spinach, chicken and pasta al forno

One day just last week when the high temperature was hovering around 19 degrees, I heard birds singing outside my window, sounding so cheerfully oblivious to the words “Polar” and  “Vortex.” I figured they knew something I didn’t. It picked up my mood to think that despite what’s going on with the weather, spring IS going to happen, come hell or high water. And yes, there will be high water after the snow pack melts, but let’s try not to worry about that right now.

We are starting to thaw. However, there’s still enough of a chill in my house that cooking things in the oven seems like a good idea. I usually roast a chicken at least once a week, throughout the year and into the summer when instead of heating up the house the bird goes outside on the grill.

The whole bird is usually eaten in one sitting in our family, but this time we had leftovers. My kids don’t go near cold roast chicken, but – HA! – they do when it’s baked into this creamy, cheesy mixture I told my son was Pasta Pot Pie. Just for the record, he didn’t go for it (he’s 13, and still suspicious of any green vegetable that isn’t broccoli or green beans), but my daughter was all over it. [Read more…]

rustic parmigiano polenta with greens

I found my thoughts provoked before I sat down to write this post, because I just read this terrific essay by Emma Marris, which lays out how the “gospel” of Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse has become a cultural force in dining, especially high-end dining, while reminding us more than once that Alice Waters cooks peasant food “but only rich people can afford it.”

I parsed the reality that the kind of cooking that captivates my heart and senses, and moves me toward what I do (and share with you here) is exactly that kind. Call it “cucina povera” – Food of the Poor Peasant – or any one these favored words; “rustic” “simple” “seasonal” and let’s not forget “artisanal.” 

I feel the irony of the situation.  [Read more…]

spicy calabrian cauliflower carbonara

A while back (a long, long while…) I was paying a visit to California wine country.  I was exploring the town of Yountville one afternoon, and wandered into a NapaStyle store. Right there in the middle of the place was Michael Chiarello himself, working the room like the smooth guy he is. He was wearing an immaculate lavender-colored oxford shirt, slim Italian-tailored trousers and his megawatt Food Network smile.

Feeling a tiny bit starstruck, I went over to say hello. I don’t remember what we chatted about, but I do remember him handing me a jar of hot chili pepper sauce, telling me it was from his family’s hometown in Calabria and that I couldn’t leave the store without it. Okay! He didn’t have to work that sales angle too hard.  [Read more…]