I could not be more excited that I’m finally making a food post. I have Italian blood, so I’m going to full out brag here and state that cooking just comes a little naturally to me. That isn’t all of it though. I grew up with parents who knew their way around a kitchen, each with their own specialized skills, and I have strived to absorb everything I could from both of them. In addition, I will always maintain that art school has made me a better craftsman in every area of my life, even ones that I did not specifically study while in school. All of these things, I believe, are what gives me a little edge in my otherwise amateur attempts in the kitchen. I never went to culinary school, but nonetheless, I am pretty satisfied with my cooking skills, and I wanted to share a little bit of that here, because honestly, why not?
While, I’m bragging, I want to mention more about my parents and their amazing food talents. Both of them are musicians, and therefore also did not receive any professional training as chefs either, but somehow they both had incredible skills when it came to food.
My mom, for one, grew up in Pennsylvania in a rather poor household. She had a lot of siblings and foster siblings, so ultimately, it was up to my grandmother (and a lot of times my mother) to feed many mouths without a lot of means. She insists that my Grandma was not a great cook, and that she did not learn a lot from her when it came to making food taste good, so it’s an anomaly that my mother grew up to be the best baker that I know in my adult life. This woman can bake anything. I mean anything. Apparently when I was really young, she even used to make wedding cakes for her friends. These were real multi-tiered wedding cakes, complete with those little white pillars that were so popular in the 80’s and 90’s. She didn’t even charge them money. I have always secretly planned to force her to make my wedding cake, may that day ever come. I think she stopped doing them before I got too old, so my memories of these cakes are slim to none. In reality, I just remember seeing the supplies in our cupboard wondering what all the pieces were for. What I do remember though, was the insane birthday cakes she used to make for me and my brother and sister. One year she made a 3D Care Bears cake. The Care Bear literally sat upright like a stuffed animal. It made you want to reach out and grab it. Another year she took one of my Barbie Dolls and somehow fixed it so that it stood up straight, then using an upside-down dome shape, made a full cake dress.
She didn’t just do cakes though, she was also a master of pies, cookies, and pastries. My all time favorite dish of hers, is her Vanilla Cream Puffs. I used to demand them on literally every occasion that came along. (I still do)
One day I will demand this recipe from her and try, and probably fail, to make it myself.
My dad on the other hand, like a lot of dads probably, had no interest in baking, but he was the Italian one and he was an incredible cook. From what I know, he learned a lot from my great grandmother, who was that incredible lady cook that every Italian family has. That woman had so many famous recipes, ones still circulating around my family today, that she could seriously have her own cookbook.
My dad knew he way around meats, always knowing when they were cooked just right, and absolutely never overcooking anything. He also had a large appreciation of foods from other cultures, which I’m happy to say, I have inherited from him. He was good at replicating recipes. He could have a fish somewhere over seas and come back and remake it if he felt like it. The key to this talent, I think, is a general understanding of flavors and how they work. I believe this is the underlying skill of all great cooks. If you think about it logically, if someone could remember all the flavors they ever tasted, then they would be able to just sit there and think about what goes well together without actually having to taste it first. To expand on that, I think there’s also a skill of understanding the chemistry of cooking, and knowing when you add one thing to a recipe, what its cause and effect is. My dad was great at both of these things and it’s because of this that I never saw him use a recipe even once.
Given these two cooking gods that I call parents, I like to say I’ve learned a thing or two. Hence, this first food post of mine. I’ve been cooking and baking since I was a child. Mostly out of boredom. New Hampshire is great until you’re twelve with no bike and no car and there’s five feet of snow outside. I cooked all through college and I cook for myself now as an adult, along with my boyfriend, Kaleb Wells. I think our combined skills have taken us far in the kitchen and now it’s time to share some of our experiments with you. Thanks for reading. I hope you continue to check back for more food posts!
Simple Lemon Feta Pasta
Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph (if you were so patient as to read it) I spent a good amount of time in College cooking. I had a meal plan, but we were lucky enough to have dorms with decent enough accommodations that we could actually cook food if we wanted to, and sometimes I just couldn’t tolerate the misery that was the cafeteria food.
One of the dishes I used to cook often was boiled pasta with olive oil and feta cheese. I also added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried oregano, because I was a fancy pants. I made this a lot because it was quick, it required cheap minimal ingredients, and it used to fill me up. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but it was not great. One time my friend Melissa walked into my dorm after I had just thrown together a giant bowl of my garlicky cheesy dish and calmly informed me that my dorm smelled like vomit.
Now that I’m an adult, I still enjoy dishes like that one. Quick, easy, and cheap. This recipe is a kind of updated version of my old college feta pasta. One that is still very easy to make, but uses some upgraded ingredients that blend a little nicer together.
For my first food post, I wanted to do something especially simple. I believe in trying to use up as much left over ingredients as I can, so as not to accumulate food waste. So since I had some feta cheese and parsley left over from a previous recipe this week, I wanted to make something that worked well with those. That’s when I thought of this little dish.
Cooking time: 20 minutes | Servings: 2-3
- 3 cups Farfalle (or preferred pasta)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/8 cup Feta Cheese
- salt and pepper
1. First, cook your pasta according to directions. I used Garafalo Farfalle or “bow tie pasta” but penne, rotini, or shells would also work well.
2. While the pasta is cooking, pour olive oil into a small bowl. Cut both lemons in half and zest 3 out of the 4 halves into the olive oil. Juice all 4 halves and add to mixture. Feel free to taste as you go. If you’re satisfied after juicing just 2 or 3 of the lemon halves, then that is completely fine. I’m a big fan of lemon, so I will always go with a lot.
3. Add the chopped shallot and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk.
4. Once your pasta is cooked and drained, add pasta to a large bowl.
5. Pour olive oil mixture over pasta slowly, as you probably won’t need all of the mixture. stir the pasta as you go so you know when the pasta is coated to your liking.
6. Once you’re satisfied with the coating, add the fresh chopped parsley and feta cheese. I used about 1/8 cup feta, but feel free to add more or less, depending on your liking.
I had a good amount of my olive oil/lemon mixture left over, but I prefer to have a little extra, because this mixture also happens to be my absolute favorite kale salad dressing! Add to a bundle of freshly chopped kale, and a little parmesan, and you have, in my opinion, one of the best simple kale salads out there. Store the mixture in a small tupperware in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I love this dish because the subtly of the shallots and freshness of the parsley really compliment the lemon. I hope you’ll give this one a try, it only takes 2o minutes!