Tag Archives: pasta

MIDDAY FUEL

With a willing partner in the kitchen to help rinse and chop, this intensely flavorful lunch comes together in less than 30 minutes. Put a pot of salted water on to boil, and add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet. Fry a few strips of prosciutto in the skillet until crispy, then remove, cool, and break into large chips. Don’t clean the skillet! With a mandoline, I grated a zucchini into tiny matchsticks, and then added to the hot, smoking skillet (okay, I added some butter to the skillet, too). Saute until nearly translucent, then add several cloves of chopped garlic and a few generous pinches of red chili flakes.

Add halved new potatoes to boiling water, wait 10 minutes, then add pasta, wait six minutes, then add washed and trimmed green beans. Using a ladle, spoon some of the starchy pasta-potato water into the skillet, and stir. Add the juice of half a lemon, plenty of salt, freshly grated black pepper, and more chili flakes to taste. Let the starchy water + lemon thicken into a nice sauce, and reserve more pasta water if it looks a little dry. Drain potatoes, pasta, and green beans all at once, and add to the skillet. Serve immediately, and top with grated pecorino and prosciutto chips.

The tomato salad was even easier: simply halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes, dice up a cucumber, mince some onion, and toss all together. We added some high quality olive oil, fresh oregano, dried oregano, and minced scallions. The perfect lunch.

[And Montreal friends, don’t forget! A fun concert tonight.]

PASTA LUNCH

When Adam was in Italy, he frequently ate a pasta dish that he fell in love with: tiny, tender pillows of ricotta gnocchi the size of chiclets or your pinkie fingernail, dyed a verdant green hue from the stinging nettles that were gently worked into the dough. We tried to recreate the dish when he got home, using nettles and ricotta from the market, and adding diminutive cubes of boiled potatoes and white asparagus into the final plating. We weren’t happy with the shade of green — we didn’t want the pasta to be flecked so much as doused in the color green — and any advice on making vividly colored pasta would be super welcome. But man, was it tasty.

DRAINING THE PESTO

More pasta. I came back from Portland, Maine, feeling bloated and gross, and swore that I would go on a diet to reclaim some sense of self-worth (penance for all of the buttery croissants and sticky buns). For the most part, I’ve been drinking lots of tea, and eating piles of kale, poached eggs, and farro. It’s all very simple and good.

But maybe this “light” meal gives you some kind of idea of how loosely I conceive of the word “diet,” or how silly I find the term to begin with. Eating a big bowl of pasta drenched in pesto is somehow acceptable “diet food” in my mind, although it’s clearly not. Not that I have ever successfully been on a diet, I’ve never been interested in restricting what I eat. So right now I see it more as a “simplified eating pattern,” in direct reaction to the overconsumption of baked goods in the last 10 days. I need a break. I need a detox.

So, I cracked open the final jar of summer pesto, and tossed a tablespoon with whole wheat penne, hothouse zucchini, chickpeas, and basil — and no butter in sight. That counts as something, right? [Also: I was so inspired by Jennifer’s gorgeous Los Angeles garden pasta primavera — I can’t wait until we start getting favas and fresh peas!]

FINISH LINE

For the first time in a long time — longer than I’d like to admit — I went to the gym.

I used to be addicted to the gym, addicted to sports, addicted to exercise. Three hours at the gym was nothing; skipping a day’s worth of exercise was unthinkable. But over the years, exercise became more and more sporadic, until I eliminated it completely from my life. If you were a college athlete, then you know how hard it is to transition from 25 hours of exercise a week to only 4. Psychologically, it’s almost impossible, and I opted for (my) path of least resistance: complete bodily stasis.

I found ways to incorporate movement in a more natural way (biking for hours every day; going on long walks; sporadic yoga; pick-up sports with friends; trips skiing). But it’s clear that if I’d like to keep eating this, this, or this, joining a gym is really a crucial imperative. (Wine critic Robert Parker once said that the “only” reason why he exercises is so he can “eat whatever he wants.” Too true).

So I woke up at 8am, went to the gym, ran a few miles, and felt great. Then I hopped on the dreaded ergometer, and tried my very hardest to hold a 2:20 steady state for 30 minutes (for those of you that are rowers, or have been rowers, you know this is deeply pathetic). I finished with a power 10, and was sure that I was going to barf all over myself. (I didn’t). So I stretched, felt great, bought a coffee and a mango, and went home. And didn’t eat breakfast. Or anything at all. And — shocker — had a head-splitting migraine for the rest of the day.

So many mistakes were made! But the biggest, we can agree, is not eating the proper refuel meal directly after the gym. What was I thinking?

I wish I had prepared this lunch that I made recently. It would have been the perfect post-gym meal. It’s a simple cannellini bean and mushroom ragu, made with tomato paste, bacon, onions, bell peppers, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and thickened with butter and some starchy pasta water. Tossed with fresh pasta, a few cups of arugula, and plenty of lemon juice and Pecorino to finish, it was delicious, filling, healthy, and packed with protein and carbs.

