Archive for the ‘Nourish Thyself’ Category

Pasta PuttanescaInsalata PanzanellaI really do love to cook.  For others, for myself, for the joy of watching a delicious meal come together.  There are those times when I want to spend half the day preparing a succulent feast, and I do.  But lately, I have been more drawn to simpler preparation.  Maybe it’s the heat of summer in the high-desert, which changes the kind of food I want to eat and the time I want to spend getting it all together. Whatever the reason, the result is a flurry of quick, easy, and delicious one, or two-dish meals that satisfy every bit as much as the more complex and elaborate servings.  Here are two selections that satisfy me completely with only a tossed green salad to complement and refresh.

Now, remember to put on some music to cook by.  I have just discovered Renee Fleming, so am cooking to her CD’s: Renee Fleming, a selection of gorgeous arias from Puccini, Massenet, Bizet, and more; Renee & Bryn, Fleming and Baritone Bryn Terfel singing great songs from hit Broadway shows: Sweeney Todd, Woman of the Year, Phantom of the Opera, The King & I, and more.  Pour yourself a glass of something, even bubbly crisp Pellegrino with a lemon twist, and enjoy yourself!

PASTA PUTTANESCA (In the red plate above)

This is a fairly well-known dish that can take as long as you want it to for preparation.  I have done the longer, making the sauce fresh in the pan, letting it simmer for an hour or more, but this is the short version, which depends totally on finding a pre-made pasta sauce that I really like.  I hadn’t found one until I tried Cost-Plus World Market’s line of sauces.  They are quite good and the texture is closer to what I want in a red sauce than others I have tried.  So, first off, go to World Market and get a jar of their Marinara Sauce.  If you don’t have World Market where you are, find a jarred Marinara Sauce that you like a lot and substitute that.

Again, this recipe serves one.  For more, make the appropriate additions.

Into a medium-sized non-stick frying pan, pour one-third of the jar of sauce.  Add a tablespoon of chopped capers, a handful of pitted Kalamata olives roughly cut in half, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper (to your taste).  On low heat simmer it for as long as it takes to cook your pasta, stirring regularly.

This is typically made with Capellini (Angel Hair) or Spaghetti.  This time I wanted something different so I used De Lallo Tortiglioni #20, which is a bigger version of Rigatoni, so if you can’t find Tortiglioni, use Barilla Rigatoni.  Bring a good sized pot of water to rolling boil, add a dose of kosher salt and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drain the pasta and put into pan with sauce, tossing until fully blended.  Then, pour it into a lovely bowl, or plate, and sit down and feast!  A good red wine that you like is a wonderful taste to incorporate into this meal!  I like Antinori Santa Cristina, a Tuscan Sangiovese, mmmm.

INSALATA PANZANELLA  (In the blue & white bowl above)

This dish was born of La Cucina Povera, The Poor Kitchen.  I love it because I have always, even as a kid, mopped up the salad dressing in the bottom of the bowl with French bread!  This dish is a great way to use bread that has gotten a bit hard but that you don’t want to throw away.

In a large wooden salad bowl pour three tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good green oil!), one tablespoon of good Balsamic Vinegar (I have used flavored: pear, orange, raspberry, as well as the real stuff from Modena), 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of pressed fresh garlic, two dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of sea salt.  Whisk it all together until it’s well-blended.  This is the famous salad dressing of my longtime dear friend Faith Winthrop.  Thank you, cara mia! (dear one!)

Cut or break up the leftover bread: a crusty loaf of some kind-French baguette, Italian batard, sourdough dinner rolls. CRUSTY is the key.  Place the pieces of bread in the bowl and toss with the dressing, making sure all are coated well.  Add sliced tomatoes and/or avocado if you wish.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at least an hour.  The longer the better.  Garnish with fresh Basil leaves or Italian Parsley.  Eat it right out of the bowl and sip a glass of whatever pleases you.  I enjoy a glass of white: the French Vouvray, or a good Sauvignon Blanc that isn’t so dry it makes my throat hurt afterwards!!

Bon Appetito, Amici! (Friends!)



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Retrieving Joy

I slept poorly and felt sorely from the spontaneous hacking away at the huge green bush that obscures my view of the ridge, the mesa, the lightening storms, the action!  Realized early today that if I were to retrieve some joy,  I must do things that were fun.  No forced or burdensome activities.   Took a hot shower that assuaged the soreness, went to the park with my doggie, did a crossword puzzle!  Then, I decided to cook and use all the veggies that were ripening too fast, to waste not, to give this food purpose!  Orange, yellow, and red tomatoes: cherry, Roma, and heirloom.  Calabasita, a pale green sweet zucchini-like squash from Mexico.  And the leaves of spinach that were still dark green and firm from a too-large box the rest of which was going bad. Six Baby Bella mushrooms.

