Alex and I had an accidental date a few weeks ago, accidental in that we set out to take a walk but the conversation quickly turned to “I wonder if we could get a table at Lupa.” The answer, by the way, should be no. One can never get a table at Lupa. They don’t take many reservations, they’re not very big and just about everyone in New York City loves to drop in there for a meal. It is for this pile of reasons that we’ve never been. Or we never had been. Because that evening, there was exactly one eensy little table free and there we were, having an impromptu dinner out on a weekday night, something that would have been nothing out of the ordinary, say, five months ago but as parents to a young dough ball, it was nothing short of earth shattering.
I could no longer resist this sauce, and frankly, I don’t know why I even tried to: food bloggers obsess over it, and they’re not a bad lot to base a recipe selection upon. Adam of Amateur Gourmet fell for it five years ago. Molly at Orangette raved about it over two years ago, with a bonus approval marking from Luisa at Wednesday Chef. Then Rachel Eats fawned over it too, and Rachel, you see, she lives in Rome right now — I want to be in Rome right now — Rome, where you can get authentic, perfect tomato sauce a zillion places every single day. And yet she stayed in and made this one. That sealed the deal.
People, I’m about at the end of my ordered-in dinner rope. It’s not that — as the front page of this site might suggest — I haven’t cooked anything since the baby arrived, it’s just that I’ve largely cooked things that could be assembled during naptimes, and most of Alex and my conversations about meals go, “What should we do for dinner?” “I made mushroom toasts and a bowl of butterscotch sauce today!” “Right, so what should we order?” And so on with the pho, cracker-thin pizza and hummusiot dinner deliveries. For three months. At 93 days, even shakshuka broiled with haloumi gets tiresome.
I’ve spent way too much time this summer trying to dream up a pasta salad that wasn’t boring, or predictable, or well, you know, the kind of familiar pasta salad territory you don’t need me to go over for you. Because I love a good pasta salad, I just don’t find them often. Usually, they’re missing the freshness you’d expect from something you eat in the summer, when the markets are bursting at the seams with peak-season produce. Often the dressing is a throw-away, either a too-plain vinaigrette or heaps of mayonnaise, lending itself to more of a mass than a salad. So I knew what I didn’t want, I just hadn’t figured out what I did.
A couple weeks ago, I had a fantastic warm asparagus salad at a nearby restaurant, one I immediately swore I’d make at home. It had segments of white and green asparagus tossed with goat cheese and a tarragon and lemony mint vinaigrette and it was piled on a bed of red endive, my favorite. It was stunning. It was delicious. Alas, this is not it. What a tease I am, right?
I wish I could tell you that the last meal cooked in the first Smitten Kitchen was a triumph, a fitting coda to four-plus years in a sun-drenched Manhattan kitchen with enough space to put everything away (not that I’m pointing fingers or anything, new kitchen) and space enough for two people (and at least one growing midsection) to settle comfortably within it. Alas, that was not the case.
I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the idea of putting potatoes in a pasta dish since I first saw a recipe for it a couple years ago, and my Inner American gasped “All of that starch! How totally unhealthy!” forgetting, as usual, that the people in the world that eat dishes like this are for the most part, 75 percent of the size of your average American.