Lu is talking up a storm these days. Yesterday, when she was hungry, she pointed to a photograph of yogurt in a book and said, “May I please have some of that?” We stood there astonished for a moment, and then we ran for the refrigerator to scoop some honey yogurt in a bowl. (The “may I please” is always going to be rewarded.)
She’s throwing words off her tongue like a fastballer now, quick and clean. Sometimes her phrases whizz past us so fast that we need a beat or two to understand. “Oh, you just said, ‘Daddy, come look at my painting’! Sure!”
But there’s one familiar refrain around here that doesn’t need any translation or wondering at the words.
“MaggyPam!” Lu shouts, several times a day. We chuckle a bit and carry her toward the computer.
You see, last month, in New York City, we finally met Maggy Keet. Maggy has possibly the warmest, goofiest smile I have ever seen. She’s all enthusiasms and open arms, loud laugh and huge heart. We became instant friends after reading each other’s websites. By the time we finally met at a dinner party in Brooklyn, the first hug made what we suspected a reality: we are fast friends.
And may I also point out to you Maggy’s dear friend Erika, who writes Ivory Hut? As soon as I became friends with Maggy, I was lucky enough to become friends with Erika. You might know this already, but Erika’s home burned down in late August. If you have not read the courageous post she wrote about what happened to them, you must do that now. The moment I finally met Erika, I fell into the most generous and full-armed hug I have ever experienced, aside from the ones Danny and Lu give me. She was a sister, immediately.
It’s amazing what writing our lives on the computer can bring us.
Not that Pam Anderson.
At the potluck partyin Brooklyn hosted by the gracious Silvana Nardone, I stood next to a table laden with amazing food, all of which happened to be gluten-free. Maggy and Erika and I were talking fast. Justin, our book editor, and his lovely girlfriend, Jen, came up to join the conversation. We talked about the importance of cooking and the joy of knowing other people who feel as excited about food as we do, wildly gesticulating as we went. (Well, not Justin. He’s too cool for that.) At a certain moment, I realized I had not introduced them to each other. “Hey Justin, this is Maggy. Her mom is Pam Anderson.”
His eyes went wide and he looked flummoxed.
Maggy, as she must have done a hundred thousand times in her life, immediately said, “No, not that Pam Anderson.”
Justin gulped. “No, I always think about the food world first. Your mom is Pam Anderson?”
I’m impressed too. Pam was once the executive editor of Cook’s Illustrated, one of the most meticulous and respected food publications in this country. She writes a cooking column for USA Today. And she has written six cookbooks, all of them respected and filled with recipes that work.
She has also raised two kick-ass daughters. I love how close they are with her.
This Pam Anderson? She’s wonderful.
Danny and I were so happy that Pam and Maggy drove out to the island one morning, a few days before we left for San Francisco, to cook with us. What could be more fun than cooking together? Honestly, when we find people who believe this, we just want to hang out with them.
So we bustled around the kitchen, talking a mile a minute. Pam whipped up a dish of smashed potatoes and leeks that made us happy. We baked a batch of prosciutto-basil muffins from Pam’s new book, Perfect One-Dish Dinners. Pam and Maggy both bit into a warm muffin and looked impressed. “They’re tender, just like mine,” Pam said.
Knowing they liked the gluten-free muffins made me happy. That recipe is damned delicious.
A few days later, we all hung out in San Francisco, laughing and making plans and talking food. Lu was there for all of it. She fell in love with Maggy in New York, Pam at our house, and MaggyPam! in San Francisco. (Sadly, she didn’t get to spend enough time with Sharon to add her to the compound noun she likes to shout out now.)
And so, it makes sense that she gets the urge to see them sometimes. I click over to Three Many Cooks and start this video (shot and directed by our friends Todd and Diane, who shot our cookbook trailer too). Lu watches the three of them cooking, and talking, and laughing, entranced. She doesn’t move. When it’s done, she asks to see them again.
Hearing how Pam gave up her big-time career to be at home with her daughters, and found her path to happiness and success in a different way? I’m happy that Lu hears that story. And I give her a big squeeze, tears in my eyes again, imagining what it might be like when she is an adult and we can cook in the kitchen together.
This post is part of a blog cooperative about Pam’s cookbook. For other Sunday Suppers, please visit these lovely people.
Pam Anderson’s Shells and Cheese, Gluten-Free, adapted from Perfect One-Dish Dinners
Lu is going to grow up thinking that everyone writes cookbooks or makes films or paints or takes photographs for a living. I’m fine with that. We’re lucky to have so many talented and courageous people in our life. I’m so happy that Lu knows them too.
So when I was choosing a recipe from Perfect One-Dish Dinners to make for the Sunday Suppers blog tour, I flipped through the book with Lu. Of course she stopped me on the page with pasta and cheese.
No problem, kiddo.
We had this for dinner last night, an easy one-pot meal that is still full of flavor. That’s the theme of the book — delicious and not complicated. We want to make at least 20 meals from this cookbook alone. So many of the recipes are naturally gluten-free.
When Danny sat down to eat a plate of this shells and cheese — warm and bubbly, cheesy without being too rich, topped with browned breadcrumbs — he sighed after the first bite. About halfway through his dinner he looked up at me and said, “This tastes like a grilled cheese sandwich.”
Yep. Or, as Lu said after her second bowl, “MaggyPam pasta cheese? Ummmm.…good.”
1 pound gluten-free pasta shells (we used Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese, grated
16 ounces cottage cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
16 ounces sour cream (we used cashew sour cream)
cracked black pepper
1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (watch this video to see how to make them)
3 tablespoons fine-chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish in the pantry. Spray it with cooking oil.
Cooking the pasta. Put 2 quarts of water and about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (enough to make the water taste like the ocean) to boil on high heat. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the gluten-free pasta. Stir for the first few moments, occasionally, to ensure it does not stick. Cook until the pasta is al dente, or starting to turn tender but still quite firm. The timing will depend on the kind of pasta you bought. For the quinoa pasta we used, this was about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta immediately and pour a touch of olive oil over the pasta and toss. Set aside.
Making the casserole. Mix the cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and Parmesan cheese together, along with the sour cream, in a large bowl. Dump the pasta in to the cheese mixture and toss it to coat. Taste, then add salt and pepper to season to your taste. Transfer it all to the oiled casserole dish.
Topping the casserole. Mix the gluten-free breadcrumbs, parsley, and butter. Sprinkle them evenly over the top of the casserole. Slide the casserole dish into the oven. Bake until the shells and cheese are bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Serve immediately. Yum.