Pumpkin gnocchi, The Awakening, and unexpected experiences

Today is all about the unexpected, which, actually, seems broad because much of life is unexpected. <insert thinking hard with hand on chin emoji guy>

ANYWAY, what could possibly make homemade pasta better? Two things, guys: one, adding pumpkin because tis the freaking season, and two: not having to roll it out, which is the only slightly less than perfect part of the pasta making experience. While adding pumpkin to pasta dough is kind of an unexpected use of that orange ingredient we all love to scorn, it actually helps take the gnocchi from light, pillowy pasta to light, pillowy, chewy, perfectly balanced pasta that pairs well with just about any kind of assortment of fall toppings there are: pine nuts, bacon, kale, arugula, heck, even hazelnuts. It's a beauty of a recipe, and if the wine pairing class at wineHouse taught me anything, it's that it pairs beautifully with Tornatore Etna Rosso. If you're jealous about how I learned that, sign up for the next one on November 13 by emailing me at pageandplateblog@gmail.com. 

Pumpkin Gnocchi and The Awakening

Also unexpected was how enjoyable I found my reading of The Awakening, which I've had on my shelf since I bought it at a garage sale for $1 ages ago. It's a quick read and a powerful one, and you should check out the review here before grabbing a copy and knocking it out in a day. 

Lastly, I am generally not a fan of horror. However, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix has me positively riveted. Check it out and feel free to yell at me when you can't sleep for a week. 

Autumn salad, Black Klansman, and fall fun

Ah, fall. The rainy, dreary, basic time of year wherein people grow scarves out of their necks, consume more pumpkin than they probably should, and get in your face about being registered to vote.

If you nodded your head and sighed while you read that last sentence, I have mixed news for you: the good is that you’re not only getting the typical recipe and book rec today, but a movie rec as well! Wow! Three for the price of one (two?)! The potentially less good news is that I’m going to join the ranks of people who get in your face about voting.

So, let’s intersperse the voting rant with fun things! Starting with #1: it’s my mom’s birthday today! She’s the best, and I know that you probably don’t know her, but if you did, you would think she’s the best too. If you want to give her a birthday shout out, head over to Twitter, where she lurks as @hollys_momma (Holly is our dog, okay?). Cool. Thanks!

Okay, here’s where you can find out where you should vote. Here’s where you can read up on the issues and the candidates. Here’s where you can find out how to help at a polling place to make democracy happen. Here’s where you can learn about what to do if you’re turned away at the polls.

Anyway, SALAD, am I right?! It’s almost that sad time of year when salads lose their spark (aka fresh veggies), so nab this recipe now, nail it, and then figure out how to swap out the tomatoes for sweet potatoes or carrots or whatever else floats your boat. That way, you’ll have something delicious to look forward to this winter diet.

Also of note and worth recommending are both the book Black Klansman and the movie it inspired, Blackklansman. They’re both good, so you should see it AND read it. You’ll love it, I promise.

Black Klansman and Autumn Salad

Donut cake, Broken Monsters, and what you should pay attention to this weekend

Folks, it is officially fall in Chicago. I will pause here for your appreciative applause.


And now, I present you with the ultimate guide for the first fall weekend in the Windy City, where just 48 hours ago, it was something like 85 degrees. I don’t know; I just live here.

First up: make a donut cake that pairs perfectly with spiked, warm cider, hot coffee, or some other warm and likely alcoholic beverage. It’s baked in a bundt tin, which I am usually strongly opposed to, but in this case, I’m really okay with. It’s full of nutmeg and cinnamon and buttermilk, and you’ll probably have no interest in leftovers, but just in case you do, they’re amazing and even more donut-y than I thought was possible. Y. u. m.

Second: read a spooky book about a supernatural murder mystery. Wow, you say, that sounds so specific. However will I find a book that fulfills those criteria? Oh, honey. I got you. Click here to read the review of Broken Monsters, and then realize that it’s the perfect book for this weekend.

Donut Cake and Broken Monsters

Lastly: pay attention to at least two things this weekend. One is, appropriately, also donut (or, in this case, doughnut) content. My friend from my high school journalism days has started a doughnut bakery in Pittsburgh called Fight Sized Doughnuts. If you live in Pittsburgh, as I know some of you do, run, don’t walk, to his website and give him a follow on Instagram. Tasty things await you.

You should also pay attention to Samin Nosrat (aka my girl Samin, my goddess of cooking, my imaginary best friend who I chat with even though she’s not there in the kitchen) and her brand-new Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on her most illustrious cookbook that has been reviewed right here on Page & Plate. I started the first episode last night, and honestly, I had to stop because it was just way too exciting and wonderful and I started crying when she made pesto with a nonna.

