Updated: Nov 17
Eighteen years of life with the Decavore is winding down, as we plan our road trip to drop him off at college next week. I joined a social media group called "Dorm Chatter" which offers moving and decorating tips for parents installing their kids into their dorms for the first time. I joined it mainly for yux, and it did not disappoint. There were the usual insane helicopter parent talk and humble bragging (a friend reports that the parent chat for her child's college included intel on the local real estate market, for parents who were planning to buy their kids homes) and, of course, the latest in must-have décor. (Tufted headboards and rows of spot-lit succulents in tiny pots are de rigueur). A lot of intense discussion around woozoo desk fans and pool noodles. I must admit that I am touched by, and share, the mix of excitement and grief that these parents are expressing through their obsessive packing ("we forgot the batteries for her tv remote!"), seeing their child off to college and going home to an empty house.
The Decavore is studying in Canada, so for us there is the added anxiety of having him in another country, amid threats of possible future Covid lockdowns and any other international issues. He has a passport for each country should the need arise, and he is going to be in Ontario, so there will be no language barrier to contend with. Still, I worry about him being away from home. Being a decavore, will he find things to eat? The Decavore's slightly older (and I hope wiser) roommate has just arrived from India, so fingers crossed he will have a fellow vegetarian who can encourage him to explore new and different flavors, since I could not entice him to try this insanely delicious cauliflower butter masala last week.
The Decavore has had an extensive film education, not surprising given that his father studied filmmaking. He's seen almost everything. These last few weeks has been a film festival to fill in some remaining gaps before he leaves. He has seen a number of Italian neo-realist movies, but somehow missed some of the most famous ones, so we screened Bicycle Thieves. He'd seen a lot of Fellini, but not my favorite, Nights of Cabiria. We also watched Chaplin's Modern Times (the first scenes are how I imagine working in an Amazon warehouse) and some Bergman films he did not know, The Seventh Seal and Smiles on a Summer Night. We got Potemkin out of the library, which I was keen to re-watch after all these years, so I am not sure why they chose a Clockwork Orange. Outvoted, I decided to make gnocchi instead. What do you think are the most essential films for a young person to see?
I have tried pre-made, store-bought gnocchi, even from the local gourmet Italian market, but the gnocchi was always tasteless and rubbery. It's one of my favorite pasta dishes, and I had tried making it at home over the years with varying degrees of success, until I found the below recipe from Tasty. I tend to go lighter on the flour, because I like more of a mashed potato texture in my gnocchi.
Pan-fried gnocchi with summer squash and feta
2 smallish Idaho baking potatoes
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 medium-sized yellow squash
4 oz of feta
1 clove of garlic
shredded fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
I really can't improve on the simple instructions from this recipe and video from Tasty, which takes all the stress out of making something like this at home. I thought this would be more work than it was. Rolling out the dough on the back of a fork was kind of fun, and tingled the old propreioceptors.
Gnocchi can be made in advance, and actually benefit from chilling in the fridge. I have also frozen left over gnocchi and thawed them out in the fridge for a few hours before cooking.
Next, chop up summer squash into bite sized pieces.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet, and add squash. Season with salt and sauté until it starts to get crisp and brown.
Feel free to be less of a grease monkey than I was- end product will no doubt taste better.
Remove squash from skillet and set aside. At this stage, to add a bit more flavor, I add some minced garlic and let it get fragrant before removing from the pan. I suppose you could leave it in, but it may overpower the other flavors, and also can easily burn.
Add gnocchi and more butter and oil if skillet is dry. Sauté gnocchi until it starts to get crisp and brown. (You could cook gnocchi and squash together, but you will crowd the pan and prevent browning. Also, you run the risk of breaking the gnocchi.)
Add squash back into the pan (some moisture will collect with squash, which is fine to add back to the pan).
Remove from heat and toss with feta.
Divide into plates and top with shredded basil and a few grindings of fresh pepper.
That's it. Very simple, and you can adapt it to different vegetables and flavors.