Birds appear to know intrinsically when it is time to move on. To go south for winter, north for summer. Come October and November, we see ribbons of geese veeing on their way, with the chatter of children in the backseat of a station wagon. I expect within a month or so, here in my corner of the Northern Rockies, we’ll see – and hear – them returning to spend their summer with us.

Summer. There’s an optimistic thought in the waning, cold days of January.

Follow me!

Wait for me!

Are we there yet?

We’ll all get there.

Speaking of optimism, time has come for The Solitary Cook and my tribe of animals to migrate as well. From now on, you can find me at Medium.com, where you’ll find me as, quelle surprise, The Solitary Cook. You can find my first couple of posts here and here.

I am grateful to all of you who have followed and read and encouraged me since I joined and, hands trembling, put up my first post five years ago. Your kind patience has helped me grow as a writer, as a cook, and as a storyteller. I am deeply indebted to you all.

If you have questions or comments about any recipe here, please by all means post them, as I will continue to receive notifications of them, and will gladly respond.

Medium.com is site full of fine writing on practically any subject you can name. It is absolutely free and easy to browse. I hope you’ll spread your wings and follow the flock on over with me.

With profound gratitude,


Posted in RECIPES | 4 Comments


So Davie Bowie has left us. In his honor, I’m reposting a piece inspired by him.  It begins with photos I had taken in front of a bakery in Bologna. I had traveled to Italy to join up with the daughter (that is she reflected in its window in the second photograph), who had spent a month there, ironically at an international dance workshop.

So today, be you dancer or baker or both, let’s celebrate. Here’s to an interesting life lived fully.

Posted in RECIPES | Leave a comment



Avocado, lime juice, cottage cheese, more lime juice, Cholula, chia seeds.


Posted in Breakfast, Gluten-free, Meatless Monday, RECIPES, Vegetarian | 6 Comments


A few days ago, I had the great fortune to test a recipe written by my friend, Suzanne, who writes the lovely blog, A Pug in the Kitchen. She developed her recipe for a contest featuring foods prepared with five ingredients or fewer, in which she is one of two finalists. I would be extremely grateful if you would take a look at it here. And once you’ve done that, you can go here to cast a vote for it. 

Suzanne’s Pasta Piselli (Italian for peas) leads us right into brightly-colored springtime dining, and is the essence of a quick weeknight dinner. Everything is cooked in one pot. But best of all, it is also the soul of a warm, comforting dinner any night of the week. I am grateful to have had the chance to add it to my repertoire. 

Seriously, how can you walk away from a recipe whose backstory begins, “I first had this when I lived in Italy.” Both the recipe and its story only leave us wanting more.

Posted in RECIPES | 9 Comments


To overstate the obvious, I’ve been AWOL for a while. December’s Christmas party mayhem, as usual, ate my life. At the start of the month, out of sheer curiosity, I began keeping a tally of how many people we’d helped to celebrate company parties, but ultimately abandoned the effort when I realized it was making me feel even more overwhelmed than I already was.

When the New Year arrived, which felt like approximately a week-and-a-half after the old one had bombed in on us, it found me feeling as though I’d given blood and they took it all. As usual. It should have come as no surprise when I got rollicking, roiling, wildly sick. The daughter in L. A. came down with the same gastroenteritis at the very same time – who knew that the telephone was such an effective transmitter of disease? – so I at least had someone with whom to commiserate.  When either of us was able to talk.

In a conversation with my sister (a brilliantly kind family doc) recently, she said I’d probably had Norovirus, given the fact that it’s hung on for so long. Some of the urgent symptoms have relented, but others have not. At three weeks in, I’m still sneaking up on the idea of solid food. The daughter said it best:

“I can’t imagine that I’ll actually sit down to a meal ever again.”


I’ll admit that it’s always a surprise when I get sick. I’m fortunate to enjoy good health and fairly decent fitness most every day. Being interrupted by sickness feels like an insult. How could this happen to me?

