, until fairly smooth. Incorporate more flour as needed until the dough is not sticky, but is still soft. It is important to work quickly - the dough should be warm throughout the process.

Divide the dough into four even portions and roll each portion out into a long sausage, about the thickness of your thumb. Cut into 3/4-to-1-inch long segments. If you choose, you can roll the potato dumplings on a gnocchi board to leave a slight indention on each gnocchi. It is not necessary - just traditional. If you do not have a gnocchi paddle - the tines on the back of a fork work as well. Continue rolling (or not rolling) the gnocchi, repeating the process with the remaining three portions of dough. Place the finished dumplings on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. At this point, the gnocchi can be cooked right away, or covered with a kitchen towel and refrigerated for a few hours/all day before boiling.

To cook gnocchi, simply drop them - in batches, do not crowd the pot - into a large pot of salted boiling water, and give them a little stir. The gnocchi will sit at the bottom of the pan for a minute or two and then will float to the surface. When the gnocchi float to the surface, they have finished cooking... though I usually let them bubble at the surface for 30 seconds or so before removing the gnocchi with a slotted spoon. Transfer the gnocchi directly to the waiting warm sauce, give it a quick stir and serve! Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer course.