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June 2011
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August 2011

Pamela Sherrid's Summer Pasta


I did not mean to leave you hanging that long. In fact, I had this post stashed right up my sleeve, but then in a serious case of First World Problemitis, the other camera, the camera with which I took these photos, well, it lives with Max in Kassel, not with me in Berlin, and because he is a PC person and I am a Mac person I could not for the life of me figure out the instructions that he kept emailing me about unzipping the files of the photos he sent me and so I kept bleating, per email, back at him to just send me the photos as regular files already and he kept writing back to me asking me to download yet another program from the Internet to unzip the aforementioned files and I definitely didn't want to write a post without photos because who cares about unillustrated blog posts anyway and for Pete's sake I have standards and then he forgot his camera in Kassel when he came home this weekend and oh my goodness, are you still reading this? Seriously? Because I'm falling asleep over here and I'm the one who's typing!

All of this is to say I'm sorry it took me so long to write again. But look! I brought you spaghetti! With fresh tomatoes and basil and squidgy-soft mozzarella! I hope that makes up for something at least.

This is the kind of thing you want to make when you don't really feel like cooking anything at all, which, I find, is the way I feel all the way through July and sometimes August, too. Maybe it's too hot to cook or it's too hot to eat or maybe you simply have better things to do with your time than stand around in the kitchen, like canoeing down soft little rivers or picking sour cherries or drinking beer in outdoor cafés until the sun goes down or writing a freaking book, but since you can hardly subsist on popsicles or beer nuts alone (actually, you can, but perhaps your family cannot), if you can bring yourself to boil a pot of water for pasta you've basically done most of the work.


The rest involves dicing up a bunch of very good tomatoes, that very being italicized for a reason as your tomatoes should practically glow with flavor and burst with juice, slicing garlic (the original recipe has you dice the garlic finely, but I don't like raw garlic and never will, so I slice it, leaving it big enough for your fork to avoid, but by all means, do as you wish, because I do not choose to impose my tyranny against raw garlic against anyone, well, except for one particular individual whose mouth I like to get close to at times), and snip a whole mess of basil into a bowlful of olive oil.

This you can do first thing in the morning before you go to work, leaving it to macerate all day while you go and do whatever it is that you all do. (What is it you all do, anyway? Really. Doctors, secretaries, grant writers, students, anthropologists, mothers, who are you? Tell me below in the comments!) When you come home in the evening, all you have to do is boil your pasta and dinner is served. If you are, like me, a little more of the last-minute type, rest easy knowing that even if you don't manage to do this chopping, macerating business until two hours before dinner, you're still in pretty good shape.

The original recipe has you marinate the basil and garlic in olive oil all day long, adding the tomatoes only a few hours before dinnertime. But instead I mixed together everything at once, two hours before dinner, and went out to take a walk in these improbably beautiful fields on the very edge of Kassel. One minute you're still in the rather unlovely town of Kassel, the next you're staring at a mass of poppies in a field of wheat stalks and there is a lone horse in one corner and an allee of oak trees in another and you suddenly have the very distinct impression you are on the set of an avant-garde French film.


Once you've boiled the spaghetti and drained it and plopped it on top of your cubed, fragrant tomatoes, you chop up a ball of mozzarella (plain old cow's milk is fine) and put that on top of the hot spaghetti. The original recipe says that if you leave it to sit for a bit, the mozzarella will melt and fat will coat each strand of spaghetti. To be honest, we didn't have that kind of patience. I let the mozzarella start to melt, but we were so hungry at that point that we just dove right in, before any milk fat could coat a single strand.

Now, before there are any, uh, misunderstandings, let me be quite clear: this pasta dish would be a definite no-go in Italy. Italians are, well, let's say earnest about their spaghetti sauces and they have rules about food and they do not take kindly to mucked-up sauces or pasta salads or other abominations (their imagined words, not mine!), in fact, they can be are positively Germanic in their obsessiveness with following food rules.

Yawn. Still with me?

Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let me just say that this is a delightful plate of spaghetti and that it had both of us tipping our pasta plates into our mouths so we could get every last drop of milky, basil-flavored, tomato-juice-tinged, garlic-imbued olive oil sauce down our greedy gullets. It was delicious. And refreshing, if you can believe it, and light and sort of exactly the kind of thing you'd want to eat on a nice summer's evening.

Summer Pasta
Serves 2

3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup of good-quality olive oil
12 basil leaves
4 ripe tomatoes
Dried spaghetti
1 ball imported mozzarella

1. Take out your largest bowl. Add the garlic. Pour in the olive oil. Snip the basil leaves with scissors into shreds over the garlic mixture or slice thinly with a very sharp knife. Let sit all day or at least an hour or two.

2. About 2 hours before serving, chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

3. When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into small cubes.

4. Drain the pasta and pour it on top of the tomato mixture. Do not stir. Spread the mozzarella on top of the pasta and toss only the pasta and cheese; the cheese will soften slightly, and the pasta will get coated with fat. Then stir up from the bottom, incorporating the tomato mixture. Season to taste and serve.

Friday Link Love


Thank you all for your comments and emails, congratulations, kind words and best wishes! They've gone and made this very happy woman even happier still.

I've spent the entire week visiting my husband (hee) in Kassel, writing like a woman possessed (25 days until my delivery date!) and taking long walks in the improbably beautiful fields next to his apartment. Now, nothing against small German towns or anything, I'm very excited for our train back to Berlin this afternoon. Oh, to be home again! We have wedding presents to unwrap, German tax forms to complete (the anticipation is just killing me) and on Saturday evening I'm going to this mysterious pop-up restaurant with some friends. I can't wait to be back in the big city again.


I discovered the wonder that is creamy limoncello on this last trip to Italy. Not made with eggs or with cream, but with plain, old, 1% milk. Seriously, people, it's like manna in a shot glass. I'm waiting for a recipe from my friend Carla, but until then, try this one from

Food52 is at it again, this time with a brand-new column that I've fallen for, hook, line and sinker. Genius Recipes, it's called. And they're, well, genius.

Have you ever heard of "drinking vinegars"? Since I'm the kind of person who could drink pickle juice straight from the jar, I'm intrigued. Here's how to make them. (Via Oh Joy!)

Two years ago, I asked my mother to buy a simple charcoal grill for the house in Italy so we could cook fish outside in the summer. But I underestimated how intimidating grilling can be to a newbie and we've only used it once since then. Once! For shame. With these fabulous tips on grilling whole fish (no baskets or special equipment required!), I feel a lot more confident.

Kassel may be a snooze, but I discovered the Hugo cocktail at our favorite restaurant here the other night and because of that, it's already gone up a few notches in my book. I'm not a cocktail girl - they make me sleepy and cranky - but the Hugo is a different story - think prosecco, mint and elderflowers. Here's Sasa's recipe.

And finally, I'm still in shock over the closing of H&H Bagels. Thank goodness we can all make our own.

Have a lovely weekend, folks.

On Dresses, Wildflowers and Breadcrumb Pasta


A week before the wedding, I had a little case of dress regret. I'd bought the first dress I tried on back in December (on my birthday, no less, if that isn't a sign) on a stroll up the Ku'Damm and then basically forgot all about it. (That's what having a book manuscript due six weeks after your wedding will do to you: Put things in perspective.) Seven days out, then, I was suddenly unsure. Should I have gone long? Not done strapless? Had more lace? Luckily, there wasn't much I could do. Besides, I had the very distinct impression that this was my equivalent of cold feet. I gave myself a stern little talking-to (along the lines of "your dress is very pretty and it is way too late to do anything about it and also you are an idiot") and got over it.


When I got to Italy, my mother and father were waiting for me. A little treat for me, since I rarely have the two of them in the same place at once. We spent a few days running errands, making zucchini flower frittata for lunch and discussing wedding stuff. (My father: "I still cannot believe you aren't having any music." Me: "..." My father: "Really? Are you really telling me you're not going to have any music?" Me: "Nope, no music. None." My father: "I'm pretty sure that's the worst idea ever." Me: "..." My father:"...!")