Corn muffins, Hope Never Dies, and a whole lotta corn

The amount of corn that’s about to happen in this post is very high, both in literal corn amounts and a good, old fashioned corny read. And also some things that I am super excited about and am highly likely to make corny puns as a result.

Corn Muffins

But first! The muffins. The OG corn babies that provide our literal corn. The beautiful, golden nuggets of goodness. I mean, just look at how beautiful they look in the late-in-the-day sunlight on a beautiful, hand-made plate. They are delicious and good, and if you can get your hands on fresh corn, you should use it to make these gorgeous muffins before it’s too late! This is a scare tactic.

As long as you’re in the business of corn (and being depressed about current events), you should probably read Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. A fictionalized and adorable alternate universe Joe Biden who probably treated Anita Hill better than his IRL equivalent narrates a murder mystery / drug bust that he heroically solves alongside (who else?) Barack Obama. It’s exactly the corny, dad joke-filled, over-dramatic book you expect, and it’s a delight.

Hope Never Dies and Corn Muffins

And now, a virtual drumroll to announce UPCOMING EVENTS, which is a huge and very exciting development in Page & Plate posts. I’m so excited to let you know that I have two very exciting events coming up in the Chicagoland area, and that you, yes, you! can register today for them.

Pie's NOT the Limit: Pumpkin Recipes for Everything from Appetizers to Dessert

This cooking demonstration AND wine tasting will take place at wineHouse Chicago in Lakeview. I’ll be making a bunch of pumpkin recipes that are not pie because I don’t like pie and that’s that. Join us to discover the many ways to use pumpkin and the wines that compliment those recipes.

Watercolor Cookie Workshop with CJB Creations

My dear friend CJB is an artist, creative, and all around talented human, and I’m so pumped to be offering a watercolor cookie workshop in which you’ll learn to paint on cookies! Mind. Blown. This class will take place at Shop 1021 in Logan Square. Best of all? While you’re learning to paint, you can enjoy small bites courtesy of moi.

Buckwheat pancakes, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and getting old

This week I’ve had quite a reckoning. (It also just took me forever to spell that word?) I finished the novel that I’ve been saving as a reward for finishing a challenging non-fiction read on the future of food (look for that next week), and I felt … different. Usually, when I dive back into the world of fiction after a slog through a technical, intense couple hundred of pages, I feel a kind of sick relief. Like “OH THANK GOD, FAKE THINGS.” But this time was different.

This time, as I finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I felt kind of empty. More dissatisfied than I usually do with the fact that it was a fiction book I had just read. More .. bored. More like you do when you accidentally eat half the bag of chips. You know what I mean. “Well, I just consumed a bunch of potato and salt flavored air. Now what?” What does this mean? Does it mean I’m getting old? Does it mean that soon I’ll forget what I ever loved about fiction and be ten episodes deep in Planet Earth?

I wouldn’t feel so panicked about this if I hadn’t opened my big mouth and said “What if we made buckwheat pancakes instead?” when Colin suggested a big pancake breakfast the other morning. I mean come on. Buckwheat. At breakfast. In pancake form! Who am I turning into? AH!

Buckwheat Pancakes and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

To make myself feel a little bit younger and hipper (if that’s even what the youths are calling it these days), I made a nice toasted oat and almond crumble for the pancakes too, and that made me feel a little bit better. Until I realized that I’m basically eating oatmeal for breakfast. Sigh. Stay tuned.

Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Pane Vino, and Meeting Phil

A couple of weeks ago while I was trolling through Instagram instead of putting up a post here (heh heh oops), I found a Chicago Food Bowl event that centered around my current TV obsession, Netflix's Somebody Feed PhilIt was free. It was a screening of the Dublin episode. And I freaked out. (Below is me being totally starstruck and Colin looking totally normal.)

 What is wrong with my face? PHIL.

What is wrong with my face? PHIL.

Colin and I have been loving Phil Rosenthal's food and travel show (previously called I'll Have What Phil's Having when it aired on PBS). When we started it on a whim, I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that made the show so magical, but as a now-seasoned viewer, let me tell you all about it. It's a food and travel show, sure, but at its core, it’s really about human connections and why they’re important in today’s climate (both political and weather-wise, am I right?). It’s amazing. I love it. Everyone should watch it.

One of the reasons I love it is that food has indeed served as the great connector in my life too. I often joke with people that if it weren't for my chicken parmesan recipe, I wouldn't have any friends from college. I'm ~mostly~ joking about that, but there's definitely a connection between the people for whom I made chicken parmesan freshman year and the people I'm in touch with from college. It’s something that I cook that is more than just a recipe: it’s a reminder of cooking for the people I would come to count as my best friends. Sniff.

