“The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi
There’s just no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll just say it – the old “Darjeeling Dreams” is gone. It’s swirled away with the strange false sweetness and security of my former life, with hopes and dreams that were not truly mine, but rather the shape I thought my hopes and dreams should take. I really did try to like buttercream, I even tried to make it less sweet and more palatable to me. Yes, it’s pretty and photogenic, but its like those old hopes and dreams. And there, in the last few months before I began graduate school, you can see the real me – or maybe the new me – beginning to emerge, experimenting with coconut palm sugar, whole wheat flour. More a fruit scone than a fondant-covered cupcake. I think some of you share those needs, for a sort of real-life-ness. A lot of things of have changed in my life. So here’s to chapter two.
It started with my becoming a full-on vegetarian a few years before the blog. For years, I had reluctantly consumed meat – reluctantly because I didn’t enjoy eating it. When I was a teenager I avoided meat and eggs 28 days of 30 because my parents wouldn’t allowed me to quit it completely (and they only cooked white meat twice a week anyway), and when I was in college I was a vegetarian except for when I visited home or was with the (now former) boy. It bored me, gave me stomach aches, and made me feel physically dirty. So I finally decided to quit. It suits me, I think I’ll stick with it.
Whatever you chose to make, vegetarian or not, the important part is that you know what you put inside you and your loved ones. And in doing so, you are part of this – “whole foods” thing. I hate those terms, that this is thought to be to be a yuppie or hipster thing. We don’t need the trendy “foodie” phrases. Let’s just to remember that this is how (busy, overworked) generations before us ate and fed their families and friends. In short, food (more trendy phrases!) that is (more or less) seasonal, natural, and wholesome.
We’re hungry, not only our bellies, but beyond that, for connecting with others who share our values, reflected in what we put on the table. And so yes, food is important, as important as any other fight in the myriad of issues the world is facing. Wars are being fought over it, people are dying from a lack of it, and greed holds it captive. Too many of us humans don’t have access to clean water and good food that most of us in this world are blessed to take for granted, while ignorance is slowly poisoning others with mysterious combinations sweetened or salted to the point of having the barest resemblance to food. When we go into the kitchen to create, we fight against this. Let’s keep fighting the good fight, continue to cook and eat with economy and grace, and appreciate that we can do so.
Asparagus and Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Crema
Serves 2 – 3 || Adapted from A-16 Food + Wine, see HERE for something closer to the original
For this dish, I wanted there to be a little spear of asparagus per piece of penne. The nuttiness of whole wheat fits the sauce and springy asparagus, and the salty, tangy cheese is heavenly with the decadent sauce and fresh flavors of the dish.
2 bunches of thick-stemmed asparagus, about 25 stalks>
zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz whole-wheat penne, cooked according to instructions on package
1 cup raw walnuts
1 large shallot, diced
1 -2 clove(s) garlic, minced
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Pecorino Romano/Parmesan for serving
For the asparagus - Begin by preheating oven to 500°F.
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Coat a heavy baking pan (or pans) with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Roll them around, so that the spears become coated with the oil. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Bake for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan once. The asparagus should be just a bit charred (tip – I sometimes finish charring on the stovetop ’cause my oven runs cold).
Remove from heat, and wait before cool enough to handle before slicing pieces that are roughly the same length as the penne/pasta you using.
For the walnut crema – Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add just enough from the 1/4 cup of olive oil to coat the pan. Turn down the heat to low, and add diced shallots. Cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, and cook together for 5 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add walnuts, and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. When cooled enough to handle, put the remaining olive oil, walnuts, cooking water, shallot and garlic mixture, and thyme leaves into a food processor and puree until relatively smooth. It should be about as smooth as hummus – you want it to have a little texture. Season with more salt if needed, and with pepper to taste.
To serve, toss together penne, cut asparagus, and walnut crema. Top with cheese.