I put out a large skillet and swirled it a couple of times with extra-virgen olive oil and put the fire on low.  Then, I chopped three cloves of garlic and, after the oil was gently heated, added them to the pan, cooking on low for two minutes to golden only. Having cut up the tomatoes, in half for the cherries, in quarters for the medium-sized; the mushrooms in quarters, I added them to the pan and sauteed them on low, stirring frequently.

At first, I thought I would add the calabasita and spinach to the tomato-mushroom mixture, but it all looked so beautiful: yellow, orange, red with a splash of the earthy mushrooms, that I decided not corrupt it!  So, I put out a medium sized skillet, oiled and gently heated as above and added three more cloves of chopped garlic, cooked on low for two minutes.  Then, I added the sliced in quarters calabasita and sauteed, stirring frequently.    Added the stemmed spinach leaves in the last two or three minutes and folded in until cooked.

The time for sauteeing will be determined by your preference, from a snappy al dente to a tender with a crunchy skin, to a well-blended and softer form of texture and taste.  I vacillate among these, but today I was definitely in the mood for well-blended and softer, so about 45 minutes for the tomatoes and mushrooms, 20-25 for the calabasita, then only a few for the spinach.  Besides, the perfume filling the house was so intoxicating that I wanted to savor it as long as possible.

When the veggies were cooked to my taste, I toasted a couple of slices of French bread that I had in the house, lay them on a plate and ladled the tomato mixture on one, the green mixture on the other.  A sprinkle of kosher salt on each to taste, a glass of  Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina, and lunch was moaning good!  I will get a fresh loaf of crusty and superb Rosemary Sea Salt bread from the Wildflower Bakery later today and have the veggies again for dinner (yes, it tasted THAT good!) with this best of all breads!

And, now I am energized, pain-free, well-fed with healthy food, and sharing it all with you!  Gotta love that.

So, when you need to eschew the forced and burdensome do something creative, be it cooking or something else, that is fun and nourishing to your body and soul.



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There are many ways to nourish ourselves, but the one I speak to today is the literal one: eating good food.

I find that a delicious meal made from fresh and healthy ingredients that seem to be made for each other really boosts my happy quotient.  Moaning over a meal is one of my favorite modes of expression!

These days I take great joy in deciding what that meal will be and when: lunch or dinner?  Working at home affords me the opportunity to have the larger, or heavier, meal of the day at either time.   In the summer I often eat bigger at lunch; in the winter darkness comes early, and the call to dine elaborately comes mostly for the evening.  When I find myself home alone for days at a stretch, I really get into experimenting with food preparation.  The dish I want to share with you this week is one I put together for myself on a very hot desert evening with the ingredients I found waiting in my refrigerator.  It turned out to be a one-dish meal that I went gaga over.  Made it again two nights later!

To nourish myself fully I want to enjoy the preparation of the meal as well as the ingesting. Therefore, I begin by putting on some music to cook by.  Since I usually cook in the Italian or Mediterranean way, I choose Pavarotti: Neapolitan Love Songs; The Soundtrack to Big Night (one of the great cooking/eating movies of all time); or something jazzy like Diana Krall, All For You. The point is to have fun and move your body around so you don’t get tired or sore.

This dish is what I call Sassy Summer Pasta.

This amount  will serve one.  I do that to encourage you to take the time and care to nourish your self.  Then, if you want to serve it to friends at a later time, do it!  Double the recipe for two, triple it for three, etc.

4 ounces Barilla Thin Spaghetti

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium to large cloves of garlic finely chopped

1 calabasita (a pale green zucchini-like squash that comes from Mexico and is very sweet) sliced very thin (use a mandoline if you have one)

1/2 orange bell pepper sliced in the same way as the calabasita

a handful of cherry tomatoes sliced in half

a handful of fresh Italian parsley chopped

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over pasta

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice and chop veggies, parsley, and garlic

Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil, add the kosher salt. Cook pasta according to package directions 6-7-8 minutes, depending on your taste.  Don’t overcook!

While the water is boiling, in a 12″ frying pan over a medium-low flame, heat the extra virgin oil a minute or two, add the garlic and cook alone no more than two minutes or until it is just golden.

Add the veggies and saute over medium heat, turning frequently, 5-8 minutes or until they are soft but not mushy.  A little snap of the skin is okay as long as the innards are tender.

Heat the bowl you in which you will put the pasta in the microwave a minute or so.

When the pasta is done, drain well and put into the pan with the veggies.  I usually drizzle a little oil on the noodles at this point, then mix with the veggies in the pan until well blended.

Pour into heated bowl, arranging the veggies in a colorful array, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; grate the fresh Parmigiano over the noodles; sprinkle the parsley on top.

Eccola!  You are ready to dine!  Pour yourself a glass of a good Italian red:  Bolla Bardolino or Valpolicella compliment this wonderfully.

Sit down, listen to music, watch a good mystery on TV, or gaze at the sunset while indulging in gustatory delight!

I tend to eat a layer, salt & pepper & cheese again; eat a layer, do it again.  But you can inaugurate your own nourishing ritual.

Buon Appetito!



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