Early last fall, I was in Las Vegas with my husband, Brandon, and his family. One night, we went to Circo, a restaurant at the Bellagio (and sister of Le Cirque), and I ordered the rabbit ragù over gnocchi. It was incredible. The ragù was rich and flavorful, and the gnocchi was light and tender. It was perfectly autumnal (despite the 90-degree weather outside), and for the last year, I have yearned to recreate the dish.
In search for a similar recipe, over the summer, I stumbled upon William-Sonoma’s recipe for pork ragù. I figured pork would be easier to get my hands on than rabbit, and I also have a lot more experience using pork (any experience is more than no experience). However, I knew I had to wait for the perfect, fall weather to actually make it.
Well, that perfect weather arrived a week ago.
This is a story about a tea.
Last Spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy at the Università degli Studi di Firenze. While Florence is ideal for a coffee addict such as myself, my friend Caroline and I found ourselves missing a good cup of tea. While we both had access to some good Twinings for breakfast through our respective host families, we craved a good teashop or café where we could get an amazing (and affordable) pot of tea after a stressful day.
Caroline was desperate enough to turn to Google, and I am so glad that she did. We became customers of La Via del Tè, a cute shop near the Mercato di San’Ambrogio – one of my favorite neighborhoods in Florence. The shop specialized in teas from around the world – importing leaves from China and India, while making their own blends in the shop itself.
The shop's wall of tea
On a dreary Monday a few weeks ago, Rosemary and I, consumed with fear over the impending release of our LSAT score, had reached a ridiculous state of near- hysteria. We were all-but convinced that we had both failed the test and had no chance of getting into law schools. We had reached a point of no return, a point where even Disney movies and cuddling with Rosemary’s kitten could not save us. We needed comfort food fast, so we ran to our reliable Safeway, gathered up some ingredients and escaped into the worry-free confines of Rosemary’s kitchen where we tried to de-stress the best way we know how: one spoonful of sanity at a time.
Now, Rosemary, being the good South-Asian that she is, suggested we cook with lentils, but I have always associated comfort with spice, so we compromised, finally settling on a dish that combined lentils with chorizo into a wonderful bowl of spicy-flavorful goodness that more than satisfied us both.
A few Saturdays ago, Ursela and I spent a solid 4.5 hours in a windowless building on campus and took the LSAT. Last Saturday, we received our scores. While not disappointed, our immediate, over-achieving student reaction was to hyperventilate and worry about the admissions process. After a series of phone calls with our mothers, several gchats with Megan, and a powwow with one of our best friends on campus, we decided that the best way to cure the freak-out bug was to cook.
We had both been craving a savory dish with pumpkin ever since a trip to Butler’s Orchard in mid-October, and Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for pumpkin gnocchi seemed perfect for our mood. Having spent a semester abroad in Italy, I associate a lot of Italian food with comfort, and both Ursela and I have a thing for homemade pasta.
While making pasta from scratch seems daunting, gnocchi is actually very simple to make. I am personally a huge fan of Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for potato gnocchi, and her technique is useful whenever making a variation of the dish. We decided to listen to Emeril and go with the brown-butter and sage sauce, which pairs really well with slightly heavier pasta dishes. This makes a ton of pasta, so be sure to freeze some and save for later.