My relationship with food has always involved a mildly unhealthy dose of obsession.
For example, from first grade to fourth grade, I had to eat three spoonfuls of tuna fish salad every day for lunch. I absolutely hated tuna fish salad by the end of lower school, and yet I continued to force myself to do it out of perverse reverence for the routine. (Seriously, why are kids so weird?) I could not eat tuna fish salad – or egg salad and chicken salad for that matter – for another four years afterward without feeling ill, and even the smell of mayonnaise-based salads repulsed me. To this day, I still have an aversion to plain mayonnaise.
Thankfully, I grew out of that strange childhood habit and grew to love egg salad and chicken salad (and tolerate tuna salad) again.
The obsession with one dish has continued in less disgusting forms – whenever I try a new Thai restaurant, I must order their pad thai, for a new Indian restaurant, it’s malai kofta. And for a new Italian restaurant, my first dish that I must try is gnocchi.
I tell myself that it’s because I want to have a common point by which I can compare different restaurants against each other. But let’s be honest, I can’t really remember every pad thai or gnocchi that I’ve ever had. And really, what self-respecting Thai restaurant doesn’t make a decent pad thai?
The day may come when I can’t stand to look at another plate of gnocchi or malai kofta (I can already sense that the end is near for pad thai), but for now, I content myself with knowing at least I’m not obsessed with pickles or Wonderbread or something carcinogenic.
This gnocchi recipe is an oldie but a goodie. I posted about it before, but what can I say, I’m still a sucker for good gnocchi.
Gnocchi à la Niçoise (adapted from Bouchon) – serves 4
2 small zucchinis
2 small yellow summer squash
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided (1+1+4 tbsp)
1/2 recipe Gnocchi (recipe here)
4 sage leaves, chiffonade
24 Niçoise olives, halved and pitted
8 oz mixed heirloom tomatoes
1 tbsp + 1 tsp minced chives
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Halve zucchinis and summer squashes and scrape out seeds with a small spoon. Cut the squash halves on biase into 1/4-in wide pieces. (You should have ~1 cup of each squash.) Toss squash with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour a light coating of olive oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add squash and cook for 3-4 minutes until squash is tender and some pieces have begun to lightly brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Heat large non-stick pan and add 1 tbsp butter. When butter has browned, add gnocchi, being careful not to crowd the pan. (I get best results when none of my gnocchi are touching each other.) Once the gnocchi have begun to grown, add some sage to the pan, then shake the pans to the gnocchi brown on all sides, about 2 1/2 minutes total. Repeat for the next few batches of gnocchi.
Add tomatoes, olives, squash, and chives to the large sauté pan and heat through. Spoon gnocchi and vegetables onto serving plates. Add the remaining 4 tbsp of butter to the non-stick pan and cook until it turns brown. Add parsley and sage leaves and allow to crackle for a few seconds. Add a squeeze of lemon, careful of butter splattering. Spoon the brown butter and herbs over gnocchi. Garnish with chopped chives.