Emily's Birthday Meyer Lemon Pasta

We take care of our people through food, Emily and I. We pour out our love with piles of homemade pasta. We break fresh bread over big tables with lots of laughter. We celebrate with homemade cakes and rich cocktails and we aren't afraid to try out new recipes with our closest friends because food is how we connect with the ones we love.

It's why we started this blog.

Thrown apart by life with multiple states between us, it makes the caring for people through food a challenge. It makes the laughter across the table a distant memory. It makes the celebrations few and far between, and even when present a little bit more distracted #wehavekidsnow.

But again, it's why we started this blog.

Sharing food, when done right, is a multi-sensory experiences. The smells, the colors, the textures, the temperatures, the sounds, the feelings. It's all there. And when you can sit across with one another, share in all these experiences together, it brings you closer. 

So how do you do that with the ones you love, when the ones you love aren't sitting across from you.

You do it anyway.

Today is Emily's birthday. I believe this is the third (fourth?) birthday post between us in this blog's three year history. I'm not surprised. Because, as I said, when Emily and I want to show the people we love how much they matter, we make them food.  And more specifically, we make them food that is so familiar, using simple ingredients that we both love. For through this you take comfort in knowing that while the birthday recipient isn't sitting across from you tasting your love, they'll get it. Food is a powerful memory creator. 

There's a book I gave to my sister for Christmas that tells of another friendship across the country, 3191 miles apart to be exact. Two friends who developed a friendship across the country, and through the internet and now books, share their lives with one another. Their latest book A Year Between Friends chronicles each month and the perspective each women has during that month. Recipes are included. When I saw February's, I could already taste it, and I knew my sister could too. Meyer Lemon Pasta. No words could better describe our loves. Also butter. And cheese. It's all in there. And I knew if my sister were here, I would make her this meal. Actually, we might make it together. That's how we show love. 

So sister, on your birthday, tonight I cooked for my family. But let's maybe pretend you were here, shall we?

We'll start with a cocktail, of course, it is your birthday after all. But wait, maybe you're just feeling wine tonight. Something crisp, cool, but fit for a birthday. I'll open up this cheap bottle of wine and pour it into a fancy glass. Because, birthday. While we finish the pasta we snack. A few of my favorite TJ's snacks. Some salami and pistachios. It doesn't need to be fancy. You share my love of TJ snacks.

Let's pretend further that I made the pasta fresh for you (I did not. The professional pasta maker of the house was at work so fresh pasta from the store it is. If you were here you would give me so much slack for this. And then you'd probably shove me aside and make the pasta yourself. We're the best of friends.) Spinach pasta. Because it is pretty, not because of the vegetables.

There would be lemons. So many beautiful bright Meyer lemons. You introduced me to these delicious fruits. And I can't wait to use them all winter long.

The sauce is simple, derived from one of the finest dishes I had in all of Italy, Cacio e Pepe. We'll talk about how jealous you are of our trip to Italy and how you need to go. We'll then get distracted by planning your trip and the water will overflow in the boiling pot. Whatever, the guys will clean up the mess anyway. We both married up.

Anyway, the pasta, simply tossed with a ton of Romano cheese, black pepper, and butter. So much butter. We love butter about as much as we love lemons, probably more. Lemons don't taste good spread across bread. 

I'll pull out some broccoli from the oven, roasted with garlic and lemons. So perfect with the pasta. But it's your birthday so you don't have to eat vegetables if you don't want to. I'll eat your share, it's that good. But WAIT, I'll shout dramatically, I forgot the Parmesan on the broccoli! (I did. It's not in the pictures. Oops.) You'll wave me away saying you don't need anyway. I'll insist. You'll roll your eyes.

And then we'll toast, to good food, and good company, and many more birthdays shared together. Or "together." 

I hope I can make this for you in person one day soon. For now, know I send my love to you through words and image and happy pasta loving thoughts. 

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Meyer Lemon Pasta + Lemon Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Pasta adapted to taste from A Year Between Friends 

4 large Meyer Lemons or 6 smaller ones, should yield 2 Tablespoon Zest and 1/2 cup juice

3/4 cup butter

1 lb. fresh spinach pasta, or any other fresh or dry flavor

1 cup Pecorino Romano, more to taste (I think I added up to 1/3 cup more)

1/4 cup Parmesan

Salt and Black Pepper

Zest and juice the lemons to yield above measurements and seperate. All lemons are different sizes so you might want to have a few more if yours are small. Mine were the size of a small country. 

