pasta bolognese

pasta bolognese

This might not be the kind of meal you want to photograph, but it’s one certainly worth eating. I’ll tell you something that may sound pretty gross, but it’s one of the few fond memories from my childhood.

Growing up, I ate pasta. A lot. Lasagne, spaghetti and meatballs–the whole lot. And while the meal itself was exceptional, we always waited for the leftovers. We’d grease a pan with butter and add the cold pasta and fry it up. Nothing compared to the taste of a little butter in a meat sauce, how the noodles got slick and tender, and how we’d pile cheese on top. Nothing compared to pan-fried pasta, and even to this day, I still savor leftovers.

I’ve been in my new home since Wednesday and I couldn’t be happier. I hosted a guest on Friday and I made my four-hour bolognese, and my guest and I devoured two bowls.

And this weekend I had all. the. leftovers. Pan-fried, et all.

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 hearts, 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, but if you’re not down with white, simply sub in some beef stock)
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 tablespoon unsalted butter (you can opt to use vegan butter)
1 1/2 lb penne

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 meat.

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 chunk 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, sugar, and oregano. Bring all the ingredients to a simmer and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Simmer covered for about 2-4 hours. The longer, the better, and I tend to stir the sauce every hour. 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. Drizzle each serving with some extra olive oil. DIG IN.

mexican meatloaf

mexican meatloaf

Meatloaf never makes for a pretty picture, no matter how many pressed linens or bone china plates you add to the mix. It’s sloppy, messy, brown and red (tough colors to photograph), but it’s the kind of mess I like. It’s the juices-running-off-your-chin messy. It’s the I-got-chorizo-all-over-my-shirt (this actually happened) messy. Meatloaf is the kind of food you eat standing up, fork digging into the loaf pan, mixing moistened meat with scalding sauce. It’s the kind of food that will stink up your refrigerator, but who cares? No one should judge you for the contents of your fridge.

Most of the week I’m crazy busy, but I reserve Saturdays for “me” time. Now this isn’t the sort of time I use to get perfunctory work or errands done because I consider that work, rather it’s a day when I read long books, watch good movies, bake meat in loaf pans and take copious pictures of my cat pressing his vanilla paws into his face. However, lately, I’ve also been using it as a means to learn something new each week. This week a friend (and colleague) taught me how to use Snapchat, a non-intuitive platform that I abhorred using for a while. An old friend from New York and I chatted via Skype yesterday while she taught me sophisticated ad targeting techniques. Another friend taught me how to take better pictures (I’m still learning). And yet another friend reminded me about being patient, how to play the long game when it comes to my life and career. Not all of us have the means or privilege to “hunt down our passion” or “quit our day job”, but there exists nobility in finding purpose in the work that you do and then making time for the things you love to do that don’t necessary yield profit.

During my recent financial crisis, where I was living off my credit card and frightened of eviction, some of my friends suggested I monetize this space. I have a fair amount of traffic and readers and I could make some decent change by adding affiliate links to the books I suggest since I tend to read a lot of them. I thought about this, albeit briefly, and shook my head no, not because I was taking a moral high ground, but rather it would make this space work. Making everything about work takes the joy out of the pursuit. Or to put it bluntly, Lenny Kravitz learned from Prince that”[e]verything isn’t for business. It’s for the sake of doing it. It’s about the art, the moment, the memory and the experience.” While I’m not suggesting I create art on the level of Prince on this space, I do get a great deal of joy coming here without the burden of being beholden to people or feeling frightened that I’m not making as much money as I should. I don’t come here with the intention of creating posts that will generate more traffic (I mean, come on, I write 1,000-word posts that have nothing to do with meatloaf). I come here because sharing the food I make, the books I read, the experiences I endured make me happy in a way that’s difficult to describe.

Yesterday, I focused on learning and taking care of myself. I made meatloaf, and while you’d hesitate in wanting to take its picture, this is the kind of meal you want to be eating.

