“If you should ask me to name a dish that a bit of parsley would fail to improve, I might be startled as by an impertinence.” – Angelo Pellegrini; The Food Lover’s Garden
“The food processor separates you completely from the pleasures of physicality and from the sensual delight of working with your hands. ” - Viana La Place; The Unplugged Kitchen
This week felt like turning a corner. I can almost see the shabby coattails of the uninvited guest who’s been hanging around for months, flapping in the spring breeze as she scurries down the sidewalk of my street, around the block and then far away.
I haven’t told you this before, but for too many days this winter I’ve felt dreadful – I mean literally full of dread. We all go through stressful stuff sometimes that can be…well, draining. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, and most of the time things turn around sooner rather than later. You recover and pick yourself right up.
But for me, this time it went on for so many weeks which turned into months, that my body developed an imbalance.
I didn’t believe it at first. I mean, I’ve been aware of nutrition, healthy cooking and lifestyle choices for almost half my life. But no matter how much fresh, whole, naturally vitamin-packed food I was feeding myself and all the yoga breathing I tried to stop my heart racing and bumping in my chest, stress hormones kept up in an endless cycle, leaching my reserves, tapping out all the good stuff I had in storage. Drained. And feeling like I might die.
I’ve always believed that food is the best delivery system for nutrients – better than a bunch of pills, supplements or protein shakes. Eating whole food is the optimal way to stay healthy, but sometimes we need a little help. Now that I’ve had a number of doctor visits, tests and vials of blood drawn that ruled out serious disease, I’m on my way back to myself again. I’m taking a few supplements to replenish what I’m missing, and finally feeling ready to start a new chapter.
Getting back to basics in the kitchen always feels grounding to me. I love the book Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place. Her description of her kitchen makes me want to move in:
Work surfaces in my kitchen are worn and well used. There’s my trusty chopping board, my grandmother’s colander, my small cast-iron stovetop grill (which I bought in Italy many years ago); my heavy stone mortar and pestle – without it I’d be lost.
My kitchen isn’t shiny and new; it’s lived-in and soft-looking, with a high ceiling and tall windows. Old tiles, some chipped, line the counter; walls and cabinets are painted the color of white butter…we eat at a very old, slightly creaky, wooden table.
In my new kitchen in New Jersey, the food processor is stored in a cabinet rather than on the countertop to save space. It wouldn’t be hard to haul it out – and I do – but in the time it takes to get it plugged in and ready to go, I can make pesto right on my butcher block.
Parsley is something I almost treat like a vegetable; I throw it in salads and arrange in small piles on the dinner plate if there aren’t other greens in the house, like baby spinach or arugula. I think Italian parsley has the essence of springtime, too, with it’s sweet, almost floral green taste.
Inspired by a recipe in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper.
- ¼ cup pistachios or almonds
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion or shallot
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed with flat side of a chef's knife
- 2 cups Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves (from about 1 large bunch)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine pasta
- ½ pound green beans, stem ends trimmed and sliced in half
- Put a large pot of salted water on the stovetop to boil.
- Put the pistachios on a cutting board and chop into crumbs with a large knife or mezzaluna if you have one; pile the onion, scallion, garlic and parsley on top and chop everything together until fine.
- Transfer parsley mixture to a bowl; stir in olive oil, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
- Put the pasta into the boiling water and cook until almost al dente; toss in the green beans and cook a few more minutes. Just before draining, scoop out ¼ cup of the pasta water and stir into the pesto.
- Toss the hot pasta with the pesto and serve.