pasta alla gricia

Posted: August 26th, 2015

pasta alla gricia

For a long time I have wanted to be the kind of person who could have people over for dinner at a moment’s notice.  I have wanted to be spontaneous with my hospitality.  But to be honest, this goes against the core of who I am in one way: a planner.  I meal plan and write grocery lists every week.  I can’t function without it.  So if I want to be spontaneous with my hospitality, it requires of reworking of my meal planning logistics, and rearranging of menu, and inevitably a quick stop by the store.

pasta alla gricia

But a few weeks ago, the magic happened.  A few weeks ago, we were having friends over for dessert and drinks, and some of the friends that were coming over asked us if we wanted to go to dinner beforehand.  We didn’t really want to; it was supposed to be a kid-free evening, but we didn’t have a sitter for Evelyn since she’d be going to bed about the time everyone arrived, and to be honest we had spent too much money going out to eat in recent weeks.  So I said the magical words, “We’re having pasta, so why don’t you just come over for dinner and I’ll throw some extra noodles in the pot.”  They brought over some roasted vegetables, and what resulted was a spontaneous dinner with friends that required no extra effort on my part.

That is one of the best things about pasta: that you can adjust your amounts so easily.  I think the actual best thing about pasta might be the cheese, or in this case it might be the bacon.  Or actually, let me rescind all statements and say this: the best thing about pasta is how easily it can come together, and how, with the right recipe, you can spend about 15 minutes at the stove and sit down feeling like you could be in Italy.

pasta alla gricia

pasta alla gricia

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Few things are better than a good pasta dish with bacon. Pasta alla gricia is so simple to make, but has such a sophisticated flavor (the sage is key there). Pecorino is the cheese to use here; it is sharper than Parmesan, but if Parmesan is all you have it will still be delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. spaghetti (or other pasta of your preference)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz. guanciale (or more realistically, bacon--about 8 slices), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 handful fresh sage, chopped
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bacon while the pan is still cold, and let the bacon cook until it is beginning to brown. When it is just turning brown, but not quite done, add the garlic and sage and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes. If this is down before the pasta is done, just take the pan off the heat temporarily.
  3. If there seems to be an over abundance of bacon fat, drain some of it away. You should have just enough that it is very generously coating the bottom of the pan (you want enough to coat the noodles), but not too much that it is like a swimming pool of bacon fat. Of course, how much you leave is your personal preference.
  4. When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving a cup of pasta water. Lower the heat of the skillet to low. Add the pasta to the skillet with the bacon. Add the cheese, and then toss it all together. If the pasta seems dry, add just a bit of pasta water to loosen it. Serve immediately, topped with more cheese if you'd like.

Notes

Adapted from Extra Virgin

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why a food tour is perfect for a picky eater {asheville, nc}

Posted: August 20th, 2015

 asheville food tour drinks (Copy)

{If you want to read more about our time in Asheville, go here.}

As soon as we started making plans to go to Asheville for our anniversary this month, we knew the main thing we wanted to do was a food tour.  We had heard so many great things about food tours; and with the restaurant scene in Asheville absolutely thriving, we knew it was going to be the best way to experience as many different restaurants as possible.

We ended up booking a food tour with Eating Asheville, and as we had breakfast the morning before (our tour started at 2, so we had a big late breakfast and then skipped lunch) I was excited but also nervous.  All of my usual picky eating fears were creeping back in to me.  What if there is nothing I like?  What if everything is too spicy?  What if people realize I am a picky eater and then that becomes a topic of conversation and its a whole embarrassing thing?

But I am happy to say, I survived the food tour and I LOVED it.  I didn’t love all the food that we had.  In fact, nothing that we had was anything I would normally order.  But we had tastes of things I enjoyed and it was all without having to commit to an entire dish of something.

asheville food tour--mojo

We ate at seven different restaurants in Asheville: Biergarten, Lafayette, Mojo, Bomba, Addissae, Modesto, and Santé.  (And at 6 of those places, they also gave us a specialty drink.)

I was surprised by some of the things I liked.  Pear, gorgonzola, and walnut pizza at Biergarten.  A “fish and chips” dish made on a fried plantain at Mojo.

I also had my first oyster ever at Lafayette, and am proud to say I did not find it completely disgusting.  (Also, they made us the BEST hurricanes at Lafayette.)

I am not surprised by some of the things I didn’t like.  Turns out, Ethiopian food is not really my thing (Gerrit thoroughly enjoyed his though).  Herb Gumbo was also not my favorite.

But that’s ok.  It was a food tour and the whole point was to TRY foods.  Not to have a meal.  I didn’t have to order something I was unsure of.  It was just brought to me to try, and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to feel bad about not eating an entire dish (plus Gerrit could usually finish mine…there were a couple things I found a bit too spicy that he loved).  But it was all about the experience, and it was a such a fun one.

(And whenever we travel now (at least sans Evelyn), I know that I will be checking out food tours in other cities.)

asheville food tour--biergarten

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asheville, north carolina {restaurants + some things to do}

Posted: August 17th, 2015

blue ridge parkway

asheville north carolina

Five years ago Gerrit and I went on our little honeymoon to Asheville, NC.  We ate food, went hiking, went to see the Biltmore, and basically decided we loved that mountain city.  And at some point during our five years of marriage, we decided that we should make a point to return to Asheville every five years for our anniversary.

