03 . 19 . 14
March 17th last year was day three of our ten day trek on the Torres del Paine circuit. Some of you weren’t with us last year when we took a hiatus to Patagonia, Chile. I made Pisco Sours when we came home. In any case, we had put in 20km that day and looked ahead at a challenging summit early the next morning. Shaun made camp by the lake of Los Perros Glacier, pitching the tent as I propped up my swollen feet against the tree from where I started putting up the hammock and stopped halfway. I draped the hanging portion of the hammock over my face and listened to the moaning and creaking of the glacier, waiting every 15 minutes or so to hear large, school bus sized chunks of ice dislodge and crash into the water below.
Shaun came over to where I lay comatose and finished my hammock job. I crawled in and tried not to think about food. We had underestimated our calorie needs for the trek and were on a tight ration of freeze-dried meals, oatmeal, and cliff bars for the remaining 100 kilometers. The two books and journal I had brought haunted me. I would have given my left arm to have swapped them for a jar of peanut butter when we left the hostel in Puerto Natales four days prior. I rocked over on my right side in the hammock to survey the area as other hikers limped in for the night. A splattering of white sticks at the base of a tree at the next campsite over came into focus. DEAR GOD, IS THAT SPAGHETTI? With a sudden burst of energy I rolled out of the hammock and motioned for Shaun to join me at the base of the tree. Sure enough. Dried spaghetti exploded across the roots in the dirt as if someone yesterday had been standing there and ripped open the package too quickly. One by one we collected the pasta like a game of pick-up-sticks, careful to keep the larger pieces intact before delicately placing them in my beanie. We crouched by our tent for an hour brushing off the dirt before boiling a pot of water, cooking it, and adding it to our allotted packet-meal for the night.
That bizarre, desperate, and humbling moment is everything to me. It is the most mortifying and perfect reminder we often just need one person to be with us in the amber of the moment and bear witness to our existence. Someone to sit with us in the dirt after a long day to sort through the muck and pick up the pieces of our lives and make something good of it. A hug, a look, a gesture that silently says… I hear you, I see you, and I’m right here with you. I’m pretty psyched on the fact that the person who eats spaghetti from the forest floor with me in times of famine is the person I get to call partner and “husband” for the rest of my life. And if we’re lucky enough to have a partner, sibling, parent, or friend who doesn’t back away from the vulnerable, ugly, and often lopsided parts of our journey, we should be bold enough to say thank you loudly and often. There is no work more important, in my opinion, than to accept this love and learn to share it with as many people as we can muster. It is the only work to be done in this lifetime, really. We go through our years busy-ing ourselves with work and pleasure and community, yet despite it all, we still often feel so darn alone. We must reach for one another, constantly. We have to try and crouch together, we have to try to laugh, to listen, to cry, to bear witness to each other’s lives… they are affirmations to our humanity and our deep and fundamental longing to know and be known. I’m pretty young in the scheme of things and probably don’t know much about much, but this is what I believe: we were put here to hold on and hang in there, together. We’re here to seek each other and support and try our merry best to humble ourselves to the madness that is being alive together at the same time, rolling the dice, getting creative with hands outstretched to make the best of the whole thing.
Lemon Herb Ricotta Agnolotti
Big hugs to my friend Bre Graziano, Italian food guru through and through, with the creation of this recipe.
- 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese, homemade or purchased
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2-3 tbsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon semolina flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- pea shoots and fresh herbs for garnish
- olive oil for cooking
- juice of 3 lemons
- 1 stick of butter
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, herbs, lemon juice, egg and salt/pepper until thoroughly combined. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl or clean, flat work surface combine the flour with the salt, nutmeg and the 1 tablespoon of semolina. Create a well in the flour and crack eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth, drizzle with olive oil, then continue with your hands to mix the oil and eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. As Jamie Oliver says “with a bit of work and some love and attention they’ll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough.” Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap while you work with one quarter at a time. Flatten the dough ball and dust with flour. Roll the dough through pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter), then run it through the machine at the same setting, folded edge first. Repeat the folding and rolling once more. Roll the dough through at successively narrower settings, two times per setting, until it is thin enough for you to see the outline of your hand through it. Lay the dough out on a work surface lightly dusted with flour and trip the edges so they are straight.
Fill a ziploc bag (or piping bag if you’re fancy like that) with ricotta filling. Pipe filling across the bottom of the pasta sheet in a straight, even line. Pull the bottom edge of the pasta up and over the filling. Seal the agnolotti by carefully molding the pasta over the filling and pressing lightly with your index finger to seal the edge of the dough to the pasta sheet. Set aside, cover with a towel, and continue until you’ve used up your dough. You will probably have filling leftover! Double the dough recipe or use the filling for later.
