“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.” – Julie Powell (from the movie Julie and Julia)
One of my favorite quotes. There are a lot of them in that particular movie. Especially the one about “all the stuff on the floor!” (Hee-hee) I tell you, the restaurant business is not what it used to be. And I say that meaning just the last 5 years has brought so many changes. The “social media” world we live in is crazy. It is ever changing and evolving. People updating, tweeting, reviewing, texting, checking in and becoming mayors… How to keep up? I find it especially challenging as a restaurant owner. Guess what – I don’t sit at a computer all day! By the time I make my way to the office to return some emails, find the phone, and tweet about how tired I am the social media world has turned over, around and upside down 8 times! Often I end up finding out (too late to respond, of course) that people are talking about…me! The Good, Bad, and Ugly, truth and half-truths.
What happened to the days of getting in the kitchen, putting on an apron and throwing yourself into the fun of creating a meal for someone, or someone(s), in my case? It used to be that the biggest challenge in my day was getting all of my employees to show up and figuring out what the newest tasty treat would be. Now my day is filled with answering to 18 million different review sites, tweeting and re-tweeting, updating statuses and trying to respond before anyone thinks that they, or their business, isn’t important to me. I rarely even get as far as putting on an apron before my attention is needed on facebook or twitter!
That said… last night I needed a little food therapy. It was the first day open after being closed for 2 days and there was so much to catch up on! But after the hustle and bustle of a crazy holiday weekend filled with toasty sausages from the grill, “mayonnaise-y” potato salad and buckets of soda, I wanted something light, healthy and oh-so-easy. Something complicated enough to use my kitchen skills and warrant an apron, but easy enough to not have to turn on the oven. So I made a whole wheat pasta with a garlicky salsa cruda and chilled shrimp.
The aromas of the fresh basil and garlic and the satisfying process of dicing, chopping, seasoning and watching it all come together were an instant lift to my senses. I added a homemade Caesar salad and French Bread from The Olive Branch (only $1.50 per baguette) and called it dinner. I invited some of my favorite people over and let the day dissolve into a relaxed and fun evening with a good meal and great conversation. Now THAT is Food Therapy!
Here is my recipe in case you need a little food therapy of your own…
Margherita Salsa Cruda
5 Roma tomatoes (ripe)
3 cloves of fresh garlic (you can adjust this up or down according to your tastes)
About ½ Cup of fresh basil leaves (1 pkg from the grocery store)
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Dice the tomatoes as small as you can without cutting off your fingers! Put them in the bottom of a LARGE bowl
- Mince the garlic finely. You can use a garlic press or food processor to get the pieces very small. Add the garlic to the tomatoes in the bowl.
- Roll the basil leaves into a “tube” and finely chop it. Add it to the tomatoes and garlic
- Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the top of the tomato mixture and season it all with a little red pepper and salt and pepper
- Put the salsa into the frig to “marinate.” Give it at least 30 minutes to blend together or leave it overnight.
This salsa can be tossed with hot pasta, cold pasta, or served on top of toasted baguette as a bruschetta appetizer. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top is a good compliment.
Food Therapy Meal
1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used spaghetti)
1 pound large boiled shrimp (shelled and chilled)
1 recipe of Margherita Salsa Cruda
1 Cup shredded parmesan
- Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain
- Toss the hot pasta over the cold Margherita Salsa Cruda sauce and stir gently to combine and cover all of the pasta with the sauce.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese.
- Using tongs, place some of the pasta mixture onto a plate. Arrange some of the chilled shrimp over the top and hit them with just a little squeeze of fresh lemon.
- You can always top it all with more parmesan cheese if you’d like!
This meal is interesting because the hot pasta releases flavor from the tomato sauce without breaking it down. The sweet shrimp are a perfect addition to the spicy garlic and pepper and the squeeze of fresh lemon brightens the tomatoes.