“The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi
There’s just no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll just say it – the old “Darjeeling Dreams” is gone. It’s swirled away with the strange false sweetness and security of my former life, with hopes and dreams that were not truly mine, rather the shape I thought my hopes and dreams should take. I really did try to like buttercream, but let me tell you: I don’t. Yes, it’s pretty and photogenic, but its like those old hopes and dreams, not truly me. And there, in the last few months before I began graduate school, you can see the real me beginning to emerge, using organic local butter, coconut palm sugar, whole wheat flour. More a fruit scone than a fondant-covered cupcake. Simple, subtle, able to take on changes and adaptations. I’m on a road to being at peace with myself and what I really want out of life, and gaining the confidence to cope with loss. It’s about satisfying my needs, in the kitchen and out of it, and the belief that some of you share those needs. This is a long continuous journey, Darjeeling Dreams is. So here’s to chapter two.
I think, as I became more mindful, of myself and the world around me, so did my diet. It must have started with my becoming a full-on vegetarian a few years ago. For years, I had reluctantly consumed (white) meat – reluctantly because I have never enjoyed eating it. When I was a teenager I avoided meat and eggs 28 days of 30 because my parents wouldn’t allowed me to quit it completely, and when I was in college I was a vegetarian except for when I visited home or was with the (now former) boy. It bored me, gave me stomach aches, and made me feel physically dirty. Most of all, it went against my moral and spiritual beliefs. And, I grew up enough to say “no”, I will eat what I choose. That decision was not well-received. But there it was, and I couldn’t go back. I did not want go back. It has been a long journey, but I have both earned the right and privilege to eat what is now called a “plant based diet”. I am, I think, lucky to be able to make my own choices, fortunate in my knowledge to eat well, that I can go to the farmer’s market, to be able to buy food that brings me joy and healthfulness. The long road makes my meals take on a deeper significance, more gleefully satisfying. Each one is a small victory won. And this has toughened my resolution towards to mindful, moral eating, and, in the bigger picture, helped put me on a journey towards being my “best and truest self” (another Gandhi quote).
I think that you, dear reader, are here for a reason similar to mine. Here, reading “food blogs”, and (I hope) heading toward the kitchen regularly. Whatever you chose to make, the important part is that you are making and controlling what you put inside you and your loved ones. And in doing so, you are part of this movement – “slow food” “homemade” thing. We’re here, fighting against a world that seems to be screaming how much easier it is grab and gobble the quick and pre-made. We chose to return to our roots, no trendy “foodie” catch phrases needed, and remember that this is how generations before us ate and fed their families and friends. In short, food that is seasonal, natural, wholesome. We’re not perfect, we’re not preaching, just trying. Nor are we alone, because we’re all part of this wonderful, diverse society of food bloggers and readers who are experimenting, making, sharing their creations, with groups large and small.
Asparagus and Whole Wheat Penne with Walnut Crema
Serves 2 generously || Adapted (heavily) from A-16 Food + Wine, see HERE for something closer to the original
For this dish, I wanted there to be a little spear of asparagus per piece of penne. The nuttiness of whole wheat fits the sauce and springy asparagus, and the salty, tangy cheese is heavenly with the decadent sauce and fresh flavors of the dish.
2 bunches of thick-stemmed asparagus, about 25 stalks>
zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz whole-wheat penne, cooked according to instructions on package
1 cup raw walnuts
1 large shallot, diced
1 -2 clove(s) garlic, minced
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Pecorino Romano/Parmesan for serving
For the asparagus - Begin by preheating oven to 500°F.
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Coat a heavy baking pan (or pans) with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Roll them around, so that the spears become coated with the oil. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Bake for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan once. The asparagus should be just a bit charred (tip – I sometimes finish charring on the stovetop ’cause my oven runs cold).
Remove from heat, and wait before cool enough to handle before slicing pieces that are roughly the same length as the penne/pasta you using.
For the walnut crema – Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add just enough from the 1/4 cup of olive oil to coat the pan. Turn down the heat to low, and add diced shallots. Cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, and cook together for 5 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add walnuts, and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. When cooled enough to handle, put the remaining olive oil, walnuts, cooking water, shallot and garlic mixture, and thyme leaves into a food processor and puree until relatively smooth. It should be about as smooth as hummus – you want it to have a little texture. Season with more salt if needed, and with pepper to taste.
To serve, toss together penne, cut asparagus, and walnut crema. Top with cheese.