In a large saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice and olive oil over low-medium heat. Cook agnolotti in batches for 5 minutes at a time, using a spoon to drizzle pasta with hot liquid to cook evenly. Serve immediately with fresh herbs, pea shoots, and a bit of leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano
03 . 10 . 14
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
— Anais Nin
Spicy Potato Tarragon Soup
It’s still winter here in Colorado, although spring is introducing itself in fits and starts. I’m considering this my last homage to the hearty, sustaining bowls of warmth that have characterized this amazing season of snow and festivity. Savor the crumbs of cold that are left for us, folks. Everyone seems to want to be in the season that’s in front of them instead of celebrating the one that’s here, now. It will be time for tulips, asparagus, and rhubarb soon enough.
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 small red potatoes
- 1 fuji apple, sliced
- 12 small yellow fingerlings
- 6 oz. Irish Red Ale
- 6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Juice of two large lemons
- 1/4 cup minced tarragon
- Sriracha or other preferred hot sauce
- Crisp cooked bacon (optional)
Melt butter in a 8-quart stockpot. Add onion, leek, garlic, and fennel; cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are just softening. Add potatoes (skins on) and stir together to create some browning at the bottom of the pot and the potatoes. Deglaze the browning bits after 10 minutes with the ale. Lower heat, add stock, salt, and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes.
When the potatoes are completely softened and separating from their skin, add the heavy cream then transfer batches to the blender and blend on low so that the soup is just combined but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a staging bowl and repeat until all the soup is blended but still has texture.
Stir in lemon juice, fresh chopped tarragon, hot sauce to your liking, and add bacon (optional). Taste for salt and pepper.
02 . 18 . 14
We spent Saturday evening in the garage. Shaun turned on the propane heat lamp and Caroline and I watched the boys build a spice shelf for Corbyn and her newlywed digs. Drinking beer from the can and sitting next to a woman I admire and respect more than she’ll ever know, I felt my pulse physically slow for the first time in months. I’ve missed this. Quiet, thoughtful moments without pressing emails to respond to, where tense decisions and terse dialogue are not on the regular, when the pendulum between fight and flight rests heavy.
Sunday continued at the same easy, tender pace. We went for a long run and treated ourselves to waffles and the NYTimes, laundry to Olympics coverage, and an afternoon bike ride to pick up frozen berries to satiate a brief craving for summertime. I love how Denver rewards us with a splattering of perfect days like these in the deep of winter. I swear they always show up at the right time as if to say, STOP! LOOK! The day is beautiful and you are here and very much alive to take in this moment and remember how to enjoy the miracle that is your life.
The fact that the weekend felt so precious is an indicator to me that the cards need shuffling around here. These weekends need to feel more ritual than they do unusual and surprising. I’ve quietly dedicated my time over the past six months to a local project that has called me to stretch, push, break down, pick up, and humble myself before a dizzying array of interpersonal dynamics in ways I do not yet have words to describe. I’m feeling a bit numb right now — to the success and failure, to what the work gave and what it took away. Regardless, I’m certain the impact of “it all” is positively permanent, and that the excruciating and thrilling days are teaching me something. For now I’m just feeling in the moment, and the moment isn’t good or bad… the moment just is.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön
Cardamom Oat Crumble
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Don’t sell yourself short and try to use fresh fruit for this recipe in the wintertime! Ya’ll know I love Chile, but berries picked before they’re ripe and shipped by boat from the Southern Hemisphere taste like cardboard. Frozen fruit is dandy in the off-season and I’d encourage you not to poo-poo it. I tend to prefer darker berries with cardamom, but feel free to substitute as you feel inspired.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 quick cooking oats
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
- 1 heaping tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 4 cups frozen cherries
- 2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 cup frozen blackberries
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 apple, sliced
- zest and juice of 1/2 orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch (or) xantham gum
Mix flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, candied ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir together. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375’. Butter 9″ deep cast iron pan. Add fruit to just below the fill line. Mix together with orange zest, juice, starch, and sugar. Pour and spread oat topping to cover the fruit completely. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the fruit is bubbling, thick, and the topping is beginning to brown. Let cool for 30 minutes to set before serving with ice cream or creme fraiche.
02 . 10 . 14
Today I’m partnering with The Giving Table, The Lunchbox Fund, and nearly one hundred other food bloggers to feed impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren in South Africa. We’re donating our posts and asking our readers to join us in raising (at least) $5,000 to provide a daily meal to 100 children for an a whole year. Children with empty tummies at school can’t achieve their full potential. With the collective help of our reader base, we hope to nourish minds, nourish a nation, and positively impact the planet.
Nicole Gulotta asked us to share a personal anecdote to plead the case of this fantastic cause, and while I will eventually get to that, I think it goes without saying that hunger at home and abroad is a problem that should take very little convincing to get behind. It is stunning and despicable to me that nearly 65 percent of all South African children are food insecure and that 1.9 million of those children are orphans as a result of HIV and AIDS. It is also unacceptable to me that 1 in 5 children here in the U.S, the so-called “greatest country in the world” live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. This would never be true of the “greatest” country in the world.