And I didn’t do myself any favors. I stayed home sick for exactly one day because on that day, I had no choice whatsoever in the matter. The next day dawned with a false sense of suddenly feeling better, so I went to work. For 11 hours. The day after that, mercifully a day off, I was right back where I’d started. Still, come Monday, which was supposed to have been a day off, I hauled my sorry self to work and stayed there. Each day, I’d make several dashes to the bathroom.

I was the most compulsive hand-washer you’ve ever seen.

When I got home, I’d have to go to bed for a couple of hours before I could even contemplate getting up to feed the animals, refill my water glass, then go back to bed and sleep for 12 hours before doing it all over again.

You’ve heard that the human body can go X number of days without food, but cannot survive without water? Every word is true. For three weeks, I survived on water. Cold water, warm water, hot water with ginger and honey and lemon. Water. Anything else – ginger ale, broth soup, tea, coffee (oh God, especially coffee) – was instantly rejected. Often violently.  I lost 15 pounds, but water saved me. I’ll never take it for granted again.


The moral of the story is that it is time for limits. Time to set some, time to stretch others.

In the end, absence from cooking and writing and even normal living gave me a much-needed perspective. Some facts became clear.

The job needs to stop eating my life. I believe that if the month of December hadn’t so utterly depleted me, I might not have been as sick as I was for as long as I was in January. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I am the only one in the kitchen who does what I do. I’ve been the squeaky wheel asking for help and support for too long; if none is forthcoming in anything other than in intermittent ways, there are things that won’t be getting done. I have no more thanklessly long days, nights, weeks, or months in me.

The blog needs to refocus. Or focus. It has been wandering without one for several months because, beyond the confines of work, I have been without one myself. I’ve put all my creative force into something which has drained me dry and kept asking for more. Well, as a friend is fond of saying,

“Fuck that shit.”

I’ve recently reset my hours at work to go in earlier in the morning and leave earlier in the afternoon. That gives me guaranteed daylight time, regardless of the time of year, to have a long walk with the dogs. It’s a tossup as to which of us needs it more. I’m an early riser, and with set dog- and me-walking time later in the day, I can take that first cup of coffee back to bed and write when the day is brand new and my thinking is clearest. And by the time I get to the kitchen, it’s with the people I both most and least like being there with. It all works out in the end.

And where to go with that? I’ve grown dissatisfied with the scattergun approach to blog posts. Here a salad, there a soup, everywhere a something-or-other. It may sound contradictory, but it’s difficult for me to think creatively without a structure. A direction, if you will.


As I was lying in bed one afternoon, beginning to think about actually eating food, the vision of a boiled potato came to me. Tenderly split open, steaming, with just a sprinkle of salt. I knew I couldn’t eat it yet, but the mere fact that I could imagine it gave me a quiet sigh of optimism. A corner had been turned.

A couple of days later, again back in bed before animal-feeding time, I realized that the potato looked lonely. Carrots. I always have them on hand for the bunny. She’s a genial soul, and I’m sure would share if asked. To boil together some yellow potatoes and bright chunks of carrot surely would taste as lovely as it looked. Any why turn my back on my old friend ginger just because I was feeling a bit steadier on my feet? Add a couple of slices to the pot, and the resulting stock would likely make a restorative tisane.

Suddenly I fell further back into the pillows. My jaw dropped open. I realized that I was daydreaming not just of a meal, but rather thinking down a road. It had a name: ROOT VEGETABLES. Now, that may not ring your bells as it did mine, but suddenly I had my direction. My structure.

Categories. I would restructure the blog under broad categories, each post being a small slice thereof. Full of information and recipes, hopefully new and useful to all of us. And most of all, interesting. To all of us.

From illness into health, chaos to – or at least moving in the direction of – order.


Will all these optimistic and early – very early, given that it’s all of mid-February – harbingers of good times to come have yet another blanket or two of snow to look forward to? Probably. But they’ll be there. Waiting. Ready to begin growing again. With all of us.

