An Expat Mom on the Move

A Walk in the Woods (Aubergine Wrapped Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce)

April 14, 2015
El & Lil at Reintalersee

This past weekend was the first warm, sunny weekend of the year.  Our village was a ghost town - no one, nada, zip - except for a few souls wandering here and there.  Where was everyone?  Why they were all NOT at home and wandering in the great outdoors!

In Norwegian, there is a word,  friluftsliv, which means "free air life'.  It's a way of life - to explore and appreciate the outdoors.  While, it's normal in the states to often find yourself glued to the tube on a Sunday (hello, that's when the sports are on!), here in Germany, it's almost sacreligious to be stuck inside on a beautiful day.  (Hey, stubenhocker! (or maybe, couch potato, as its nearest English translation?))

I think I've even caught a little of this bug... Harry offered a full day off without the girls to me on Sunday.  And at first, I thought, Cool! A full day in peace and quiet! But, it didn't take long before I changed my mind and wanted to get outside, too.  I can do anything else during the week... but I can't let a beautiful day go to waste!

So, off we went on a Sunday road trip!

This week it wasn't a long trip by car... this trip we would make mostly ON FOOT!!

Not far from our village of Hall, my husband found a lake with an easy foot path surrounding it.
It was called Reintalersee near Kramsach.  In the summer, this lake is one of the warmest lakes around, and it is covered with sunners and bathers - there's even a nude beach!


One of Six Lakes Surrounding Kramsach

The Foot Path Takes About an Hour (without kids)

The Fischerstube, A Nice Pitstop

A Sisterly Chat

Throwing Rocks - Watch Out, Mr. Ducky!!

Leader of the Pack

Interesting Mushrooms

Signs of Damage from Last Week's Major Storm

Tall Lakeside Grass

By the time we made it back full circle to the car, the girls and Coco were pooped.  We spent a good five hours outside enjoying the fresh air, the mountains, and a yummy lunch.

Back home, I got to work getting dinner ready... and although the recipe calls for an overnight stay in the fridge, I like to live dangerously and skipped this step. Instead, I added some bread crumbs to get the mixture ready for action.  Dinner was an hour away, and I had to move fast!

And, did I mention it's hard for me to find ricotta cheese in my neck of the woods?  So, I made a quick cup from scratch with some milk and cream I had in the fridge.

I toasted about 50 grams of pine nuts (30 grams for the mix and 20 grams to toss on the top).

Then, I got started!

This dish is great on so many levels - it's rich and cheesy, soft and pillowy inside, wrapped in roasted eggplant (Did I tell you I'm a fan?), and drenched in crispy sage, pine nuts, and melted butter???  Ottolengthi - you are a genius!

And, it looks like it took a lot of work - but I got it ready in less than 1 1/2 hours!  (Yes, I cheated, I didn't let it set in the fridge overnight... but honestly, I've cheated twice... and it was delicious both times!)

Buon Appetito!

Aubergine-Wrapped Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook, pg. 28
Printable Version

2 small aubergine (eggplant)
4 Tbsp olive oil
20g unsalted butter, melted
15g Parmesan cheese, grated

For the Gnocchi:
30g pine nuts, toasted
250g ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
35g plain flour
40g Parmesan cheese, grated
1Tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp nutmet, grated
salt and pepper

For the Sage Butter Sauce:
90g unsalted butter, melted
20 sage leaves
pinch salt

1. Dry roast the pine nuts til golden brown.
2. Transfer to large bowl and add ricotta, egg yolks, flour, Parmesan, herbs, nutmeg, and salt/pepper.  Stir well and cover.
3. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. 
4. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 4-5mm thick slices.  Roast for 20min til tender and golden.
5. Prepare to shape the gnocchi mix - add a few spoons of bread crumbs.  Use your eye to gauge when it's too wet to hold shape in the boiling water and when it's getting too dry.  You want it just dry enough to hold its shape.
6.  Make quenelle shapes with two spoons.
7.  Drop each into a pot of salted gently boiling water. (Rapid boiling can destroy your freshly made gnocchi!)
8.  They are done when they float to the surface.  Remove with a slotted spoon or equivalent.  Place onto plate lined with paper towel to drain excess water.  Brush with some melted butter.
9.  Eggplant should be ready.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Wrap each around the buttered gnocchi.  Place seam side down in a buttered oven proof dish.
10.  Make the sage butter - melt butter into a pan over medium heat.  Simmer for a few minutes til butter is light golden brown.  Remove from heat and add sage and salt.  Return the pan to heat, giving it a few seconds to heat up uniformly.
11.  Drizzle the sage butter on top of the wrapped gnocchi.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until you hear everything is sizzling.
12.  Toss the remaining pine nuts on top... a few dashes of grated parmesan cheese... and serve!

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