In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt butter with zest and 1.5 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Keep warm over low heat while pasta cooks.

Bring large pasta pot of water to boil. When boiling, add a good handful of salt, then pasta, and cook according to directions. Drain and reserve 3/4 cup cooking water.

Toss cheese and butter mixture with pasta and pasta water. Add lemon juice. Adjust to taste. I added more cheese and salt. Because I love salt. And so does my sister. 

Lemon Garlic Parmesan Broccoli

24 ounces Broccoli Florets

2-3 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lemon

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425. Toss broccoli with oilve oil, garlic, juice of lemon, 1/4 cup Parmesan and a hefty pinch of salt. Scatter on large roasting pan. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Top with the rest of the parmesan. 

That Green Sauce and Veggie Dip

Other moms give the best advice.

Like the other day while lamenting about the trials and tribulations of the snacking vs. meal times vs. vegetable eating, etc. etc., another mom shared with me her strategy.

“They get to pick out whatever little empty snack they want. And then if they are still hungry, I set out a veggie tray and dip. That way, while I’m cooking dinner they can’t whine to me about being hungry. And, if they are pigging out before a meal, at least its on vegetables. It may be the only vegetable I can convince them to eat all day. But it stops the argument. I can cook in relative peace.”

So I tried it. And it’s genius.

In a perfect world I would have a well-planned out snack, maybe this one, and it would give them the appropriate energy they need to sustain them until dinner time, when we would all sit down and indulge in a filling and balanced meal, including many many veggies.

Yeah, accept we don’t run that playbook in this house. So after whatever small snack of crackers or fruit or yogurt or whatever it is that peaks their curiosity, then the veggies come out. And some sort of dip. Ranch is a major fave in this house. And I can’t blame them. It’s so darn good and no greek yogurt replacement has been able to take it’s place. Hummus is another good one, bonus protein there.

But this next dip is my ultimate fave. It’s like guacamole and chimichurri had a baby. The avocado and the pistachios and the fresh herbs and the lime all blended up to give it that creamy and tangy flavor you love in a ranch without any of the guilt over what could possible be in that bottle that tastes too darn good. It’s green and delicious and is great on ANYTHING.

But I have to be straight with you. I haven’t convinced my kids yet. Hopefully yours aren’t corrupted by the ranch bottle.

At the very least, set out the ranch for them, and the green sauce for you.

I apologize. It’s another dip. But it’s a dip that is a sauce and a spread and a marinade.  And it’s really darn good.

And maybe just maybe you’ll get your kids to eat a vegetable or two.  If not, at least try that veggie tray trick. It worked in Breaking Bad and it worked in my house, so I have great hopes it will work for you.

Hey sis, try this...

That Green Sauce and Veggie Dip

Adapted a touch from Pinch of Yum

1 avocado

1 cup packed parsley and cilantro leaves (combined)

2 cloves garlic

juice of one lime (or two - get lots of limey goodness in there!)

½ cup water

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup pistachios (you can sub other nuts – pistachio remains my favorite)

INSTRUCTIONS

Pulse all ingredients - except pistachios - in a food processor until incorporated.

Add pistachios and pulse until mostly smooth (depends on what consistency you want).

If you like a little heat, add in some hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or a jalepeno with seeds removed. To keep it kid friendly (wimpy white kid friendly) I leave it out.

Serve as a dip, spread, or sauce -- or add additional water or oil to thin the sauce for use as a dressing or a marinade.

That Green Sauce and Veggie Dip

Adapted a touch from Pinch of Yum

1 avocado

1 cup packed parsley and cilantro leaves (combined)

2 cloves garlic

juice of one lime (or two - get lots of limey goodness in there!)

½ cup water

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup pistachios (you can sub other nuts – pistachio remains my favorite)

INSTRUCTIONS

Pulse all ingredients - except pistachios - in a food processor until incorporated.

Add pistachios and pulse until mostly smooth (depends on what consistency you want).

If you like a little heat, add in some hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or a jalepeno with seeds removed. To keep it kid friendly (wimpy white kid friendly) I leave it out.

Serve as a dip, spread, or sauce -- or add additional water or oil to thin the sauce for use as a dressing or a marinade.

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