breaking point

cooking for one... or two

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on January 2, 2021 by Sandy Bergsten

I just got some news (I know so many have had much worse- they’ve lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost their homes). For me, it turns out after almost two years and a recent MRI I have a stress fracture of my interior talus. It’s the major weight bearing bone in the ankle. It’s the one that supports your entire body.

The day before Christmas I received a boot and a walker. As I reflected on the year, and this lonely holiday, it made me think of stresses and fractures. Those hidden deep within. The ones we suck it up for and push through. The ones we turn a blind eye to because there is always something else, someone else, that demands our attention. It’s almost sustainable until it’s not. 

Upon hearing the news, I allowed myself twenty-four hours to feel sorry for myself, then a week later a day to be angry. After a wintery fall down some metal stairs at an airport in 2019 I knew something was wrong. But at the time we were selling our house and navigating a difficult move. I saw doctors and physical therapists, but it never really improved. Instead of demanding more, I sucked it up, soldiered on. Maybe it healed then broke again. Maybe the break was always there.

The point is that so many of us have been under incredible pressure. Cracks in our foundations are inevitable. What is in our power is to pay attention. To turn an eye inward and do a personal inventory of how we are feeling.  To what is strained, torn and even broken. To what can be done to truly heal. 

Personally, I need to stop, take the weight off, not push through this. And while it doesn’t come naturally, I need to ask for help. Set healing boundaries. Risk disappointing others to take care of myself. The point is if I do the hard work of doing less, then perhaps I will finally mend what is broken.

In that spirit- here’s a wonderful old recipe from Bon Appetite’s food editor, Carla Lalli Music. While rich and layered, it couldn’t be simpler to create. No need to tackle something difficult. This white pesto demands only a handful of fresh ingredients and a pot of al dente pasta. 

Toast a quarter-cup of walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for six to eight minutes until golden brown.  

Let cool, then finely chop. 

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add one-half pound bucatini, rigatoni or spaghetti. Cook the pasta according to the package, stirring occasionally, until al dente.

Meanwhile measure out two ounces of fresh ricotta into a large bowl.

Add one small garlic clove, finely grated, and the zest of one-half lemon.

One teaspoon of finely chopped fresh oregano.

An ounce of finely grated Parmesan (about ¾ cup).

Mix vigorously.

A little at a time, whisk in two tablespoons of olive oil until all the oil is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is almost done scoop out one-half cup of the hot pasta cooking liquid.

Add the cooking water to the pesto, stirring gently to combine. It’s okay if some of the pesto is still in small clumps.

Drain the pasta and add to the bowl of pesto.

With a large spoon, mix energetically until the pesto thickens enough to lightly coat the pasta, about two minutes. The pasta should have sauce clinging to it but there should also be some extra sauce that collects in bottom of bowl.

Divide the pasta among bowls with more Parmesan alongside. A perfect meal served up  with a simple arugula salad and a crusty loaf of French bread.

This pasta, like my new scooter with a cup holder, is certain to carry me into the coming months. Wishing you and yours a healthy and healing new year!

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