I'm pretty sure the moment I became a foodie was the day my friend, Jack, sent my friend, Steph, and I to a tiny, nine table restaurant called La Latteria San Marco in Milan. The owner, Arturo Maggi, believes in the alchemy of food and cooks only in silver pans. He also believes that certain foods aid certain organs. I had a dish so simple, yet so delicious that to this day, I still dream of it: farro with mozzarella di bufala and cherry tomatoes, drizzled with fresh olive oil. I'd certainly never had farro before that day and the only mozzarella I'd ever had was the kind that comes shredded in a plastic bag. I couldn't get over the creamy deliciousness of the mozzarella di bufala and the cherry tomatoes were the perfect compliment of sweetness. Farro is a grain and kind of has a nutty flavor. The combination of all three plus the olive oil gave birth to a foodie! My friend, Jack, is a master foodie so the places he sent us in Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence, as well as his own kitchen, were always an epicurean feast. He introduced me to simple delights like cappuccino, mozzarella di bufala, risotto, as well as spaghetti puttanesca, arrabiata, and aumm aumm.
Growing up, I was not surrounded by family who baked or cooked and passed all their wonderful secrets down to me. My mother worked and dated so dinner usually consisted of something from the freezer or a box or that could be made in bulk in the crockpot (beans and stew mostly). My one grandmother that I spent any time with only knew how to fry food. She would give me some sort of fried meat and a plate of lettuce because she said I needed roughage. This was not a salad. It was lettuce.
I'm not sure where my love of cooking came from. I mean, I know I love good food but cooking it? I was never very good at it. Hell, I had to have a roommate tell me once to let the water boil before adding in the spaghetti. But I could follow a recipe and I liked to challenge myself in the kitchen. After that first trip to Italy, I learned how to make perfect risotto and I mastered spaghetti aumm aumm I am a single person but I love to cook, even on work nights but especially on weekends. I bake pies and bread and guacamole in a molcajete and make a wicked miso-marinated Chilean sea bass. This weekend I will attempt salsa, pumpkin bars (with erythritol - found two bags at Wegmans), and lemon bread. I love a great restaurant whether it's a hole in the wall like Dottie's True Blue cafe in San Francisco or something a bit more upscale like Central Michel Richard in DC (DC isn't NYC but it's getting there).
Yep, Jack made me a foodie and I thank him every day.
Tonight I made Puttanesca sauce using Trader Joe's Arrabiata sauce as a short cut for the base (I've made sauce from scratch but hey, I only have so much time in the evening). Arrabiata = angry. Puttanesca = whore. Yes, I made angry whore sauce for my spaghetti. And it was delicious! Recipe is simple and although I added in some shrimp, it's great for vegetarians looking for a spicy, salty, garlicky, tangy sauce.( Click here for the angry whore sauce recipe )