Pasta Puttanesca, Crostata, and Being in the Moment

Taking Thyme



Pasta Puttanesca, Crostata and Being in the Moment

The day didn’t start so auspiciously. Putting away dishes before I’ve had a full cup of coffee, a bowl slips and crashes. Luckily it wasn’t a special one, but it was an all-purpose, one we use a lot. Oh well. It’s a gorgeous day and I have just enough time to finish the crostata and shoot it in the perfect light before I scoot out the door to my appointments and errands.

Of course, I didn’t really have “just enough” time, I just made myself believe I did, because I really wanted to see the crostata in the late morning light. Then, I decide some of my last thyme would be lovely with the Italian plums and some balsamic. A little leftover jam from a friend was the inspiration (yes, Chez Us you know who you are!)

So in goes the lovely crostata, while I pop a shower.

Out we both come. And it’s photo shoot time. Of course, it’s really about time for me to be out the door. I start scaling back the “to do before I go list” - how much makeup do I really need? How perfect must the hair be? No time for second cup of coffee, I can get that out...Did I mention the gorgeous light this morning?

Flying out the door once a few shots are shot. All I could do not to eat it with another cup of that joe...

Trying to email on iPhone while crossing the Surface Rd is nothing short of suicidal, but you know, that Chicago workshop is coming up fast. Did I get so-and-so’s email yet? Did I send all the follow ups yet from the Boston show?

I imagine which stop is closest to the first appointment and jump on the Orange line. To be more precise, I enter the station. Wrong direction, but catch myself before paying. “Outbound” is meaningless when you’re in the heart of downtown. BOTH directions are outbound. Just sayin’...

Right direction. I’m there just in time to make my 1200 appt. But the train refuses to come. No, I cannot help you - skinny dude who needs train fare. I ask the booth attendant if the train is working. Yes. How frequently the train runs? Not very. Great.

Then it comes. I note that my stop is just three away, I might just make it. (Already the wheels are turning, I realize that I will never leave more time to get to this destination because I know that I can make it in less than a half hour even if the train is late. Which it is. And even if I haven’t actually arrived on time, which I won’t. But the wheels are turning.)

I have an intermittent signal so I try to get another email out. There’s my stop. Out I go.

Hm. This...doesn’t....look like ...the right station. First mistake. (Well, second, if you count that I went into the wrong station first. Or third mistake, if you count that I stayed home too long baking and photographing...)

Now I have decided that I’ve taken the wrong train, but I think I know just where I am and start walking. And emailing, of course. I call the appt and let them know I’ve made the foolish mistake of jumping on the wrong train, but tell them I’m probably 7 blocks away, will be there soon. No problem they can fit me in at 1215 instead.

But then I realize nothing is looking familiar as it should since I’VE LIVED IN THIS CITY FOR OVER TWO DECADES. Do I check the GPS on my iPhone - of course not.

A young woman shoots me that “Sister, you are SO lost” look and I realize she is correct.  I consult the GPS and realize I’ve walked now several long blocks IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. I cross the street and turn around attempting to reorient myself and suddenly from behind the truck unloading booze at the liquor store, “Hey Sweetie, how about a nice gold necklace?”

Not even kidding. He’s not threatening, very polite almost laughing at himself. Then quickly he calls out to someone else and he’s off as I give him that half polite, half eye-roll look and keep walking. Like I know where I am or how to get where I’m going.

At this point, I’m pretty sure the first appt is shot. I try to keep myself from spiraling into "what a shitty day" mode, and note how nice it is out. Really glorious Fall day. And we’re walking.

And walking. Now I see a landmark I recognize, but it is in the wrong direction. Completely. Who moved that tower? Oh. Uh oh. I am so ridiculously not in the right spot but at least now I have my bearings and I’m off.

No cabs in this part of town and no bus stops that I can see, so I’ll just walk briskly and try to not make myself crazy. Almost two miles later and half an hour late I arrive at the first appointment which they graciously let me keep though I am 30 minutes late.

The second, the third. Then off to the tailor, who I believe is on Gloucester - or is it Hereford? I head off toward Gloucester. But I don’t see his sign. I head back toward Hereford hoping no one in the shop has seen me double back after I’d regaled them with the saga of the morning commute.

I head back to Gloucester and find him (sans sign)in the same building different unit. We catch up, he’s now married and has a daughter. When I saw him last he was just about to leave to meet his wife, then he was a little apprehensive since it was a blind date sort of arrangement with old school marriage fixer upper types involved. The good news. They are in love and so happy.

I walk home, enjoy the afternoon. Grab an olive roll from the Farmers’ Market. Pick up some chocolates for my sweetie. Since I’m eating alone tonight I have options. I decide to make Pasta Puttanesca. Doc’s not crazy about the dish so it’s a perfect one to make for myself. I have a bit of hot cappicola that’s a little dry now, that’ll go in. Have some lovely salted capers, some nice anchovies, a handful of olives and some tomatoes I’d opened and not needed. Perfect. Pop open some wine (Chilean Carmenere) and decide I can put the freaking phone down, enjoy a calm glass of wine while I prep.

Dinner was great and the secret to Puttanesca* is that it packs a triple or quadruple umami punch: olives, anchovies, tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano. I would guess that capers themselves also have some umami.

So once I focused on the cooking, the wine, and the crostata dessert I could laugh remembering the staff at the first appointment telling me next time I could bring a gold chain in lieu of tip...

Pasta Puttanesca to calm a harried girl...

1. Pour a glass of wine.
2. Put the pasta water on to boil.

3. Mash:
two anchovy fillets
4-5 cloves of garlic

4. Sauté
half an onion, sliced thin half an onion (working girls would not waste what was hanging out in the fridge)
and anchovy in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. As they begin to soften,

5. Add
~1/3 - 1/2 cup olives pitted and rough chopped
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

6. Deglaze
with ~1/2 cup of hearty red wine.

7. Add

tomatoes - if whole crush with hands.

2 tablespoons salt-dried capers, soaked, drained

If fresh herbs are handy - chop and add. Today, I had about a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, 1/4 cup of parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano.


Oregano blossoms

Toss with pasta, grate Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Enjoy.

* The story of puttanesca is that it was a sauce made with pantry items and in a hurry so the working girls could whip it up between clients. I’d like to imagine the dish gave them a few moments’ peace in a busy day, as it did me.

Crostata for dessert. Liking the thyme and balasamic with the plums. Very much.