Pasta with roasted summer vegetables and basil

Publishing my El Bulli post felt like turning in a thesis. I vowed to step away from the computer and give myself a break.

I never expected to be gone so long.

To be honest, the past few weeks were really bad. First there was the midtown pipe explosion. Luckily, I was at home in Brooklyn that day. My Mom, whose office is in the Empire State building, called at 6pm. She was frantic and talking fast. From her window, it looked like Grand Central had been blown up.

A few of my friends were in buildings right next to the explosion. Hearing them talk about how they ran for their lives, convinced that our city was being terrorized once again, was too much to bear. Of course September 11th came to mind, but also the fact that we might have to relive that fateful day sometime soon. It made me wonder, as I often do: why are we all still here?

As I was leaving for work the next day, I thought to myself about how much I love my new apartment, and how it's the one place where I feel so safe. Seconds later, a sign about a robbery in my building snatched away the little security I had left.

At first, I wanted to throw myself down on the ground and kick and scream like a three-year old. I felt defeated. Trapped. Suffocated by the fact that no matter where you go in this city, doom is sure to follow.

I thought 9/11 had taken away all my naivety, yet somehow, I never worried that my personal space could be terrorized in some way. After talking to our neighbors, Daniel and I convinced ourselves it was a fluke. Three days later, there was another burglary in the building next door.

I love New York so much, but living here is starting to make me crazy. So crazy that sometimes, especially lately, I just don't think I can take it anymore. The fast pace. The constant fear. All the people. There's barely any space to spread out and breathe. And now, on top of everything else, I feel unsafe everywhere. And it really sucks.

I'm sure that many of you can relate, and I know that there are people in this world who have it way, way worse. It's just that when horrible things keep happening, I feel paralyzed by fear.

Food, as I've said before, is usually the one thing that gets me going. The problem is, I've been so overwhelmed by certain decisions (choosing between a high-tech deadbolt, a window bar or an alarm system, for one), that I just want to be told what to make.

That's where Everyday Food, Martha Stewart's TV-guide size monthly magazine comes in. Small enough to tuck in my purse, this collection of fool-proof recipes gets me in the kitchen even on the nights when I just want to crawl under the covers and cry.

Everything I've cooked from Everyday Food (except one bad, bad clafouti) has been close to perfect, and I've made more than a few recipes multiple times. It's all fairly simple, satisfying stuff, but since I'm not a magical cook who pulls amazing recipes from her sleeve, I like being given ideas that I can tinker with and tweak.

Everyday Food always has an in season section, so it's been matching up perfectly with my CSA shipments. On the day after the pipe explosion and robbery, I had a pile of tomatoes, zucchini and purple peppers to use. Starving and unwilling to run to the supermarket for some obscure ingredient, I opened Martha's mag and settled on a light, summery pasta.

As I started cooking, I felt the urge to write. I hadn't felt inspired in weeks, so I put down my knife and quickly typed out my thoughts. Then I roasted the veggies till they were charred and blistery, tossed them in a bowl with whole wheat fusili, a few pats of butter, fresh mozzarella, a few sprigs of basil, and for a few seconds, I forgot about explosions and robbers and stress. My mind was so focused on the food and how good it felt to use my hands to chop and slice. I even forgot to photograph the final product, but trust me, it was good.

Pasta with Roasted Summer Vegetables and Basil
Serves 4

4 yellow summer squash (about 2 pounds total), sliced 1 inch thick crosswise, halved if large
2 pints grape tomatoes (about 4 cups)
2 medium red onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces short pasta, such as campanelle or fusilli
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide squash, tomatoes, onions, and garlic between two large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast without tossing until tender and starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.

3. Add vegetables, butter, Parmesan, and basil to pasta (I added in some fresh mozzarella too); season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine.

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Unknown said...

I have to say Everyday Food always surprises me with their recipes -- Pretty easy, usually very good. And I love the section that gives you recipes and then the various things to do with the leftovers.

Unknown said...

oh -- And I forgot to add this. As far as the water pipe explosion, the Today show interviewed three people who were right there when it happened. At the time -- only one out of the three thought it was terrorist related. I found that shocking. That would be my first thought -- I think we're all conditioned to think that way now..

Anonymous said...

I'm in NJ and my first thoughts too were another attack. Come to the other side of the river! I love NJ! But I'm down the shore so that might help a lot!

I also just purchased my first Everyday Food and think it's been great so far!

Tea said...

I love that photo of vegetables, so pretty!

That sort of low-grade urban stress and fear is hard to get around. Even when we're not thinking about it directly, it's there in the background in some way and can crop up quickly when triggered. I hope you're feeling a bit better as the week goes by.

Anonymous said...

Oh, honey, a big hug from over here. I know exactly how you feel and have felt that way many times. The threat and the fear - all the people around constantly, incessantly. Sometimes you just want to tell everyone to go AWAY so you can walk down the sidewalk alone. I hear you. Come to Queens! Come visit and sit on my peaceful balcony with me.

Judith said...

Don't worry Lia -- your good friends at the NYC OEM are here to protect the city. If something REALLY goes wrong, we'll let you know.

Lia said...

Andrea: I really think it's such a great publication. I use it all the time. Interesting about the Today show too.

Foodiedani: I just might have to make my way to NJ some day.

Tea: Glad you liked the photo! I thought the vegetables looked so pretty scattered like that.

Luisa: I'd love to visit and sit on your peaceful balcony with you. Soon!

Judith: That's right! Thank god for you and the rest of the OEM staff.

Anonymous said...

Oh Lia, I have been feeling the same way about NYC. Lately, it has been driving me crazy -- all the noise and chaos that constantly surrounds you. I too have had a hard time breathing -- taking in big, deep breaths and feeling at ease -- and lately I feel like I am always fighting for my space, whether walking down the street, finding a seat on the bus, or just coping with my tiny apt. Move to Philly with us!

And I too love that mag - just great, easy, quick recipes. Thanks for listing the summer veggie pasta dish - I will be sure to make it.


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