Whew. I can take a moment to kick my feet back and relax.
The roommates went on a school-sponsored field trip to the beach today. I was planning on visiting Vatican City today, but it turns out the Pope is in Milan and you have to get your ticket (which exists) three days ahead of time (the ticket is free, you just have to get it way in advance). So I relaxed a bit, ate some cereal, read some more Cassius Dio, then decided to go find an open market to explore.
It wasn’t far; I just had to turn right out of my building, and there it was. It had taken over the car-parts street that blocks me from having direct access to the Tiber.
I didn’t buy this stuff, I just saw all of it sitting on a car. It was such an interesting ecletic bunch of stuff.
Actually I had trouble deciding what I wanted to buy, if anything. I know Mom asked me to buy a refrigerator magnet, but I didn’t want to get one at the market. A fridge magnet should be bought on-site. For example, a Colosseum magnet should be bought at the Colosseum. I also examined some nice-looking paintings and prints, but no one acknowledged my existence except for some obvious immigrant salesmen who knew, before I even opened my mouth, that I’m not Italian. And they were selling scarves. I looked at some scarves, but they all said ROME on them. Not even ROMA. Come on guys. At least a little effort.
Actually I did buy some towels, because my roommates and I all hate the school-issued towels. They are too small for our needs. Also not very absorbent. The new ones aren’t, either, but at least they’re big. I didn’t know that I would miss decent towels most of all in Italy.
I took this picture on the walk home, more because it made me laugh more than anything. It means “vote left for Rome” (Rome is in the middle of election season), but as an English speaker, it looks like it says “vote sinister for Rome”
I went home and looked up markets in Rome that specifically sell food, because today was my turn to cook dinner. I was going to make steak and a spinach orzo salad (bistecca e orzo spinaci). Unfortunately, the kosher butcher shop and the supermarket were both closed. Oh well, I wanted to visit a market anyway. I got directions to the only one open on Sundays, in Piazza di San Teodoro. It was just across the bridge, but then I went straight instead of turning left towards the ruins. I tried to stay close to the river, but then that meant I wasn’t finding anything useful. Finally I found a supermarket that was, somehow, open on a Sunday. It wasn’t as big as my supermarket (which is about 1/3 the size of a supermarket in the States), but it had food and it was open so whatever.
There weren’t any meats for sale. The only fresh meat they could cut was prosciutto. Which is good (it’s Italian bacon), but it’s no steak. Also, there was no orzo. I actually found that to be more weird than the lack of steak. Also, there was no spinach.
So I bought food, but I bought food based on half-remembering recipes that I had read three days ago. I bought milk, cheese, potatoes, chicken, and cream cheese. I was going to make gnocchi with alfredo sauce and chicken.
1) these was made to be cooked in an American kitchen
2) our apartment doesn’t have measuring cups
So the recipes I cooked ended up looking more like this:
5 small-medium potatos that look approximately like they could be the same amount of potato as two large potatoes
1/3 a bag of 1 Kilo of flour
Admittedly I also tried to recreate the magic of Nicole’s “alfredo” sauce, which didn’t overwhelm your tastebuds with creaminess. This concoction ended up being the best of both words: thick like a traditional alfredo, but dry and complementary to other tastes
3 and some-odd notches of butter
150 grams of cream cheese (the entire box of the biggest cream cheese you could find, really)
A bunch of dashes of garlic powder
1/3 a liter of milk (approximately)
3/4s of a mozzarella ball
Dash of black pepper
The first step of gnocchi is surprisingly easy. You make mashed potatoes. Just boil them suckers until they are very tender, then mash them (I would recommend mashing them better than I did — I still had chunks of potato in the gnocchi even after they were noodles)
Now combine the rest of the ingredients. You gotta moosh up together. Just stick your hands in there and squeeze ’em until it’s all one big consistent dough (this goes a lot faster if you don’t have to keep stopping to smash chunks of potato).
Do try to resist suddenly lifting your hands up, looking to the sky, and cackling madly. It’s really unbecoming and immature and you should know better.
Then you take ALL THAT DOUGH and twist it into a whole bunch of snakes (you will end up with more than what I showed here, I just wanted to get the picture before my hands got covered in dough again). Then you chop them suckers up and toss them in boiling hot water.
COOL TRICK: if you toss the dough-chunks into the water from far away, boiling hot water splashes EVERYWHERE. Fun for everyone, including your plastic garbage bag and your exposed arms and feet! Only boring people who care about “safety” (blech) will drop their dough-chunks carefully from an inch above the water, thus allowing for as few splashes as possible.
After a few minutes, take the pot off the stove and drain the water. Congratulations! You have made gnocchi di patati. I recommend it with a sweet tomato sauce, but it’s also really good with a white sauce like alfredo as well. Green sauces like pesto are probably not very good with it.
Next I sliced up some chicken breast. I lined the pan with olive oil and tossed the chicken on it, then doused the whole thing with pepper. The other parts of the dish weren’t going to be very peppery, so I wanted to make the chicken stand out a bit. So I put more pepper on the chicken than I normally would have.
I did a bit of clean-up while cooking the sauce, so this picture covers a few steps:
1) Cook all the butter on low heat
2) When you realize that the butter is actually cooking, not melting, go “holy crap!”, lower the heat, then toss in the cream cheese
3) Jab pathetically at the cream cheese until it starts to separate into chunks
4) Be very generous with the garlic for some reason
5) Once the cream cheese is completely melted, add some milk to the concoction and start stirring. Absolutely none of the sauce will look like it’s together. That’s okay, it will all work out in the end.
6) Continue to add milk in batches, stirring continuously.
Honestly it all starts to come together once you put in the mozzarella and it starts melting. This is the major difference between my recipe and their recipe. They recommend Parmesan. This resulted in a drier, stronger, less creamy sauce, which helped bring out the gnocci and the peppery chicken some.
I made some more chicken because the first batch wasn’t enough. Multi-tasking!
Here is the final result! gnocchi all’alfredo e pollo. Pretty tasty!