Growing up you would not catch me dead in anything pink. No pink tights, barrettes, dresses, shoes, coats, turtlenecks, nothing. Nothing pink. Ever. I preferred red. It seemed so much more exciting. While the neighborhood girls cooed at dolls, changed their clothes a million times a day, and swaddled their babies in dish towels, I had bigger fish to fry.
In her yellow kitchen my mother and I made dessert every afternoon, mixing up batters and puddings in the last golden rays of the day. At five I had a rad red two wheeler with a banana seat and streamers, which I felt the need to ride at top speed so the shiny strands would fly straight out in the wind. I learned to skid out like the boys, and not to cry when I took a digger. I liked the boys. They showed me where the minnows were, how to whistle grass between my flattened thumbs, and how to find the best worms under the big flat rocks in the ditch at the end of our street. We would top each others stories of major diggers, hands shoved deep into dungaree pockets, legs splayed wide, spitting out sunflowers seeds and squinting in the sun.
My dad took me fishing when I was just eight for smelts, showed me how to catch them with wide nets like the men in tall galoshes and how to gut them with a small pocketknife in the shed. My mother dredged their little bodies in flour and fried them, tail on and bone in. When dad split wood in the smoky fall air I followed him around with a cardboard box and picked up the splintery shards for kindling. Sometimes he let me take a chop with the red-handled little axe. I was not afraid, and I loved all things red.
My red fascination has led me to lots of cool adventures. A breathless ride on a ruby-colored motorcycle, the acquisition of a cherry-hued Francis Francis espresso machine, wearing out multiple pairs of crimson Chuck Taylor’s, a shiny shock of a scarlet stripe painted on my teenage white bedrooms walls, and when I started to go gray (it started when I was 11 believe it or not) a fellow teacher insisted in helping me transform my mousy mane to it’s current auburn hue. Which inspired the logo for my restaurant in Reno, DISH Cafe.
But I’ve noticed a shift to something less brash the last few years. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my stress level, but I find myself increasingly drawn to a new soothing color. Green. It started innocently enough with a cheap summer purse and matching flip flops, both cool emerald, and has turned into a bit of an obsession, I have to admit. To be fair, green is an easy color to become addicted to. There’s the cool soothing celery, the refreshing mint, the mossy avocado, the vibrant lemongrass and of course, the deep piney color of rosemary. See what I mean? So easy to succumb. My newest hue is taking up residence everywhere, from the lime street sign at the cafe, to the minty new kitchen walls at home, to the celery and black checkered antique quilt scrounged at a garage sale last summer, to my Ikea office chair, to the Hobo pocketbook from Joe as this past Christmas’s splurge, green is everywhere I look.
So when we arrived home from errands yesterday, famished for dinner and not at all inspired, I did what my husband hates. I started pulling a meal together from what we had on hand. No recipe. No plan. He is a plotter, you see. Nothing makes him happier than deliberating for a few hours at least, sometimes for days, then choosing a recipe, reading the reviews, driving to Whole Foods, snuffing out the ingredients, carting them home in reusable bags, starting a slow-cooking braise, and setting the timer for four or five hours. And waiting. Patiently. I like grabbing what we have and throwing something together, and hoping for the best. At the last minute. It’s an adventure.
So seeing as it’s St. Paddy’s Day Tuesday, I thought I’d go for something, you guessed it, green. We had some lovely organic spinach from a local farm in the fridge, some pine nuts in the cupboard, some angel hair pasta (Joe and Jacob’s favorite) and nutty Parmigiana Reggiano in the cheese drawer. Of course we made this from what we had on hand, which means the basil which normally grows in the front porch planters is not ready yet and I was too lazy to crush fresh garlic, although I had some. Turns out we made dinner in 15 minutes flat. The plate of pasta we each ate ravenously, at first standing up (starving!), then sitting down, was creamy, fresh tasting, and a rich vibrant green. And it was grand.
St. Paddy’s Day Pasta
1 pound box angel hair pasta (I like Barilla)
6-8 oz. organic washed baby spinach
3 cubes frozen Dorot Basil, defrosted (Trader Joe’s)
1 cube frozen Dorot Crushed Garlic, defrosted (Trader Joe’s)
4 oz. pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan first (this just takes a minute)
good olive oil
fresh black pepper
1 cup Parmigiana Reggiano cheese, grated on microplane and more for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a handful of salt.
In a blender or food processor add the spinach, basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle in some olive oil, and start blending or processing. Slowly drizzle oil until the sauce is smooth and is a liquid. Stop blending and add the cheese. Blend. Taste. If you need to add more salt, pepper or olive oil. The sauce is done! Heat a large serving bowl and pour in half the sauce.
Cook the angel hair about three to four minutes, tasting for doneness. Remove from the pot with tongs, leaving a little pasta water and transfer to your bowl. Gently mix with the sauce, adding more if you like. I used all of the sauce, which absorbed into the hot pasta. I added a little pasta water too, to make the sauce a bit more saucy and flavorful. Serve right away with more cheese and pepper. We stored what we didn’t eat in the fridge and I just ate some cold. So good!
ps. Joe and Jacob think you should try topping this pasta with a fried egg and bacon crumbles, for a riff on pasta carbonara. We will be making this again this week, and if we make this version we’ll share a picture!
Happy St. Patricks’ Day!