Some things are good by themselves, but great when in pairs.
Cheese and Pasta.
Sundays and Gigi.
Pearls and Diamonds.
Daisy and me.
After spending the entire day together,
I miss her
as soon as she falls asleep.
Can you believe that?
She’s my li’l buddy.
Daisy loves spending time outside with Shawn. He’s got a wonderful veggie garden started in our backyard with radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, even cabbage.
But there’s nothing better than homegrown tomatoes, which are the secret to Mom’s irresistible pasta.
Ey, now, this is vine-ripened.
Shawn’s also planted some gorgeous herbs in the garden.
I often brush my hand across the delicate leaves as I walk past them and their fragrance brings back memories from my childhood…
Afternoon naps were mandated, now that I think about it, by both my grandmothers.
Perhaps this was somehow related to the reason the local supermarket had lovingly nicknamed me
The only thing I remember is the 3-tiered chicken-wire basket near the entrance that housed my precious pofak (cheese puffs), which is how Nina Mama (my mom’s mom) coaxed me into the shopping cart seat.
I reputedly grasped at anything and everything that we passed, including other people’s groceries,
while gnawing on raw onions (Mmmm, yum?) and releasing oranges from their piles.
By the time we got home, Grandma was exhausted. She quickly pushed two round-back chairs together and I was ordered to hop into my makeshift bed for a nap.
My dad’s mom, Wilhelmine didn’t dare take me out on the town as often.
After lunch on hot summer days, we’d go into the living room where it was cool. She’d put a blanket over one of the beautiful Persian rugs and we’d lie onto the floor.
The muffled humming of the air conditioner and the creaking of the straw fan waving in her hand were the only noises,
apart from my whining that I wasn’t sleepy, of course.
Eventually, I’d wear her out, too, so she’d agree to allow me to nap with my eyes open!
After what seemed like hours, we’d get up and go into the kitchen. Grandma would prepare a tray for us to take outside.
We’d sit in the garden by the pool and snack on bread, feta and fresh tarragon with sweet brewed tea.
When we first moved to the States, feta wasn’t readily available. So, she’s make some for us using nothing but whole milk, vinegar and a bit of salt.
You can make your own or just buy some. Valbresso in the tin has wonderful flavor and is pre-cut into convenient small rectangles.
Food is at the center of Armenian culture and my grandmothers brought the family together at the dinner table where fresh herbs were a staple.
One of my grandfather’s favourite things was herbed feta. Originating from a region at the northern tip of Iran, Salmasi feta is elegantly simple.
Use a variety of herbs, whichever you like, to flavor the cheese.
I like to make a batch and keep it in the fridge,
in case of an emergency
It’s 2am, the house is quiet and it’s raining outside. I’m going to sneak into the kitchen and fire up the tea pot.
Mom’s Pasta with Herbed Feta
Fresh herbs have a much better flavor, but you can use dried herbs. Just give them time to soak up the moisture from the cheese.
1 lb good quality feta (Valbresso)
1/2 bunch fresh mint
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon
1 bunch sweet basil
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
freshly cracked black pepper
Pour icy cold water into a bowl and immerse trimmed herbs. Gently wash soil from the leaves. Drain
and settle them onto a clean kitchen towel for a few minutes, until most of the water has evaporated.
Chop herbs by hands and add to a clean mixing bowl.
Remove feta from brine and crumble gently with a fork. Avoid mashing.
Add feta to the herbs and toss until well incorporated.
Finish with some freshly cracked black pepper.
Store refrigerated in a plastic container with lid for up to 1 week.
Mom’s Fresh Tomato Pasta
The meat sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge to save time. It also freezes very nicely.
Quinoa is a great substitute for a vegan version.
2 lbs lean ground beef ( or 2 cups cooked quinoa)
1 large white onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp spice mix
5 tomatoes or 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 heaping Tb tomato paste
1 Tb Worchestershire sauce (optional)
S and P to taste
1 cup frozen peas
1 lb pasta
2 large Russet potatoes
Chop the onion and fry on medium heat in some olive oil.
Stir occasionally to avoid burning the edges.
Place the flat side of the knife over a garlic clove and with your hand in a fist, give it a good bashing.
Peel the clove and repeat this process with the rest of the garlic.
Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and stir to incorporate. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
While you wait for the onion/garlic to turn golden,
cook the pasta.
Different shapes/sizes have varying cooking times. Use whichever is your favourite.
I like rotelli/spirals because they hold the sauce well and are easy for the li’l ones to eat.
Fill another pot with water, add salt and a few drops of olive oil.
Cover pot with lid and bring water to a gentle rolling boil.
Do not overcook the pasta.
Check the cooking time suggested in the packaging instructions.
Remove the pasta a few minutes early
as it will continue to cook with the meat sauce later.
Rinse under cold running water and drain.
Fry the ground beef in a bit of olive oil. Add the spice mix.
Mom usually reaches for the Persian advieh or homemade garam masala. The Arabic 7-spice is usually my pick.
Once the meat is well-browned, add the garlic/onion mix. Melt tomato paste into the mix and add the Worchestershire sauce.
Chop tomatoes into rough chunks.
If you don’t have good tomatoes, grab a can of San Marzano’s. I always have a few cans in my pantry. They have a wonderful rich flavor which I prefer when we don’t have any tomatoes from the garden.
Use a pair of clean kitchen scissors to cut the tomatoes into chunks right in the can.
Mix tomatoes into the meat and season to taste.
Cover the pot with its lid and lower heat.
Cook for about 20 minutes.
Peel and chop the potatoes into little 1/2-inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper.
Drizzle some olive oil and toss the potatoes.
Turn off the heat.
Add cooked pasta and mix very gently to incorporate. Remove from pot into a large bowl
and set aside.
Stir frozen peas into the meat/pasta mixture.
Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil.
There’s something so comforting about home cooking, especially when you can pick the goods from your own garden.
Sprinkle some herbed feta over Mom’s classic pasta and watch the kids come charging to the dinner table!