sausage and fennel rigatoni (gluten + dairy-free)

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Last night, I spent time with new friends who probably love food more than I do. They’re all about the hunt. Forget the fancy pants, reservations-only eateries, they’re more into the hidden gems–L.A. institutions and incredible Korean BBQ in strip malls. Yesterday, we feasted on Greek food that was full of flavor and low on price.

While we were chowing, my friend’s husband and I talked for a good half hour about chicken. How to make it, the unlimited permutations, and the glory that is homemade stock. I made stock last week from a leftover chicken carcass, and believe me when I say that if my home could smell like chicken soup 24/7, I’d never leave. Anyway, we got to talking about cookbooks and I said that I got really into cooking in 2002 when I started to watch The Food Network. Ina, Giada, Mario, and Nigella–I spent hours learning recipes and technique, and I’d discovered a true passion.

So call me nostalgic, but I tuned into Ina today and she made this pasta recipe that nearly made me fall off my couch. I was hesitant because cream makes me violently ill and then there’s the issue of my fennel fatwa. However, I assure you that faux cream can be made and the fennel flavor is subtle, at best.

Trust me, you will want this pasta in your life.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey, modified.

  • 1 cup cashews + 1 cup water + 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bulb of fennel, chopped
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, divided
First, you want to make the cashew cream. You’re probably thinking…what? Cashew cream? Surely, you jest. However, it’s one of the few nuts that really delivers on the texture of heavy cream. Unlike coconut cream or milk, the flavor of cashews is subtle and it typically takes on the stronger flavors/seasonings of a sauce–kind of like tofu. Anyway, if you have a high-powered blender, soak 1 cup of nuts in water for 2 hours. If you don’t, soak the nuts the night before you make the dish. After you soak the nuts, drain, rinse, and add to your blender along with 1/2 cup of water + 1 tsp of salt, to start. I start with a 1/2 cup because you can make a sauce thinner but it’s challenging to thicken it. Blend for 2 minutes on high, and add water as you go to get the consistency you desire. Set aside.

Now, we’re all about making the sauce. Saute the chopped fennel and shallots in a large pot (I used a Dutch oven) on medium heat for about 7 minutes or until the mixture is translucent and slightly browned. Add the sausage and gently break apart with a wooden spoon. DON’T overwork your meat by continuously stirring. It takes about 8 or so minutes for the pork to cook, so I come back every few minutes, break apart, stir again.

While that’s cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (read the package directions, and cook for a minute or so less). Drain the pasta and set aside.

Once the sausage is cooked through, add the garlic, fennel seed, red pepper, and wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cashew cream and tomato paste and stir until completely combined. I like my sauce super thick and luscious (see Exhibits A and B, above and below), but if you like your sauce on the thinner side, you can add more wine or stock. And if you’re not feeling wine, you can use chicken stock, no big deal.

Add your pasta directly to the meat sauce and stir until completely coated. Remove your pan from the heat and you can add freshly grated parmesan (I used a vegan kind, which is actually pretty decent), and chopped parsley if you’re feeling it. Candidly, I was so into the pasta that I ate it directly from the pot and forgot about the parsley.

Chow down, people.

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thai sweet potato + carrot soup

thai sweet potato and carrot soup

It occurs to me that I never complete the “in case of emergency” line on most forms. Sometimes, a receptionist will tell me it’s mandatory, that they have to have a person with whom they could contact in the event of… In response, I make a joke. I say, my friends will know what’s up if I stopped tweeting for a few days or I fail to respond to their texts. I tell receptionists that I don’t need to write down a name and a phone number because my Twitter account is my proof of life photo. Last week, a man behind the counter pushed a clipboard in front of me. I was another form to process, another insurance card and state ID to photocopy. I was the 3:30 and appointments don’t have a sense of humor much less proof of life photos. So I scroll through my phone and scribble down the name and number of a friend who lives in New York.

I don’t mind this. I prefer not to belong to people. There is a certain kind of freedom being without kin. It also occurs to me that the words kin, kind, and child are related from an etymological standpoint.

