vegetarian chili (grain + gluten-free)

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Have you ever looked at your house and realized it was your home? I’ve spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood as a nomad, moving from apartment to apartment, and home had become the place where my mail was forwarded. Until this year. Until I walked into another apartment in my building on a cold night in February and felt like I was finally home. My apartment is simple, spacious and although the kitchen is a bit smaller than I’d like, I’ve made some of the best meals in this space. I’ve toasted the success and comforted the pain of some of my closest friends.

On Thanksgiving, everyone prattled off a list of things for which they’re grateful. I felt odd doing this because I express gratitude, quietly, to myself, every day. I’m grateful for having changed perspective when it comes to my body–caring for it like a house I want to maintain instead of burn and ruin. I’m grateful for my health, my life and for the ability to write. And I’m most grateful for the fact that I’ve spent a decade cultivating a small group of close friends whom I consider a family.

One of those lights spent some time in my apartment last night, her visit was a needed respite as I’ve been editing like mad and going a little bonkers in my solitude. I made this chili for her and can I tell you she had three small bowls of it? It’s that good. THAT GOOD. This coming from two proud carnivores.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp mild chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chipotle in adobo
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup puy (French) lentils, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Big pinch coarse salt
3 tbsp tomato paste

DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, & black pepper. Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the chipotle & stir to combine.


Turn the heat up to high, add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them a bit with your wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low & simmer for 40 minutes.


Add the lentils and beans. Fill one 14-ounce can with water (or broth) & add it to the pot, along with the salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, & simmer for 40 minutes.


Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the flavors are melded.

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a woman encounters the AREPA

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If my friend Amber were here right now, I’d give her a pony. And possibly an orange kitten for good measure. All because she introduced me to the glory that is the AREPA. In my humble opinion, arepas are next-level tacos. A corn-based flatbread indigenous to Colombia and Venezuela, arepas have a doughy, yet crunchy texture, and are the perfect haven for all sorts of fixings.

AND AREPAS ARE GLUTEN-FREE.

Today, I fixed mine with leftover chopped chicken, chickpeas, kale and mixed greens. Clearly, I plan to add arepas to my repertoire. I’m envisioning pulled pork and veg, roasted vegetables, and taco beef.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Bon Appetit
2 cups arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Desired fillings (such as shredded cooked chicken or pork, stewed black beans with cheese and lime, corn salad with onion and fresh herbs; for serving)
Lime wedges (for serving)

Note: Arepa flour is precooked corn flour, not to be confused with masa harina. Sometimes sold as masarepa or harina precocida, it can be found in Latin markets and some supermarkets.

DIRECTIONS
Combine arepa flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add 2½ cups warm water. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients, stirring until no dry lumps remain. Let rest 5 minutes to hydrate.

Knead dough a few times in bowl, then divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece on work surface into a ball, then gently flatten to about ½” thick.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 arepas, cover, and cook until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Uncover, flip, and cook (keep uncovered) until other side is golden brown, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer arepas to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and dough. Let the arepas cool for 10 minutes. Split arepas and stuff with desired fillings (I used chopped up chicken, chickpeas and kale sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper); serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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pasta, I’m quitting you

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When I first stopped drinking, I was devastated. For days I wept in the shower with the spigot turned all the way to hot. I was heartbroken not because I was an addict (well, I suppose, that was partly the reason), but because I adored wine. I was a woman who took trips to vineyards, packed bottles of red in her suitcase, and sought out classes to understand the depth and complexity of wine–from grape to barrel. I loved the austerity of a Sancerre and the carnivorous profile of a rioja; nothing compares to pairing a fine meal with a glass of wine.

Except, of course, sobriety. Nothing comes close to the clarity of living a life without the sauce can bring. Trust me on this. I’ve drunk the ocean and feel no better for it.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve decided to kick pasta, for good. Because nothing compares to how nourished and sated I felt before this small dish of cacio e pepe. Tonight was an evening spent with one of my beloveds, and it was a splurge night, so why not? Even before I entered the restaurant, I had my reservations. Considered the chicken under a brick. Reconsidered.

As I was eating my pasta, I started to feel wrong. Know that feeling, that full-body warmth, you experience after you’ve had that first glass of wine? The way your eyes want to close and all you want to feel is the prickly numbness of it? That’s how I felt tonight, sitting in front of a dear friend, not being present. And then the stomach cramps, the itchy skin, the pain and the feeling of boulders under my skin–everything I hadn’t felt only two hours before. How is it that a love can ravage? How is it that the object of your affection becomes tired, old, something like a projector playing old movies?