Posted in STORIES | 27 Comments




Some sources say that the origin of eating legumes, specifically black-eyed peas in the American South, on New Year’s Day to ensure all things good revolves around their resemblance to coins. I find that easier to, uh, swallow in the case of lentils, but that’s the story. Others explain that it harkens back to Biblical times. (Please take a look at the Comments section below; Susan G and The Wimpy Vegetarian have generously supplied some wonderful information on origins of the tradition.)

Still and all, it’s a practice that I and my sister have maintained for many years. I’m not sure we’ve ever prepared them the same way twice. With ham hocks or without; vegetarian or not; spicy or tame; this year I decided to go in a Mediterranean direction. Anything that bears even slight notes of sun-filled days in warm climes must surely brighten our still-long hours of darkness. And please don’t relegate this to a once-a-year dinner; it will nourish and warm you until the sun returns to do the job.

I couldn’t wait to get home from work on Saturday afternoon and settle into warm, fleecy things and put together something high on the comfort scale. We’ve had bitterly cold weather on the heels of snow, which turned roads into skating rinks. Cars don’t appear to drive as much as they do glide silently. Stopping at the grocery store was not on the agenda. My pantry contained neither black-eyed peas nor lentils, but I did find about a pound of black beans. I should have rinsed them last evening and set them to bubble quietly overnight in the slow cooker. But clearly I didn’t plan that far ahead.

A pound of any kind of bean when cooked is a whole lot of beans. That’s good. Because one of my plans for the New Year is to be better – okay, a lot better – about taking my lunch to work. I’m at least planning that far ahead.

While a pot of tea steeped, I rinsed  the beans, and started them in cold water to cover by a couple of inches, along with a fresh bay leaf (if you don’t have fresh, use a couple of dried, and bruise them a bit with your fingers). Once they came to a boil, I turned them down to a simmer and let them cook for a couple of hours until nicely tender.





Be sure to sort through them to pick out any that are broken or discolored, and to search out any pebbles


Could you use canned beans instead? Of course. But you’ll miss the fragrance of the beans cooking slowly, fogging the kitchen windows, and perfuming the house.

Once done, I poured them through a colander, rinsed and dried the pot, and returned it to the stove to sauté a diced onion and a few cloves of garlic in some olive oil. When they were soft and fragrant, after about 4 to 5 minutes, I poured the beans back into the pot and also added two 14-ounce cans of Italian cherry tomatoes. They were in the pantry; use whatever canned tomatoes you have on hand. I filled the cans with water to rinse them, and added that to the pot. Finally, I tossed in a couple of more bay leaves and some thyme sprigs.






I find canned cherry tomatoes impossibly cute. They hold their shape perfectly when cooked, so if you can find them, you’ll think of all sorts of ways to use them.


While the soup was simmering, I set a pot containing 20 ounces of water to boil and added a couple of teaspoons of salt and a cup of arborio rice.



Yes, the same stuff you would use for a pot of risotto, lovingly stirred for a long time. But I simmered it exactly as I would have any other kind of rice. I did not want it to give up its coat of thickening starches. Rather, I wanted them bound up in the rice so that once I stirred it into the soup, it would thicken it into a stew to just the right degree.



Tie up the thyme sprigs with a bit of string to make them easier to remove at the end

Another bay leaf, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and the pot was covered to simmer until the aroma drove me to dip into it, about 45 minutes.

But first, I cut a  thick slice of gorgeous sourdough bread, brushed it with olive oil, and ran it under the broiler to toast on both sides. Then, to gild the lily, I rubbed both sides with a fresh clove of cut garlic.




Just before filling a bowl, I swirled some baby greens into the soup, because we all know greens are good and the New Year is a fine time to begin eating more of them. Last, I seasoned it to taste with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes.




I sliced the grilled bread in half, and overlapped them in the bottom of my soup bowl. Over the top went some generous ladles of steaming stew.

A drizzle of good olive oil, a grating of pecorino romano, and the New Year and I are off to a propitious start. A most happy one to all.



Posted in Meatless Monday, Pantry Dinners, RECIPES, Soups, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments




I don’t believe I’ve ever been happier to see Meatless Monday. National Overconsumption of Poultry and Everything Else Day has left us sprawled in its wake. With the typical excesses of Christmas coming at us, I’m craving some clean, simple flavors. Something un-fussy.