A few days ago, I told a friend that I loved the holidays. We were styling and photographing a shoot for a client, and I spent the better part of Wednesday shopping for all things Christmas and Hanukkah. I was uncharacteristically giddy, thinking about snow, morning coffee, and presents under a tree and then I remember that most of my holidays were cleaning up pine needles from trees knocked over and long stretches of silence. It was only until my college best friend welcomed me into her home did I feel what most people take for granted: trees festooned with family ornaments wrapped in tissue awaiting their unveiling, a home teeming with life, leftovers packed in Tupperware.

There was a time when I’d spend my holidays with my pop, but lately, our silences have become palpable. We haven’t spoken since February. I just can’t let it go that internet strangers exhibited more compassion in my darkest hours than the man I’d known for the greater part of 30 years. He was the last vestige of what I considered a family, and while I feel the chasm between us widen with the passing of each day, I can’t let it go.

There existed people whom I considered family who were demonstrably silent during that time, including my pop, and it’ll take me a long time to move past it if I’m able to forgive at all. And those memories of which I spoke, halcyon holiday moments, belong to another family, and I sometimes feel as if I’m a child whose face is pressed up against a glass peering in–the only proof of life is the breath that fogs the window.

The holidays are approaching–another Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday, and while there are so many things for which I’m grateful I feel the uncomfortable comfort of being rootless, without kind kin, still feeling like a child pressing her eyes shut and if she’s good she’ll get all her wants tucked neatly under a tree.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from the Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow (sweet) onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed
  • ¼ cup raw almond butter or peanut butter
  • 3 cups diced peeled carrots
  • 3 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Up to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, if you like spice)
Toppings
  • Minced fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lime juice

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DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the curry paste. In a small bowl, whisk together some of the broth with the almond butter until smooth. Add the mixture to the pot, along with the carrots, sweet potatoes, salt, and remaining vegetable broth. Stir until combined.

Bring the soup to a low boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender. Ladle the soup carefully into a blender. You will likely have to do this in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your blender. With the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, blend on low and slowly increase the speed until the soup is completely smooth. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and blend the soup directly in the pot.)

Taste, and season with salt and black pepper. If you’d like more spice, add a pinch or full ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, and blend again. Transfer the soup back to the pot and reheat if necessary. If desired, you can thin the soup out with a bit more broth if it’s too thick for your preference. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with minced cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and optional tamari almonds. This soup will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and freezes well for 1 to 2 months.

butternut squash mac & cheese

butternut squash mac and cheese

To say that I’ve been in a food rut would be an understatement. Since I moved to California, my tastes, in general, have changed. I no longer want to resemble a bruise with all the black and blue I used to wear, so I’ve set aside the darkness in favor of the light–pale blues, creams, blush. Labels no longer interest me because I spend most of my days working in a coffee shop or a couch, and I rather pay down debt and book trips that hoard purses. I never thought I’d want anything mustard in my home, but now I’ve got gold and mustard all the joint.

And then there’s food. Before I left New York, I was disciplined. In the morning, I’d have a protein shake and there would always be some salad over the course of the day, and gluten and dairy were verboten. Now that I live in Los Angeles and have lost the ease in which I can move about a city when I eat out it’s planned around location and traffic, but mostly I cook at home or eat locally because it’s cheaper and I don’t have to worry about sitting on the 10 or 405 for an hour just to get across town. I’m lucky in the sense that eating healthier here is ubiquitous There’s no corner deli serving up bacon, egg, and cheese, and finding good bagels are challenging. Eggs, shakes, and acai bowls are the norm, and I’ve often had to roll my eyes at eateries that sport “bone broth” on the menu because they’ve basically gussied up chicken stock with some clever Kinfolk-esque re-branding.

I’m also lucky (and privileged) to live in a city where everything is in walking distance. I have two markets in a five-block radius of my home, and the Santa Monica Farmer’s market is worth a weekly visit.

But my tastes have changed. I can’t explain it. I’ve paged through the cookbooks that gave me joy in New York and I’m uninspired. I’m also tired of overcomplication.

A year and a half ago, I went at life so hard. Workouts weren’t worth it unless I felt like I was going to die. Cooking food wasn’t great unless I was hunting down ingredients. Work wasn’t purposeful unless I juggled a pile of projects. All this velocity became exhausting. Perhaps this is why I haven’t returned to the megaformer (I’m just not interested in pushing myself until I faint, vomit, or both, so now I spin or do pilates), stopped ordering ingredients off the internet, and have focused my energy on juggling 2-3 projects at a time.

