Monday, May 24, 2010

Turkish Gnocchi

Every time I come across a Turkish dish I truly love, one that really makes my taste buds hum, I rejoice in being one step closer to home in this adopted country of mine. One such dish is sarmısaklı köfte, or "garlic balls," which I will from now on always think of as Turkish gnocchi.

I first tasted sarmısaklı köfte a few years ago, and loved them. One of my husband's sisters-in-law had made them, and I unabashedly ate far more than my fair share. After that, anyone else's were a disappointment -- until my son's nanny made them for us a few months ago. They were as good as the first time I'd had them if not better. She struck the perfect balance between dense bulgur and flour, a köfte you could really sink your teeth into, and a light but intense spicy garlic and lemon sauce.

But I've been busy and old habits die hard. It'd been ages since I'd enjoyed a delicious creamy bowl of real Italian pasta; the kind you get in Toronto's Little Italy -- loads of butter, cream, Parmesan, wine. In my old life, I'd satisfy that craving with a meal at one of my favourite restaurants.

But I've yet to find a good Italian pasta here in this part of Turkey, so in a burst of energy earlier this week I decided to take matters in my own hands and make gnocchi. I was motivated by a combination of my own Happiness Project and just wanting to eat pasta.

I researched recipes and settled on one of Mario Batali's from the Food Network, which you can see here. I admit I took liberties with the measurements; and having never made gnocchi before, I didn't know what consistency to look for in my dough. Nevertheless, I had fun mixing and kneading and rolling my dough into long snakes, then cutting them into little thumb-sized pieces and dropping them into boiling water. I dutifully fished them out as they rose to the surface and transfered them to an ice bath. It felt good, both to get my hands (and counter!) dirty, and to focus so intently on one task for an hour.

I ate a few immediately and even without the sauce thought they were quite good -- although admittedly not as melt-in-your-mouth-divine as I'd hoped they'd magically turn out to be.

As per Batali's instructions, I generously coated them in canola oil and put them in the fridge. I'd reheat them later that evening in a sauce and serve them for dinner.

But somewhere between making a great sauce and reheating the gnocchi, things went awry. The little dumplings fell apart with each gentle turn of the sauce and I soon had a mushy mess. It's amazing how important texture apparently is!

I didn't wallow in my disappointment, although I think if I hadn't had such a good time making the gnocchi, I would have been in tears. As it was, my positive mood allowed me to remember sarmısaklı köfte. The very next day I had our nanny teach me how to make them, and although they're labour intensive, I've promised myself to add them to my repertoire.

I'll leave the instructions to the experts and direct you to this recipe from Almost Turkish Recipes if you're interested in making "Turkish gnocchi."

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