I have a hectic few weeks ahead of me, and I keep saying to myself: take care, take care, take care.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook, modified slightly
1 pound ground beef, make sure this has 80% fat or your meat will dry out
1 pound chorizo
1 red bell pepper, dice
1 shallot, minced
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 tablespoon garlic powder
1⁄2 tablespoon onion powder
1⁄2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup blanched almond flour
1 large egg
1⁄4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 cups salsa of choice, divided
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. The original recipe doesn’t make the following notation, but trust me, it will save you agony later on. Layer the pan with a sheet of parchment paper that hangs a few inches off the sides. This will help when you want to remove your boiling hot loaf from the pan without an epic collapse.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salsa. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared loaf pan. Pour 1 cup of the salsa on top of the meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour to 1hr 15 minutes until the meat is completely cooked through in the middle. Remove the meatloaf from the oven, top with the remaining 1 cup of salsa, and garnish with extra cilantro.

making mexican meatloaf

mexican meatloaf

gwyneth paltrow’s moroccan chicken salad

gwyneth paltrow's moroccan chicken salad

This week I was reminded of a woman, a close friend, who broke my heart.

Ten years ago, I worked in book publishing and I met a woman who was, up until then, the smartest person I’d ever met. To this day, much of how I think and work is a result of our friendship. I worked hard because I thought I was never as smart or as capable as she was, and it was only until a few years ago she told me she’d felt the same about me, which, frankly, was astonishing. Professionally, she was always this bright light that shone perhaps too brightly and I felt as if I was forever regulated to the role of her shadow.  She’s probably one of the most achieved and brilliant brand marketers I’ve ever met, and we spent 2013 giving each other the equivalent of an MBA (she already has one, but whatever). This friend taught me everything I know about brand marketing and I taught her everything about digital. I shadowed her on a brand project and the reason I’m able to now build brands from the ground up was because of her and that year we spent working closely together.

We even talked about forming a partnership because together there wasn’t nothing we couldn’t do. I loved her, I really did. Even if she didn’t know it, even if I didn’t always show it. She was the friend who picked me off up from the couch when Sophie died and drove me, hung over, thick in relapse, to Bark where I found Felix. A mother of two with a c-suite job she drove me around all day while I spoke in non-sequiturs and told her that I view love and loss as two sides of the same coin.

She was the friend who told me that my friendship with S was unhealthy; she worried about the codependency nature of our friendship. My friend was rational, pragmatic, and we never fought because when either of us had an issue with the other, we talked it out, calmly.

This person was also one of my closest friends, and when I told her I was moving to Los Angeles, she stopped speaking to me. I was devastated. I called her, wrote her–nothing. Never would I have expected this to happen, and when I told people who knew her about what had happened, they were incredulous. They said, [INSERT NAME]? That’s not like her. And I’d nod, tearfully, feeling bitterness and hurt creep into my voice when I talked about the irony of when [INSERT NAME] said S was a coward for not giving me the dignity of a proper friend breakup. Friends shared their opinions on why she did it, none of which I won’t say here because I’ve no right to share the intimate details of her life.

It’s a funny thing, though, I remember she said once: I would never do what S did to anyone. Until she did.

It’s been a year since she excised me from her life after ten years of close friendship and symbiotic mentorship, and the hurt still feels new and raw. I’ve come to realize that this loss was far more painful that the others because I didn’t expect it. Because this friend was one of the few people with whom I could truly let down my guard.

I was reminded of her this week when I met a founder of a well-funded start-up. The product is extraordinary, and the whole time I was brainstorming with the founder and the woman who introduced us, I was thinking, this is an [INSERT NAME] kind of project. This is the sort of thing my friend would have knocked out of the park–the very thing she taught me how to do. For a moment I felt curtained, I felt her presence like a specter at that breakfast. This is the kind of project where I would’ve called her, shared my proposed approach, and asked, what do you think, muffin? And I would’ve considered her voice as a blanket, her agreement a validation of my intelligence and competency. I know all of these things aren’t healthy or right, but I feel them anyway.

I think about this friend often, and I’m still not over the hurt, but I guess I’m grateful for the time I did have with her and the fact that I’m able to build brands as a result of that friendship.

