Salon Dinner #19, part 1 – My Mom Carole’s Birthday and my Grammy Gladys’s Ricotta Gnocchi

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”  ~ Soren Kierkegaard


my mom and i

FaceBook post, from December 23rd, 2012 ~ “On the occasion of my mom’s 67th birthday, I brought together some of the people who have supported me over the past 15 years or so in the bay area..and have continually helped me in my life and work as a mother, wife, designer and academic thinker ~ from my mentor Professor Nelson Graburn (and his wife Kathy), my close friend and mentor Professor Laura Nader and my in-laws Bruce and Janet Bernberg, to my very very first assistant Katherine Summer O’Neal who has taught me so much about making clothes, my first model in my Shedding Skins show who has become my assistant designer and confidant Racheal Matthews, my dear friend Joy Brace and our close family friends Ashley and Eric McKinley; my amazingly supportive husband Lloyd and our crazy mind-blowing kids who bring me back to my own childhood and continually show me new ways to love.. and finally my mom…and for her my favorite birth day poem ~ “

“i thank You God for most this amazing day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes (i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth day of life and love and wings:and of the gay great happening illimitably earth) how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any-lifted from the no of all nothing-human merely being doubt unimaginable You? (now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)” ~ e.e. cummings

katherine summer o’neal, ashley mckinley, racheal matthews, baby talitha and joy brace


bruce bernberg, eric mckinley and lloyd


kathy graburn, bruce and janet bernberg


a toast…


various crostini, with arugula and white bean, and chèvre and cucumber


august, royal and my birthday amaryllis


happy birthday… with joy’s “molten chocolate oooozy cake”


katherine and i…


dr. laura nader, myself and dr. nelson graburn

Whenever my mom comes to town I think of anise cookies, pizzelles and gnocchi, and for her birthday I wanted to invoke that part of childhood that is conjured through taste (and smell) ~ my grammy Gladys Iannacone’s ricotta gnocchi. The night before the dinner, Royal, my mom and I hand-rolled the 200 plus gnocchi which were served with one of Lloyd’s amazing sugos, with meatballs… I always loved watching my gram in the kitchen doing what she did, which was make everything from scratch; and I always recalled her hands, her thumbs in particular, rolling each individual gnocchi with love and tenderness.


And i always remember the smell of the produce from my papa’s garden, him bending down to pick each vegetable at its perfection, and his arthritic hands snapping the stem and then handing me the goods, to take a bite out of. mmm. Sometimes i forget that this was in many ways one part of my growing up in Leominster, Massachusetts. Most of those closest to me can’t really imagine me picking and eating cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and strawberries straight from the garden. But there are times when a hint of strawberry smell, a crunchy bite into a cucumber, or the taste of a ricotta gnocchi brings me back instantly to childhood. These are my Proustian Madeleines… enjoy!

RECIPE ~ my grandma Gladys Iannacone’s RICOTTA GNOCCHI which goes well with a pork sugo (sugos by Joyce Goldstein or Elizabeth David, are my favorite; or equally as well with a simple butter with sage sauce to highlight the delicateness of the gnocchi (I like the simplicity of Mario Batali’s sauce):

Ingredients ~

* 5 cups of flour
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 2 eggs, slightly beaten
* 2 lbs of ricotta, whole milk

  • 1. Mix the flour and salt. Add eggs and then ricotta.
  • 2. Mix together until you have a smooth ball. Rest awhile.
  • 3. Knead again, briefly. Cut off a small piece, roll out into a log and cut in one inch pieces.
  • 4. Roll with thumb.
  • 5. These can be cooked immediately, or refrigerate for a couple hours, or over night. When ready treat as fresh pasta. Boil and salt water, add the gnocchi, and wait for them to rise to the top. Drain, and add your favorite sugo…


* sidenote: i first served these at salon dinner #11 (coming soon), as an homage to Chris Marker and one of my favorite films ever SANS SOLEIL (1983), one week after his death…this dinner was an homage to my grandmother, a few weeks after her passing…

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