Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
I’m taken by the city of Melbourne’s motto: Vires acquirit eundo (she gathers strength as she goes). I find it very fitting as my own mantra with Bare Feet™, traveling and dancing across the globe, strengthening my connection with this earth more and more with each place I visit. And since I have never stepped foot on Australian soil before, I thought it only right to make an attempt in the city’s upcoming Food & Wine Festival Recipe Challenge. The first two weeks of March will host the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival in the one of the world’s ‘most livable cities’ – a place of art, culture, and of course food. And with this challenge comes a great reward: the opportunity to traverse the globe and land my feet in the bustling city to attend this food mecca.
The one stipulation for the recipe is that it must be inspired by this year’s festival theme: earth. And what does that mean? Australia was an incredibly distant and unknown frontier when it was first colonized, with its rugged terrain and outback of indigenous Aboriginal people. Over generations, Australia’s history mimicked that of America’s post World War II era with an influx of immigrants. And I do occasionally hear stories of the Mallozzis that live in Australia, knowing they probably speak the same Minturnese dialect that we do back home, probably with a strange accent when they speak English, and probably cooking the same food passed down to them from the same grandmothers in our small town in Italy. Therefore, I have decided to be inspired by Australia’s local foods with an Italian influence, going back to my Italian roots (which I of course always love to do) and cooking a dish that truly comes from the earth: gnocchi.
Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms Serves: 4-6
For the gnocchi: 2-3 large potatoes 1 teaspoon of salt ½ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese ½ cup olive oil 1 egg 2 cups of all-purpose flour 1 cup of semolina flour
For the sauce: 4 tablespoons of olive oil 5 cloves of garlic 2 tablespoons of butter 1/4 teaspoon of salt 1 1/2 cup of wild mushrooms (I prefer a mixture of hedgehog, shitake, or oyster mushrooms) Grated Pecorino cheese for garnish
Paired well with a light Australian Pinot Noir!
To make the gnocchi, wash the potatoes and place them in a pot of water (leave the skin on). Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender (20 minutes or when you can stick a fork through the potatoes).
Remove the potatoes from the water and let them sit in in a colander to cool. Remove the skin from the potatoes (you can use your hands, as the skin should peel right off, just be sure the potatoes have cooled enough). Continue to let the potatoes sit for further drying in the colander (15-20 minutes), as more steam will be released once the potatoes are peeled.
Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl. Add the salt and gradually mix Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg and all-purpose flour while mixing with your hands, also slowly and intermittently adding the olive oil. You don’t want the gnocchi dough to be too wet, so add more or less flour and/or oil to keep at a drier consistency, and knead the dough.
Remove the dough from the bowl and cut into fist-size portions. Roll out in a tube shape, using extra flour so the dough won’t stick, so that the tube is about ¾ inch thick. Slice with a sharp knife every ½ inch so that the gnocchi look like little pillows. Once you slice the tube portion, place the gnocchi on a baking sheet with the semolina flour and mix gently (to slightly coat each piece with the flour – this will help absorb any extra moisture). Repeat these steps until all of the dough is sliced and sorted on the baking sheets. You can always store these gnocchi in the freezer for later use, as is on the baking sheet (once they are fully frozen, you can transport to Ziploc® bags).
As you prepare the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the gnocchi – don’t forget to add about ½ teaspoon of salt to the water and a dash of olive oil. You can cook the gnocchi in batches so that they don’t all stick together or turn to one big mushy mess. Gnocchi take about 4-6 minutes to cook – once they float to the top of the pot, they are done. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a slotted spoon once cooked and immediately place into the sauce skillet.
To prepare the sauce, clean and slice the wild mushrooms in quarter pieces, or even smaller if you prefer. Chop the garlic very fine, and simmer it quickly in a large skillet – just before the garlic begins to brown, throw in the chopped mushrooms, butter and salt and cook for about 8-10 minutes. You can let the sauce sit while the gnocchi continue to cook.
Once the gnocchi are added to the sauce skillet, mix until the gnocchi are covered – do this over very, very low heat. Remove and serve with grated Pecorino cheese, according to taste.
THE BARE FEET™ FIVE:
2. Festival: If you’re a foodie and love to travel, consider heading out to Australia to experience the festival for yourself! The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival will run March 1-17th, 2013 and hosts multiple options for master classes, workshops, and special events throughout the three weekends!
3. Feast: The festival will kick off with the highly anticipated Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch, followed by Put Victoria on Your Table: Cellar Door & Artisan Market, all taking place opening weekend!
4. Book it!: Registration for the festival begins February 1, 2013, which gives you plenty of time to find great travel deals – Qantas Airlines is the flag carrier of Australia and usually has the best rates! Master classes are already on sale and are filling up quickly, so be sure to book soon!
5. More Australia: If you can’t make the trip to Australia just yet, consider AFAR Magazine’s May 2013 AFAR Experience to Australia. You can join the editors of the travel magazine for an incredible trip!