So here I am, with a tiny space in the day to think and cook. I made myself a quick lunch from Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook. I’m not a fan of the actress or her energy, but I do admire her cookbooks, even if this one doesn’t feel like it’s right for the busy mom–maybe the busy affluent mom? Anyway, the book is filled with what appears to be quick and tasty meals, and if the recipes are as tasty as this salad (which is shown as a wrap in the book), I’m going to ignore the obvious slight blanket of pretension.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 chicken breasts)
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground coriander
6 tbsp Vegenaise, or more to taste (more seems like a crazy idea, to be honest)
1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
Salt/ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir wall. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I like this a bit cold so I put this in the fridge for a half and hour before chowing down.

gwyneth paltrow's moroccan chicken salad

 

homemade fennel apple sausage…on a pizza

gluten free pizza with homemade apple sausage, ground beef and bacon

I’ve been holed up in my home the entire weekend working, and  trust me, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m the happiest I’ve been in months. Last week, I had a wonderful dinner party where my friends and I toasted our successes on my balcony. I onboarded a new client, sent out a contract for a second client and met a woman who’s the epitome of extraordinary. Come Friday I took a long nap and woke Saturday ready to get to work. When you’ve spent months without work as I have, you become grateful for employment. You stop complaining about the work because you realize, in the absence of it, you’re privileged to have it. So I read through 35 files, analyzed data reports, and compiled findings that will lay the groundwork for my client’s marketing strategy.

But a woman’s gotta eat.

Since I now have to return to a life free of dairy and gluten, I’m returning to reinvention–I stocked up on cauliflower, blitzed my morning smoothies, and pored through my cookbooks to discover recipes that are filling and wholesome. Over the past five months, I slipped into purchasing convenience foods and frozen Amy’s enchiladas because I’m making food for one and convenience doesn’t equate to costly. Now that my life is a little more stable, I’m able to control what comes into my home and what goes into my body, and I’m the better for it.

This pizza was SO GOOD that I didn’t even miss the cheese. And quite frankly, you don’t need to put cheese in your pesto if the herbs are fresh and fragrant. After a few slices, I feel confident to crawl back into round two of work.

No complaints. Always grateful.

P.S. You might have noticed that my posts lately have been a little shorter. Bear with me as I get accustomed to my new work schedule.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook
For the sausage
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 pound ground pork
½ red apple, diced
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp ground sage
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp black pepper
3 tbsp butter, ghee, or coconut oil

For the crust
I love making pizza crust and you can make an amazing gluten free one using this recipe. Since I’m crazy busy today, I purchased a gluten-free crust from the market.

For the parsley chive pesto
You can find the recipe here.

For the additional toppings
1/2 cup bacon, roughly chopped
1/4 lb ground beef

DIRECTIONS
In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the fennel seeds for no more than 5 minutes, until fragrant. Place all the ingredients except the coconut oil in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

Divide the sausage mixture into 8 patties and flatten them between your hands. In a large cast-iron skillet (I don’t have one so I used a large non-stick skillet) over low heat, melt the butter. Add 3 or 4 patties to the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. Keeping the heat on low will help cook the inside of the patties without burning the outside. Patience is key here.

While this is going on, preheat the oven to 425F. Pre-bake your crust (regardless if you’re getting a store-bought crust or making the gluten-free one I made last week) for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven, briefly, and set aside.

Once you’re done with the sausage, use the fat from that pan to brown the bacon and sausage. Drain and set aside with the patties.

Make the pesto per the instructions. Add the pesto to the pre-baked crust. Crumble up 4-5 of the sausage patties, and add the bacon and ground beef to the crust. Bake the pizza for another 10-12 minutes until the crust is lightly browned and the meat is glossy and sizzling.

Add some fresh parsley to the top and chow down!

homemade apple fennel sausage

homemade apple fennel sausage
homemade apple fennel sausage

gluten free pizza with homemade apple sausage, ground beef and bacon

meat lover’s pesto arugula pizza (gluten-free)

meat lover's pesto arugula pizza

For those of you who haven’t followed my lamentations on twitter, the burning raised hives have made their comeback. Last Monday morning, at around 3am, I woke to my body covered in hives. Thankfully, I still had leftover steroid cream or I wouldn’t have made it until morning. Imagine how thrilled I was that my doctor’s office opened at 7am.

