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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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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pasta

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

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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cooking ragout + time with friends

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Nothing pleases me more than spending time with friends. I bury the cell phone and make a point to listen to my friends, really listen, instead of waiting for my turn to speak. Over the years I’ve learned that time is perhaps our most precious commodity, and the moments I spend with my friends are sometimes infrequent, but always, always, important. These are the times when can be our most naked selves, when we can say all the things that we’re frightened to say out loud.

This past weekend, I had a couple over for a roast chicken dinner, brunch and yoga with an old friend, and spent Sunday hanging upside down in aerial yoga {more on that to come} and making delicious Italian food with my friend, Hitha. Having just returned from a very dee-luxxxeee holiday in Italy, replete with wine tours and cooking classes, she recreated a vegetable ragout that had me lapping up my dish in a way that was too shameful for type. I’m also tickled that she plans to document her family experience for my burgeoning magazine, Kindred Spirits.

Already excited for 2014…

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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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kale, banana, almond + chia seed smoothie + a pasta-free challenge

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I used to think the extreme had the ability to make an impression, leave an indelible mark, but over the years I’ve come to realize that extreme actions tend to send me screaming in the other direction. For a time I did live in the extremes: I hated and loved passionately, and my life was linear, at best. There was only the absence of color and the totality of color, and nothing, not a speck of grey, in between. And the weight of it, a life lived so bombastically, was exhausting. Existing in polar states doesn’t allow for nuance and quiet, and it doesn’t make for a balanced life.

I’ll be candid and say that I’ve losing the good fight against an imbalance in my diet. While it’s true that I have my daily green drink and I eat clean, local and organic, I have a nearly diabolical obsession with pasta and bread. I rationalize that the pasta is dressed in kale pesto! The pasta is of a whole grain variety (or whatever that means)! And the need to keep my sugar in check is a reality.

Sometimes a sweet, positive voice leaves a deeper mark, it can stain. My friend + author, Jamie Shupak, recently launched a healthy living series on the Scripps network, and in three minutes she brings you heart-healthy meals with a smile. Jamie and I routinely have cooking dates, and I’m always inspired by the way she’s so evangelical about healthy grains, fish, and vegetables, and a diet meat and dairy free. While I won’t shy away from meat, I’m feeling the need to invite a lot more diversity (translation: kill the daily pasta dependency) in my diet.

For the next month, I plan to document my pasta + refined sugar free experience, DAILY. From revisiting grains and exploring new ways to invent the evening meal, I’ll document my misadventures on this space. This space will make me accountable, so please send words or missives encouragement along the way. I’ll need it.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups kale, packed
1 cup almond or rice milk
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS: Super simple: blitz in your blender into smooth. If you don’t have a high-powered blender or Vitamix, pour the smoothie over a sieve into a bowl, and then transfer your drink to your favorite tumblr. Drink immediately.

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linguine bolognese + novular concerns

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It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall, The dark threw patches down upon me also; The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious; My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre? would not people laugh at me? — from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

If you asked me that week in April, when I stood on the shoreline of a beach in Biarritz and looked out into the horizon, watching the waves fold in on one another, what my novel would be about, I would’ve waved you away and said, I’m writing a story about a girl who sets a woman’s hair on fire. And that would be the end of it. Come nightfall, I made it my habit to visit the barnacles. They bound themselves to enormous rocks along the beach. I leaned in and desperately wanted to touch them, wondering if I too would be part of this attachment. I didn’t end up touching the barnacles for fear of infection, but I took photographs of them, watched dozens of videos online, and I didn’t stop to think about why I was fixated on these rather grotesque creatures, I just thought: there’s something here. I just don’t know it yet.

And that’s how I write. It’s instinct. It’s an image broken to pieces and rebuilt in my head. My state is one of constant reconstruction. Of voices and scenes that play out in technicolor, and then I write everything down, and the next day the voices come back and revise all the lines. So that week in France, I thought: I’m writing a book about attachments, about betrayal and hurt, as seen through the lens of two families destroyed by infidelity.

Yet, as soon as I made this novel something, as soon as I tried to define it to someone who had asked, it suddenly became the opposite of what I said it would be. In novels, and in life, I’ve learned that it never is what you intend it to be. The novel, over the course of six months morphed into something demonstrably different. Something I haven’t yet tackled stylistically and formally, but attempting to do so now. I have a few very close and trusted readers, and they’ve prodded me with pitchforks to go on my way, but three characters have emerged from the original seven (I tend to be a character writer rather than a plot writer; I create great people and see what mischief they rustle up), and I can’t stop thinking about them. Their voices are a constant, and I’m now at 100 pages, and finally, the real shape of the book is starting to emerge.

For those of you who are remotely interested in this stuff (because I can go on for days, just ask my non-author friends), I’m attempting to write a book that operates (and needs to succeed) on three levels. There’s the surface story — a family ravaged by an affair and the consequences that unfold as a result, as told through the voices of three broken children, one of whom has psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies. So there’s all this charcoal scenery and movement and things happen, people’s hair gets set on fire, things are torched and people are maimed with tweezers (it’s not that bad).