So, this pasta. Last week, I was in Barnes & Noble and I found Maya Sozer’s book on the New Releases table and the burger on the cover gave me pause. I thumbed through the book and not only did I find the meals tasty and pretty easy to assemble, they were healthy. I’ve made dishes with squash as a “cheese” sauce, like this penne and chicken & this lasagna, but I’m trying to chill with my gluten and dairy intake (I normally have either once a week and I make sure it’s GOOD–like a baguette with butter, cacio e pepe, or a homemade grilled cheese sandwich). Enter this pasta.

I will say a few things. This sauce is a bit too much for a pound of pasta. I think you can dial this back by 1/2 cup and save it or add more pasta. And while this doesn’t taste like “cheese” (and it shouldn’t because that would be really lame), the nutritional yeast and cashews give a creamy, comforting texture, and the spice mixture gives the dish a pop. I fried up some sweet italian sausage and mixed that in, along with some diced sundried tomatoes and fresh parsley, and I hoovered two bowls and saved the rest for lunch tomorrow.

Easy peasy.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Maya Sozer’s Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches (I modified based on what I had on hand)
For the mac & cheese:
1/4 cup raw cashews (this is important–you can’t use salted, roasted or any of that other nonsense)
1-3/4 cups cooked butternut squash or 3/4 of a 15oz can of squash puree
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-3/4 cups almond milk (must be unsweetened, unflavored)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sweet curry powder (I have regular curry powder and it worked fine)
1 to 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (I didn’t use this as I didn’t have ginger on hand and don’t much like it in cream sauces)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne rigate or rigatoni pasta

Optional garnish:
Fresh parsley (or thyme)
sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Put all the ingredients, except the salt, black pepper and pasta, into a food processor or high-speed blender and mix until smooth. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Add the butternut squash sauce to the same pot after draining out the pasta water. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pasta is dressed with the sauce and is piping hot.

Add your garnishes, if you’re feeling it.

spaghetti with tomato and walnut pesto

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I made this dish for a friend who came over for brunch one Saturday. I greeted her, and a guy I’d hired off Task Rabbit to assemble a file cabinet (naturally they arrived at the same time), with a deafening smoke alarm from the tomatoes I’d been roasting in the oven. The three of us held up towels and magazines, trying to air out my apartment from all the smoke that had accumulated, and we ended up laughing because my cat nearly went airborne trying to flee the alarm. Good times. 

I just finished Heather Havrilesky’s excellent column collection, How to Be a Person in the World (buy it, read it, effective yesterday), and one of the Ask Polly columns resonated so deeply with me–a woman moved to a new city and struggled to make new friends. While I prefer to spend much of my time alone (I actually take solace in the quiet of my own company), I do miss the ease of my east coast friendships. The feeling that I could hop on a subway and see a friend in the middle of the day. Since I’m a consultant much of my time is spent at home, in seclusion, and while I have a set of good friends, I wouldn’t mind a slow and deliberate expansion of my circle. A loosening of a belt, if you will. And I loved how Heather talked about opening your heart in the sense that you’d be surprised how the people who remain and thrive are those whom you least suspect. It’s okay to connect with people who are not your vision of an ideal friend because we need people, and companionship, in any form, is a comfort. 

So I’m joining a few groups, took up membership at a really cool gym where the members actually socialize (who knew?) and talk to one another, and I can’t wait to have new friends over for dinner. 

DIRECTIONS: Recipe from Bon Appetit
⅔ cup walnuts
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped (I nixed this because fish)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces spaghetti (I used gluten-free fettucini)
½ cup (packed) basil leaves

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.
Heat broiler. Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil, tossing once, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.

Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ oz. Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in ⅓ cup oil; process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

Transfer pasta to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.

Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and black pepper and drizzle with oil.
.