We’re not going to talk about where the cortisone shot went but let’s say we did.

Admittedly, because of stress and depression I haven’t made the wisest food choices. Although I’m good about keeping my gluten in check (I honestly don’t miss it anymore) and I no longer crave sweets (my palate changed the year I went gluten + dairy free so now I crave salt), I can’t resist cheese. Cheese, glorious CHEESE. Melted mozzarella on my chicken, charred halloumi on my salad–you name the dish and I’ll find a way to throw cheese on it.

There I was slowly regaining half the weight I’d spent a year losing, and my skin suffered from my dairy fixation (read: addiction). And then the hives–a cruel reminder that mindful eating is a life-long commitment. While the burning itch has abated, fat spots cover most of my legs and I know they won’t be gone for another couple of weeks.

Back to basics.

Now that my life is back in some semblance of order, I can resume making healthy meals and focusing on a plant-based diet. After hitting the farmer’s market this morning, I popped into B&N to find a new cookbook and I LOVED Juli Bauer’s The Paleo Kitchen (so many good recipes!) that I was thrilled to snap up Paleo Cookbook. These are recipes you’re going to want to make, and I had most of the ingredients for this pizza.

Let’s talk about this crust. I’ve tried dozens of crust recipes–cauliflower, grain-free, gluten-free, and all of them were HORRIBLE. Granted, a cauliflower crust does have its place, but when I want something chewy and bread-like, I want something that will resemble the real thing. And while nothing compares to the elastic dough that only gluten AP flour can yield, this crust was pretty stellar. You won’t get much of the charred crunch here, but the flavor profile is unique (I actually didn’t mind the hint of coconut juxtaposed with the salty sausage) and I helped myself to TWO slices (hence the cut-out in the photo above).

As projects come in (cross fingers), I’ll be able to share more recipes on this space. For now, make this pizza and make it your own. I had these ingredients on hand but you can make the pesto as a base and throw onions, peppers and ton of veg on top. Or, if you’re a cruel human and have the ability to consume cheese, I would crumble goat and smoked mozzarella all over this bad boy.

INGREDIENTS: Crust recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook
For the pizza crust
3 large eggs
1 cup full-fat coconut milk (basically one 15oz can, but make sure you wish the cream and the coconut water until it’s smooth)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups tapioca flour/starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

For the toppings
1 cup basil walnut pesto*
1/4-1/3 lb ground mixture of pork, beef and bacon
1 pre-cooked chicken sausage link, sliced thin
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, roughly chopped
2 cups arugula

*2 1/2 cups basil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup-1/2 cup olive oil (depends on your preferred consistency)
Salt/pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the pizza crust
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, and olive oil. In a large bowl, mix the tapioca flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until completely smooth. The dough will be wetter than normal pizza dough–it’s okay, don’t freak out.

Pour the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread it out flat. Bake for 10-12 minutes and it feels like soft bread in the middle when touched. Cool for five minutes. Raise the heat to 425F. Add the toppings, pop back into the oven and cook for 7-8 minutes.

For the toppings
While the pizza is baking in the oven, saute the pork, beef and bacon mixture until browned. Blitz the pesto ingredients until smooth. With a spatula, spread the pesto all over the warm crust. Add the meat toppings, sliced sausage, sundried tomatoes and cook for 7-8 minutes.

After the pizza has been cooked, add the arugula to the top and DEVOUR.

pizza

pasta bolognese

pasta bolognese

Yes, I know, another pasta recipe. Every week I make a pasta pot and alternate the hearty dishes with veggies, grains and legumes. This dish makes for 6 meals and it’s perfect for the days when you want to cuddle up with the remote, your feline and a bowl of piping hot YES.

