creamy tomato basil pasta (vegan/gluten-free…I know, but it’s really good)

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You should know that I used to be addicted to pasta. As someone who used to drink men under the table, under the floorboards, I know a bit about compulsion, about the need to feel anesthetized. To be here, but not really, and you know how it is. It got to a point where I went through several boxes of pasta a week. I’d have a pesto pasta for lunch and gnocchi for dinner, and I’d only post a photo of a kale salad or green smoothie, but you know all about that faux Insta life–it’s proliferated all over the internet to a point where one could call it a disease.

When my doctor and nutritionist broke the news, that even after these nine months of living gluten-free I can never eat like I had before, I was practically catatonic. I kept asking how did this happen? How did I allow myself to get to this place? How had I substituted a glass of red wine for a seemingly demure plate of cacio e pepe? Had I been asleep for the bulk of my waking life to only wake to a smack in the face? When I learned that I could only have gluten OR dairy once a week, that pasta would soon be relegated to an occasion meal, it took a while to accept this. It took a good two weeks to overcome my withdrawal from gluten.

Even now, even when there are so many terrific gluten-free pasta options (I found Bioitalia while I was in Spain and I’m hooked), I have to be careful. Because I’m swapping out gluten for rice, potato and other starches, which are fine in moderation but don’t for a healthy, balanced diet make. And I’ve got this thing for developing unhealthy attachments to specific foods (Exhibits A, B, C: pasta, avocados, chickpeas–all of which required individually-deployed fatwas). So know that when I post a pasta recipe it better be a DAMN GOOD ONE because I can’t have it for another week or two.

You should know that cashew/almond cream is the best thing to have entered my life since Cup4Cup flour. The combination yields the creamy texture and taste of heavy cream without the bloat and the sickening full feeling that invariably happens when you feast on any dairy-rich dish.

Trust me on this.

Part of me wishes I’d never found this recipe because now I have leftovers in the fridge that I can’t touch until the end of the week. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GLUTEN STRUGGLE? It’s real, friends. Real.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, with modifications
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews (soaked for 2 hours, or overnight)
1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
9 ounces uncooked gluten-free pasta (basically 3/4 of a package)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, drained (I use San Marzano)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 handfuls baby kale
1 cup packed fresh basil, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Start by soaking the cashews. Place the cashews in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse. Blitz the nuts and almond milk in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy (approximately 1 minute). Set aside.

Boil water and cook pasta according to instructions on package.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add tomatoes and kale and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat, until the kale is wilted.

Stir in the cashew cream, basil, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until heated through.

Drain the pasta (reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water) and add it to the sauce. Add the reserve pasta water, and stir to combine well, cooking for a few minutes until heated through.

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roasted veggie salad

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When you come home from work and you are absolutely DONE with chicken, I’ve found that this roasted vegetable salad is saving me from the road to ruin. I’ve written about this salad before, however, I’ve since added a kit + kaboodle of veggies to the mix. My recent remixes include: kale (curly kale is best), brussels sprouts, violet + orange cauliflower, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) to the mix. Any veggie worth roasting deserves to be in this dish. Last night I came home and threw all the goods in the pan, making sure I struck a balance between cruciferous + colored greens. And believe me when I say that nothing compares to a hot bowl of charred veg slathered in a faux-cream sauce while watching old episodes of Gossip Girl.

Though I still miss my beloved SCONE. I need to keep that real.

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brunch for two: lemon chicken + roasted veg salad

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LEMON CHICKEN INGREDIENTS: 2 large {or 4 small} chicken cutlets pounded to 1/2 inch thick | 1 cup whole wheat flour | 1 tsp cracked black pepper +1 tsp sea salt| Zest + juice of one lemon | 1 lemon sliced thin | 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil |

LEMON CHICKEN DIRECTIONS: Mix the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and flour in a large bowl | Dredge the cutlets so both sides are covered | In a large pan melt the butter + olive oil | Add the chicken and lemon juice | Fry for 3-5 minutes per side | Remove the chicken from the pan, and add them to a bed of your roasted veggie salad {I added 2 cups of kale + an additional tbsp of oil to the original recipe} and add the sliced lemon, and fry for a minute on each side until the slices are golden brown | Add the slices and remaining juices to your culets | Serve pipping hot!

