garlic chive and parsley pesto beef + quinoa

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Ever wake up and realize something needs to change? That the life you’ve been living requires altering, a fine tuning or adjustment? Perhaps it’s the feeling of omnipotence after having finished a draft of my novel, but I decided to book a three-month reboot with a nutritionist/food coach/life-changer, determined to get my life back on track. While I realize that this is a sizeable investment, I didn’t flinch because nothing is more important than taking care of my body, which is my house, my permanent home.

A week ago I had dinner with an old former colleague turned friend, and we talked a great deal about food and body image, and how we, two healthy, strong women, still somehow ascribe to a certain ideal of what is beautiful and fit. We spoke of food, not just as sustenance, but as a means to connect and nourish people. We talked about being present in all aspects of our lives {she’s a mother-to-be and I’m…well, me} and she shared that she’s just as present in making food choices than anything else in her life. It put me to thinking that I’ve a habit of going on autopilot, reaching for what’s in front of me, eating by rote, and I kept thinking about this for the remainder of the weekend. While I eat clean and healthy, I’m not always present for my meal. Especially when I’m on-site with a client.

I guess I’ve been bummed because I’ve made such an investment in being strong and fit, and I’ve largely ignored diet as part of that equation. You can’t know how excited I am for the next three months. Not only do I plan to undergo a battery of tests to determine what is that I’m allergic to {I’m not even sure it’s dairy anymore as I got sick from making this delicious dish and I NEVER get sick from dried, grated cheese}, I’m excited that I have someone on call {text} to share menus, get encouragement when I’m NOT being present. Much like it took me a month to acclimate to exercising HARD 4-5 days a week {and that became a habit simply for the fact that I scheduled workout dates so I had to be accountable for showing up}, I know I will need someone to whom I’m accountable. I can no longer plan my meals in a vacuum. I’m also terrified/excited for the fridge/pantry analysis and cooking class. Naturally, I plan to document this whole experience on this space. I’m so thrilled for what’s to come.

Last night I spent the evening with one of my dearest friends, and I talked about how I’d been blue these past few weeks, and we shared a bathroom stall where I’d been changing, and she said, I know you’ve been going through some stuff, but your body has definitely changed in the past six months. You might not be able to see it, but it has. And when we left Brooklyn Body Burn, a woman approached me and asked how long I’d been taking classes because GIRL, you were working HARD.

You guys, I nearly welled up when she said, It was inspiring to watch you. You’re so STRONG. That put the world on pause and forced me to get some perspective. Forced me to try to see myself the way others see me.

ONWARD + UPWARD, folks.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb of ground sirloin, seasoned with salt + pepper
2 cups parsley, chopped
1 cup garlic chives, chopped {regular chives are fine}
1/2 cup pine nuts (or blanched slivered almonds)
1/2 pecorino romano
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup rinsed quinoa
2 cups water
1 tbsp pecorino romano for topping

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, add the water and rinsed quinoa and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is cooked and the water has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and let the quinoa rest for five minutes.

In a large skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the beef until it’s browned on all sides. While the beef is cooking, blitz up the parsley, chives, oil, cheese and nuts until it’s a paste. Add more olive oil if you desire a “wet” consistency. Add the pesto to the cooked beef. Add the quinoa to the pesto beef mixture, and serve with the reserve romano topping.

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ricotta chive + parsley pesto pasta

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunity and instinct. In January, I had a series of conversations with one of my two mentors, which was fraught with anguish, insecurity + doubt. Four years ago, I was confident, outspoken, strong-willed and determined, however, with the passing of each day, my job, and more specifically, my boss, made me doubt myself. Made me think that I was lesser than I was. While I take responsibility for the fact that people only affect you to the degree in which you allow them to, I couldn’t help but think that the years had been stolen from me. That I was, to a certain extent, manipulated. While I created the buttons, my boss knew how to push them to the point where I felt it was difficult to breathe. So when I sat down with my mentor, and spoke plainly about leaving, I wondered aloud about my self-worth.