This week was a hectic one–I met up with old friends and had a few new business calls and lunches. The leads are slowly trickling in, and although nothing has landed just yet I continue to be hopeful. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the semantics of happy, and I’m shying away from the phrase “be positive” because it feels forced. It feels as if I should cloak my real feelings with artificial ones. I don’t want the blindness of relentless positivity, rather I want to sit in what I’m going through now. Getting sober is akin to having dozens of band-aids ripped off and although the pain is searing, it’s brief. Drinking, or any form of anaesthesia only serves to prolong the inevitable. The pain is omnipresent, the circumstances in your life haven’t changed, and the only way to get beyond it is to go through it–to sit in discomfort with the knowledge that the sorrow and pain will lessen with the passage of each day.

So I don’t want to “be positive”. I grew up in the generation of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, but I want to worry when worry is warranted. Instead of engaging in blind positivity or whitewash my life with smiley faces and emoticons, I want to be realistic, honest, and hopeful.

Until my next project, there’s pasta.

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
5 small carrots or 3 medium ones
2 celery stalks
1 shallot
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs of ground sirloin
1/2 tube of tomato paste (1/2 of a 4.5oz tube)
1 cup red wine (or you can also use beef stock)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or you can use whole milk)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 lb of pasta (you can also use rice, or lentil/bean pasta or spaghetti squash)
1 cup pecorino romano cheese

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DIRECTIONS

Blitz the carrots, shallot, and celery in a food processor to a fine mince. In a large pot or saucepan, on medium heat, add the mirepoix, salt and pepper, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the beef and toss to coat the meat with the veggie mixture. Don’t fuss with the meat all that much or it’ll get overworked and grainy. Turn up the heat to high. Allow the mixture to cook until the meat browns, 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, wine, and milk, thyme, and stir, cooking until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to low, cover, and cook for at least two hours. The sauce will reduce and thicken.

Fifteen minutes before the bolognese is done, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the drained pasta and pasta water to the bolognese. Add the pecorino cheese and toss until everything is completely coated. Serve immediately, with extra cheese, of course.

pasta bolognese

spicy andouille sausage + chickpeas over rice

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This morning I woke to watch Taiye Selasi talk about origin, specifically how to tackle that seemingly simple question: Where are you from? I’ve been thinking about origin a lot, how it’s not possible that we come from a concept or place, but rather we self-identify through our rituals and our beloveds. We cleave to that which feels like a home and allows us to be our truest selves. I’ve also been thinking about this because the place I used to consider my home feels foreign, and it may not necessarily be the place I would return to. If you do anything today, please watch Taiye’s brief talk as she has the ability in a brief time to truly make you think.

I had the chance to return to New York this month and I couldn’t do it. Even the thought of it give me anxiety. JFK, the cab line, the subways, the frenzy–all I would care about are the people. People whom I live and miss every day. I guess my home doesn’t resemble a home because it’s always in a state of constant repair. Over the years I’d find places I knew erased, and the flavor, the fucking verve, has been whitewashed. Right now it feels as if I’d be flying into a shopping mall–my friends’ familiar faces fighting to rise above the motley lot. Right now I don’t know if I’ll head home for the holidays because right now, Los Angeles feels right. Admittedly, I’m a tourist here. I don’t have a car and work, and the simple act of adjustment to a new surroundings and routines keeps me on the Westside with intermittent treats out east and north. I know I’ve time to navigate my new home, and I’ve no urgency to leave it because there’s so much to navigate. A new language to learn. This weekend I’m immersing myself in a stack of books–all in an effort to make sense of this place. All in an effort to shift my view from something vague and elusive to something tactile, real, visceral and specific. I watch harrowing documentaries. I talk to people more. I read the local paper. I want to get involved in my community in a way that’s meaningful and decidedly offline. I’m making plans to navigate this city with new friends and old. I ask everyone when it will get cold. Cold is relative, they respond. Come January everyone will be in boots and a winter coat and the temperature will hover around 45/50F, depending. I think about the desert. Often. I think about water. Always.

I feel here what I haven’t felt in decades. Curious. Energized. A need to take nothing I have or see for granted.

I guess you can see I’m tethered to a feeling of California. Of planting roots and settling. When people ask me where I’m from, I’ll consider the question, and the weight of it, more deeply. Because I’m connected to New York in the sense that it is part of my makeup; I’m connected to L.A. because of an awakening, and there are parts of the world where I feel my footprints because whenever I travel back there (Bali, Thailand, China, Spain) it feels familiar, like a home–our place of origin is in the periphery, it doesn’t define our identity.