green goddess salad with kale, pomegranate + roasted chickpeas

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Perhaps I’m riding the high from yesterday’s euphoric slash agonizing workout, however, before I head out for another session (just call me a masochist), I decided to hoover a large bowl of kale. I made some modifications to the original recipe, which called for cheese (dairy has been killing me softly with its song as of late) and anchovy paste (I can’t), and added it additional fruit and crunchy nuts so I’m filled, as my pop would say, to the gills.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Clara Persis, with modifications.
For the salad
6 cups Lacinato kale, pretty finely chopped
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 roasted pistachios
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the dressing:
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
3/4 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat your oven to 400°. Placed the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil (1/2 tbsp) and toss to coat all the peas. Be generous with your salt and pepper, so you have the opportunity to have a truly seasoned and flavorful salad topper. Roast the chickpeas for 25-30 minutes until deep golden brown and crunchy. Allow them to cool slightly.

Make the dressing: Blitz all the ingredients in a blender food processor, and blend until completely combined and very smooth. Set aside.

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Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Using your hand, massage the olive oil into the kale a bit to soften the leaves. Pour in 1/2 cup of dressing and toss well to combine. Add in the chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, apple, blueberries, flaxseeds, and pistachios, and toss gently. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Spoon the salad into bowls, drizzle with a bit more dressing, and serve immediately.

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pearl barley and baby kale, corn + sausage salad

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I’m closing on my first week without my beloved noodle, and it appears as if I will survive. I’ve stocked my fridge with vegetables, fruit, and meats, and my pantry with beans and whole grains. Thankfully, I’ve some pretty stellar cookbooks from which to draw inspiration, and today’s lunch will be a terrific one.

The original recipe {view it here} calls for mushrooms and red onions, two ingredients I abhor, so I opted to switch things up a bit, and nix the hummus {while I adore hummus, it didn’t make sense for my revision}, mushrooms, and onions. The result? Fresh, flavorful, filling.

And yes, I still miss pasta.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Jane Coxwell’s Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes, with modifications.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup pearl barley {you can also use Israeli couscous}
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 sweet sausages, casing(s) removed {depends on how much sausage you want in the recipe}
1 ear of organic sweet corn
Maldon salt or other flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice from ½ lemon
1 handful organic baby kale leaves
1/2 cup dill leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

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DIRECTIONS
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. If you’re using Israeli couscous, cook the grains per the package directions.

While the barley {or couscous} is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, stirring often to keep them for burning. Combine the pine nuts and shallot in a large bowl.

Using the same frying pan over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the sausage(s). Sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the sausages have some good color. Add them to the bowl with the shallots and pine nuts.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, add some more olive oil if necessary and the corn on the cob. Cook the corn for about 5 minutes, or until it’s nicely colored all over. It’ll make a bit of noise and spit a tiny bit, but don’t worry—the heat shouldn’t be high enough to make it pop and splatter!

Drain the barley {or couscous, if you’re using} and add it to the skillet with the corn, and add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another minute. Give it a taste, then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

Add the handful of baby kale leaves, pine nuts, sausage, and shallot, and mix well. Garnish with the dill and parsley and serve.

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spicy kale + tofu stir fry

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And away we go! My first day without refined sugar + pasta was harder than quitting blow. The sugar wasn’t the issue insomuch as I craved pasta. Before, during and after yoga, and for a moment I secretly thought of chucking it all because the last thing I wanted to do was chop. I had flights of fancy that involved orecchiette drenched in a butternut squash cheese sauce. I spied a cauliflower cream sauce recipe that I knew would pair perfectly with homemade tagliatelle. On the subway, I wondered if soba noodles were considered pasta because they had a higher protein content.

IS SOBA CONSIDERED PASTA? I NEED TO KNOW, AND I’M AFRAID TO GOOGLE.

But I pressed on. Today was pretty fantastic. I’ve closed on over one hundred tight pages of my novel-in-progress, and while I wanted to shove a muffin in my gourd, I opted for a…wait for it…a peanut butter power bar. {wail}

I made this stir fry last year to much fanfare and confetti, and I’ve made some tweaks, and found it to be filling and flavorful. While it’s not pasta, I don’t have to get all tortured and emo about it.

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu With Kale and Red Pepper, courtesy of The New York Times, with modifications
INGREDIENTS
1 bunch flat leaf kale (about 10 ounces), stemmed and washed in a salad spinner. I love lacinato or Tuscan kale for this recipe
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or dry sherry
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp Kosher salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper, preferably white pepper
1/4 tsp cane sugar
1 tbsp safflower (or canola) oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch julienne
1 1/2 cups edamame pods, unshelled
2 tsp sesame oil

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DIRECTIONS
Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the edamame. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the pods float to the surface of the water. Drain, remove the pods and set aside in a small bowl.