Who would hire me? To which he responded, Are you fucking kidding me? Are you really being serious? The question isn’t who will hire you, it’s whether you’ll find something, a love, a passion, that will make you happy. It took a long time to absorb the weight of those words and believe that my greatness was possible, even when I had been lead to think otherwise. I needed to literally get out of the country and put some distance between myself and all the events that transpired after my leaving, including severing ties with people whose bitterness and anger threatened to pull me under, but now I’m finally at a place where I know my value and am unapologetic about shouting it from the rafters.

This weekend, as I made this dish for the work week ahead, I thought about a very exciting opportunity to lead a very formidable brand’s global social marketing efforts. The job was audacious in every sense of the word, and I contemplated picking up my life and moving out west, but something was off. Something didn’t feel right about it all, and before I embarked on a final round of interviews I pulled myself out of the running.

I wrote my very wonderful HR contact, and my potential boss, that the timing wasn’t right. I’d spent so long trying to architect a life where I’m able to write, build this postage stamp of an online home, and consult, that I’ve become protective of this life, and feel as if this opportunity would usurp it.

Naturally, I had a mini (translation: major) panic attack after I sent the emails, because there went the sense of security. There went the sure thing. Until I had lunch with my other mentor, who presented something even more ambitious. Something I wouldn’t have to pursue until the new year.

Try the idea out for size, she said. Think about it. Let’s keep talking.

Because when you deliberately close one small door, a giant one flings open. And it’s only when you allow yourself the space, clarity and quiet, then you’re able to listen, make choices about which doors to open and close.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb of ground sirloin, seasoned with salt + pepper
2 cups parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chives, chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 pecorino romano
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 lb whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
1 tbsp pecorino romano for topping

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DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet, fry the sirloin until brown, approximately 5-7 minutes. While the beef is cooking, boil the water for the pasta. Ever since Nigella Lawson said that pasta water should resemble the waters of the Mediterranean, I’ve been diligent about adding salt.

In a blender {or as luck would have it, a Vitamix), add all of your ingredients and blitz until you have a silky smooth pesto consistency. Stir in your ricotta cheese until well-blended. Set aside.

Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of water. Add the pasta to the beef, then add the pesto and the past water, and stir until all of the noodles are coated.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese.

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pasta with chive + parsley pesto

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When I woke this morning I had an intention for this post, which was going to be riddled with miniature rages played out in poetry, a treatise on how many of my friends aren’t who I thought they were, but after seven hours in the quiet space spent with my father, I came home with a markedly different perspective.

It’s strange, when you think about it, how many tears our body is capable of producing. Over the past three weeks I’ve cried all of them and then some. While I mourn the loss of my Sophie, I’m aware of the fact that I’m also struggling with a year of tremendous, sweeping change. For sixteen years I broke ranks in small offices and in buildings with multiple elevator banks, and now my days are mine to design. Amidst leaving a comfort that was always mildly uncomfortable, I suffered the greatest of losses. Part of me had begun to wonder if the losses were mounting, if they were becoming something incalculable. I spent sleepless nights imagining my father’s last breath shuddering out, and when I told him this today he said this: I’m going to die at some point, and I need you to be able to live through it. Because grief is something we need to endure, and we aren’t foolish for having loved in expectation of it.

Over chicken lettuce wraps at The Cheesecake Factory, I told my father that I’m frightened of losing everyone I love. I’m not good with loss, you know that. He shook his head and said something that reminded me of a quote: Just because the song ends doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the music. And in my father’s love, the enormity of his untarnished kindness and heart, I saw in him the music that I wanted to play on repeat. Songs I wanted to sing from the rafters.

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He listened as I talked about Sophie for most of the day. I rolled down the window while he drove, and we laughed over all the moments that made me love someone else more than I love myself. I told my father that there are so many people in my life who are uncomfortable with grief, who don’t know how to navigate a Felicia that isn’t in control, that is vulnerable and sad and not always on autopilot with the answers. And this breaks me in ways you can’t imagine, because have I always been the sort of person trapped behind a mask? No one could imagine that my heart is this big and that it has the capacity to splinter and break?