I spent the morning working, working out, and at the farmer’s market. The spring onions were fat and enormous and I had to use 4 stalks instead of 8. Chorizo wasn’t available this week so I settled for a heady andouille. And the rosemary was soapy, spritely and fresh, and I spent time listening to music, cooking, all the while my Felix looked on.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook (I changed it from a stew to a rice topper + switched around a few ingredients based on what I had on hand),
1 tbsp olive oil
8 spring onions, finely sliced (whites separated from green)
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
400 g/15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 chorizo sausages in casings, cut into 1 inch rounds (I used andouille sausage, instead)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
Salt/pepper for seasoning
1 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cup vegetable stock or water
1 tsp chopped rosemary

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DIRECTIONS
In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Add the white part of the spring onions, rosemary, paprika and the chickpeas to the pan and fry for 2 minutes on a high heat.

Add the chorizo/andouille to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar. Cook gently, uncovered for a further 10 minutes stirring occasionally before.

While this is cooking, add your rice, rosemary, and water/stock to a small pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down to low, cover, and let cook for 10-15 minutes, checking over so often. When done, fluff with a fork, and all the rice to a large bowl. Top with the spiced chickpea + sausage mixture.

Add the green tops of the spring onions and serve.

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mediterranean meatballs + cauliflower tabbouleh

IMG_9182IMG1231
Ever have one of those weeks when nothing feels right? When getting out of bed is a Herculean effort? That, coupled with some frustrating emails in my inbox, made for a meh start to my week. And while I have some ideas for my new creative project, I’m feeling stuck. Perhaps it’s the Monday blues because I’m hoping that things will turn around as the week progresses. Luckily, I have leftovers of yesterday’s yummy meatball + cauliflower tabbouleh to come home to tonight.

Send love and orange kittens.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Hemsley & Hemsley’s The Art of Eating Well
For the meatballs
1 pound of ground lamb or beef (I opted for beef sirloin, 85% lean)
1 egg
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 and a ¼ tsp of sea salt
½ tsp of pepper
¼ tsp of ground cumin
¼ tsp of ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp of ghee or olive oil for frying
Optional: 1 pinch of ground chilli or a little fresh chilli

For the tabbouleh
2 medium heads of cauliflower, roughly grated by hand or use a food processor (choose the medium teeth on your grater)
1 tbsp. of ghee, olive oil or butter
1 medium red onion or 1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped (I decided to nix this)
4 large tomatoes, diced (I nixed this)
3 large handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
1 large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (I used lime instead)
4-5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: Scatter over chopped radishes, nuts or seeds (such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

DIRECTIONS
Steam your grated cauliflower in a saucepan (lid on) with a couple of tablespoons of water and your ghee or butter. On a medium heat, it should take roughly 3 minutes for the cauliflower to cook (not too soft!), but check there is enough water at the bottom of the pan so that the cauliflower doesn’t burn.

Drain any excess water and tip your steamed cauliflower into a large serving bowl

While your cauliflower is cooling, chop all your tabbouleh ingredients and then combine everything together. Taste for seasoning.

In a big bowl, combine all your meatball ingredients and mix well. Be careful not to overmix, you just want all the seasonings to come together.

In a wide saucepan, add a little ghee, olive oil or butter and fry a small piece of the mixture to check for seasoning. Adjust the remaining mixture as necessary.

Wet your hands and shape the mixture into balls. We used roughly 1.5 teaspoons of mixture per meatball but make them any size you like – the larger they are, the longer they’ll take to cook.

Heat up a little more ghee, olive oil or butter, and, over a medium-high heat, fry the meatballs in a few batches until lightly browned on all sides and cooked through – this should take about 6-7 minutes. (You can always brown the meatballs in advance and finish them off in the oven later if you’re having people round).

Serve your hot meatballs with the tabbouleh. If there are any leftovers, eat cold the next day with some homemade hummus.