Someday, I'll give away that recipe, but today is not that day. Today is a day to celebrate the beautiful emoji vegetable we all love and its glorious fate as eggplant parmesan. And also, the Italian cooking culture from whence it came, as beautifully described by Matt Goulding in Pasta Pane Vino. Go forth in red wine and eggplant.

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Smoked veggie tacos, Sharp Objects, and hype

When I was little, I had a paralyzing fear that if I got too excited for something, it would inevitably turn out to be the worst thing ever. I'm fairly certain that this was a result of some totally innocent and well-meaning advice my father gave me about how sometimes, the things we are least excited for turn out to be amazing. Clearly, I was a difficult child to advise. Sorry, Dad. It was great advice. I just ruined it.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that since then, I've kept that sneaking suspicion in the back of my head. If I'm really looking forward to something, I have an irrational fear that it might be disappointing. And if I'm really not looking forward to something, I have a feeling that the universe is going to pull a fast one on me and make it a genuinely great experience. I'm not superstitious, I'm a little-stitious. 

Okay, point made. So when I got home the other day dreading what I was going to try to pull out of my back pocket to make a great dinner, veggie tacos kind of sounded lame. And, if we're being completely honest, disgusto-gross. But, lucky me, my stitious-self was right, and my veggie tacos that I really wasn't looking forward to turned out to be just plain yummy. And gorgeous.

Smoked Veggie Tacos and Sharp Objects

Conversely, I was really pumped to read another Gillian Flynn novel. I flew through Gone Girl when it was a thing, and so the prospect of Sharp Objects was exciting for me. I was, in fact, looking forward to it so much that I decided to postpone my reading until I got through a few other less exciting-sounding books. Well, guess what? Joke's on me. I hated it. 

As always, check out the review, check out the recipe, and let me know what you think of both. If you think Sharp Objects was the best book you read this year, I want to hear about it because I love a good argument. If you think that the cilantro I reference might be parsley, you're totally right and there's no argument to be had. 

Buckwheat Breadsticks, Florida, and Restraint

 

I'm not known for my restraint. Given the choice, I will always add more sprinkles, toss that extra bit of salt in, and buy that book that I quite possibly didn't really need. Luckily, there are some recipes where restraint isn't important. There are some recipes where it's more important to just go for it and dump those extra few sesame seeds (black or white) into that dough and trust that it'll end up delicious. The buckwheat breadsticks we're serving up this week is one of those recipes, and it was a huge hit at Friday's demo-catering event. (More about that in this month's newsletter, to which you can subscribe here.) (<--- self promotion) 

Florida and Buckwheat Breadsticks

 

There was little restraint shown for those breadsticks, but Lauren Groff, on the other hand, was practiced and cool when she wrote Florida, a collection of stories. And if you want to hear more about that, go read the review. I'm restraining myself from giving it all away.   
 

Sourdough, Show Your Work!, and Serious Things

Sourdough from Scratch

The fabled sourdough starter recipe has at last been posted, and it's a doozy. It's the longest recipe I've ever posted on Page & Plate, while also arguably the simplest, as it clocks in at two ingredients (three, if you count the five grapes). It's something I'm really proud of and will overhype if I'm not careful, so go check it out here if you can't possibly bring yourself to sit through three more paragraphs of this post. 

Originally, I had plans to post this recipe alongside the book Heat by Bill Buford. The photo shoot was done, the book was scheduled to be my night read for the week, and the recipe was ready. But then I started reading. As you may or may know, the book details Buford's experiences in befriending and then working for Mario Batali, who you definitely know as being recently accused of sexual assault by many women as a part of the #metoo movement. 

I think I got about 60 pages in before I realized that this book was going to be one of the few I couldn't finish. You read my reviews. You know that I'm pretty easy to please as a reader. For me to not finish a book, there was a problem. And in this case, the problem was the now-infamous Batali behavior that is written into Heat as a laughable, not-a-big-deal part of working for and being around Batali. I was really, really taken aback and disappointed that this behavior was portrayed the way it is in the book, as a joke, a laughing matter, an aside to Batali's success story. So I stopped reading it. I thought about posting the bread recipe by itself to make a statement, but I decided on something else. 

