It feels as though a little portion of my heart is missing today; my hubby left this morning for a work-related trip over the next couple of days, and I miss him already. Though it may seem quite silly to miss a spouse when they go on a short, two and a half day out-of-towner, but for me, that’s what’s happened. You see, we’re just that sappy, he and I. And though we both even shed some tears when we gave each other farewell hugs and kisses, and then even laughed a little through those tears at the absurdity of this, we knew in our hearts that all any of this emotion meant was that there’s a genuine love between us. There’s a bond that is of the Divine. We’re best friends, he and I. I suppose that if his work required him to travel more often, we’d be used to it by now; perhaps it wouldn’t be such a tug at the heart. Actually, nah—scratch that. It would be a tug at the heart, no matter how often it happened. It’s just that much more obvious, the longing and missing, when it’s a very rare thing for us to be apart. All kinds of potential scenarios go through our minds since we’ll be on opposite sides of the country from one another, some of which aren’t always merry and pleasant. The truth is, it’s often not until people who are closely connected to one another must be apart, that appreciation for one another’s presence is revealed. And I really like that. There’s a sweet sorrow, an optimistic and gratitude-inspired melancholy that is present when the thought of life (or even just a couple of days) without a person that is so dear, is imagined. It’s easy to ever-so-faintly take for granted all of the good and all of the connection that is experienced, when on a daily basis the conversations—the connectedness and the togetherness—are all just a part of the “norm”. But there’s something in me that appreciates this slight melancholy; there’s a part of me that likes to become present and still in a moment of missing someone I love, and to find the joy in the longing. That’s just the way I am; I always have been. Reflectiveness and quietness runs deep in moments like these; there’s a slowing of the mind because it’s listening to what’s happening with the heart, with the soul. I’m grateful that it’s in these simple and brief moments that I can remember the gravity of what I have in my life to be grateful for, and that it doesn’t take the thunder and lightning, the fire and the winds, to bring me to recognize it.
A melancholy heart can so often be gently soothed by a quiet meal at the table. A warm bowl of pasta can be such a tremendous comfort, don’t you think? The soft noodles, the warm, fragrant and savory sauce bathing and enveloping each and every strand, the supporting little bits and morsels that find their way into each and every bite—so simple, yet divine. To twirl the fork around in the creamy-white warmth of it, even if half absent-mindedly with chin resting on hand, is to enjoy a bit of bliss for at least a few moments. I think most of us would admit to food playing the role of a friend in those moments when a familiar presence is desired, and when nourishment and comfort is all that’s really hoped for; and a good bowl of pasta can take on the qualities of that tender, soft-spoken familiar friend, the one that always knows just what to say at the right time, or even to just listen and say nothing. It is lovely and comforting to the melancholy heart that misses someone it loves.
The golden light during this time of day has a way of coaxing emotions out of even the most tight-shelled beings; they must budge, and I am no different. I’m sure that the way the late afternoon light falls across my husbands desk in the back room—now quiet, vacant and still, waiting for his return—doesn’t lessen the tug on the heart strings. Sweet, soft melancholy has taken her place at the dinner table with me tonight; and I’m glad she’s there with me so that we may eat together. A couple of days will pass in a hot flash, but what will remain is the knowingness that love does matter; that each of the people that you love and love you, matter. That our connections and what we bring to one another have real gravity, and that though a bowl of fettucini that luxuriates in a creamy and savory, fragrant sauce is best enjoyed with those we love, it too can be a comfort for the solitary being, as long as it is made with love. Always with love.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Fettucini in Parmesan-Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce with Chicken, Mushrooms, Toasted Walnuts and Fresh Thyme
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(Serves about 4)
• Parmesan-Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce (recipe below)
8 ounces (½ pound) fettucini noodles, uncooked
2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus a pinch
• Olive oil
10 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (*see note)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 cup shaved Parmesan, for garnish
(I toasted the walnuts in a large, dry, non-stick pan for a couple of minutes, tossing them occasionally as to not burn them, and then chopped them once they cooled off slightly.)
-Prepare the Parmesan-Roasted Garlic Cream sauce, and keep warm.
-Prepare the fettucini noodles according to package instructions; drain and lightly rinse, then toss with a touch of olive oil; keep warm under a kitchen towel.
-Prepare the chicken by slicing each breast in half lengthwise (like butterflying) to create 4 thinner cutlets; place the cutlets into a bowl and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and toss to coat; place a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil; once hot, add in the chicken cutlets and allow them to sear for roughly 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and golden; remove from pan and place onto plate to hold, keeping warm; next, add the sliced mushrooms into the same pan, still on medium-high heat, and saute them with a pinch of salt and pepper, until golden; remove them from pan and set aside, keeping them warm; next, slice the seared chicken breasts into strips, as set aside, keeping them warm.
-Add the cooked fettucini noodles into the warm Parmesan-Roasted Garlic Cream sauce, along with the sliced chicken and sauteed mushrooms, and with tongs, toss together to coat in the warm sauce; to serve, add equal portions of the saucy fettucini to bowls, top with about 1-2 tablespoons of the toasted and chopped walnuts, plus a sprinkle of the fresh thyme leaves; garnish with some shaved Parmesan cheese, and serve.
Parmesan-Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce ingredients:
3 small heads garlic
• Olive oil
3 cups low-fat milk
2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon chicken base (I use “Better Than Bouillon” reduced sodium)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon dry thyme
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons flour
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmesan-Romano blend)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
-Cut the tops off of the heads of garlic to expose the cloves, drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, then wrap each head tightly in a small piece of foil and roast for 40 minutes.
-While garlic roasts, add the milk, half and half, chicken base, salt, thyme, Italian seasoning and black pepper to a medium-large pot, and whisk to blend; place the pot over medium-high heat, and bring to the simmer; once it simmers for a moment or two, turn the heat off; place another medium-large pot over medium-low heat, and add in the butter; once the butter is melted, add in the flour and stir to completely combine, to create your “roux” or thickener; cook this roux for about 1 minute, just to cook out the “raw” flour flavor; next, slowly pour the milk/half and half mixture into the roux, whisking the whole time to avoid any lumps from forming, until all of it is added; allow this cream sauce to very gently simmer for about 2 minutes, just to slightly thicken it, and then turn the heat off; add in the grated Parmesan cheese and whisk well to completely melt the cheese in and distribute it, then add in the lemon juice and stir; check the seasoning to see if you need any additional salt; keep the sauce warm until the garlic is through roasting. (If the sauce seems a bit thick, you can thin it out by whisking in a little additional milk.)
-Once the garlic heads have roasted, allow them to cool just enough to handle them; squeeze all of the soft garlic from the cloves and chop, or use a fork, to make it into a paste, and then add this garlic “paste” into the cream sauce and whisk well to incorporate it into the cream sauce (if you want to make this ahead, you can allow this finished sauce to cool, then put it into the fridge and store until ready to make the meal); set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.