What do a first year anniversary, a vacation of a lifetime, aging grandparents, family members sprinkled across the country, and a national tragedy all have in common? They are all a timely reminder to me that life is unpredictable… there are no promises, no guarantees, and at times no answers. Let’s be honest… life can be unfair, cruel, and at its lowest moments seemingly unbearable. So why then do we grasp onto life with unparalleled fervor? Why do the words “life is precious” slip off so many tongues with ease? Because in life there is love. No matter where your ambiguous journey may take you around each corner is the possibility of discovering new love and even in the simplest of moments along the way old love can continue to grow. Love is beautifully mysterious in its own way as it can be unveiled in the most unexpected of entities. Many of us are blessed with love amongst the branches of our family trees, both the one who are born into and the one we plant the seed for. But, how many of us have also discovered love in a golden friendship, a furry pal, or a classroom full of first graders… at the age of 2, 22, 42, or 92?! No matter where, when, how, or with whom love is found it is magical. Love soothes us in the darkest of life’s moments and sets our world ablaze in the brightest. Love is life’s gift.
The following words are not intended to be laden with the voice of a preacher. Rather they are a public proclamation and plea from my soul to my self. Slow down… prioritize… make time for those you love… and always say “I love you.”
My first move towards embracing this mantra is to begin a new family tradition of Sunday night cooking. You wouldn’t be here reading this right now if I did not already cook on a daily basis. The key word there is “I.” Let me set the scene for a typical evening in our home. I am in the kitchen preparing dinner while Nick sits on the other side of our peninsula countertop working on his laptop. Despite our close proximity our interactions and conversations during this time involve minimal eye contact and overly succinct statements. Most sound something like this…
Partner 1: Hey! Guess what…
Partner 2: Huh? I wasn’t listening.
Partner 1: Forget it. It’s not important.
Partner 1: Hey! Guess wh…
Partner 2 (interrupting): Hold on. I’m busy right now.
By no means am I suggesting that the two of us should be in the kitchen together every night (the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” certainly has validity), but we could “prioritize and make time” to do so once a week. And so we’ve decided that on Sunday evenings we will don our aprons, cue some music, execute culinary teamwork, and admire one another’s work (or at least efforts!). We will sit across the table from one another… actively listening to each other and reflecting on our conversation. We will enjoy a meal made with TLC. We will celebrate and cultivate our love.
Our tradition commenced this past Sunday with a menu of homemade tomato and basil marinara (which we learned to make during our incredible cooking class experience in Rome) and fresh farmer’s market pasta. I was hesitant to blog about this meal because the recipe is unrefined, the lighting was terrible, and I was taking pictures with my iPhone. But in this moment those things don’t matter because in the words of my dear Aunt Tricia “It’s all about the LOVE!”
Tomato Basil Marinara
Makes approximately 4 cups of sauce
4 pounds Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
- Place a large pot of water on high heat to boil. While waiting for the water to boil use a paring knife to cut a lengthwise slit down the middle of each tomato.
- When the water comes to a boil place the tomatoes in the pot for 2-3 minutes. Remove the tomatoes using a slotted spoon and place in colander. Rinse with cold water. (Save the cooking water for your pasta. It now contains vitamins and minerals from the tomatoes…. bonus!)
- Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle peel the skin from each. Place a colander over a bowl and squeeze each tomato over the colander to remove the seeds. Chop the squeezed tomatoes into smaller pieces. Set aside the bowl of tomato juice.
- Smash the garlic cloves (you can use the bottom of a heavy pan) being sure to keep the skins on. Coat the bottom of a large saute pan with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot place the cloves in the pan and lightly brown them on each side.
- When garlic is browned pour the chopped tomatoes into the pan and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. After about 5-10 minutes the tomatoes will cook down and release more juices. Add a generous pinch of salt.
- Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. If your sauce is getting too thick you can add the reserved tomato sauce a little at a time.
- Once tomatoes have cooked down and flavors have melded to your liking use a spoon to remove the garlic cloves. Then using a pasta fork or potato masher break down the tomatoes to your desired consistency. Finally, scatter fresh basil over the sauce.