Instead, I'm posting this recipe with a beautiful, inspiring, empowering book: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. I loved how jazzed this book made me and how anti-BS it was. But I especially loved how I got to share it with a dynamite group of ladies called the Society of Lady Artists and Entrepreneurs (SLAE) that I've been hanging out with here in Chicago. We're all pursuing different arts, mediums, and passions, and when we come together, it's anyone's guess what we'll end up talking about, but one thing is for sure: we all leave the table empowered and inspired, in part because of stuff we share with each other like this book from Kleon (who also runs an awesome newsletter here). If you're in Chicago, and you're looking for some inspo in the #slae part of your life, hit us up on Instagram at @societyoflae

Okay. Rant over. GO BREAD AND SHOW YOUR WORK!

Sourdough and Show Your Work

Herb Spiral Tart, The Female Persuasion, and Some Plugs

I KNOW. I missed a post last week. I was doing so well. I was on such a roll (that's foreshadowing for today's recipe by the way). BUT, I'm also not going to apologize because life gets busy, I'm not perfect, and I can't hold myself to unreasonable standards. I am zen, calm, and totally excited to share what I meant to share on Thursday with you TODAY, which is Tuesday.

Plugs of color are important in every day life (especially when it's summer), and that's why I'm so excited to show you today's recipe for herb spiral tart and the absolutely gorgeous cover for The Female Persuasionboth of which are excellent choices for summery days that feel like the depths of fall and kind of look like it too with all of this fog, hem hem CHICAGO, get it together.

In other plug news, I've been really into the newest section of the New York Times's daily newsletter, called What We're Reading, and so I'm going to hop on that band wagon and tell you what I'm consuming (therefore covering food, books, articles, television, etc., how clever) at the moment that I think you should consume too:

  • Laurnie Wilson's piece on Life After Anthony Bourdain, which hits hard and hits home. (And really, anything else on her blog, which is worth your subscription.)
  • Haley Bryant's piece on The Humanity in Data, a brilliant exploration of data, how we collect it, and what it means to us as humans in this moment. 
  • Surfing Merms, a new project by CJB, where feminist mermaids come to life.
  • Faces Places, a documentary on Netflix that made me cry for no reason other than it was very sweet and in French.

COOL. See ya Thursday. Promise.

National Cheese Day Alert

Hello. Today is National Cheese Day in the United States of America, and I for one am all about this holiday. Cheese is my favorite food, and I am so excited to present you with a round-up of 'cheese-foward' recipes that you can and definitely should make to honor this most wonderful of occasions. Without further ado: THE CHEESES OF PAGE & PLATE.

Spicy Summer Salad and Dead Girls and Other Stories

Man, talk about an attention grabbing blog post title. 

Today I'm going to wax poetic about salad. I was chatting with a friend over the long weekend, and he told me (TO MY FACE) that he believed anyone who says the like salad is a liar.  I was frozen in place. How could he think this? I liked salad, right? Am I the only one who likes salad? Have I forced Colin to eat salads, thinking he loved them, when all the while he was disgusted behind my back!? (No clue, I love it, no, and no, he likes them.) 

OKAY so here is my defense of salad: if you don't like salad, you haven't had a good salad. You've had some gross, watery lettuce glued together with Ranch dressing. Here is the beauty of salads: you can put whatever you want on a salad. It doesn't even have to have lettuce! I hate lettuce! But I LOVE SALAD. Because I make amazing salads that have all sorts of fun veggies and cheeses and dressings, and they all go together and make delicious bites you feel good about eating. I love salad because salads are beautiful and unique. As evidenced by today's recipe for a spicy summer salad. Go make it, all you non-believers. You'll believe me then.

In other things that are unique and beautiful, today's book by Emily Geminder, Dead Girls and Other Stories, came from Dzanc Books, who were kind enough to send it my way for a review. It was a wild ride, and you should definitely check it out. Very, very interesting, and very powerful.

Dead Girls and Spicy Summer Salad

Note: Dzanc Books provided Page & Plate, LLC a complementary copy of Dead Girls and Other Stories for the purpose of this independent review.

Fried Potato Pancakes, Priestdaddy, and Other Things That Came in the Mail

I just finished my favorite book of the year, and it's only May. "Laura, how could you possibly know for sure that this is going to be your favorite book of the year?" you ask, because bless you, reader, you always ask the right question when I write your questions for you.

I know this is my favorite book of the year because it's funny, it's real, and it's fresh. It's content nothing like anything I've ever read before, and it deals with sobering subject matter with an attitude that is incredibly aware of how important the issues are while making me laugh until I cried on the Purple Line again. I am becoming a crying train lady, but for this book, that is okay. This book is Priestdaddy, and once again, I have Jennifer at Riverhead to thank for sending it my way. Best. Mail. Ever. 

 What a perfect afternoon.

What a perfect afternoon.

