Today, I walked through what has now become my regular routine. I woke around 9, did some internetting, had some breakfast while I watched last night’s Daily Show online then took a shower. Once cleaned, dressed and after an hr or so of pacing around my room trying to decide, “What Now?!”, I grabbed my notebook, a pen and went for my normal, early afternoon walk. Only, this time, I brought some letter-paper with me. I decided, once I started walking, that I would go to the normal spot I’ve been going to this week, Café Primo on Sunset, and I would write a letter to someone.
He is an old friend from NY, a very inspiring person in my life and I had a small gift that I had been needing to give to him. Over the last many years, I have become more and more sad at the disconnect between people and even more disparaged by the lack of effort people now make towards those they supposedly care to share life with. Conversations have gotten shorter (hell, we don’t even have them anymore now that we can text). Going out for a coffee with someone now is no different than having a meeting with the person at their office. And, all the while, we constantly wonder why things keep getting even more complicated and more distant.
Well, we have all, to varying degrees, allowed for our detachment from humanity. We have lost the patience with human contact. We have forgotten the meaning of subtlety within conversation. We have accepted the absence of thought in our lives.
As I was writing this letter, the café became quite crowded, with everyone on their laptops (as I usually am) and, I swear, from time to time, I looked up for a thought and caught a person, here and there, looking at me with the most puzzling of expressions. It was if they were astonished at how I could scratch a plastic tube across a white piece of tree shavings and letters and words would appear. (After all, what I was doing was a very ancient and out-dated ritual that is not often seen anymore.)
I continued and wrote him a three-paged letter. What I appreciated most about doing it was that, for an extended period of time, I put my thought into just one person. When writing a letter, it takes absolute focus, clarity, attention to spelling, grammar, it takes intention. I do not want the letter to be a scribbly mess, so, I write slower. I think about my words before I put them on paper, because I do not have the luxury of going back, hitting delete, and fixing anything. And when I finished, I understood, for that moment what everyone inevitably preaches yet few ever really savor, which is why I chose to write to this one particular man…It is not the quantity we fill time with but the quality of how we use it.
OK, made this tonight. It’s all in the prep. YUMMY!!! (p.s. the name was made up amongst those eating it)
¾ lb pasta (a ziti, penne, anything you’d like, actually)
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 medium scallion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped (with ginger)
Small nub of fresh ginger, chopped (with garlic)
2 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped with bases removed
6 stalks asparagus, cut into 1/3s
8 brussel sprouts, cut into 1/8s
1 handful fresh sage, chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 ½ cans of white beans (cannellini beans)
1 cup chicken stock, low sodium
1 tbls cayenne pepper powder, oregano, cinnamon, red pepper flakes
¼ to ½ cup of ½ & ½
One thing I do, when looking at recipes, is check the quantity of ingredients. I often equate lots of ingredients as either (a) too expensive or (b) too complicated. As I have been cooking more and more, I realize that most ingredients in most dishes are the same, so, if you just keep the cabinets and fridge stocked, you’ll be fine. Think of it as playing guitar…once you perfect a handful of chords, you could play almost anything.
First off, make the pasta (cooking it al dente). Start the water, do some prep, etc. If the pasta gets done before everything else (which might happen until you get faster at prep), just rinse under cold water and then set aside. Adding it later will heat and moisten it up (love that word).
Get a deep skillet or a pot (not a frying pan). Heat a couple of glugs of oil over medium-high heat, then add the onions and shallots. Cook a few minutes until they begin to soften, then add the garlic. This will take about a minute to brown.
While you’re doing the above, throw all of the dry ingredients (not the sage) on the cubed chicken and massage into chicken really well. (*note…the original recipe this is based on is made with sausage, so, heavily season the chicken to give that same sausage intensity.)
Once the garlic begins browning, throw the chicken in the pot and toss thoroughly. (*note…keep an eye on the amount of oil. It’s ok to add a little more here and there when you feel like the pan is getting too dry)
Cook the chicken for about 3-5 minutes. Again, brown is the magic word. Once it gets a light brown tan on it, throw in the sprouts. When the sprouts begin browning, dump in the asparagus and bok choy then pour in the chicken stock.
Almost everything is mixed in. Let the stock heat up, spread in the sage and the white beans and let it all cook for a few minutes. You want the liquid to reduce (evaporate) to half of what you started with.
Once that happens, put in a few tablespoons of grated romano cheese, mix in the pasta VERY WELL, put the cover on it, bring the heat down to simmer and let it sit for 5 or so more minutes. What this will do is reheat the pasta and, while doing so, add the flavors of the dish into the pasta.
Ladle into a bowl and eat with a very hearty, rustic salad, a good piece of garlic bread, a great rich beer and an intellectually challenging movie.