We had a great time this past weekend.  It was our first time away from Evelyn for longer than 24 hours, which on the first day had me a bit emotional, but by the second day had me constantly saying “Isn’t it nice to not be on a baby’s schedule?  Isn’t it nice that I can take a nap?  Isn’t it nice that I can just sit down and read this book?”

asheville north carolina

There is so much to do in Asheville, but the focus of our trip this time was food.  Asheville is a major food city (even more so now than when we went five years ago), and we wanted to make sure we had as many good meals as possible.  One of the things we did to ensure this was to go on a food tour (I’ll tell you more about this later in the week), but even aside from that we really scored big with food.

asheville and pizza at the glass onion

Cúrate (Spanish Tapas)

Because we didn’t have a reservation, we sat at the bar (after a wait) which we ended up loving because we could watch the kitchen work.  We LOVED their lardo on toasts, and the fried eggplant with honey was great, too.

Tupelo Honey Cafe (Southern)

This is one of my favorite restaurants (although, can I be honest? I liked their menu better before they started opening so many new locations).  I always love the Charleston Chicken Sandwich, but this time we went for breakfast.  Their fried chicken and waffles with milk gravy was delicious, and Gerrit’s cheese grits were amazing.

Jack of the Wood (Celtic)

I wish we could have gone here on Sunday night, because they have Celtic music (we did that on our honeymoon and it was one of my favorite things).  But the food we had was great too–a flat iron steak sandwich on focaccia (one of the most perfect sandwich breads, in my opinion).

Vortex Doughnuts

YUM.  I’m always partial to plain glazed, but they have so many flavors and every one we tried was amazing.

The Glass Onion (Italian)

It’s a bit out of the way in Weaverville, but if you drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, it is the perfect place to stop for lunch on your way back in to town.  (Their dinner menu looked tasty, too.)  I really enjoyed my portobello burger with homemade chips.

Bouchon (French)

This might have been my favorite meal.  I had the steak frites which was wonderful.  The steak with herb butter was quite good, but the fries that went with it were perfection–perfectly salted and crispy and seasoned with herbs.

French Broad Chocolates (Dessert)

We went here twice.  If you only go once (which you shouldn’t), get the chocolate pots de creme.  It might change your life.

asheville north carolina

Some Other Things We Did

- Spent a while one morning at Malaprops, a bookstore I could have spent MUCH more time in.
- Wondered through the Grove Arcade (always the perfect place to cool off in, plus they have nice bathrooms).
- Drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the scenic overlooks.
- Listened to Bluegrass music at Shindig on the Green, a music event that happens on Saturdays during the summer (it looks like a big concert, but it is really just locals coming to play and it was awesome).

{Also, if you are going to Asheville for the first time, please do take the time to go see the Biltmore.  It is incredible.}

I’ll have more later this week on the restaurants we hit on our food tour!

blue ridge parkway

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evelyn’s first birthday party {pink ladybugs}

Posted: August 11th, 2015

pink ladybug birthday cake

Truth: the idea of throwing a birthday party for a one year old kind of intimidated me.  I wanted to make it nice, but not extravagant.  I wanted it cute, but not pinterest crazy.  I wanted it to be enjoyable for both kids and adults alike.  I wanted a cute cake that wasn’t crazy expensive, but I didn’t think I had time to make it.  And I wanted good food that wasn’t a huge hassle.

And while I put a lot of thought into all of those aspects, I’m happy to say–I think we pulled it off! Read more »

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one year of motherhood

Posted: August 6th, 2015

bottles

It was one year ago tonight that I got into bed and felt the first contractions.  I laid there for an hour, timing them and wondering if it was really it, because they didn’t hurt as terribly as I expected.  I woke Gerrit up and we watched Late Night with Seth Myers (which we never watch because we are never up that late) and said that if I was still having contractions when it was over, we would go to the hospital.

Evelyn was born the next evening, and we were thrown in to the whirlwind that is new parenting.  And here we are.  One year later.

So many things about this year have been exactly what I expected.  Joy and frustrations.  Being tired and feeling frazzled.  Learning what we are doing, and being amazed at the things our daughter does.

But there were so many things I didn’t expect, too.

I didn’t expect that nursing would be so difficult, and once I was trudging through the difficulties of it, that it would become so easy.
I didn’t expect in the weeks after Evelyn was born that the baby blues would hit me in a rush every afternoon at 4:00 so strongly that I could barely function, and that as soon as I started to worry about them sticking around too long, they would disappear like they were never there in the first place.
I didn’t expect to cry so many tears over Evelyn not sleeping at night, and for her to clear it up on her own.
I didn’t expect to cry so many tears over Evelyn’s horrific napping, and to have to work so hard for weeks and weeks with her to finally get her to lay down and go to sleep on her own during the day.
I didn’t expect to feel so strongly about some of the parenting decisions we were making, and then the next day to feel nothing but doubt about it.
I didn’t expect to feel so emotionally vulnerable all the time, to tell Gerrit we needed a security system, and to look at bad things happening to other people and think “What must their mothers be feeling right now?”
I didn’t expect that Evelyn simply laughing or crawling or taking her first few steps could bring me the most pure joy I have ever known, so strong that it brings tears to my eyes.

And I didn’t expect that I, who have never considered myself a baby person and am so looking forward to Evelyn’s toddler and preschool years because that is the age I understand so much better, would be so emotional this week about her turning one and not being a baby anymore.

But she is definitely not a baby anymore.  She is so close to walking and she is devouring food.  She is pointing at things and finding her bellybutton and nose when we ask where they are.  She is growing and learning everyday, and it is amazing to see and so much fun, and I did expect that.

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