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gwyneth paltrow’s carrot + ginger soup

gwyneth paltrow's carrot + ginger soup

I was supposed to work this weekend because I’m still in debt and would love to live a life without having to spend an hour of meditation as preparation for dealing with my credit card statements. But then the third season of Bloodline dropped on Netflix, and I found myself seven pages into a new story. Part of me wishes I had the waistline and creative velocity of October, before the deepest of my depression pancaked me, Mack-truck style. So when a story rolled up, I closed Powerpoint and remained in a word document coma for the remainder of yesterday. I even cancelled my beach plans for today because it’s been open-heart surgery to get words on the page. So when the words finally do come, I’ve learned that I need to down the volume down to low on everything else. I’m even having a hard time writing this post because all I keep thinking about is you have to finish the one story that doesn’t end in someone singing out their sorrow like a sermon. Writing about hope is unchartered territory but it’s one I can’t wait to navigate.

 

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from It’s All Easy, modified
2 tbsp olive oil oil
2 shallots, minced
Salt
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 pound carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper

gwyneth paltrow's carrot + ginger soup

DIRECTIONS
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and garam masala and continue to cook, stirring, for another minute.

Toss in the carrots, stock, and another big pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the carrots are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender or, if using a blender, let the soup cool for at least 10 minutes and then carefully pour it into the blender and purée until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls.

gwyneth paltrow's carrot + ginger soup

grain-free sweet potato waffles

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Yesterday, I hit the pause button. I woke to see many of my friends arguing in a private online group about an article that had circulated overnight. I’m pretty desensitized (I mean, the first film I ever saw was The Shining at age 5), but when I clicked over to xojane to see what the kerfuffle was all about, I felt ill. I felt as if someone kicked me in the stomach and kept on kicking. A woman penned an essay (which has since been taken down, but I’ve heard a cached version still exists) essentially calling her “friend’s” (and I use that term loosely since they were clearly not friends) suicide a blessing. The woman continued to kick dirt over her friend’s face by slut-shaming her, airing unnecessary dirty laundry, and in the end, the woman is better off as a result of taking her own life. 

You let that sink a little. 

I messaged one of my friends with, this is a joke, right? Because what kind of heinous sociopath would so callously capitalize on a woman’s suicide? Imagine if the victim’s mother read this. Imagine if her friends read this. Imagine if people, who already believed their life would be better if it were snuffed out, read this as an affirmation of what they already believed. That their loved ones would be better off if they were no longer here even though decent human beings know that this is a cruel fiction. 

I read horrible things every day. Yesterday morning I read a man’s response to Oklahoma’s desire to make doctors who practice abortions illegal. Rape ’em, I say. Send them to Mexico and rape ’em because they deserve it for killing a baby. I read posts from people who eviscerate strangers. I read Adam Gopnik’s Trump piece and I close my eyes. I scroll through hundreds of Facebook posts where women practice a form of feminism that disturbs me–applaud women regardless of their actions. Ignore culpability and basic human decency because our role is one we must always assume. Smile and play nice. I thought: are you fucking kidding me? Feminism and sociopathy are mutually exclusive conversations.

The ugliness is ubiquitous and pungent, and it’s easy to feel as if you could so easily suffocate from it. 

But this essay put me on pause. It altered my day. I talked about it with a friend during lunch. I talked it about with a friend from NY on Facetime. I chatted with friends on Facebook messenger. I cried. A lot. And then I read this and this and thought thank goodness the world isn’t a complete and utter ruin. 

There were many times in my life when I contemplated taking my own life. I was very well near it months ago until the compassion of those whom I love was enough to make me get my life back on track. And I’m grateful every day for that. I’m grateful for being here. I’m grateful for psychiatry and Wellbutrin and people who don’t carry a stigma against mental illness.

The cruelest thing you could say to someone is: You’re not necessary. You don’t need to exist. You take up too much space.  

I could go about is this Trump’s America rising up and waving their bleached-white flag, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell everyone I know and love, regardless if they have a form of mental illness, that they deserve to exist. That it’s a gift that they’re here. I’ll remind myself that every single day is a gift, and that might sound trite or fatuous, but it is. 

I had plans this weekend but I cancelled them to stay in, read, work, lay low and quiet, and make food that gives me pleasure. Do the things that give me joy, and cooking is one of them. 

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook, with slight modifications for my taste
1 small white sweet potato or 1 cup mashed sweet potato
3 large eggs, room temperature, whisked
4 tbsp maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond flour
1/3 tapioca flour/starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

sweet potato waffles

DIRECTIONS
You can be crazy and roast your sweet potato for 30-40 minutes at 425F. I mean, it’s your life, you can be all laissez-faire, however, if you crave sanity, put this bad boy in a bowl in a microwave for four minutes. Let the sweet potato cool to the touch. Peel off the skin, put it in a small bowl and with a fork, mash until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix in the eggs, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and coconut oil, and whisk until smooth.