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beef ragu + zucchini noodles + a little bit on food diversity in your diet

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I’m at the point in the game where I have to consider meal diversity. Candidly, I’m a creature of habit (translation: addict), and I tend to gravitate to the same sort of foods, which are healthy, easy to make and in my repertoire. The notion of creating an abundance of variety is exhausting, especially when I’m in an office for most of the week and my schedule is random for the remainder of the week.

However, after meeting with my food coach yesterday, and presenting yet another jetlag-ravaged food journal rife with CHICKPEAS, kale, and chicken, I realize that I’m in a rut. And while you may see some beautiful dishes on this space–case in point: this beef ragu + zucchini noodle dish–much of my weekday meals are a rinse, lather, repeat. That soup I made last week? It was lunch for three days. And while it’s okay to repeat meals, variation is key so your body doesn’t become accustomed to what you feed it. Apparently, I need to be a magician and pull rabbits out of hats and flash wands every few days in order to maintain my health, weight loss, and more importantly, expand the foods in my diet.

So over the next two weeks, I’m following what Dana calls “The Body Project.” Essentially, I won’t be relying on my morning smoothie every day, rather I’ll introduce eggs, chia puddings and other new dishes in the morning mix. The amount of greens in my diet will be substantial, and I’m adding in bean sprouts, snow peas, snap peas, harissa, cress, and new juices (carrot blitzed with almond milk). Superfoods such as pomegranate seeds, Brazilian nuts, seeds, and mint are finding their way into my diet. I’ll let you know how it goes. The good news is that I’ve learned that you crave what you eat. Many people have lamented that I can no longer have pizza (unless it’s with a cauliflower crust, and no, no, I don’t want that, thankyouverymuch), pasta, bread or cheese, and to be honest, I don’t really crave them anymore. Sure, I have the occasional ache when I walk by a bakery and just SMELL EVERYTHING, but it leaves as it comes, and in this way, I’m sort of reminded of my relationship with alcohol. While I sometimes miss my glass of sancerre, I no longer need it. Those cravings have been replaced by the goodness in my diet.

I mean, when I came home from Spain I NEEDED cruciferous greens because my body had become so used to eating it that it missed it. And who misses kale?

I also talked to Dana about weight loss. So far, I’ve lost 20 pounds and I mentioned that I think I only need a set number to get me back to the weight I was four years ago. More than that made me feel uncomfortable because I want to eat the foods I enjoy–re-introducing carbs beyond my twice-weekly splurges, and desserts–and I don’t honestly want to be too thin. I know that may sound shocking because we’re taught, practically programmed, to believe in the cult of thin, but I’d rather have muscle, strength and a bit of fat because I feel right and I’ll age more gracefully. And yes, I have to start thinking about age as I’ll turn 39 this year. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that I want to feel me in my skin beyond a number.

At the end of my weight goal, I’ll share the before + afters, details, and tips learned. Yet, I’ve also made another important decision–I plan to eat this way (and adding back the random bowl of pasta when I can have it in 7 months time) for the rest of my life. I’ve energy all day, my skin glows and I’m focused, attentive and present, and I can’t help but think that what I put in my body, my house, affects me in more ways than a numerical one.

To that end, this dish is part of that diversity. Who knew I’d be one of those weirdos who gets a SPIRALIZER? However, mixed with the beef, the zucchini noodles, while clearly NOT PASTA (I mean, come on), were though a lovely accompaniment to the hearty beef.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Hemsley & Hemsley. Serves 4 people
1 lb ground sirloin + 1 sweet sausage, casing removed
2-3 tablespoons of vegan butter or olive oil
1 large onion + 2 shallots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 28oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup vegetable stock*
1 cup of red wine**
2 large carrots
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp nutmeg
4 large zucchinis

Recipe Notes
*I know it’s logical to use chicken or beef stock, but I really love the sharp celery and other veggies that mix with the beef here.
**I used a Rioja, but a full-bodied cabernet is also a fave. If you’re sober and are sensitive about having alcohol in your home (totally get it), I would just add another cup of stock and another tablespoon of tomato paste). I’m cool with cooking with alcohol and reds tend to last in the cupboard than whites in the fridge (good for having friends over).

