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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pasta with chive + parsley pesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the road to delicious: parsley + chive pesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

seeking comfort from arugula pesto

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When you’re under the weather {I’ve always wondered about this term and its origin. Could someone possibly be over the weather? I digress}, the only thing that’s not cumbersome is simple comfort food. For the past two days I’ve succumbed to the infectious plague that has become New York, and I’ve taken to my apartment, sustaining on green juices, tea and fresh pasta — in between chugs of DayQuil, naturally. Because, quite frankly, the idea of cooking anything complicated is inconceivable.

So I invite you to serve up this peppery version of the basil classic, and hope that I’ll be soaring over the weather come this weekend.

INGREDIENTS
8 oz fresh pasta (I oped for a tagliatelle, but you can use fettucini, linguine, etc)
3 oz washed + dried arugula leaves
1 large clove garlic
2 tbsp pecorino romano cheese
1 1/2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1-2 tsp of the reserve pasta water

DIRECTIONS
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Your pasta water should be briny, much like the ocean, but don’t overdue it as fresh pasta absorbs more salt than dried. I tend to put 1-2 tsp of salt into my water. While the water is coming to a boil, blitz the arugula, garlic, cheese, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper until it’s a thick, chunky paste and then stream in the olive oil until satiny-smooth. Scrape out the pesto and add to a large serving bowl.

Once the water has come to a boil, add in the pasta and cook to al dente, 2 minutes. Reserve 2 tsp of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to your pesto and mix to combine. Add in the pasta water to thicken the sauce.

This dish serves two, so dig in or reserve for lunch the next day!

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