There are bad weeks and then there are take your cat to the vet six times, sleep on the floor with his head in your hand because that is the only way he can sleep, end up with cat food all over your kitchen walls because syringe feeding is the worst… kind of bad weeks. And that, my friends, is where I’ve been—dealing with a miserable Maine Coon who was starving himself literally to death due to some abscessed teeth. I’m happy to say that—while he’s now as toothless as a Grimm witch—he’s back to his old self, snoring on my couch and scarfing down food by the can.
While I’m hard pressed to name an occasion that doesn’t call for gnocchi, I’m absolutely certain that these past few weeks are precisely what gnocchi was originally created for. So, after cooking nary a thing for what feels like ages—I was living instead on Thai take out and cheap (but delicious!) vino verde—I knew it’s what I had to make this weekend. Add to that some D’artagnan rabbit, pork and ginger sausage that M picked up pre-sickcat as a gift, some petite peas, shallots and garlic, and top with a light white wine sauce, fresh basil and parmesan, and you basically have my favorite ever comfort food. I think we all retreat to basic comforts when we’re scared or stressed out. For me, that means the aforementioned gnocchi, paired with reminders of my childhood—the Joni Mitchell albums my mom would play on Sunday mornings and the E. Nesbit stories I would read under the apple trees in the yard.
E. Nesbit, for those of you that don’t know, was just the coolest of Edwardian kid’s lit authors. Apart from penning nearly 40 books for children (and loads for adults as well), she was a dedicated political activist, co-founding the Fabian Society,a socialist organization that laid the foundation for the Labour Party. The Fabian Society went on to attract quite a bit of cool kids, including H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf.
Her books are a delight. Sure, they contain morals, but they never take themselves too seriously. The writing is witty and self-aware, and –reading them now as an adult—I find them just as enjoyable as I did as a kid. The Railway Children was by far her biggest hit, though I find the shenanigans of the Bastables (The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods, and The New Treasure Seekers ) to be the best. Unlike Lewis Carroll, who was writing just a bit before her, Nesbit is virtually unknown in the states. Instead—for some reason unfathomable to me—Yanks seem to prefer Beatrix Potter, probably because we always enjoy when our characters receive a comeuppance of some sort… or maybe it’s the cute bunnies. Who can be sure?
After a week of cat nursing, this culmination of comforts was just what I needed. Now, who knows, maybe I’ll have the strength to tackle Ulysses for Bloomsday… though I say that every year.
E. Nesbit Gnocchi
1 16 oz package of gnocchi
1 8.5 oz package of D’artagnan Country Style Rabbit, Pork and Ginger Sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 or 5 small shallots, diced
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seed
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen petite peas
1/2 cup basil
parmesan for serving
In a small pan, brown sausage evenly on all sides over low heat for about 15 minutes, turning often. Turn off heat and set aside. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and cook gnocchi according to package directions, set aside.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots on medium high heat for about three minutes, then add the garlic, stir, and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the fennel seed and salt, and toss to combine, then add the wine. As it bubbles up, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all the browned bits. Let the wine cook off for about 3 minutes, or until reduced by two/thirds. Add the frozen peas and toss. Cut up the sausage into bit sized pieces and add to the pan with the shallots and garlic. Turn off the heat.
In a large bowl, combine gnocchi and sauce, adding more olive oil if you think it needs it. Sprinkle with basil and parmesan.
Drink: a French Pinot Noir