In the midst of eating, I received an email from my agent. He told me my book was tricky in all the best ways, remarkable and magnificent. Yes, it needs editing, but it’s good. Dare I say great, and all the while I kept thinking, are you fucking kidding me, my stomach hurts this much? Are you kidding me that a thing I thought I loved is again interrupting my happiness? Distracting me from it.

I wondered if writing this even merited a blog post, but tonight was about awareness, and that realization translates into self-care. Because I never thought I’d be happy without drinking, and I am. So much so.

It’s not about what you remove, but what you add. These minor losses pale in comparison to what is gained. So perhaps this realization is worth sharing.

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Last image snapped by my friend Meg. Her rigatoni looks DIVINE, no?

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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corn, summer squash + zucchini fritters + a mini-rant on blogger trust

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This week I experienced the sort of rage that keeps you up pacing at night. The kind of rage where you pound out tweet after tweet, because you have to let the world know about your disappointment. I have to talk to you about blogger responsibility, trust and how a betrayal of that trust can be devastating.

And yes, we’ll get to these fritters.

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through one of my favorite design and home decor sites. Vising this space is akin to getting lost in a great, old book–the pictures are coffee-table worthy, evocative and inspiring; when reading the posts, you feel as if your smarter best girlfriend is telling you about all the things you need in order to outfit your home. So when I discovered a series of photographs of an artist, which was available for purchase on Artfully Walls, I was JUBILANT. I even went so far as to do thing I rarely do: post a rave on my website even before the print arrived on my doorstep, because I made the critical error of trusting someone with whom I don’t have a personal connection, so much so that I allowed it to blind my judgment. Part of me is angry with myself for linking to Artfully Walls on this space before I received my item–something I will NEVER, EVER do again.

When I received the print, for which I’d pay $70, it was packaged in a file folder, without cardboard, and as a result, the “print” was bent and folded in places. The actual print itself was a piece of Xerox paper, of which the actual photo took out 40% of the page, while the remainder of the print-out was dedicated to Artfully Walls branding, and a Limited Edition seal, which marred the actual photo. Not only was the print on flimsy stock paper {I can’t even call this stock paper without laughing}, but I essentially spent $70 on a piece of paper I couldn’t frame and hang proudly on my wall. Heartbreaking, considering the photographer is exceptionally talented. I’ve purchased dozens of prints over the years; I have a watch. I KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS. And the time on Artfully Walls is 24-hours of WACKNESS.

Perhaps I’m still reeling from wasting $70, however, I’m starting to realize that I can’t trust bloggers whom I don’t know personally. Having worked in an agency that curried the favor of influencers with trips, product, and $, and then seeing a slew of bloggers who write sponsored post after sponsored post gushing about the things they’re paid to love, or promoting a friend’s product in an effort to do them a solid–I’ve become skeptical, suspicious.

Even the bloggers we love have the capability of being bought, influenced. They are capable of making grave errors in judgment.

I won’t disclose where I originally heard about Artfully Walls, as I’ve traded some comments with the blogger who seemed genuinely disappointed and upset on my behalf, however, I firmly believe that if you’re going to post a link to buy something, you need to stand behind what you post. Because if I trust you enough to buy the thing of which you’re promoting, trust is abandoned once that purchase is anything less than extraordinary.

How does this relate to fritters, you ask? Over a year ago I penned reviews for Medium, and I was privileged enough to receive cookbooks to review on the platform. I’ve since given up writing on all spaces, save this one, however, a kind publicist sent me Vibrant Food for editorial consideration. I love this book. So much so that I ordered it for a friend when it went on sale this week. I can’t WAIT until I give her a wrapped gift this weekend! I know what I’m about to say is controversial, but I don’t want to talk about anything on this space unless I’ve purchased the product with my own money and I can vouch for its awesomeness.

Because nothing hurts more than someone who visits your space and says: YOU SUCK.