Winter squash are everywhere right now, of course. I’m fond of butternut for soup because it purées to such beautiful silkiness. And I thought of tossing some apples into the mix because it just sounded interesting. I decided on a couple of Pink Lady apples because their texture is close to that of the squash – dense, in other words, so they’ll take about as long as the squash to roast.


1 medium-sized butternut squash

2 pink lady apples

2 ounces olive oil

1 quart vegetable stock

1 generous teaspoon turmeric

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

Fresh sage leaves – 6 or 7 per person

2 ounces good olive oil (read here about the distinction)


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

The squash is easier to split in half the long way if you cut off the stem first. Once halved, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.




Also cut the apples in half. With a paring knife, make an angled cut along each side of the core, creating a V, and pop the core out.




Line a baking sheet with parchment. Brush the cut sides of the squash and apples with olive oil.




Then turn them face down.




Set the sheet in the oven. Roast everything for about an hour, until all can be easily pierced with a knife. Please note that the neck of the squash will take longer to roast than the bulb.

If the apples get done sooner than the squash, simply lift them out with a spatula. First, though, be sure they are really soft. Mine had reached that point after 45 minutes.




The squash was poking along, so I raised the temperature to 400, and set a timer for 15 minutes more.





When the apples and squash are done, remove them from the oven and turn them face up. Let them cool until you can handle them comfortably.


Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh out of the apple skins and the squash hulls. Drop all into the bowl of a food processor. Add 4 ounces of vegetable stock. Purée until as smooth as possible. 





Pour everything into a soup pot and whisk in the remaining stock.

Turmeric. It is what gives curry powder its beautiful, golden-orange color. It’s also a good antioxidant and has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties.  Whisk it into the soup. Marvel at how amazing it smells. It will lend a lovely umami by complementing  both the sweetness of the apples and the savory elements of the squash and sage leaves.




Begin heating your soup over medium heat, stirring it now and then. When it is warmed through, season it to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup is heating, warm additional olive oil in a small skillet. When it ribbons or shimmers, it is adequately hot. Gently drop the sage leaves into the oil. Fry until crisp, about 4 minutes. When they stop sizzling, they’re done. Remove them to paper towels. Sprinkle a bit of salt over them.




Hint: make extra because you’ll want to snack on some – alright, a lot –  while the soup finishes heating.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Arrange the sage leaves on top, then with a spoon, scoop up the olive oil in which they were fried, and drizzle it over the top of the soup. Pour the rest into a ramekin and dip some good, grilled bread into it.




Waste not, want not.




Posted in Meatless Monday, RECIPES, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian, WEEKNIGHT DINNER | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments



Come fall, I crave mushrooms. Read enough cooking magazines, and one can’t help but associate mushrooms, optimistically or vicariously, with professional foragers who supply The French Laundry and its ilk. Nice work if you can get it. But I’ve previously stated that, were I to attempt to feed myself via foraging where I live, I’d be lucky to return home with pockets full of sugar beets and an Angus steer slung around my shoulders. And I’d have to cover some serious miles even for that.

Fortunately, I can dependably find a decent range of mushrooms in local grocery stores. Come late October, I begin stalking Costco’s produce area for chanterelles. Great, big, beautiful portabellas; small, plump crimini; and gorgeous shitakes can be had any day of the week within walking distance at my local Lucky’s Market.

I recently mentioned that during this past September and October, work was such an overwhelming overload that my eating habits went straight to hell. Consequently, pasta and I are still taking a break from each other. So what else to do with such a bounty, but wrap them all up in a tart. A storm is threatening. A perfect day to fill the oven.

FOR THE VEGETABLES Prepare the vegetables first, as they’ll need more time in the oven than the tart.

Preheat your oven to 350º.