Coming a close second was the box of Imperfect Produce that contained purple potatoes, radishes, and parsnips: a lovely variety of root vegetables that I first made into mashed potatoes and then fried because I am an adult. Nab the recipe for these fried potato pancakes here

Roasted Salad, The Silkworm, and Embracing What You Love

Let's talk about embracing what you love with wide open arms instead of hiding it under the bed or in your junk drawer or in that awful cabinet where leftover containers and their lids go to part company forever. No? Just me? Okay. That's fine.

 I embraced this salad into my stomach almost as fast as I embraced that book itno my head.

I embraced this salad into my stomach almost as fast as I embraced that book itno my head.

I've been on a bend recently. It's not one that I was planning on sharing with you or anyone besides my Kindle, really, but honestly, I'm way too into this bend to be able to keep quiet any longer: I am so. totally. obsessed. with the Cormoran Strike mystery novels that J.K. Rowling wrote as Robert Galbraith. So obsessed that since I prepared this post, I've blown through the third and only remaining book of the series. I CAN'T HELP IT. So please go enjoy the post about book two of this series, The Silkworm, with the full knowledge that late last night, I finished the third book in the series and will never be able to walk alone in a city ever again. Cheers!

In other much more exciting news, it's still National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and we are still going gray to celebrate survivors, remember those who have lost the battle, and raise awareness for research efforts. Here on Page & Plate, we're collaborating with TakeTHATTumor and celebrating #gograyinmay with healthy meals that fit any lifestyle. Today, that meal is roasted salad. I hear you over there, you people who don't believe that salad is a meal. IT IS. Or it is also a lovely side. Take your pick. no hard feelings. But just saying, I embrace salad as a meal ALL THE TIME. 

Mushroom and Swiss Chard Galette, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Packaging

First of all, longest post title ever. Whew. 

Second of all, let's talk about packaging! And no, I don't mean the typical explosion of bubble wrap or the lethally sharp plastic fasteners. I'm talking about the perfect pie crust. Or book cover. Don't you just love how my two topics of discussion meld so seamlessly together for discussion every single time? Me too. 

 So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

I struggle with aesthetics, particularly in baked goods. Though I'm getting better with dishes I cook, baking is still a struggle. (For context, I will include a picture of my disastrous macarons from this weekend.) My inability to cope with these less than perfect desserts is also why Colin has put a moratorium on baked goods when I'm overtired. That is another story for another day.

This is just one of the reasons I love a good galette. All of its imperfections aren't even imperfections! They're part of what makes it rustic and quaint, all things that a galette must be to be more than a messy pie. Not to mention that they do a great job of hiding all of the ugly things inside of them (sorry, mushrooms).

I also struggle with judging things hastily, and I am definitely not improving in that department. But it always when something comes along and upturns all of your judgement on its head just to prove you wrong and remind you of your own shortcomings. This week, that something was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which I recently really enjoyed thanks to the recommendation of a fellow book lover over beers at Old Town Ale House. 

galette and 7 husbands.jpg

Broccolini Bar Food Sandwich, The Disaster Artist, and Good Food to Watch With

Honestly, what is it about watching other humans expel athletic effort that makes you so hungry? I speak specifically, at least for the purposes of this blog post, of the Olympics, which make me so hungry I could eat a whole block of cheese by myself. Is it that I know how many chicken nuggets Michael Phelps eats to keep up with his caloric needs? Is it that I expend a ton of energy wishing I could manage to get on and off the train with a third of the effort it takes for Chloe Kim to conquer the halfpipe?

Whatever the answer, I am always starving while I watch the Olympics. And if we're watching at any number of bars around the good city of Chicago, I'm often disappointed by the options available to me as a vegetarian. I don't want a salad. I don't want just fries. I want greasy bar food that makes me feel gross in an hour. (I also would just like to shout out to Bad Apple, which is my single favorite bar at which to down some 10/10 vegetarian comfort food.) (They are also having an amazing deal right now. Also what a pun!) (This is not an ad; I just genuinely love them enough to share it.)

veggie bar food .jpg

Lucky for me, Bon Appétit came to the rescue with this amazing broccolini bar food sandwich that they got from Chef Mike Solomonov of Philadelphia's Rooster Soup Co. This sandwich is LIFE CHANGING. It's cheesy, saucy, toasted, roasted, and dare I say, noteventhatbadforyou? 

I'm just saying, as far as what to eat while watching the premiere athletes of the world burn more calories than I probably ever have in my life, this is a quality choice. Also, it's crazy easy. Restaurants of Chicago and beyond, take note!

It would probably be well-consumed while reading (or even watching, I guess, grumble grumble) The Disaster Artist, which may actually give you a workout from how much you laugh while reading it.