But believe me when I say that Kimberley Hasselbrink’s book is nothing short of extraordinary. So much so, that I’ve made seven recipes out of the book, all successful, and I feel even better about recommending the book because I’ve purchased a copy. I’ve also showed this to a few friends — from novice cooks to those who have food allergies — and I can’t get over the wide-eyes and gaped mouths because not only are the photographs bold and beautiful, but the recipes are ones you want to immediately make. I’m posting one final recipe from the book because, quite frankly, you need to buy it. If there is one cookbook you need to buy this season, this is IT.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Vibrant Food {Know that I plan to purchase a few more copies as holiday gifts!}
2 small ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/2 cup grated zucchini {or green squash}
1/2 cup grated yellow squash
1/2 to 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced.
5 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Using a sharp knife, slowly slice the kernels off the corn on the cob. Add the zucchini, squash, jalapeño, green onion, basil, cilantro, and salt. Add the egg and mix until evenly combined. Add 1/4 cup of flour, mixing again until combined. My batter was on the wet side, so I added a tbsp at a time from the remaining 1/4 cup of reserve flour until the mixture was moist. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and using a 1/4 cup measure, drop 3-4 fritters into the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes a side until the edges are brown, and flip to cook for another 4 minutes. Place the fritters on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat twice more with remaining batter, using an additional tbsp of oil between each fry.

Serve the fritters warm. DELICIOUS!

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green rice salad with nectarines + corn

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For a few short moments it stormed today. If you were in New York, you walked and brunched and laughed in sunshine, and then a moment later: darkness. Rain. Coming down in sheets. I cut a brunch with a friend short because of an email I’d received about my father and his health. I spent the next hour in the middle of a street in Williamsburg on the phone, gathering information, and trying not to get angry at my father, who is possibly the most stubborn man I’ve ever known. Although he’s not my birth father, we strangely share many of the same traits: we appear tough on the outside, yet we’re extremely sensitive. And we’re big on saying, I’M FINE. I’M JUST FINE. When it’s clear that we are anything but fine.

So while I’m on the phone with my dad–and he’s pulling the JUST FINE line, and I’m calling him on it because it’s one I’ve used ad nauseum–it storms. You’re really pulling this shit on me? You’re really playing back the tape we both made? I’m in the middle of N. 6th Street trying to convince my dad that he needs to see a doctor. That this is real fucking life, and can you not yes me to death, please?

I took a cab home and the first thing I did was make a meal, because this is how I deal. I open a cookbook that bears the promise of light–a beautiful book filled with abundance and color, and, for a moment I can breathe. Kimberley Hasselbrink doesn’t know me, but today her cookbook gave me the gift of breath. My meditation is shucking corn and making pesto. My return to self is creating something from nothing.

This is how I breathe.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season {I received this lovely book as a gift}
For the green rice
3/4 cup brown basmati rice {I used white, as that’s what I had on hand}
1 1/4 cups water + 1-2 tbsp for the sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Zest + juice of a small lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine sea salt

For the grilled corn
2 ears fresh corn, husks and skin removed
Olive oil
Fine salt
1/2 lime

For assembly
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 medium-sized nectarines, pitted and sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 cup crumbled quesa fresca {I nixed this because of my ongoing dairy issues}

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DIRECTIONS
In a saucepan, combine the rice and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and summer, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes {truth be told, my rice was done in 15}/ Let the rice stand for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Pre-heat the broiler.

To grill the corn, lightly oil both ears of corn and place in a small baking dish. Broil about 6 inches from the heat source, turning every few minutes, until golden and blackened in spots, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob to yield about 1 cup. If you have more than this amount, save it for another use. Transfer the kernels to a bowl and toss with pinch of salt and a squeeze of a lime. Set aside.

Transfer the rice to a large bowl. In a blender, combine the cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, lime zest and juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbsp of water. Blend until smooth. Add up to one more tbsp of water to thin the sauce if it’s too thick. Spoon the mixture over the rice, scraping any remaining sauce out of the blender with a spatula, and mix until the rice is evenly coated.

To finish, add the corn and additional parsley and cilantro to the rice. Toss to combine. Transfer the rice to a serving platter. Sprinkle the nectarines and queso fresco over the rice in even layers. Garnish with additional parsley + cilantro. Best served immediately. Can be made up to one day in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.

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mexican quinoa

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After two straight days of writing {decks, strategies, articles}, I found myself lying on my floor, fearing the computer screen. I’m keeping it quiet around these parts today, with the exception of a fun group workout tonight, but know that I Hoovered this quinoa like it was my last meal on earth. The dish is the gift that keeps on giving. Also, cheese.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Kitchen Simplicity, with slight tweaks. Snaps to Hitha for the lead.
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of kosher salt
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1¼ cups chicken broth
1 can (1½ cups) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn {I used frozen corn and let it sit on the counter for an hour}
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 quarter of a lime, juiced

DIRECTIONS
Add the olive oil to a medium-sized pot set over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, jalapeños and a pinch of kosher salt to the pan and stir until combined and fragrant {30 seconds to a minute}.

