Avoiding the Red Cliche

Most things come easily to me, things you wouldn't expect from a boy with no discernible talent.  Things like baseball, calculus, forgiveness never came easy to me, but love did.  Love in the carnal sense, love in the fictional sense.  Love in the sense of letting go, love in the sense of finding yourself.  Love in the sense of that ever-present gnaw at the pit of your stomach that registers in the mind as I am responsible for someone else's happiness. Love has come easily to me since birth.  I love my mother in an almost manic sense, an almost Oedipal obsession with my desire to make her smile.  In kindergarten, I kissed a girl named Alex's hand when she reached out to grab a colored pencil, I thought I was gentlemanly and adult of me.  Years of expansive love bloomed in me as I began to daydream of boyfriends and how exotic the word fiancé sounded, with it's accented e and promise of a future with someone else.  With each boyfriend, there was a breakup, and with each breakup, there was some promise of next time, next time, next time.  I found Nolan during one of those next times.  During my return to Italy, when we were both a little bruised, both a little cut up and the vinegar kisses of a stranger felt like when soap gets in a hangnail.  But, underneath all of that, once we stripped down and opened up, there was love.

It was raw and passionate, it left me heady in the perfumed 10x8 dorm room where the heat was on and a blizzard blew through Pittsburgh one night in January.

It was lazy, falling asleep with a bucket of chicken during XLV.

It was chaotic in the sense of never having an ending, never knowing the dates of anything important, throwing shoes and his grandmother's dishes when I got too angry and forgot to say, "I'm sorry."

But I was never sorry, never sorry for loving someone so ferociously and tender.  I'd lick the wounds I had created and then blame the rust-taste in my wolf mouth on his laziness, his determination to let our love fade away.  It was raw and passionate, it was lazy and chaotic.  And somehow love became this little succulent, never needing watered, collecting dust on the windowsill, timid in its approach to life.  Our love had a geophyte approach to sustainability, fatty and tuberous, holding onto any love that existed when life got barren and dry. When it got hard to come by, when it couldn't be found in the moonlight nor with a dowsing rod, broken off from a backyard apple tree when the Santa Anas made us unbearable to one another.

Since I left for Texas, we fell in love again--hard and fast, when the bones were most brittle.  An apologetic love where conversations often ended in "How did it get like this?"  We are finding our way back to the frenzied love of when I was 19, and slowly those sour wounds heal when they're exposed to air.  I wanted to celebrate this love for Valentine's Day and forget all the other four years and the bullshit we put one another through. I wanted to celebrate this love in boxes, small tins of love that overpowered Nolan for Valentine's Day.  I wanted to remind him what home could feel like.  I wanted to remind him what love could feel like, because our house in San Diego was big by San Diego standards, and it could creak too loud when you're lonely.  I made him dinner, cakes and bread, and shipped it to him to have for Valentine's Day with a movie, so it felt like a date tonight.

I love you.

The menu for Nolan's Valentine's dinner



Pasta out to dry




Chocolate Cake with a Marzipan Heart

A chocolate cake with a marzipan heart

Bacon Salt and Popcorn


homemade candy bars

Homemade Candy Bars

Homemade candy bars

Homemade Candy Bars

“He shall never know I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same.”


Roasted Beet Pasta


  • 2 large-sized beets
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 6+ cups flour


  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. While oven is preheating, peel beets and wrap in foil, place on baking tray.  When oven is ready, roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, unwrapping so steam can release
  4. Cut into large chunks.
  5. In a large food processor (6 cups or more), throw in beets, eggs and yolk, olive oil, and salt (and optional zest).  Puree until smooth
  6. In a stand mixer, combine puree and three cups of flour using the paddle attachment.  When dough begins to form, switch to dough hook and continue to mix, adding in last three cups of flour, one at a time, until a proper dough forms
  7. Remove from bowl onto a floured work surface (i prefer marble for pasta-making) and knead for 7 minutes or until is elastic
  8. Keeping dough floured, cut into eighths and lay plastic wrap on sections you are not going to use.
  9. Use your pasta machine's directions for thick noodles, and dry.
  10. Enjoy with a vinaigrette and parmesan!

Bacon Salt


  • 5-6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup sea salt (preferably a larger crystal)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Fry bacon on a skillet until extra-crispy
  2. Put on a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool, blotting excess grease
  3. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until combined.  Do not over-pulse, as it can result in fats in bacon to liquify.
  4. Enjoy over popcorn, with potatoes, or be creative!

Handcrafted Candy Bars

There is no real recipe for a basic candy bar.  I used some of my mother's recipes, which use more specialized chocolate and techniques, but the instructions I have below can be practiced even with chocolate chips. From here, you can personalize them and make them your own, even including honeys, spices, herbs, salts, and even homemade nut butters!  But, I would start here for an intro into confectionery.

