Fifteen years ago

  Fifteen years ago I did something I never expected to do in my life. I married Brian. Some girls dream of their wedding day, but I was not one of those girls. I knew that Brian was the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the whole pomps and circumstances that surround a wedding was not for me. The dress, the ring, the flowers - I could do without it all.

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But despite all of that; yes. We got engaged, and yes…we somewhat planned a wedding. Truth is our family did the majority of it all as they were terribly afraid that if they didn’t our wedding would never happen. And quite possibly it would not have. About two months before our wedding day (6-2-01) I was sitting in our apartment packing boxes as we were in the mist of moving into a home we just purchased. Brian and I were talking about little wedding details our parents were hounding us on when all of a sudden I felt like a huge hypocrite. I looked at him and said…”What are we doing? Why are we going through all of this? I never wanted any of this. All of this for one day is a bit insane. I cannot stand it.” The look that came over Brian’s face was pure terror. He was baffled and speechless for a moment and finally responded with, “Are you really saying you don’t want to get married now?!?”

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And just like that I knew I had to swallow my pride. I might have never fantasized about this one day, yet there was a part of Brian that did. I knew it right then and there. It was time for me to close my mouth and let the whole wedding ordeal take place. When all was said and done, it really was not that bad of a day. It was actually fun and I understood Brian’s point of view. It was possibly the one time when all of our family and friends were in one place just for us. They witnessed and celebrated us doing the one thing I said I would never do. I married the love of my life, my best friend, and the only one who I tell all my secrets and dreams to. By finally going through the whole wedding day I have one more special day of memories with him to share and that alone was worth it.

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So, for our fifteenth wedding anniversary I will recreate the first meal I ever cooked for Brian. One of the most simple pasta dishes there is. It has olives, capers, and bit of crushed red pepper flakes for some kick - Pasta Puttanesca. Brian loves it and always comments on the fact of when I said I was making dinner that evening for him (many, many years ago) he questioned where the jars of sauce were kept? He was quickly impressed when he learned I was making it from scratch…I hope after all this time I continue to impress him like that. Happy Anniversary Brian, thank you for putting up with me all these years! Thank you for the memories of our special day.

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 Pasta Puttanesca (feeds 2 +)

**NOTES: I personally like the oil cured olives in this dish. (Those are the black wrinkly ones.) if you cannot find them feel free to use something like a Kalamata. Also, If you cannot find strained tomatoes, you can puree some whole ones in a can, at least 1 1/2 cups worth.

1 cup oil cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1 tbsp capers, drained

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

pinch of dried oregano

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cup strained tomatoes

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/3 pound penne rigate pasta

Parmesan Cheese, for serving

First, place a large pot filled with salted water over high heat. Meanwhile, place a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once heated through add you olive oil and warm it up. To this you will add your crushed red pepper, olives, oregano, and garlic. Stir it all together and watch it carefully as you do not want to burn your garlic.

Next, once your garlic is fragrant (about one minute) add your tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of water. Stir it well and let it come to a simmer. Once simmering you can add your capers to your tomato mixture.Let it simmer gently...you may need to lower your heat a bit.

Then, when your pot of water should come to a boil add in your pasta. Stir it well, and cook it for as long as is indicated on the box, stirring it frequently. Once your pasta is done cooking strain it well.

Finally, add your pasta to your tomato sauce. Toss it well, while still simmering. Season it with sea salt and fresh black pepper and serve it with freshly grated parmesan.

NYT Creamy Mac and Cheese

Last year, while trolling the internet I came across a recipe from The New York Times for Mac and Cheese. It claimed that it was the creamiest and cheesiest Mac and Cheese out there. At first I was shocked that I was only discovering the recipe right then and there. You see the NYT published the recipe years prior. I quickly read through the recipe and thought it was a lot of cheese (but who doesn’t like cheese???). Reading further I was even more interested because you bake the whole dish…no prior pasta cooking needed. I have always wanted to give one of these one pot pasta dishes a try. That was it, I was on a mission to make it. So on a cool day last year I through the ingredients together and in the oven it went. (Uncooked pasta and all.) After it was done baking I pulled it out of the oven to cool. I was mesmerized by the way bubbled and stared at it’s steam escaping as it rested on my stove top. I found it hard to resist, because I desperately wanted to dive a fork in at that moment. I prevailed I used my will power and held out until it had cooled.