The concerned father in question, searching for wedding music on Youtube to convince his stubborn daughter to change her mind and instead getting lost down a rabbit hole of Beniamino Gigli recordings from the 1920's.


There were important things to take care of in those final days before the wedding, like asking our five-year-old friend Emma if she wanted to be our flower girl (she did!) and then bringing her a small basket full of lavender heads with which she solemnly practiced, after her grandmother demonstrated how to walk down an aisle majestically, regally casting flower buds to the left and right. (In case you are wondering how she did in the face of 100 unknown guests a week later, I can only say that she should be hired out for all future royal wedding work - she was perfection.)


Another person who should seriously look into an alternate career if being a biologist and professor at some point no longer proves interesting to her is my stepmother Susan, who not only corralled a bunch of my girlfriends into a color-coordinated wildflower picking spree by the side of the road to Urbino the day before the wedding, but then turned the patch of grass behind the house into a veritable florist's workshop the next day, producing the most carefree, beautiful flower arrangements that she popped into glasses my mother found in the dining room cabinets and filled with gravel from the driveway. Also perfection.


Some of the loveliest bits of the days leading up to the wedding were all the busy, crowded dinners we had outside on the stone patio. Each day, more family and friends arrived and each evening, more and more chairs and plates were pulled out and put to use. With so much of my life divided and compartmentalized in different countries and continents, having all these people in the same place at the same time made me so happy. I might have even thought this was the best thing about the wedding.

Until the wedding itself.


Behold our first pasta course! Passatelli alla portolotta, or breadcrumb pasta with teeny tiny clams and other shellfish sautéed with tomatoes and probably a little bit of garlic and parsley. There was a second pasta course, too (that's how things are done in Italy, I swear), tagliatelle with meat ragù, and then branzino with stuffed tomatoes and skewers of breaded, grilled shrimp and calamari and there was rabbit, too, roasted with wild fennel and potatoes. And salad.

But I, for one, gave up after the passatelli up there. I spent the most amount of energy in terms of wedding planning on figuring out the menu (our caterer wanted sushi! In the rural hills of Italy! And I have a bit of a hard time handing out emphatic No-Freaking-Way-Are-You-Kidding-Mes so the negotiations dragged for a bit with me being all polite and we would really prefer a rustic, country thing and him being all, but signorina it's your weddddddddding) and then on the evening of the wedding itself I took one look at the food and lost all my appetite instantly. Furthermore, I realized I didn't even care anymore if anyone else liked it. I'd just had the most spectularly moving experience of my entire life and that was all that mattered. Is still all that matters. So was the food any good? Who knows, you'll have to ask one of our guests.


The day after the wedding, I walked out to the transparent tent set on the edge of our land and found a bunch of detritus in the grass. A few place cards that my mother-in-law hand-lettered the morning of the wedding. The wooden stumps my friend Dietrich sawed up for me and that we used as the table number holders (now they're picture frames at the apartment in Berlin). And a prop from the photographer's photobooth set-up. I found a few more props over the next days, including a dapper little brown mustache on a stick. I took that with me, too. I would have taken the entire tent with me if I could have.


We toasted with leftover Champagne over the next few evenings as our guests slowly left. And I told my cousin's daughter Giulia, who was still bubbling with the excitement of the wedding, that the next wedding we'd celebrate would be hers. She's only 12, so we've got a few years to wait.


And then it was all over and the house got very quiet and I took a hundred more photos of the sun casting its special evening light over everything, the way I do every evening when I'm there, every year that I go. It felt a little dreamlike, then, the fact that only days before people had gathered right there to eat and dance and celebrate with us. Now it was just ours again, filled with the incessant chirps, whirrs, hoots and warbles of the insect and animal kingdown all around us, and the insistent wind blowing, ever-steady, through the acacias and the olive trees. But I see it with different eyes now. Or the same eyes, but a different heart.