Mix in the quinoa, broth, beans, corn, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, cheese and lime juice. Spoon into bowls and serve with sour cream, tortillas, tomatoes, the lot!

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almond crusted chicken

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about my body. Not the shape of it, not the slope of a hip, but I’ve been thinking about my insides. At the same time I read an insipid blog post about a woman who just turned 31, and her greatest lamentation in life was her inability to remain effortlessly bone-thin whilst hoovering chicken fingers at a rapid clip. The post put me to thinking of a girl I knew in college who ate the most horrifying food — arteries clogged or bust was her mantra, as she stewed everything in a vat of margarine — yet remained lithe. Once I joked and said, I may have ten pounds on you but you’ll be dead in thirty years. It was all ha ha, and let’s toss back another drink, but now I think less about the size of my hips and more about the kind of food that’s going in my body.

In 2004, I remember cleaning out my kitchen cabinets and nearly having a stroke after reading all the labels. The foods that I had perceived to be healthy — Nutri-Grain bars, granola cereals — were filled with sugar, preservatives and the evil HFCS. Since then, I’ve eaten clean {as much as I can control}, and lately I’ve been devoting more thought toward sugar, and how I can winnow out simple carbohydrates.

Can I tell you that my weakness, my proverbial Achilles heel, is pasta? Dressed in pesto, baked in bechamel, this white goddess is a predator posing as a house pet, and my doctor told me, in no uncertain terms, that I have to chill. Over the past year, it’s been a battle, especially in those stressful moments, to be mindful of food diversity. Not only do I cook and bake with alternative ingredients {coconut oils, gluten-free flours}, but I’ve made an effort to make simple swaps in my day {protein-packed smoothies versus bagels, apples and palm oil-free almond butters instead of cereal bars}, and I’ve absolved to imbue my diet with lean protein.

While it’s true that I made chicken with a bit of butter, I swapped out the canola oil for coconut {perfection with the almonds} and used a gluten-free panko instead of breadcrumbs, and while I’d normally be eating a second dinner after having pasta, I’m SO FULL, POST CHICKEN.

I invite you to make this recipe because it’s perfect for those nights when you want to face-plant into the nearest cushion, and it’s salvation for those nights when you want to eat pasta out of the pot.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart, with slight modifications, via The Budget Babe
3/4 cup panko {I used the gluten-free kind}
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
2 tsp water
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), split
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, broken into pieces
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp coconut oil

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, season bread crumbs with salt and pepper. Place eggs in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons water, and beat lightly. Dip chicken in egg, wiping away excess with your fingers, and dip in bread-crumb mixture. Dredge until lightly coated. Dip in egg again, and coat thoroughly with almonds.

Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, and turn over. Cook 1 minute more; then transfer pan to oven, and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

lasagne bolognese al forno {translation: the best lasagne you’ll ever make}

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Who just up and abandons a stack of Gourmet magazines in mint condition? Who retires a magazine, rich with 65+ years of gastronomic history and the stories traded in the company of our beloveds, to the recycling bin? On my way to the city yesterday, I paused in front of a few large brown boxes filled to the brim with back issues of Gourmet from the years 2004-2007. Perhaps I’m insane but I took as many issues as I could carry and took some on my return trip home. While I have a relatively clutter-free home and I live pretty minimally, Gourmet is the only, worthy exception in breaking my sparsity rule.

Gourmet is the reason you break every rule.

On the subway I rifled through the issues and found myself captivated by the April 2006 cover — an austere white plate showcasing a decadent slice of lasagna bolognese. Clearly I felt compelled to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon making the grand dame of baked pastas, and as Edith Piaf once so sagely crooned, I have no regrets.

This is the sort of lasagne you want to pull apart with your hands. It’s primal, intensely flavorful and delicious. I’ve no shame admitting that I stood over my kitchen counter and dove right in with a fork and an appetite. Friends, Romans, Countrymen, PLEASE DO THE SAME.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Mario Batali for Gourmet, April 2006
For the Ragu Bolognese:
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 carrot, finely, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 pound veal, ground {I used beef}
1 pound pork, ground
1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground
1/2 tube tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine {I used red wine, a Montepulciano}
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

For the Lasagna al Forno {you can also use homemade lasagne sheets purchased from gourmet food shops, as I did}:
4 extra-large eggs
6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry and chopped very fine
3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting the work surface
1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the Besciamella:
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

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DIRECTIONS
For the ragu bolognese: In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

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For the lasagna al forno: Combine eggs and spinach. Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and spinach mixture and the olive oil. Using a fork, beat together the spinach, eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine.