Before you begin, use a ratio of 3 oz per candy bar, so you have some room for leeway with sticking to the bowl, the mold, and your spatula.  From here, you can cut and halve, mix chocolates together and multiply easily.  I particularly like mixing white chocolate and a milkier, lighter chocolate.  When you have decided how you would like to flavor your chocolate, measure out how much you will need.  Then, take away about 30% of that amount and set aside (this will be your "seed chocolate", a step for this pseudo-tempering.  It is necessary so your chocolate doesn't turn grey when cooled).

Prepare any mold you may be using.  I always use a light olive oil cooking spray and then wipe off the excess with a paper towel.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine your remaining chocolates and microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds.  Take out and stir.  Put back in for another 20 seconds and repeat this process until all chocolate is silky smooth and easy to stir.

Add remaining chocolate and continue to stir.  The heat from the melted chocolate should melt remaining chocolate.

Add any add-ins and pour into mold and smooth out with a rubber spatula.  Allow to cool for at least half an hour in the fridge before unmolding.  Package however you want (I went a little far with homemade packaging I designed and printed on special paper, but basic foil will do). Store in a cool place, or the fridge.

Other recipes used: For the cake (marzipan inspiration here)/  For the hot chocolate mix /  For the marshmallows / For the bread.

Simple Homemade Noodles

It's Italy, 2010.  I stayed up before a midterm to make macaroni with a woman named Claire.  Her daughter was my classmate, her daughter was in a coma.  She flew all the way from Philadelphia to be with her, and said she was starving when she landed.  Everything was closed, so I helped her make mac and cheese.  It seems surreal now, to think the only way I knew to comfort her, a stranger, was to make such an American classic.  By the time we added the cheddar, her daughter could have been hemorrhaging.  But that's the beauty of it--how we ate the pasta out of the pot and she told me about her Christina.  How simple it all was.  How it distracted her, how we reverted to childhood staples and how she told me Christina would live and how lucky it was that the pope was only a mile away.  It was comfort food, and we both savored the moment in our own form of silence. She left one day without saying goodbye.  She lived on the other side of the convent I stayed at, on the nun's side.  Closer to the chapel.  She said it helped her sleep at night.  She dropped off almond cookies before she went, a note that said, "Thank you" and nothing else.  The script was curly, feminine, concise.  Not a single drop of ink was wasted, all of it conserved for future birthday cards for her dear, dear Christina.  I was just a replacement, and I was content in that knowledge.

But now, I am not content at all.  I am not content in this house with more square footage.  Not content to be making the money I make.  Not content in being lonely, or the fear of being lonely.  And in those efforts to feel normal, I make comfort food myself. I made a food to challenge myself, to know I could do it.  To thank the smaller gods, to have just one triumph in this haystack of a million failures.  Every cook has a dish they don't think they could make, couldn't muster the technique to create the magical. For some, it might be a soufflé.  My mother never thought she'd make caramel until she had to work after the recession in that "hell hole" town of ours.  For me, it was pasta.  It was a dish done right.  We had eggs and flour in that convent kitchen, but we both just knew how to boil water and add some cheese.  And if I could go back, I'd show that stranger how much I cared by making her a dish like this.  Simple, quiet in its own way, tender and soft like a scrawled "thank you."  Comfort food.

Simple Homemade Noodles


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a bowl, measure and pour flour.  Use a wooden spoon and create a well in center
  2. Crack eggs into well and stir with wooden spoon until starting to become crumbly
  3. Turn out onto a floured working surface and, with floured hands, knead for several minutes until dough is a pale yellow, springy and firm.
  4. Cut dough into 6 equal parts and flour work surface again, as well as rolling pin and dough
  5. Roll equal section of cut dough as thin as possible, working from the center outwards.  When dough is at desired thickness and cannot extend any further, dust lightly with flour
  6. Roll dough back into itself like a pinwheel, creating a tight chiffonade or cigar-shape
  7. Cut off small strips of dough, place cut pieces onto a floured baking sheet
  8. When complete, bring water to a boil and salt
  9. Add pasta dough to boiling water and let boil for 2 minutes or until tender and just beyond al dente
  10. Drain and serve with preferred sauce

(Of course, you can use a pasta maker.  Of course you can use these noodles for other things.  But it's so therapeutic and rewarding to know you made it by hand.  To know you have the luxury to create and learn and grow as a chef in every way you can think.  Be that person, and take it slow.  Make it by hand, eat it simple.  You won't regret how comforting it can be.)



The only ingredients

 Pasta Making with a Simple Yolk Dough

Beautiful pale yellow and a lovely, yolky smell

Rolling out the Pasta Dough

Cut and Waiting to be Boiled

Finished off with some Carrot Top Pesto