1 smallish head of broccoli

1/2 head of cauliflower

2 carrots

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

4 ounces of good olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Red pepper flakes

Cut the broccoli into pieces about an inch in diameter. Do the same with the cauliflower. Peel the carrots and remove the ends and tips. Slice them on a dramatic diagonal into pieces about 1/2″ thick at the center.


Smash and peel the garlic cloves, but do not mince them.


Place all of the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the olive oil over them.

Speaking of olive oil, what constitutes a “good” one?


A couple of days ago, I came home to find a large box on my front porch. It was addressed to me! It was from my sister! Once inside, I opened it to find 2 bottles of exquisite olive oil. I have no idea what motivated her to send them to me other than sheer kindness. We both love good olive oils. This one, from McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, California is one of the genuinely great California olive oils. It is described as, “a complex blend of Tuscan varietals, harvested early and by hand – full-bodied and peppery, with hints of artichoke and greens.” Swoon.

It is not one for general cooking; rather, it is for times when the olive oil is going to be an essential portion of a flavor profile. Times just like this.


Add a teaspoon of salt and some grinds of pepper. With a large spoon, toss everything together. Keep the bowl; you can re-use it just as it is with the mushrooms. Transfer the vegetables to a covered roasting pan or casserole. Place it in the oven at the point when you place the rolled-out pastry in the refrigerator.



Mushrooms – use what you like. I started with 1 pound of chanterelles, 1/2 pound of shitakes, and 1 large portabella

Fresh rosemary stripped from a 5″ or 6″ stem

2 large shallots

2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil, twice

Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste

1 round of Perfect Flaky Pastry

1 beaten egg

If you’re lucky, you’ll have stashed away in the freezer a round of perfect flaky pastry. If not, it comes together very quickly.

Dust your work surface with flour and set the pastry in its center. Also dust the top of the pastry.


Begin rolling it out. Be sure to roll in all directions, and to lift your rolling pin before you reach the edges. That way, your pastry will not be thinner at the edges than at the center. Get it to about 14 inches in diameter.


Line a baking sheet with parchment. Roll your pastry onto the rolling pin, then gently unroll it onto the parchment.


Drape a sheet of plastic over it and set it in the refrigerator while you prepare the mushroom filling. Also place the casserole in the oven.


Strip the rosemary from its stem and chop it finely.


Peel and slice the shallots about 1/4″ thick.   I know mushrooms shouldn’t be washed, but chanterelles can be full of both pine needles and dirt. I fill a bowl with cold water, immerse them, and agitate them. I have some paper towels nearby, and lift them out of the water and onto the paper towels. Don’t pour them through a colander to drain them, as you’ll pour the dirt you washed off of them back onto them.


Gently wipe the caps of the other mushrooms with a dry paper towel. Pop the stem out of the portabella; if using shitakes, trim them off with a knife. There is no need to trim anything from the chanterelles. Quarter the shitakes; roughly slice the chanterelles. If you’re using a portabella, do slice it as thin as possible – this is a good job for a mandolin.


Roughly chop the chanterelles.


Begin warming a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and chopped rosemary. Sauté them until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add half the mushrooms along with about a half teaspoon of salt. Cook them until they’ve softened and begun to release their juices. Pour everything into a colander set in a large bowl. You want to retain their liquid. You’ll see why in a moment.  Add another dose of butter and olive oil to the skillet and cook the  remaining mushrooms, then drain them. With a large spoon toss the mushroom mixture together. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.

Remove your pastry from the refrigerator. Arrange the mushrooms in an even layer in its center, leaving about a 2 inch border.


Carefully fold the edge of the pastry over the edge of the mushrooms, pleating it gently as you go.


Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.


Before placing the tart in the oven, take out the casserole containing the vegetables and remove its lid. Pour in the collected liquids from the mushrooms and chard, replace the lid and set the pot back in the oven.

Raise the heat to 375º. Now put the tart in the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes and when it goes off, rotate the tart and set the timer again for 20 minutes.

When the timer goes off the second time, remove the vegetables from the oven and raise the temperature to 425º. Bake the tart for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the crust well.


