Zhenya’s Stinging Nettles

IMG_3141

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I befriended Zhenya, The Feral Gardener, while buying a Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda at Katz’s Deli.

On May 1st, Zhenya wrote me an e-mail: “I just picked a ton of very young stinging nettles and would be happy to give you at least half a ton…. Let me know if you’re interested.” Stinging nettles? Interested? I would have to seriously think about this.

Continue Reading

Asparagus & Ramp Risotto

IMG_3074

Spring is here at last and that means you’ll find two things at the farmer’s market that you won’t find there any other time of the year: ramps and asparagus.

Sure, you can find asparagus at the grocery store in January, but that asparagus is as far a cry from farmer’s market asparagus as a Monet is to a paint-by-number flower. And ramps, love them or hate them, are here for just a fleeting moment.

Continue Reading

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

IMG_2914

Here are your tools–black pepper, spaghetti, water, salt, butter and cheese–now make something delicious. Ok? Go.

Maybe it’s because these ingredients are so unglamorous that I shied away from spaghetti cacio e pepe for so long. Sure, it’s a classic Italian spaghetti dish, but I’ve always favored the ones with garlic and anchovies (see my Weary Traveler’s Spaghetti, for example) over this one made with cheese and black pepper, regardless of how much my friends rave over it.

Continue Reading

Fusilli with Tomatoes, Bacon & Blue Cheese

IMG_2334

There it was, in the pan, ready to eat. A big panful of fusilli, coated in a sauce I’d improvised with bacon, red chile flakes, tomato paste and a can of tomatoes. I’d let the sauce cook down until it was nice and thick and then boiled the fusilli until just al dente, lifting it with a spider into the pan of red sauce. I stirred it all around, ready to grate on a traditional cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino, when I had a vision.

Continue Reading

Weary Traveler’s Spaghetti

IMG_0246

Last night, before I fell asleep, I tried to remember all the phases of my 21 hours of travel from the previous day.

I took a bus from the Bellingham airport to the Seattle airport where I rode a mini-train to my gate, waited three hours (during which I bought a Snickers bar which I saved for the plane) and as I finally boarded, I was told that my overstuffed suitcase was too overstuffed to fit in the overhead. During the flight, I had a middle seat but it was in an exit row, which is kind of a mixed blessing. I read a George Saunders story in last week’s New Yorker, which I highly recommend. When I landed in Washington, D.C. (the only place I could fly to make it home to New York before January 3rd), I rode another mini-train to the baggage claim where I was told that I was at Dulles airport which is 25 miles from D.C. proper.

Continue Reading

The Easiest Pasta Dinner in the World

IMG_1083

There are certain readers of my blog–and I know they exist, I’ve met them in real life–who see the food I make as aspirational. Instead of thinking, “Oooh, that’s easy, I can make that” (as many of you think when you read my posts), they think, “Oooh, that looks tasty, I wonder if someone will make that for me?”

To those readers, then, who think these recipes are outside of your reach (and, again, I acknowledge that I’m not describing most of you) I have a recipe for you. It’s Penne with Brown Butter, Nutmeg and Parmesan and I used to write about it all the time on the blog when I was a bachelor; it’s a dinner you can whip up easily for yourself after coming home from work. All you need is a pot, a pan, a box of penne, a stick (or less) of butter, whole nutmeg (so much better than the pre-ground stuff), a hunk of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This is comfort food with a sophisticated flair.

Continue Reading

Spaghetti and Meatballs

IMG_0185

There are certain dishes everyone should know how to make; Spaghetti & Meatballs is one of them.

It’s funny, though, because even though I’ve been cooking consistently for the past six years, cooking my way through the staples (here’s my favorite chili, my new standard roast chicken, my go-to chocolate chip cookie) I’d never really tackled Spaghetti & Meatballs. I once made fancy meatballs in a sugo that had orange zest and I titled that post “Not Your Mama’s Meatballs.” What I wanted, though, was the opposite: I actually wanted your mama’s meatballs. And I think, finally, that’s what I’ve found.

Continue Reading