Mac and Cheese cooling out of the oven .

The result - it was fabulous! It was tender, cheesy, creamy, deeply flavorful, and the top of it created this fanatic cheesy crust giving it the right amount of texture. I have told so many others about this recipe and the ones who have tried it out report back on how great they think it is as well. I personally like to pair this with a simple green salad or some steamed veggies. You do not want to pair it with anything too boldly flavored given the richness of this cheesy dish. That aside, I have made this twice this past month. The left overs have been just as good! This is quite possibly my go to Mac and Cheese recipe from now on!

Cooled and ready to eat! Oh so good!!!

Creamy Mac and Cheese (Serves 6)

*As published in The New York Times

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)

2 cups milk (not skim)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch cayenne

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked (I have had success with whole wheat pasta as well)

 

First, heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use

one tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan. (I tend to use a

ceramic 9 inch pie dish)

Next, in a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and

pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine

remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan,

cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Then, uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining

tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned.

Finally, remove from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta

We came home from our vacation to find our refrigerator quite bare. That is natural given the circumstances, I mean who would want to go away and leave perishable food in their refrigerator? Who knows what you would come home to!?! So we came home to nothing “fresh” to cook and only pantry staples. So, I headed over to the market; something fresh, bright in flavor, and comforting to eat was in order. Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

As I walked through the market I spotted it - Braccoli Rabe (or Rappi if you want to call it that). I know that I wrote on here before about my affection for this vegetable and how I grew up eating it. But lately I have been making it with a new twist. I was reading a while back about how lemon is a perfect parring with greens, bitter greens especially. I wanted to give it a try with my favorite greens. I have been cooking them like this for a year now and it is fabulous.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

 

I simply just slowly simmer the broccoli rabe until tender, then you add in garlic, chili flakes, and olive oil. Once the garlic is tender you add in lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. Toss it all with pasta and serve it with lots of freshly grated parmesan. It is a warm and slightly spicy dish with a nice bright finish from the lemons. There is only one thing that makes this whole dish better - Meyer Lemons. (They are not as harsh and a bit softer in its taste, but it is just as bright in flavor.)

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

So of course when I saw the broccoli rabe I knew I needed to make this meal. Who wouldn’t want a meal like this after a week away? it is one of those meals that makes you feel as good inside as it is tasty. To me, a meal worth coming home to and getting your everyday life back in order. Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta is that good.

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta - I'm digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta (serves 4)

*Note: You can easily substitute lemon if meyer lemon cannot be found.

1 bunch of broccoli rabe

3 meyer lemons, zested and juiced

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt

3/4 - 1 pound of pasta of choice

parmesan cheese for grating

First, trim the bottom end (at least a 1/2 inch) of your broccoli rabe. Wash it several times to be sure it is clean. Chop the remainder into 1 inch pieces. Place them in a large saute pan (it may be heaping, and that is okay) with about 1 1/2 cups of water. Place the pan over medium heat and heat until water begins to simmer and the broccoli rabe starts to wilt.

Next, place a large pot (6 - 8 quarts) of salted water over high heat and wait for it to boil.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your broccoli rabe. You are looking for the majority of the water to simmer away while you keep stirring it. When there is only a trace of water left; add in your olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Place a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes and then remove, your garlic should start to become fragrant and tender. Season it with some sea salt to taste.

Finally, your large pot of water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to the directions on its packaging.  Once the pasta is cooking add the meyer lemon juice and zest to the broccoli rabe and stir is all together while gently simmering. When pasta is cooked drain it well and toss it together with the broccoli rabe serve with lots of parmesan cheese to grate fresh.