Add the flours, baking soda/powder, and cinnamon and mix well. You might have lumps. It’s not that serious.

Heat up a waffle iron and add about 1/3 cup of the batter (I did not because I like big waffles and I cannot lie…) into the iron. Cook until crispy and golden brown on the outside. Set aside and repeat with the remaining batter. You’re supposed to get 6 waffles out of this recipe, but I got 3 and I have no regrets.

Serve with maple syrup. If you have leftovers, these waffles freeze really well.

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black bean taquitos with black bean guacamole + some thoughts on the big gooper’s latest cookbook

chicken taquitos

There’s something about Gwyneth Paltrow that reminds me of dissecting earthworms in the 11th grade. The innards are gruesome to look at, but you can’t seem to turn away. In fact, you’re compelled to dive right in. Or maybe this is just the part of me who secretly wishes she had the drive and competency to be a surgeon finding its way into a blog post. There’s so much about Paltrow that’s worthy of ridicule: the patrician insouciance, the lithe frame, the pizza oven in her backyard, the unconscious coupling nonsense, the bad acting, the why-is-she-famous-while-Winona-stews-in-obscurity questions, Contagion, our laughter during Contagion–the jokes write themselves, so much so that it’s almost too easy. I unsubscribed to Goop two years ago because I couldn’t read her newsletter without wanting to take a shower afterward it was so banal, basic and out-of-touch. Paltrow-bashing, for most, has become a pastime sport.

But those fucking cookbooks.

Mostly I tell people that I like Julia Turshen’s (Gwyneth’s former collaborator) cookbooks. When I had to abstain from gluten, dairy, yeast (gluten-free bread was verboten FOR A YEAR), and 37 million other foods, Paltrow’s It’s All Good was a gentle reprieve. That and the Oh She Glows Cookbook whispered: you’re not going to die, face-down, in a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Not yet, anyway. Finally, I regarded cauliflower with a reaction that no longer resembled disgust.

Yet, I read her cookbooks with a perpetual side-eye. From the Kinfolk-esque photographs of her dreamily staring off into her multi-million landscape that breeds that “simple life” and the endless name-dropping (we get it, you’re besties with Beyonce) to a pantry that costs multiple paychecks to stock, it’s hard not to drop-kick her cookbooks while eating the delicious meals I made as a result of said cookbooks. It’s really hard.

I’ll be honest–I was looking forward to It’s All Easy because I wanted simple, healthy recipes that I could make at home on the days I have back-to-back conference calls and Powerpoint has me seeing double. But then I got the cookbook and sighed because, oh, it’s her interpretation of easy. Easy for the patricians, but rough for the plebeian-crunching lot. I cook often and have a pimped-out pantry, but some of the ingredients had me doing a double-take: who has Gochujang paste, Ponzu, Sambal oelek, kuzu root, and Bonito flakes on hand? I don’t even know what these ingredients are (although I’m clearly curious) much less have confidence that my local grocery will have them in stock. The point-of-view is curious–a mish-mosh of Tex-Mex, Korean, and vegan fare–to the point where the book felt a bit ramshackle even if the most of the recipes score well in terms of ease and flavor.  I paged through the book, read through her insufferable name-dropping and did that squinty thing I do with my eyes when I’m confused.

But some of the recipes (at least the ones with ingredients that were easy to procure) are pretty good. I’ve made her falafel (I did the chickpea soak thing and I am DONE with peeling shells), chicken salad, acai bowl, and eggs, and so far, so good. But still. I was disappointed with her follow-up to It’s All Good simply because these recipes aren’t easy, aren’t meals you can wrap up and store for later. However, if you love Goop, love Gwen, love this Kinfolk aesthetic, live your life and fawn over this cookbook.

These taquitos were really tasty. I changed her recipe a bit for my spice and flavor level, and they ended up being DELICIOUS. I have leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll update this post if they’re crap upon re-heating.