Am I the sort of person who people believe to be inhuman? Again, there’s the splintering and shards that tumble out.

My father and I spent the day doing the simple we love to do. I told him about this pesto I’ve been making, and he asked after the basil. I shook my head and said this is rogue, this was chive and parsley and beef all the way. Brave, he said.

I’m trying so hard, I said, to be brave.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, cavatelli)
1 lb ground sirloin, browned in a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese + 1 tbsp for topping
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS
While the sirloin is frying in a large skillet, cook your pasta in a large saucepan with water that’s salted like the Mediterranean.

In a food processor, blitz the parsley and chives until they’re a rough paste, then add the cheese, olive oil and salt/pepper, until you get a thick, unctuous pesto. When your pasta is done, reserve 1/4 of the pasta water, drain the rest, and add the pasta to the skillet where you’ve cooked your beef. Toss in the pesto and reserve pasta water until your noodles and beef are coated and verdant.

Add a sprinkling of cheese (and olive oil, if this is your fancy) to your dish and serve hot.

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multi-grain pizza with sirloin, arugula pesto + sundried tomatoes

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This week was a rollicking roller coaster, and next week proves to be equally as exhilarating, if not exhausting. From Sophie’s follow-up vet visit {please cross all applicable body parts}, to research and three-hour meetings, to an endless stream of calls, I’m going to need vats of coffee in preparation for the ride.

Right now, all I want to do is curl up with a video and my kitty, whilst sipping sparkling water and hoovering fresh slices of homemade pizza. You’ll find me seeking quiet and recharging the proverbial batteries, getting ready for the ticking, ticking.

INGREDIENTS Multi-grain pizza dough recipe couresty of Roo Cakes. Arugula pesto recipe courtesy of The Kitchn.
For the multigrain pizza dough (You can honestly get dough at the store. Don’t let this stress you out. Most markets sell pizza dough, as do many pizzerias)
2 cups warm water (approximately 110°F)
2 packages rapid rise yeast
4 tsp cane sugar
2 tsp salt
½ cup millet
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup wheat bran
5½ – 6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp olive oil

For the arugula pesto
1 1/2 cups arugula
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about about 2 tablespoons juice)
1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to salt pasta water
3 tbsp grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
Freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the ground beef
1/2 pound of lean ground sirloin
Salt/pepper to taste
1 tbsp of olive oil

Additional ingredients for the pizza
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
3/4 cup packed arugula

DIRECTIONS
For the multigrain pizza dough: In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine warm water and yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast dissolves. Add all other ingredients except the flour, and stir to combine. Now, switch to the dough hook. Add the flour one cup at a time (on medium speed), slowly, allowing the flour to incorporate into the dough. Depending on the time of year and your flour, you might get a dough that’s too dry. If so, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until the water is absorbed. If your dough is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is less sticky and more elastic. Beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the stand mixer and is elastic and not sticky (approximately 6-10 minutes)

Place the dough in a slightly greased large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot for 3-4 hours to rise, doubling in size.

For the arugula pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, blend arugula, basil, toasted walnuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt and a few grinds of pepper until well combined and smooth. Feel free to add extra olive oil if the pesto feels too thick or chunky.

For the sirloin: Add the olive oil, beef, salt and pepper to a medium-sized skillet, and cook until the beef is brown on all sides (5-6 minutes). Drain, set aside.

Making the pizza: Preheat the oven to 500F. You will have oodles and oodles of pesto, so you will only need 1/2-3/4 cup of the pesto for the pizza. I tend to make pesto in large batches so I can use during the week, so feel free to store the rest of your delicious mixture in an airtight container, and use during the week for pasta, chicken, sandwiches, etc.