Then there’s this whole other level, where I’m trying to attribute the voices of folks like Jim Jones and lines of poetry as dialogue, giving yet another distinct layer to the characters and a richer meaning to the kind of people they are, and more importantly, what they thematically represent. In a span of 100 pages, I’ve managed to weave in Don Delillo, Jim Jones, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, Carnival of Souls, Kazuo Ishiguro, among others. Not simply as a nod to great work, but as a means to translate and understand these characters via history.

On a final level, I’m trying to create two characters who are mirrors of one another. Not doubles, per se, but an inversion of a self. And the idea here is that I’ve got to make the two selves whole. All roads must converge at the end.

Yet, if you were someone who just opened up the book and read the story and didn’t see all of this, it would be okay. However, if nesting dolls are your thing, this book would be enjoyable too.

I’m home today, recovering from a cold, taking a break from an avalanche of work, and I’m readying this book for partial submission to publishers — my close readers and agent feel that strongly about the potential for this novel, which pleases me enormously. However, I’m not insane in the fact that publishing is a tough business, even more so for experimental fiction, so I’m not getting my hopes up. It would be nice for this book to see light.

Here’s hoping the hand plays out. As a little morsel, something new I just wrote, below:

His pants fell below his ankles as he began to run. James ran to where she left her clothes – paper denim shorts and a shirt embroidered with flowers – and scooped them up and flung them out the window. The rain persisted like a victory, which staunched the blood coming from between her legs. She was behind from where she stood and found herself looking back. She thinks of the smallness of a child’s hands.

They lay in bed, glowing from a single lamp that she kept flicking on and off. The evening descended, piece by piece.

“I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I love you,” Kate said.
“They say it’s better without gloves on.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I heard you fine. You know,” James said. “You’re beautiful in all the right places.”
“What are the wrong places?”
“Ask your mother.”

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb ground sirloin
1/2 lb ground pork
1 yellow onion, rough chop
4 cloves garlic, rough chop
2 carrots, rough chop
2 ribs of celery heats, rough chop
1 28-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 cups red wine (I tend to use a full-bodied Cabernet)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
3-4 tbsp of sugar, to taste (adjust based on the acidity of your tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup basil, torn
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (you can opt to use vegan butter)
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup reserve pasta water

DIRECTIONS
In a large pot (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven), heat olive oil. Make sure you have enough to thinly coat the pan, and that your pan is searing hot. There’s nothing more criminal than boiling beef, so use a large pot and ensure that it’s scorching hot. Once you have the heat of Hades, toss in your meats, flavor with salt and pepper and stir gently with a wooden spoon to break apart the met.

While your meat is browning (5-7 minutes), blitz your mirepoix — onion, carrots, celery — and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. It’s important that all of your veggies are roughly the same size because no one wants a huge hunk of carrot or onion in their pasta bowl. NO ONE.

After your meat has browned on all sides, deglaze the pan with the wine and add your veggie mix. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaf, sugar, water and oregano. Bring all the ingredients to a simmer and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Simmer covered for about 2-4 hours. When the sauce is done, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a hefty pinch of salt to the water then add your pasta. Stir and cook until al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce; be sure to save some pasta water in case you need some. If the sauce is too thick, add the water until the desired consistency.

Remove from heat. Add the butter and basil. Drizzle each serving with some extra olive oil. DIG IN.

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comfort food of the gods: cacio e pepe

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I’m bogged down by the remnants of jet lag, a cold and horrendous allergies amidst an avalanche of deliverables. Right now, all I crave is a cashmere blanket, a bowl of pasta, a good book + my kitty.

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery. Until then, savor another indulgence of the carb kind {reconsidering renaming this space love. life. carbs.}

INGREDIENTS
3/4 pound of orecchiette
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tsp freshly ground pepper (adjust to your taste)
a bit of the pasta cooking liquid (about 1/4 to 1/2 of a ladel-full)
1/2 cup of freshly ground pecorino romano

DIRECTIONS
Bring salted water to a boil. Nigella Lawson once said that your pasta water should resemble the Mediterranean, and I’ve always kept this axiom in mind when making pasta. I typically add in a few tablespoons to a medium-bowling pot.

Cook the penne until al dente (or two minutes less than the package instructions). In a separate pan, cook the butter in the olive oil. Add pasta to the skillet. Toss in cheese, some of the pasta water, and cracked pepper.

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easy eats: arugula pesto pasta

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2 cups arugula, packed | 1 cup basil, packed | 1/2 cup walnuts | 2 garlic cloves, chopped | 1/4 pecorino romano cheese | 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil | 1/2 tsp cracked pepper | 1/2 tsp Maldon salt | 1 lb of pasta | 1/2 cup reserve pasta water | blitz ingredients, add to al dente pasta, add pasta water, if needed. Sprinkle cheese + cracked pepper on top

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

chives

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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