I feel it’s important to caveat, given the title, that I don’t speak Italian. At least, not beyond a few curse words and a completely useless ability to accurately identify 37 types of pasta by their proper names. Which I promise is (somewhat) relevant to my point.
I love ot cook. In fact, in the very title of this blog, I promise FOOD! Needless to say, I haven’t delivered.
I think that food is about joy. That food is about love. And that really great, delicious food is a reflection of the state of your soul. A tasty barometer of your mental health, as it were, at least for me.
And for years, I made really great food. Delicious and inventive and made with ingredients I sourced from wherever I could, from wherever interested me – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, a questionable-looking van full of peaches. If you can name it, I could make a meal out of it, and send you home with seconds to sneak at midnight.
From the time I was a senior in college until I quit my first real job in my chosen industry, I was a serious home chef, possessed of dozens of beautiful cookbooks kitchen equipment that ranged from utilitarian to ridiculous (I’m looking at you, banana ice cream machine.) I truly loved being in the kitchen, and was forever testing recipes on myself and my friends.
But things change. Sometimes you quit a job that doesn’t seem right for you in the moment for one that does, and you don’t say anything even as you begin to get crushed under the weight of spending too much time doing something you don’t enjoy. Sometimes that manifests itself in a lot of shitty takeout.
Like 18 months’ worth.
And sometimes that turns into a habit that lasts for another six months, even as you gain traction in your new job (you know, the one that really, really makes you happy).
But habits, like rules, are meant to be broken. And sometimes breaking habits means spending $30 on one delicious, perfect, simple meal without regretting the time or cash investment. So I share with you my breakthrough meal, something so simple and full of goodness that it’s bound to make you smile:
Italian Flag Salad
11-oz clam shell of baby arugula
8 oz diced pancetta
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 large shallots
In a large sauce pan, melt just enough butter to caramelize your diced shallots. When shallots begin to become translucent, toss in pancetta and brown along with the onions until crispy. Lightly toast pine nuts before draining. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan along with halved grape tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and saute until tomatoes are just heated through.
Drain pan again, and toss mixture with baby arugula, along with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar and salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.