Remove the tart from the oven and let it set for 5 minutes before you cut into it. I dare you  to resist pulling tidbits of mushrooms from the top.

Before serving the vegetables, remove the lid and add the lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Gently stir them about with a spoon. Remove the garlic cloves.


Slice the tart into wedges and serve on a plate along with a generous helping of the gorgeous vegetables.


Bliss on a chilly evening.

Posted in Entrées, Meatless Monday, Pies & Tarts, RECIPES, Side Dishes, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments


I’m trying, I really am, to be better about taking lunch to work with me. I know, it sounds strange – I work in a hotel kitchen, and could certainly have lunch on any given day from banquet leftovers. But I have a difficult time eating food that I’ve been seeing, smelling, handling for several hours, so I tend to go without. Which is a terrible way to eat (or not), let alone live. By mid-afternoon, I’m headachy, irritable, and sleepy.

When I take leftovers from home for lunch, though, everything changes. I actually sit down, eat a decent, enjoyable meal (I even transfer it from its portable container to a real plate), and read a book for 20 to 30 minutes. The entire tenor of my day is better. Lately, days have been sooooo long, and I’m so tired when I get home that I’ve cleaned out my treasured stash of leftovers in the freezer. The good news is that I’ve actually eaten dinner; the bad news is that there’s nothing left to take for lunch. Clearly, the moral of the story is that I need to remember it’s well worth the effort to prepare some lunches ahead.

I mentioned recently that the latter part of summer makes me very nostalgic for Italy. Just writing that led me to crave First Night in Florence Spaghetti. When that craving collided with my need for a few lunches, a spark of inspiration resulted in my reimagining it as a salad.


1 pound dry fusilli

Sea or kosher salt

3 ounces olive oil

1 pint grape tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

5 ounce can tuna packed in olive oil

Fresh baby spinach

Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste

Additional olive oil as needed

Why fusilli? Because it’s sort of the shaped pasta equivalent of long angel hair. It cooks quickly. Besides, what fun to cook something whose name translates as “fuses.”


After 9 minutes (read here about how much water to boil and how much salt to add to it), it was perfectly al dente (be sure to check the cook time on your package). I drained it, poured it back into the pot, filled the pot with cold water and a couple of handfuls of ice cubes, then swirled the pasta around with my hands until it was completely cooled.


I drained it again, then poured it into a large mixing bowl, and stirred in 3 ounces of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.


One pound of dry fusilli yields about 6 cups cooked.  I scooped a couple of cups into a ziplock bag which I stashed in the freezer for a night like the stretch I’ve just finished. I poured the remainder, along with all its lovely olive oil, into a large mixing bowl.

Using the moderately frightening tomato knife that KDub gave me (she rashly thought I was adult enough to responsibly handle such a tool), I reigned in my typically wandering thoughts and zenned in on halving the tomatoes lengthwise.


Not only does this knife cut through tomato skins as if through butter, I believe it would shear through sheet metal with equal efficacy

The one hitch in the transformation from a cooked sauce to a cold one was how to take the sharp edge off the garlic without sautéing it. Here’s a good trick to know: there are all sorts of lovely acids present in both the tomatoes and lemon juice, so after mincing the garlic,  toss it together with them, along with a generous pinch of salt (to encourage the tomatoes to give up their juices more readily).


The easiest way to extract juices from any citrus fruit is to stick a fork firmly into the center of each half, then work it back and forth as you squeeze

Set it all aside for about 15 minutes.


You’ll be tempted to stop right here and eat the garlicky, lemony tomatoes just as they are. But persevere.

Open the can of tuna and add it and its olive oil to the pasta. Pour in the tomato-garlic-lemon mixture.


Toss everything together, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  If it seems a little dry, feel free to drizzle in additional olive oil.


To take this for lunch, since I don’t want the spinach to break down excessively, I filled some ziplock bags with a couple of handfuls each of fresh baby spinach. At work, I’ll toss the salad together with the spinach when I’m ready to sit down for lunch. And a book.