Cut the tofu into dominos and place them on paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and prepare the remaining ingredients. I was lucky, and my market had tofu cut into cubes, so I simply drained the tofu and let it rest in a strainer.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, stock and cornstarch. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your wok.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the safflower oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the tofu. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes in a wok and 3-5 minutes on the pan, until it begins to color. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for no more than 30 seconds.

Add the red pepper and edamame and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the kale, salt, pepper and sugar and toss together. Add the soy sauce mixture and the sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

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mango, kale, spinach, + apple smoothie

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There is a reason for this demonstrable silence. You can’t know how much I’ve wanted to crawl into this small space of a home and inhabit it with words, and take hundreds of photos of the dishes I’ve been making (or, eh-hem, ordering). But two phone calls turned my week inside out, made me look at my life as if it was the first time I’d seen it.

The first call was from my agent, who is discerning, and brutally honest about the state of publishing, which has been the same state since I was employed by a publisher all those years ago. Everyone assures me that it’s worse. No one’s buying books. No one’s buying fiction. No one’s buying “experimental” literary fiction. If you’re not an alien, hobbit, vampire, or a mean girl, nobody cares, is the constant refrain from everyone, everywhere. So you can understand how I expected the worst, as my agent tends to only take on sure things. Big books. Big, sweeping things. On speaker, he started in about publishing (the usuals, the particulars), but then he said this: there’s something brilliant here.

You should know that my agent doesn’t toss around the word brilliant very often. Over a hundred pages, I somehow created a world where loss, love, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, Jonestown, W.S. Merwin, The Shining, Carnival of Souls, adultery, peacefully co-exist. I can’t quite explain what my book is about, as I tend to obsess over characters and watch them play out on the page. Although I will say that I’m exploring loss, the definition of mental illness, hurt, feminism and love.

And my agent said the unexpected: he told me to prepare 100 tight pages for a small submission to publishers come November. He thought the book was that great.

I’m still recovering from our chat. By the way, I’m titling my book Mammoth.

The second call was a siren song from the west. A job opportunity that keeps coming back, and I’ve been moving through the interviews at ease, not excited, non-plussed — I’m just playing out the hand, seeing where it’ll all go. Yet, this morning it occurred to me that I don’t want this opportunity. It’s extraordinary, ambitious, and can give me the financial comfort one would think I needed. But…but…

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I don’t want it.

Finally, I’ve made this blog a space I’m proud of. Finally, I’m writing, really writing, not just playing pretend with 300-word blog posts. I’m architecting a family, building a life. Finally, my head’s straight, clear, focused, and I’m off the sauce. Finally, I’ve allowed myself to love a new kitty, Felix. Finally, I’m allowing people in. Finally, I’m taking on the kinds of consulting jobs where people really respect me. Really believe in the work that I can do.

I don’t want to give that up.

So you can see how things have been out of sorts. How it’s been hard to come to this space and make the world simple. But I will say one thing that’s given me joy this week, and it’s the VITAMIX.

Friends, this is not a digression, but another step in making my life a healthier one. Every day I’ve made myself a green smoothie, packing it into a mason jar so I can get my veggies in on my way to the office or to run errands. Appearances are cruel in the way that they can be deceiving, but I honestly feel as if I’m tasting a mango smoothie. AND!! I’m also noticing a marked difference in my complexion. In short, I don’t look like a CORPSE.

All good things. Now only to get editing. Only to get to making a decision.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup chopped mango
1 cup kale leaves (not the curly kind), packed
1 cup spinach leaves, packed
1 apple, cut and cored
1/2 cup coconut water

DIRECTIONS
If you’re mad, like me, and made the fortitous leap to procure a Vitamix blender, simply add all of the ingredients and blitz away for 30 seconds – minute on high. You may need the plunger to ensure that the fruits get evenly diced.

If you’re of the normal stock, you can absolutely enjoy this smoothie by blitzing this in a blender and using a fine mesh strainer. Simply pour out your smoothie into a strainer nestled on top of a bowl and you’ll have a delicious morning elixir.

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cozy in the kitchen: my fall recipe round-up {old favorites}

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There is nothing that brings me greater joy than nubby sweaters, hot coffee, crisp autumn mornings and cozy socks. Autumn is my preferred time and a cold sky turning leaves a terracotta is my preferred landscape. Many of my adventures have occurred during this season, and I’m thrilled that I can now crank the oven and revisit some of my old friends. If you’ve got a recipe worth sharing, definitely drop a line in the comments field.

