Lemon Herb Ricotta Agnolotti

03 . 19 . 14

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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

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Spicy Potato Tarragon Soup

03 . 10 . 14

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“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

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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.

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Cardamom Oat Crumble

02 . 18 . 14

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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.

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“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

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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

 

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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.

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I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.