I don't have to do anything today. Nothing. My errands are all done. I have no real work waiting to be finished. I actually balanced my checkbook and took care of my finances on Thursday. So, I can choose to do nothing.
It's a pleasant change not to have to bake or cook for a potluck, dress up for a party or dancing, or drive all over town. As I write this the clock says 5:22 PM and I have yet to take a shower, and the back of my hair is still standing tall and fanned like a rooster's tail, the same as it was when I woke up around ten this morning.
It's fabulous really. Having a day to do nothing rarely ever happens to me anymore. Often I have far too much on my plate and recently I've been heaping on a few extra helpings. As much as others point this out to me my usual response isn't that I have too much on my plate but rather my plate is simply too small.
After I loafed out of bed I wrapped myself in a blanket and took some green tea and toast smeared with homemade jam on the patio. The bees were humming around the tomatillo plants whose vines had begun to reach across the entire garden gaily livening the space up with hundreds of green and purple paper lanterns. There was a small, slightly chilly wind that made the blanket and tea all the more enjoyable. It was like a San Francisco summer morning; evidence that Summer was soon about to end and Fall about to begin. I made a mental note to pick up some figs at the Farmer's Market the next day, the brisk air being the sign they were now ready.
The chill air and empty schedule gave me energy and I was still a bit peckish. I decided I would make some gnocchi. Generally a food I consider perfect for colder months the weather seemed to be an auspicious sign that today was a day for making gnocchi. Of course, not all gnocchi has to be starchy and heavy (well, heavy for gnocchi). Ricotta gnocchi is the lighter cousin of potato gnocchi, not to mention far easier and faster to prepare. The task usually occupying only 20 minutes or so.
I dug out the leftover ricotta from the fridge that we had kept around for when we made jam earlier in the week and set it aside to come to room temperature. (Whenever I make jam I take the foam skimmed off from the cooking jam and pour it over small bowl of ricotta or cottage cheese as a sweet treat, a little trick I picked up from my grandmother's old cookbook.) The cheese, plus the zest from an extra lemon that hadn't been used in yesterday's plum sauce, would form the flavor base for the gnocchi.
The gnocchi dough is simple and slightly messy but easily made even within the crowded confines of an apartment galley kitchen. Once set they cook up in about two to three minutes. Poofy, light and sweet, tasting of lemon and cheese they best imbue the tastes and textures of two seasons on your tongue.
I ended up serving these as simply as I made them: with a quick pesto made from a bit of garlic and some basil from the garden whizzed together with lemon juice and olive oil in the food processor. It was then topped with a bit of grated ricotta salata, a form of ricotta cheese that's pressed, salted, and dried making it perfect for finishing off any pasta dish.
After the gnocchi was ready I took a small plate of it to the couch and buried myself under the blanket again. I had kept the windows open to let the same refreshingly cold air circulate the room to invigorate it a bit. I popped on an episode of Weeds and let the cats conquer my lap in the name of naps while I ate my meal. My day was over, and, aside from gnocchi, I had no other plans. It would be a satisfying Saturday.
Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi
Recipe adapted from Pasta Sfoglia
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1. Spread the flour out on a clean, dry work surface. Place the ricotta, salt, black pepper, egg, and zest on top of the flour and lightly knead it with your hands bringing together all the ingredients. Gently knead the dough into an 10-inch log and allow it to rest a few minutes.
2. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Cut the log into four equal pieces. Gingerly, lightly, roll each piece into a 1-inch thick piece of rope. (You may have to cut the rope once or twice to keep in manageable.) Cut the gnocchi into 1/2-inch pillows. Lightly dust with flour.
To Cook: Place gnocchi in boiling salted water. When the gnocchi have floated to the top, allow them to cook for another two minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and serve.
To Store: Place gnocchi on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen place in an air tight container. Thaw an hour before cooking. Stores for 2 weeks.
To Serve: These are best served simply. A basic tomato sauce tossed with some white wine, capers and garlic is a wonderful way to dress these. Alternatively, a simple basil pesto is also perfect. Top with a bit of grated ricotta salata, Parmesan, or even Pecorino Romano for a bit of bite. An extra dash of lemon zest will go a long way as well.
Related Post: Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe