July 27, 2012

A Favorite Recipe and Some List-Making

Months ago, when nothing in this world could excite me more than asparagus, a riff on what you see above was my favorite spring dinner. At least once a week, I would buy a bundle of fat asparagus spears not knowing what I would do with it back at home. Often enough, it was this recipe, which comes together in moments. And now, by thinking of it as a template dinner, it’s become my favorite summer dinner for rushed evenings. This meal is a sweet marriage of pantry staples and fresh vegetables, and it’s reason enough for me to start keeping ricotta in the fridge.

And what, like asparagus, is exciting me these days? Tomatoes and cherries. My new bike. Cracking the spine on Freedom, loaned to me from a friend’s shelf. And also the idea floated to me the other night. I was talking about my recent resistance to gratitude, how sometimes we can say the things we’re grateful for and hear the words coming out of our mouths and still not feel the true weight of it in our bones. Fake it till you make it, some might say. But this particular friend of mine has a knack for giving all feelings––the sweet, joyful ones and the equally icky ones––room to breathe. And because I’m usually so drawn to fixes, her reminder to simply give what’s there the space to be gives me a kind of relaxed breathing room, too.

I made two lists the other day. The first, Things I Care About. The second, Things I Don’t. I was enormously entertained by the latter, which felt like throwing an ex-lover’s clothes out the window (or so I imagine). It’s a fun exercise, and one that I got Sebastian to join in the other night after dinner when our plates sat eaten clean on the coffee table. It’s amazing how much of what we don’t care about can find its way into our daily lives, creeping like a wall-climbing vine over a window. (And this from a woman who claims not to care about celebrities yet has a tabloid sitting on her bedside table next to said copy of Freedom.) But once you’ve made those lists, you can get right down to the important part: how can I get more of this first list into my day to day?

Cooking for people I love and sitting down at the table with them is on that first list. This recipe will get us part of the way there.

Happy weekend, friends. Feel free to cast off your Things I Don’t Care About in the comments. Trust me, it’s fun.

The last time I cooked this, I substituted tomatoes and sugar snap peas for the asparagus. We also had some fresh pesto, which I stirred into the ricotta, and––oh, why not?––tore up some fresh basil on top. This is the perfect recipe to play with based on what you have on hand.

Pasta with Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs
from Everyday Food
Serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup), plus more for serving
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions. Add asparagus and cook 1 minute. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pot over medium-high and add 1/4 cup pasta water. Add pasta mixture and Parmesan and cook, stirring, 1 minute. If necessary, add remaining pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta.

In a small nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium. Add eggs and cook, stirring, until just set. Divide pasta and eggs among four plates, top with ricotta, and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Cadi: What a yummy little recipe! And very pantry friendly for thrifty girls like ourselves. I learned how to make ricotta a while back so usually have some in my fridge these days. I’ll have to try this out!

    I’m going to make these lists today. I’ve been feeling inexplicably blue lately with no rhyme or reason to feel that way, and this might be just what I need. I could benefit from that feeling of proverbial casting off of an ex-lover’s items out a high window! Seeing those things on paper gives them that feeling of finality, and brings them to light in a way that kicking them around the dusty corners of our minds just can’t do. Where’s my notepad?

    Thanks for the inspiration Sarah, have a GREAT weekend!3 years ago

  • Julie: Yes! I saw a longer version of this exercise on Helen Jane’s blog a while back, and it was so eye opening! (Here’s her post: http://helenjane.com/2012/05/23/know-what-you-want/).

    I think the things on top of my don’t care about list at the moment are crafting, decorating, and shopping – all things I sometimes care about very much! Maybe I’m getting my fix on this stuff through Pinterest?!3 years ago

  • Sarah in DC: Oh, how I loved Freedom!! Enjoy it. And I love this exercise, which is a step beyond just a gratitude list. I too love making lists and find them incredibly helpful, and I love the thought of looking at the two lists and visualizing less of the one and more of the other. :) 3 years ago

  • Monday's Nugget-Lana: I am so obsessed with the marriage of eggs and pasta. I can’t wait to try this. I mentally made a list of things I don’t care about and realized that one of them, (Facebook!) takes up way too much of my time. It just sucks me in! Making a mental note to unravel myself from it’s clenches starting…now. Also, I have a good read for you: “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. It, too, is sucking me in, but in the very best way. Happy Weekend!3 years ago

  • Arwen: Things I Don’t Care About:
    1. Recaps of reality tv
    2. Re-iterating hate
    3. Seeing violent acts over and over. Once is enough, Mr./Ms. Evening News person3 years ago

  • Alyssa Shanks: Things I don’t care about:
    How mean Bridezillas are
    Who won Chopped
    The next Top Model, Top Chef, American Idol etc
    Most Facebook status updates
    How many calories are in cotton candy ice cream (I will eat you no matter what, Delicious Confection!)3 years ago

  • lisa: I love this post, and dedicate my reply to the Honey Badger, who no doubt has a looooong list of things he doesn’t care about.
    Things I don’t:
    reality tv
    sports (yeah, I said it)
    what anyone says about weather (unless there is a tornado in my neighborhood, spare me your thoughts on the temperature, rain, etc.)
    first world problems
    spreading hate
    the perfect body3 years ago

  • Meg@thelegaltart: Lovely fresh recipe. I might have to try the exercise of list making see if it centres my mind a bit. Reality Tv would definately be up there on the things i don’t care about list!3 years ago

  • SarahJ: I love this idea. I think it’s easy to be convinced we should care about things and it takes us away from what we’re really all about.

    1. dieting
    2. fancy cars
    3. reality tv (although I’m not above watching it)
    4. crafting
    5. the news (yeah, I know this is bad but there it is)3 years ago

  • Sarah: Cadi, I love that you learned how to make your won ricotta. Since I have come to love it so, I think I ought to, too. I also feel you on the blueness. A friend reminded me that summer never seems to be my favorite time. Here’s hoping that this exercise makes you feel a little lighter.

    Julie, Thank you for sharing that blog! Funny how Pinterest can scratch certain itches, isn’t it?

    Sarah in DC, Can’t wait to start it! I LOVED The Corrections so much.

    Lana, I hear you on the marriage of eggs and pasta! So simple, yet so divine!

    I love reading these lists of don’t cares, and find myself agreeing with so many of them! I also would like to dedicate this post to the Honey Badger–good call, Lisa!!! :) 3 years ago

  • Margaret: Ooh, let’s see:
    wedding plans (including suitability of tailor, worthiness of heels, history of finding venue, etc.)
    the career ladder
    the Emmys, the Grammies, the Olympics (although it has its moments)
    And now that you all know what a terrible, horrible person I am… it’s not that these things can’t be interesting, or entertaining, or someone else’s entire concern (although for some, I’d be concerned), but I’d rather be home with the bluegrass radio station on, the soup pot taking care of odds and ends, myself tap-tapping away at some task… these are the moments that show meaning to me, they are what I can CARE about right now in my life… which may mean I have a small plate right now. And that’s okay.
    Great post, Sarah.2 years ago

  • Margaret, My list looks a lot like yours!2 years ago

  • Chrissy: That is very similar to a dish that has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl- we called it Spaghetti-N-Eggs and sometimes used spinach or swiss chard instead of the asparagus. We cook everything together and never used ricotta- but that sounds like a very welcome addition!

    Things I don’t care about? Definitely the nightly news, fashion trends, nicely manicured lawns, a fancy career, The Bachelor/ Bachelorette (as well as Snooky, dance moms and whomever thinks they can dance). I just like to live in the moment with the ones I love. :-) 2 years ago

  • SarahJ: love your list, Margaret.2 years ago

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It's the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.
- Rebecca West