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simmering ragu
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what it’s really like to cook in my kitchen

DIRECTIONS
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegan butter (I use Earth Balance and love it) or olive oil, and fry the onions/shallots on a low heat until softened, not browned, then add the garlic, basil and any other herbs that you choose. Add the extra tablespoon of butter or oil if needed.

Increase the heat and add the ground sirloin/sausage to the pan and brown, using a wooden spatula to break it up as you go. Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan, then the tomatoes, paste and broth. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 1 ½ hours until rich and thickened, stirring occasionally. I left this cook for 3.5 hours, and added a little more wine (or stock if you’re nixing alcohol, though note that the alcohol cooks out in the heat) if the sauce is too thick for your taste.

Ten minutes before the end of cooking, add the grated carrots and season with nutmeg, sea salt and a good grind of pepper.

Meanwhile, use a spiralizer/julienne peeler on the zucchini. Or use a vegetable peeler and then a knife to slice the courgette strips into spaghetti type strands.

Wilt the zucchini using a little butter and water in a pan. Or, to be more authentic in your service and to save time and washing up, just run some of the sauce hot from the stove through your spirals and the heat and salt in the sauce will soften them.

Check the seasoning and serve on top of a pile of zucchini spaghetti with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve.

beef ragu with zucchini noodles
beef ragu with zucchini noodles

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you’ll never find me consuming airline food // the contents of my food bag revealed

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Unless TSA agents have confiscated my food bags in some underhanded attempt at mind control, or my bag mysteriously disappears into the abyss that is the seat pocket, I never, ever consume airline food. Packed with sodium and preservatives, airline meals are never a memorable event. Mostly you find yourself playing the role of an investigator, sleuthing through the contents of your tray–all the while wondering if that misshapen blob hidden beneath a layer of opaque sauce is indeed chicken.

Ignore the lies the flight attendants tell you. It’s never chicken.

Many of my friends make poking fun of my food bag a national pastime, however, invariably, they’ll crave a piece of my homemade cookie, beg for a carrot, or express heartbreak over not bringing aboard an almond-crusted chicken of their own. For international flights, I tend to pack a carry-on filled with snacks, a proper meal, fruits and cut vegetables. I also pack a couple of bars for when I’m walking around all day or I’m in a pinch between European meal times. And over the past year, I’ve booked AirBNB apartments so I have the option of either dining out or cooking up a dish with local ingredients from the market.

Today I’m leaving for Spain, and to say that I’m jubilant is an understatement. I AM OVER THE MOON. Two weeks without the company of people is glorious, and I intend to trek to Dali’s house and museum and eat all the gluten and dairy free tapas a woman can endure in one sitting. I’m all packed (one small rolling bag, a purse and one carry-on bag), with the small exception of gathering some fruits (apples, raspberries + blackberries) + cut veg (carrots, edamame) for the flight.

The contents of my food bag are abundant. I tend to overpack because you just never know if your flight might be diverted and you end up having an Odyssean layover in some airport where the main culinary attraction is the rotating hot dog (Exhibit A: Fiji’s airport). I focus on GMO + gluten-free snacks that pack a protein punch, teas, nuts, fruit, vegetables, treats (my lemon poppyseed cookie + some dark chocolate-covered almonds), as well as packing a full meal. Today, I’ve got these DELICIOUS sundried tomato meatballs, which are just as good at room temperature versus heated, and I plan to pick up a plain green salad at JFK. I always check the food options at the terminals in advance of my flight. Most places will sell a simple green salad.

Want to make these meatballs? Super simple. 1 lb ground sirloin | 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes | 2 tbsp parsley | sprigs of rosemary | 1 egg | salt/pepper. Blitz the sundried tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper in a food processor/blender. Add the mixture + egg to the meat, mixing with your hands, gently. Shape into meatballs. Add them to a large oven-proof baking dish. Cover with your favorite tomato sauce and cook at 400F for 25 minutes.

This post was inspired by my friend Hitha, and her enormous propensity to make travel simply luxurious.
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