But first things first. Labor Day may have glided past us, so we ostensibly can’t wear white or linen any longer. But we can damn well have a great salad for dinner on a still-warm evening. After I’d packed some lunches, I placed 2 generous handfuls of spinach in my favorite salad bowl, spooned some of the pasta salad over it, feathered some Parmesan over the top, and sat down to a new and heavenly version of one of my favorite dinners ever.


Buon appetito!

Posted in COOKING AHEAD, Lunch Goes to Work, Pantry Dinners, Pastas, RECIPES, Salads, WEEKNIGHT DINNER | Tagged , , | 8 Comments



Say that three times fast. That’s about how long this takes to come together.


For the last couple of summers, I get very nostalgic for Italy around this time. The daughter had spent most of the summer at an international dance workshop in Florence. I flew over towards its end to see her final performance and afterwards to travel around Italy and France with her. Lost Shoes Risotto and First Night in Florence Spaghetti were among the offspring of those travels.

When I got home, one of the first things I did was go looking for a large bowl that reminded me of those in which we’d had great, gorgeous salads – everything was in season – and wonderful, simple pastas. It needed to be deeper than a pasta plate, but smaller than a conventional mixing bowl. I had a surprisingly difficult time finding just the right one. I finally found the perfect, classic white bowl at T. J. Maxx. For $3.99. Sold.


And it was made in Italy! It was almost as though I’d brought it home with me.


This simple, Italian-inspired pasta is perfect for a warm summer evening. If you can step outside and pick a couple of handfuls of little tomatoes, snip some deep green leaves from a basil plant, lucky you.

As for the pasta, typically, a flat pasta would be used here, but I use angel hair because oh mio dio, it’s hot. Angel hair cooks so fast that very little time is spent generating any more heat than absolutely necessary.

Have all your ingredients prepared, as everything comes together very quickly.


Serves 2, or 1 with luscious leftovers

Extra-virgin olive oil – be generous: a good 2 to 3 ounces

3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

8 ounces of  angel hair

Sea or kosher salt and grinds of pepper

Red pepper flakes

Fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade

Parmesan cheese



After you’ve rinsed the tomatoes, cut them in half from top to bottom. They’ll cook faster this way.



Yes, I know the trick of sandwiching the tomatoes between two plastic lids, then carefully running a knife through the center. The problem is that no two come out the same thickness. Some at best have a sliver shaved off one side. So I halve mine the old-fashioned way. A kind friend gave me a tomato knife which slices through them as if through butter. It is shockingly sharp, which forces me to slow down, creating a sort of meditation on tiny tomatoes.


Mmm hmmm, that’s a flat-bottomed rock that I use for smashing garlic. It’s also vaguely foot-shaped, but that’s a story for another time

Smash and peel the garlic cloves, then mince them well.



Chiffonade (French for “ribbon”) a few leaves of fresh basil. As much as you like.



Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Read about how much water and how much salt here.  Add about half of the package of angel hair. Set a timer for 4 minutes.



Over medium heat, warm a skillet large enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta. Add the olive oil. When it shimmers, or “ribbons,” add the garlic. Cook it gently until it is nicely fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes.


About a half teaspoon

If the pan is spattery, reduce the heat a bit. The tomatoes want to cook very gently.  When the pasta is almost done, season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

When the timer sounds, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the skillet. Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water. Carefully toss everything together with the tongs, and let the pasta cook for a minute more.

Lift the pasta into bowls, and spoon the sauce over it.  Garnish with some strands of beautiful basil and some shavings of Parmesan.



Pour a glass of chilled Italian rosé. Twirl some pasta on a fork. What does the scene you’ve set conjure up for you?



Personally, I’m imagining sitting in a little trattoria in the daughter’s San Niccolò neighborhood, which graces the right bank of the languid, sultry Arno. The heat of the day is yielding to evening’s cooling touch. And I’m clinking glasses with the beautiful, graceful young woman whose mother I am so proud to be.




Posted in Entrées, Meatless Monday, Pantry Dinners, Pastas, RECIPES, Vegetarian, WEEKNIGHT DINNER | Tagged , , | 11 Comments