Pumpkin Spice Rolls | Pumpkin Proscuitto Sage Risotto | Sweet Potato Soup with Coriander + Sage | Tomato Soup with Orzo | Baked Squash with Millet | Kale, Apple + Roasted Squash Salad | Roasted Squash and Sage Sausage Pizza with Smoked Gouda | Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce | Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread | Pasta Bolognese

a moveable feast: mango, avocados, greens + guac!

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To say that every day I wake to a typhoon or a circus or something in between would be a grand understatement. The past few months have been exhilarating, thrilling, frightening and magical all at once. Not only did I have a chance to explore unknown cities, I’ve had the luxury of rediscovering art, finding it, having it find me, and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to create a little bit of art of my own. I’m starting to learn who I can trust and who I can’t. I’ve become weary of the intensity of people, and am now drawn to the quietness and calm of others. I say Good Morning, I read Faust, I write longer emails to friends (from one line to a paragraph!). I don’t know what I want next, but I think I do. Every day is a stutter, a series of starts and stops, and the constant, the satisfying threadline through all of this has been food. Always the food.

I had a dear friend come round this weekend, and I prepared a feast that made us swoon. Verdant, flavorful and bright, it was a delicious melange of texture and taste, and not for a moment did we feel we were missing something because it was vegetarian and virtuous (or at least, semi-virtuous, as we had a heaping of fried millet falafel). Rather, we were sated, full, and excited to dive into my stash of French dark chocolates.

We spent four hours trading stories about our respective experiences the past few months, and it occurred to me that the other crucial threadline, perhaps one that supersedes food, are friends. Those great, magical people who are always there, who talk you off ledges, who encourage you to climb new ones, and those who tell you that although the millet falafels are far from attractive, they are DAMN GOOD.

INGREDIENTS
For the salad
2 cups packed baby kale
1 cup packed spinach
1 cup packed arugula
1/2 cup cashews, toasted in a dry pan
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 oz soft cheese of your choice (I used a truffled cow’s milk cheese that had the texture of brie, however, you can use goat, brie, or gorgonzola)
1/4 sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt/cracked pepper to taste

For the mango + avocado salad, dressed in a lime balsamic vinaigrette: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
1 batch Balsamic-Lime Vinaigrette (we didn’t use all of the dressing, but used about 1/4 of it. That might have also been the case because I knocked over the dressing and spilled it all over the table.)
A small handful of fresh basil leaves

For the basil-lime vinaigrette
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 stalks of scallions, fine dice (all parts: white, green, light green)
juice + zest of half a lime
Sea salt + pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the salad: Toss all of the ingredients above. Only add the olive oil when you’re about to serve, as the leaves will wilt.

For the mango + lime salad + vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, brown rice syrup, and lime juice together in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps well in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. Alternate slices of mango and avocado on a serving platter and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle with the Balsamic-Lime vinaigrette; tear the basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top. Serve immediately.

For the guacamole: Cut + core the avocado and crush the meat with the tines of your fork. Add in all of the ingredients and serve with carrots, chips, or strips of red bell peppers.

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burrata, arugula + edamame salad

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Words cannot express how much I LOVED this salad. Riding into the city, I flipped through the latest issue of Bon Appetit, and I felt the rapture coming. The original recipe calls for sugar snap peas, but I opted to use protein-packed edamame instead. The salad is light, flavorful and perfect with chunks of a fresh baguette.

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes with my sweet friend Alex, believe me when I say that this would make for a very virtuous, albeit delicious, follow-up. Although I should be clear: I do not regret the BLUEBERRY PANCAKES WITH ROSEMARY SAUSAGE.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, and modified slightly.
Serves 4
8 ounces shelled, cooked + cooled edamame (I use frozen edamame, cook for 4 minutes, drain + rinse with cool water)
4 cups arugula, thick stems trimmed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves plus more for serving
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves plus more for serving
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
1 pound burrata or fresh buffalo mozzarella

DIRECTIONS
Combine cooked and rinsed edamame, arugula, 1/4 cup basil, and 1/4 cup mint in a large bowl. Add oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and toss to coat. Season salad with salt and more lemon juice, if desired.
Tear open balls of burrata (if using buffalo mozzarella, slice 1/2-inch thick) and arrange on a platter. Top with salad and more basil and mint.