A Plateful of Summer

Day 1 and Day 2 of Martha Stewart's One-Pan Pasta. Photos by Esha Samajpati © All rights reserved

When asked about your summer, I am pretty sure you don’t launch into a step-by-step description of a certain one-pan pasta and how it defined an entire season for you. Food wise, that is. Well, neither do I. Also, when people compliment the potted basil in your kitchen, you don’t tell them that you got it to make sure you always had the herb part nailed down when and if you feel like making afore-mentioned pasta dish. No, of course not. What kind of a person does that?

Let us for a moment say that I am that person. Then you would want to know more about this seemingly superb pasta dish, wouldn’t you? So here goes.

The “difficult” part of this entire endeavor involves chopping a single white onion, around four cloves of garlic, and halving a handful of cherry tomatoes. After you are done with the chopping board, there’s really not much to it.

Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Then put everything you prepped along with a pound of pasta into a pot. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil, a pinch of salt, some pepper, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes (if you like some heat), and a couple of sprigs of basil. Then add 4-5 cups of water.

This is not your run-of-the-mill “boil water first and then add pasta” recipe. This is simpler. And it makes your kitchen smell like a herb garden, like “I want that in a bottle” kind of herb garden.

Turn on the heat, pick up that glass of wine, and wait for at least nine minutes. Depending on your pot, the heat, and other variables, your dinner will be ready soon thereafter. And when it’s done, scoop it off the pot, sprinkle on some parmesan and wolf it down before the cheese has a chance to melt.

That’s how I would eat it anyway.

Notes for those who may want to take a shot at this summer-y dish –

The original recipe (which you can find here) calls for four and a half cups of water. We had to add an extra cup. Also, we had a bunch of colorful heirloom tomatoes at hand so that is what went in, and by the way, we used whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine.

The second time around we played around with the original ingredients. Not because there was anything wrong with them. We tweaked because we didn’t have the red cherry tomatoes and rigatoni is better suited for a toddler’s lunch. So we added roma tomatoes and one big beefsteak tomato instead of the tiny sweet bombs and topped off the spread with mozzarella and sweet basil oil.

Third time around we added tomato-basil chicken sausages for some protein action. Doesn’t photograph as well. Tastes divine.

Oh Dear! Oh Dear! I am Late!

Silverman's Farm in Easton, Connecticut. Photos by Esha Samajpati © All rights reserved

Not too long ago, there we were, sniffling in the cold and hoping for summer and sunshine. And before we could put down our chilled lemonade and say didgeridoo, here we are, in the first week of August. Summer is slowly slipping away. So to make the most of what is left, we thought it wise to spend some time in a farm amongst ripe peaches and bumpy hay-rides, and sleepy animals.

We went to Silverman’s Farm in Easton, which is a cozy-looking town in Southern Connecticut. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of where we live, the drive in itself is worthy of its own post. Putting aside the quest for infused oils and plants for the later part of the afternoon, we made a beeline for the animals. There were llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, fallow deer, emus, long-horn cattle, rabbits, chickens, ducks, pigs, a Sicilian donkey, and a big bird cage. I am not sure the peacock was comfortable in that cage because I have always seen them run freely in open fields and I doubt it had room to spread its tail which is what makes it so gorgeous.

Our two-year-old liked the residents of Silverman’s, and after he was done feeding them and talking to them, he spent a good amount of time in the play area at the back. Because, well, they had a tractor! He also showed a keen interest in any and every water body within the animal enclosures, troughs of dirty water included. “Want to go to the water” was a common refrain heard throughout the day.

On our way out, we came upon what they call Bunny Town, where my son took one look at the rabbits and exclaimed “Oh dear! Oh dear! I am late.” It’s his version of White Rabbit’s “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” He is not even three years old, and we already share a favorite book.

Thank you, Lewis Carroll.

Thank you, part-cloudy part-sunny August day.

Thank you, Silverman’s Farm.

Weekly Link Love

Marblehead, MA. Photo by Esha Samajpati © All rights reserved

I should do this link love sort of posts more often. There’s so much fun stuff I want to share, and talk about.

First off, let me start by saying I do not like zoos. Most people will beat around the bush and tell you how it’s great for the animals because they are safe and cared for before they express their discomfort with it. That’s because nobody wants to come off as crazy. But here’s the thing – keeping a brown bear confined for life is crazy. The person who wants to let it roam free? Not so much. The point I am trying to make is plain and simple – we should not keep any living being captive for our own enjoyment. Period.

But I also know that as a parent to a preschooler there will soon come a time when I will have to give in. Sigh. Anyway, I thought the least I can do is share this beautifully written piece by By Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The Case for the End of the Modern Zoo.

On a lighter note, hey, what do you like to nibble on while you work? If it’s in the morning, I need my cup of coffee but at night I go all out on a bag of buttery Pop-Secret and a glass of Chardonnay (usually Beringer). Here’s a look at a handful of famous writers and their favorite snacks. Kafka wrote all that on milk, really?

If you are a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, watch him drive a bus here.

I may be a little late on this one, but what I am reading these days is The Family Dinner by Laurie David. It was released back in 2010, and since then, she has published and produced more wonderful stuff, but if you, like me, haven’t yet read it, this is your chance. It’s about the importance of sitting down to eat as a family at least one meal per day. And as for the recipes, Gary Stuber’s bean tacos have become a staple for our Taco Tuesdays.

And, last but not the least, this is something that never fails to make me smile.

The Summer of 2014. So Far.

First trip of Summer. Cape Ann, MA. Photo by Esha Samajpati © All rights reserved

Summer is the most looked-forward-to of the four seasons. Notwithstanding the flies on the beach, the sand in your ketchup, the sudden sunburn, the ticks, the other bugs, onset of allergies, and crowds everywhere. So what is it that makes New England summers so coveted? Is it the buttery lobster rolls or the deep green of the leaves which seem to have wiped off all signs of a long, white winter?

For me, the best part of summer is not having to switch on the headlight or the porch light till the clock strikes eight. I like walking in the park sans headphones, taking in the chirping of birds and the odd squeak of a truant rodent. Winter is cold, and still. Summer is full of life.

One would think that our trip to Cape Ann is the highlight of this summer. Seeing as it’s the only long trip we have taken so far. But that’s not it.

For us, this summer has been about presenting the outside world to our two and a half year old. In all its bug-ridden dirt-splashed glory.

Together we saw tadpoles swimming in a nearby pond, we met a black and red caterpillar, picked up rocks and sticks from the park, gave them names according to their shapes, “climbed” a boulder, counted trees, and bubbles, said hello to a frog, shook paws with numerous dogs, biked along deserted train tracks, and found that we liked to sit on the grass after all. Yes, prickly, crunchy grass is fine, and so are the bugs that crawl in it.

Things that we are yet to do this summer – go berry picking, find a good splash pad, or a nice swimming hole, and take an easy child-friendly hike.

All in good time. For the leaves are still green and pumpkin flavored beverages look like a distant dream.