But I also don’t want to waste precious post-workout minutes trying frantically to assemble a healthy lunch. This would have been even easier, and just as filling: a simple four-egg omelet (divided between two), with a potato-leek and broccoli rabe hash (all creatively reinterpreted leftovers), and toasted baguette with Brie. Comforting, cozy and super satisfying, and would have prevented the crazy day-long headache I suffered.

I’m pretty sure I forgot all of the nutrition knowledge I picked up during my years spent as a rower at Cornell, but I think this would be an acceptable post-workout snack, for those of you that prefer to exercise in the afternoon or evenings. I made a quick tabbouleh, or parsley salad (bulghur wheat, diced cucumbers, diced red onion, lemon juice, and minced parsley), and ate that with torn pita and a rough white bean dip, made with soaked cannellini beans that I boiled until just fork tender. The beans are then sauteed with thyme, red onion, olive oil and garlic, and mashed up with a wooden spoon (I added a few tablespoons of homemade chicken broth so it wouldn’t get too dried out). Perfect snack for any circumstance, really.

SUMMER RECALL

-36 degrees here today [Edit: that’s in Celsius, I believe; in Fahrenheit, about -22], and the only respite is the gorgeous sunshine we get on almost a daily basis. Another of my default cold-weather comfort foods? Pasta — tossed with our beloved summer canning supplies, including a small jar of my pesto, Adam’s luscious oven-dried tomatoes, and sweet hand-shucked white beans. I’m terrified for the day when we run out of our summer bounty.

MIDDAY FUEL

Fail-safe options for lunch (or: Variations On a Theme), for when you really, really need to feel full:

Oven-roasted sweet potato fries with smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder + too much salt; tossed with a bit of olive oil (not too much) and roasted at high heat, they get delicious crispy, charred edges. This is key. // Pan-fried kale with lemon, diced shallots, prosciutto + almonds; I like adding a splash of vinegar or wine at the end to give it tang.

Or: Warm chickpea salad, fried in a bit of butter, garlic, sage and parsley // needle-thin slivers of raw red cabbage with apple cider vinegar // couscous with chicken broth, cilantro, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of saffron + more almonds // toast to spoon the chickpeas onto

Or: Open-faced turkey sandwich (open-faced by necessity; only had one piece of bread left) smothered in soy-sauce braised kale // cucumber + almond salad // home fries (I like to make this a million different ways, but a pinch of turmeric, dried marjoram, cracked black pepper + tiny pats of butter are unexpected but not unwelcome potato-toppers) + ketchup swirled with sriracha.

Or: Pasta (I just never get tired of pasta) with cherry tomatoes, red pepper flakes, beautiful olive oil (break out the expensive stuff) + fresh basil (of the hydroponic variety; a luxury) // side of sauteed spinach + garlic (take the spinach out of the pan before it wilts fully; it will continue to wilt on the plate).

I know my meals look so similar, but they feel different to me, anyway.

THREE TIMES A LADY

UGH jetlag is the worst. Despite borderline overdosing on melatonin in the last three days, last night I felt like I was going to pass out around 7pm, drank an ill-advised Malaysian iced coffee from a food court (more like a watery milkshake) around 8pm, was wired until 1am, finally slept until 5:00am, and then weirdly, passionately craved potato chips around 7:45am.

Anyway! I miss Montreal a lot. One of the most fun change-ups of my daily routine was relegating lunch to the least interesting meal of the day. I mean that in the best way possible. In Portland, lunch tends to be my special, ‘big’ meal, while I often skip breakfast and snack on lunch leftovers for dinner. In Montreal, lunch tended to be super casual and more modest, as it was bookended by one (or two) breakfasts and a magnificent dinner. Our midday routine quickly became sandwiches, potato chips and ginger ale, which happens to be one of my favorite meals of all time, so I’m not complaining, obviously.

But this lunch was a little more special than the others. We had enjoyed a gigantic chopped salad the night before, and I was still on a raw vegetable kick. I lamely called this “Salad, Three Ways.”

Salads are the most foolproof ways to cook without using a recipe. I usually consider things like flavor, texture and appearance, usually trying to squeeze in as many ingredients as I can before things get legitimately out of control. Splitting up my impulses into three salads makes my cooking way more manageable.

Salad #1: Bitter and crunchy. Chopped lettuce, crescents of white Belgian endives, slivers of red radishes, toasted pecans, and Persian cucumbers sliced on the diagonal. To balance the bitter, I made a sweet beet vinaigrette, which was basically my lemon vinaigrette with beets mashed into the dressing, turning it a lovely fuschia hue.

Salad #2: Tart and sweet. Diced cantaloupe, cubes of roasted beets, toasted sesame seeds, ribbons of fresh mint and basil, crushed pistachios, orange zest. I was still craving the feta and watermelon salad that we, sadly, never enjoyed, so I made this more refreshing version instead. I love how beets stain everything around it a wonderful pale pink, and in this case, it transformed my cantaloupe into a passable faux-watermelon. Craving crisis averted.

Salad #3: Warm and salty. Whole wheat fusilli, flash fried kale and shallots, roasted garlic, fresh squeezes of lemon juice, grated Pecorino, pine nuts. This is a dinner standby for me, but it’s solid and sturdy and always makes me feel great.