On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, drizzle pizza dough with 1 tablespoons oil and stretch or roll into a 16-inch-long oval. Add 1/2-3/4 cup of the pesto, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the dough. Add the sirloin, sundried tomatoes, and cook for 13-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Once out of the oven, allow to cool for 2-3 minutes and top with the fresh arugula. Slice + serve!

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the road to delicious: parsley + chive pesto

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Those who know me well know of my passion for pesto. I’ve blitzed every green you could potentially imagine, and only once did I feel as if I created an enormous failure (I don’t care what the cookbooks or slick bloggers say, sage pesto is catastrophic unless you blend it heavily with a lighter leaf like basil, spinach of flat-leaf kale to cut the soapiness). However, when I opened up Bon Appetit‘s summer issue, I couldn’t resist the allure of the two greens I haven’t conquered: parsley + chives.

On my way home from the market, I wondered why beef got relegated to the red sauce lot — rarely do I ever see a sirloin paired with the verdant sauce, and I never understood why. Are we tied to silly food rules that dictate white wine must always pair with fish and rosemary must always complement lamb? So I ran back to the market, scored some beef, and set out for a dish that would be insanely delicious.

Suffice it to say, I’m addicted to the unexpected juxtaposition of the sharp chives with the almost sweet and delicate parsley. The pesto was savorier than those I normally make, and it stood up well against the grilled beef, lending a depth of flavor that I have yet to experience. If I can implore you to do one thing this summer, it’s this: eat beef with pesto. You won’t regret it.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, with slight modifications
1 pound fresh fettucini or linguine pasta
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted almonds
4 cups (packed) fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
3/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper + sea salt, to taste
1 lb ground sirloin + 2 tsp of olive oil for the pan

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DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add the olive oil, beef and salt + pepper to taste. Cook until the meat is brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes.

While the beef is cooking, blitz the pesto ingredients (almonds, parsley, chives, olive oil and cheese) in a food processor (or you can opt for the mortar + pestle method) until smooth + creamy. I’ll add the salt/pepper to taste after all the ingredients have been incorporated.

Once the beef is done, set aside. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Toss pasta and pesto in a large bowl, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4-cupfuls until saucy. Add in the beef. Season with salt and pepper.

the siren song of beef: dining @ hotel palomar in dallas, texas

Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas
May I be frank? Hotel dining is abysmal, at best. From the tepid, undercooked cheeseburgers to the iceberg lettuce salads, room service has often reminded me of cafeteria mystery meat and women in hairnets slinging sloppy joes, circa 1991. Simply put, hotel food can be its own horror movie. My work requires that I travel quite a bit, so eating in the confines of a hotel while perched in front of a laptop has its minor conveniences.

However, color me SHOCKED AND AMAZED when I chowed at Hotel Palomar in Dallas.

Nobody does beef like Texas.

Shying away from the busy cocktail hours and sloe-gin buzzing, I settled outdoors as the sky threaten to open up and pour rain. As soon as I was brought a selection of whipped butter, pimento cheese, and spicy salmon tapenade, I knew Hotel Palomar was THE BUSINESS — namely, the business of serving up unbelievable cuisine. After Dyson’ing the bread basket, I feasted on the finest piece of filet I’ve had in YEARS. Tender, slightly sweet, the steak was slathered in a bacon reduction. I mean, HONESTLY. Who says no to BACON?

Accompanied by savory whipped garlic potatoes and white beans, I continued to be bowled over by the impeccable, perfectly-seasoned food, the fantastic service, and the attention to detail. As someone who adores food, I always look for the little things, the touches. The sear on a steak that caramelizes the meat, the pimento cheese, the creamy texture of the beans juxtaposed with the charred beef — these are all the things that make a meal exceptional. Often, the best meals are made from the simplest ingredients and techniques: locally-sourced food, well-seasoned and a careful consideration of pairings.

So if your travels take you to Dallas and you’re holed up in a hotel working, I invite you to check into the Hotel Palomar and feast away!

Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas
Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas
Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas
Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas
Dining at the Hotel Palomar, Dallas, Texas