Gnocchi

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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.

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Shakshuka Revisited

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Back when I was still a wee little college junior, I started this blog to help me reconcile with some big changes in my life. I had just returned from a life-changing summer in China, recently become single, and was living in a pseudo-apartment for the first time. One of my goals for junior year was to become a decent cook – it didn’t start out pretty, but I’d like to think my cooking skills have improved, even if my food photography skills remain as questionable as ever.

I once totally screwed up Shakshuka in a classic example of a beginner cook overeager to use fancy machines for cooking. I blended three beautiful tomatoes into pulp, then threw in some eggplant, and served the watery mess to my friends. (Sorry guys!) Well this summer, I’ve had nothing but time, which has, among other things, allowed me to take the analog approach to cooking. (That and my blender, the only electronic equipment I brought with me, broke en route to Boston, kind of forcing my hand.)

It’s also allowed me to reflect on what lies ahead as my friends and I move away from Boston and to different corners of the world (…but mostly New York and D.C.). I fulfilled my goal of learning to cook, but for a while now, I’ve been a little lost, consumed in filling out assignments and checking off tasks (with an unhealthy dose of life drama on the side).

I can’t go back and fix all the mistakes (perceived or real) that I made in the past and dwell on all the lost relationships I had, but I can work on moving beyond them. Cooking has become therapeutic, a challenge with each new dish, but also comfort in repeating the familiar. And so I don’t gain like 100 pounds, long bike rides and not-so-long jogs are also calming in their own way, as I focus on the rhythm of my breaths and the constant motion of my legs and clear my head.

And so I’ve revisited Shakshuka, that dish I made as a cocky fledgling cook that reminded me that I still had so much to learn about cooking. (1. Always read through the recipe carefully. 2. Always read through the recipe carefully. 3. Don’t make changes to recipes when you have no idea what you’re doing.) And I think I finally got the hang of it! Now it remains to be seen if I can get the hang of life goals…

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The Rain Room

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This weekend, my friends and I woke up at 5:45am and stood in line until 11am to see the Rain Room, a room full of rain. Was it worth it?

Well, it’s complicated.

My immediate reaction is skepticism. We stood in the blistering heat, I ended up with blisters on my feet, and for the last twenty minutes of our wait (which, while blissfully air conditioned, were also the most painful minutes), we watched small children running through the exhibit as if it was a sprinkler at Central Park. As someone behind us said, “if they can bring their kids, I should be able to bring my dog.” The line moved agonizingly slow, as only ten people are allowed in the exhibit at one time. We spent less than twenty minutes in the exhibit itself.

Apollo, as represented by one real ballerina and three amateurs

That being said, the Rain Room really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We experienced being in a rain shower, yet not getting rained on. It allowed us to appreciate the serene beauty of rain without the annoyances of muddy puddles and soaked clothes. We also got some awesome silhouette pictures, courtesy of a bright white floodlight, the only source of light in the otherwise black room. (Though we were so busy posing that we only really enjoyed the quietude in the last few minutes.)

To see the Rain Room, you basically have to have a membership, since the museum lets members into line first. I happen to have a membership, but I felt a pang of pity walking past all those tourists who’d come from other states and countries to see the Rain Room, only to be stuck waiting for five hours or more. Nothing is worth standing in line for that long, and definitely not a 10ft by 10ft square of artificial rain.

It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, in that I will never do it again. But it was pretty cool to experience it once, and as my friend said, somewhat dubiously, “well, only 200 people get to see it per day.”

P.S. If you want to wait for a reasonable amount of time for something that is, in my opinion, more worth the wait, do try out this tomato sauce recipe. It elevates the pedestrian marinara to never-before-attained gourmet heights; it’s rich and delicious, the perfect way to use up all those cherry tomatoes.

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