South Africa lives in a tender corner of my heart. In 2010 I lived on a small ship for five months with a few hundred students, professors, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing across the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, and finally back across the Pacific. On the days we weren’t at port he gave lectures on the history of his country, Apartheid, the meaning of Ubuntu, and spent his mealtimes fraternizing with young people in the mess hall. On one evening I remember sitting around a round table with six women and one guy, a phenom to Arch (what we called him affectionately), that merited he scoot from his table to ours. He looked at us, giggled, and proceeded to circle the perimeter, tapping our heads like a game of duck-duck goose until he reached our male friend, Nimish, and squealed “you lucky little bugger!” before skipping off. He is at once the fieriest and goofiest person I’ve been lucky to experience and my life is forever changed by his unwavering optimism for human goodness, capacity for love and forgiveness, and his belief that young people can change the world.
A lot of things get the man riled up, and hunger is one of them.
“I doubt if there is a single moment in our history when all human beings have had enough to eat. Even today, in a world where it is possible to communicate across thousands of miles… close to 1 billion men, women and children will go to bed hungry tonight around the world. Yet a lifetime of experience has taught me that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved, no injustice so deeply entrenched it cannot be overcome. And that includes hunger. Hunger is not a natural phenomenon. It is a man made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat. They go hungry because the system which delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken.”
I have a shoddy recording (watch/listen here) of the night before we made port in Cape Town that I watch often for reasons private and obvious, in which he says:
Don’t let us grind you down. Dream. Go on for goodness sakes, dreaming. Dream, dream.
Dream the craziest dreams. They actually often are, God’s dreams.
I feel pretty confident that I know only a smidgen of what there is to know about this life and humans and our collective experience, but I know this: we can’t do it alone. Most of you will visit this site for the recipe, and perhaps the half that read this accompanying post will find themselves economically capable of donating to The Lunchbox fund, and that’s okay. We are all doing what we can, with what we have, and the time we get here. But I’m dreaming. I’m going to dream that 5000 Happyolks readers who will see this post over the next week will donate $10 and multiply The Giving Table’s goal by a factor of 10. Yeah. Crazy dreams. Whatcha think? Let’s do it.
Shaved Fennel Salad
- 6 medium-ish bulbs fennel
- 2 granny smith apples
- 1 red onion
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup watercress
- ½ cup sour cherries
- ½ cup shelled + chopped pistachios
- juice of 1 navel orange
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp (plus a dash) sea salt
- cracked pink pepper
With a mandoline, shave bulbs of fennel to ¼ inch thickness. Place in bowl and sprinkle with salt to soften. Set aside. Shave the onion and apples (with skin) on the same setting on the mandoline and set aside. Clean and remove leaves of watercress, parsley, and mint. Set aside.
Prepare the dressing by combining the juices of the orange and lemon, olive oil, plus salt, and cracked pink pepper. Toss together the fennel, onions, apples, parsley, mint, watercress, chopped pistachios, and sour cherries with the dressing.
This one’s for you, Arch.
For good measure, here’s the link (again) to donate a buck The Lunchbox Fund.
01 . 31 . 14
Red Pepper Rapini, White Beans, and Grits
My kitchen is old. My counters are laminate. My spice cabinet is a joke and I’m pretty sure mice live under the fridge. There are splatters on the ceiling still from the time Corbyn and Shaun made Margaritas in a blender missing it’s top. New dish towels and a clean rug in front of the sink are a big deal to me. An old friend from San Diego visited our place a few weeks ago and remarked at how normal, homely, even ugly our cooking space is, despite what she sees online. I love our house. I love our quirky, odd lay-out of a kitchen. We’re all in this funk-a-licious life together, ya hear? And in the spirit of reality checks, I love to cook and share quirky, semi-technical, creative dishes with you here… but five of the seven days in a week we’re eating some riff on grains, greens, and protein. Cheers to rentals, easy dinner, and comfort in a bowl.
- 2 lbs rapini (broccoli rabe), dense stems removed
- 1 cup white beans (your choice)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp bacon or duck fat (optional)
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt
- goat cheese crumbles
- a poached or soft boiled egg, one per serving
- dash of chili oil
- 2 cups polenta or grits (labeling varies)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 8 tbsp salted butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp salt
In a medium sized pan toast red pepper flakes for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add olive oil, bacon fat, minced garlic and shallots over slightly lower heat until it starts to sizzle but the garlic is not browned. Add Rapini leaves and let wilt, untouched for five minutes before stirring together. Add white beans, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir and remove from heat.
Melt butter in a large pot with the minced garlic. Before butter starts to bubble, add stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Add polenta and stir vigorously for 5 minutes until combined. Add stock to adjust the viscosity and salt to taste.
Serve in a bowl, all together, with a poached egg, goat cheese crumbles, and chili oil.