INGREDIENTS: Taquito recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, modified. Of note, I like this cookbook but it’s kind of comical to call it “easy”. I quite liked the spot-on L.A. Times review, and this recipe road-test was hilarious. // Guacamole recipe is my own
For the taquitos: This recipe serves 4
1 package of corn tortillas
1 15oz can of black beans, drained + rinsed, reserve 2 tbsp of the beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt, for seasoning

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
juice + zest of one lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserve 2 tbsp of black beans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish or baking sheet. Set aside.

Mix all of the ingredients for the taquitos in a large bowl. On medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a small, non-stick pan. Add one tortilla at a time, and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Once the tortilla is cooked, quickly transfer it to a plate. Add 2-3 tbsp of the taquito mixture. Wrap tightly, tucking in the mixture as you wrap, and place the filled taquito, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas. Midway through the process, I had to add another tablespoon of oil to avoid smoking out my apartment.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the taquitos are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the guacamole. I like my guac smooth, not chunky, so I really get in there with the fork. Stir in the beans so as to not break them.

Once the taquitos are out of the oven, let them rest for 1-2 minutes. I love stuffing the guac inside the taquito like it’s a little cannoli. Chow down and serve with arugula or your favorite mixed greens.

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chicken taquitos
chicken taquitos

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

falafel for the flight

baked falafel

As you well know, I try to avoid eating plane food. There are notable exceptions: I’m in a foreign country and I’m not able to find a local market where I’m able to stockpile food in Tupperware, or when I arrive at an airport and my only food options are a corndog stand that makes 7-Eleven look like a Michelin-starred restaurant. In those cases, I find myself invariably poking at the contents of the hot aluminum foil tray much like how one would prod a dead body with a stick.

Believe me when I say that my food bag is just as sizable as a carry-on. I bring snacks, nuts, fruit, and plastic bins filled with food that can withstand hours without refrigeration. Often, I’ll bring cooked chicken and rice or pasta or meatballs (complete with my own utensils)–anything that contains a cooked protein.

Tomorrow, I board a plane back to New York for a brief work trip. It’s the first time I’ve returned since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, and it already feels weird to think about landing in New York without a place to go home to. I’ll be staying with a friend in the city, whose apartment is in walking distant of my client’s office. I’ll spend most of my days in work sessions and strategy meetings, and evenings working or catching up on new business proposals and new client deliverables, with very little time to see anyone. Initially, I was excited to return because Ample Hills Salted Cracked Caramel Ice Cream! Real Bagels! However, my recent fatwa on gluten and dairy (and my carting along my steroids in the event of a random flare-up), has made that blissful dream nothing other than a fantasy.

But I digress.

I’ve already started packing and doing prep work for next week’s meetings, and naturally I’ve started on the food bag. This time, I’m bringing fresh cut berries, protein bars, pistachios (I’m OBSESSED with matzo, don’t ask), and a tub of this falafel in a hummus bath.

Please know that I’m shaking my fists in rage over how good this cookbook is thus far. I’m on my third dish and I’ve been satisfied with the ease in which I can make these dishes and the tasty results. But again, this is not for the busy mom. Maybe a mom like Gwenyth who has access to fancy organic ingredients (I’m aware of the privilege I have in being able to buy fresh and local food) or someone like me who cooks for one.

I’ll be honest–I was tempted to fry these fuckers but after months of crap eating, I’m feeling the need to return to that which is virtuous. Enter–the tasty falafel.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy (FYI–I altered the recipe a bit for clarity)
Olive oil or cooking spray for the baking sheet
2 (15oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp of chopped parsley
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt (I used dairy-free plain yoghurt–coconut, almond or soy works)
2 tsp salt, to taste

DIRECTION
Dump all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse 15-18 times. You want all the ingredients to be combined, but not smooth.

Use your hands and roll the mixture into 30 walnut-sized balls. Personally, I think that size is insane (who eats walnut sized falafel? NO ONE), so I got 20 golf balls out of this recipe and I was a happy camper. Keep a small bowl of water nearby since the ingredients tend to stick all over your hands.

Arrange the falafel on the greased baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size). Flip midway through to avoid burning the bottoms. I’ll be honest, flipping the falafel balls was annoying AF so I used a spatula and a spoon and only 3 of them fell apart.

Eat immediately. Serve with hummus or a salad.

baked falafel

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