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And, the Simple Pleasures of Dining Alone
We made it back to the US and were thankfully spared from Hurricane Lee. The winds were high, and at first they were not in our favor, but no trees fell, and miraculously we didn’t lose power. I have to admit, when the winds pick up at The Windy Poplars, a pit forms in the pit of my stomach. Contradictory, I know… For those of you that are new here, we were hit badly last summer by Fiona and it was a heartbreak. I really love those trees.
I’m currently in the city for an event (more on that very soon) so this newsletter is a bit abridged. Forgive me, but between waiting out a storm, an 11-hour drive home and then jumping on Amtrak to the city after being in Hudson for 19-hours, I’m a bit, well, spent.
However, the city is full of magic always, and one of my favorite things to do while I'm solo in the city is take myself out to dinner and sit at the bar. Sitting near the service bar is preferable as you get to listen in to the staff banter. As someone who worked as a bartender and a server for many years, it’s where all the good stuff happens. One could write a… I did bring a copy of East of Eden as my foil. In truth, it’s one of my favorite books, but I couldn’t be bothered. Instead, I listened to a server lament about an upcoming big wedding in San Diego, watched a bartender roll his eyes about a vodka substitution request to a signature cocktail and overheard someone who had just visited the Finger Lakes for the first time. Their dialogue and aliveness stirs up nostalgia and brings me joy. I felt young once more! Truthfully, I often miss the energy of working FOH (Front of House).
Given I was alone, ordering should be simpler, but in my case it can be more difficult, as I want to try many things. I settled on a decent bowl of fresh chittara with chillies, garlic, parsley, pecorino and breadcrumbs. This is almost a perfect order for me (whilst sitting solo) - there were only a few things missing, anchovies and walnuts, and in a perfect world clams. I had two glasses of Frappato, which I quickly realized was the same wine I had been frequently drinking this summer in Nova Scotia. Go figure.
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In lieu of my normal format, I'm offering up a recipe that my friend Seth and I created for Back Pocket Pasta reminiscent of the aforementioned dish, and one that we’ve been eating together for over 20 years. We first had it together at the East Village restaurant Three of Cups, which is sadly no longer. It’s one of my favorite things to make when Chad is playing evening tennis and I am (luxuriously), alone in the kitchen. I’ve updated this version a bit since its first publication, and I hope you enjoy it.
I’m off to the USQ farmers market with a new friend and lots to report back soon. Until then…
Inspired by my dear college friend Seth Bodie and Napolitano paisano, this cucina povera dish combines anchovies, walnuts, chilies, lots of garlic and parsley. Seth’s family serves it as part of their Feast of the Seven Fishes tradition and we’ve been eating it together since our early days in New York City when we were newly out of college and the simplest pantry pasta felt like a luxury both on our wallets and in our bellies. It’s one of my favorites.
Time 25 minutes
For the breadcrumbs:
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the panko and toast until golden, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Season with flaky salt and set aside.
For the pasta:
¾ pound spaghetti or linguine
1 cup walnuts roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
One 2-ounce can of anchovies (packed in oil)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to packaged directions until al dente. Drain and reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat a 12-skillet over medium heat, add the walnuts and toast, stirring frequently, until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Heat the olive oil in the same 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until lightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the anchovies and stir together and cook until the anchovies melt and dissolve into the garlic oil, about 2 minutes more. Add the chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked pasta directly to the skillet and toss with anchovy mixture. Toss in the walnuts and parsley and mix together until everything is well combined, add in the pecorino and a ¼ cup pasta and toss together until everything is glossy with sauce, adding in more pasta water if needed to achieve your desired consistency - I like things saucy. Plate in bowls and top with breadcrumbs. Pass more pecorino at the table.