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stove top. Cut the pasta into 20 (5-inch) squares and drop into the boiling water. Cook 1 minute, until tender. Drain well and refresh in the ice bath. Drain on towels and set aside.

For the besciamella: In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside. Your bechamel should be thick and lump-free.

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For assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a brownie pan, assemble the lasagne, beginning with a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano etc. until all sauce and pasta are used up. The top layer should be pasta with bechamel over it. Top the lasagne with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

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packing lunch for the week: easy skillet lasagna

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INGREDIENTS: 1lb ground sirloin | 1lb tagliatelle {or any flat/wide noodle} | 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped | 4-8oz of your favorite homemade tomato sauce. I’m giving you a wide range, as I tend to like my pastas on the dry side, lightly dressed with sauce | 1/2 cup pasta cooking water | 6oz fresh mozzarella cheese |2oz fresh goat cheese | pecorino romano, salt, pepper to taste.

DIRECTIONS: Pre-heat oven to 350F | In a cast iron skillet, add about a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, and saute the meat until brown | While the meat cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta and cook to al dente | Once the meat has browned, add the sauce and basil | Once the pasta is al dente, add the pasta water and pasta to the skillet and toss to coat | Add the cheeses and mix to combine | Bake the lasagna for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted | Add pecorino to taste.

herbed arugula pesto chicken with pasta

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“The violence of this erasure needs to be exposed. While “do what you love” sounds harmless and precious, it is ultimately self-focused to the point of narcissism. Jobs’ formulation of “do what you love” is the depressing antithesis to Henry David Thoreau’s utopian vision of labor for all. In “Life Without Principle,” Thoreau wrote,

… it would be good economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for the love of it. “-Miya Tokumitsu, “In the Name of Love”

I’ve been thinking about this notion of doing what you love lately, in light of a comment my friend made when I expressed frustration over not defining concretely what it is I want to do with my life. I was adamant about this sort of work being the thing that lights skies, something so pure that it borders on an idyll, and she relayed that maybe I wasn’t meant to know you, that maybe this journey I’m on is the work. On the subway ride home I gave thought to when I’ve been happiest, and my joy comes from an odd mixture of pursuits. I love being challenged by marketing to consumers, creating organizational models and workflows, and sometimes I even revel (if you can believe it) in the telenovela-esque drama that accompanies execution of the above. Yet, I also love the intimacy of being alone, of writing and baking and not feeling as if I have to make a job out of doing both. I guess what I mean to say is that I like the juxtaposition of challenge and work and the freedom of non-work, and more importantly, my ability to control how much time I can devote to the two. For me, turning my creative side into something that drives monetary gain feels wrong, somehow taints the art for me, reduces it to something rote whereas it can be something that does not define itself (and its success) solely on the terms of how much money can be derived from it.

For a time I believed that I should only pursue that which I love, however, when I gave this a bit of thought I realized that, akin to the argument Tokumitsu makes, that ideology is an exercise in flights of fancy. It also doesn’t truly suit me. I have real, pragmatic financial obligations, which can’t be tossed aside for hopping on planes and jetting around the world for months at a time, but I don’t mind having to work really hard to be able to take off weeks at a time to travel to the places I only dreamed of, to take yoga classes during the day and spend more time with the people I love because I have time. To me, that’s the great gift in all of this, time.

Perhaps this is a winded way of saying that what I love is balance, is having all of my creative and intellectual children playing nice in the sandbox, as it were.

Come Sundays, I prepare my lunch for the week, for I work three days in an office, one day at home, and the rest of the time is devoted to the creative play that fuels me for the next week. I’m thoughtful in what I make and how I pack my lunches, and while my commute is long and sometimes challenging, and the frenzy of office life can be subsuming, I don’t feel the anger and bitterness that once consumed me, because I finally feel as if I have control over my time.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb pasta
1 lb chicken strips, sliced into one-inch cubes
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese
Arugula pesto (recipe)

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, add 1 tbsp olive oil, chicken, rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat, cover with plastic wrap, and leave for 20 minutes, at room temperature. Make the arugula pesto, and set it aside.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir and cook until al dente (1-2 minutes below the cooking time as labeled on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the herbed chicken, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a large, hot cast iron skillet. Don’t stir too much, but cook until all sides are brown, 6-8 minutes. Add the pesto to the chicken to coat.

Drain the pasta, add it to the chicken and stir to combine. Add cheese and serve hot!

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