Big changes (and some tasty pasta with cauliflower)
Are you ready for some Very Big Exciting News? (If not, there’s a recipe for a pretty awesome pasta dish with cauliflower, parsley, capers, and lemon below, so you can just head right on down to the bottom.)
Also, I did a really good job of picking an entirely white recipe to pair with what’s actually a pretty exciting announcement. Way to go, me.
Anyways. What I have to say is not new news for many of you, but it feels big and exciting all over again for me, now that we’re finally able to talk about it publicly to the whole wide world.
In about seven weeks (seven weeks!) Brett and I will be leaving our home, our jobs, and our life in Southern California to take on the world – one full year of traveling throughout the US, Canada, South America, Asia, and Europe. We’re planning on about half the year in North America and the other half abroad, with a mainly flexible itinerary so we can go wherever the winds take us. Brett will be applying to PhD programs this fall, and at the end of the year of travel we’ll end up in a university town somewhere in the US or Canada.
So – pretty big and exciting, huh? (Also terrifying, but I’m choosing not to think about that part right now.)
We’ve known for a few years that something like this would be coming down the line – we knew we wanted the chance to travel and spend time with our family and friends before life (jobs, kids, etc.) tethers us to one place for a while. And we knew we wouldn’t stay in Southern California forever (heck, we’re shocked we’re still here six years after graduating from college). So after we got married we continued saving money, and just about a year ago we started talking about our next steps – when Brett would apply to school, and what sorts of things we wanted to do before we started thinking about having kids. Brett finishing his masters and applying to a PhD program and me wanting to explore some other job options provided kind of a perfect transition point to take the plunge, and here we are.
We want to use this time to recalibrate our lives a bit and to think about what comes next. Over the last year I’ve alluded to to some of the thoughts and concerns that have been forefront in my mind – issues like life-work balance, diverting from the path in front of you, and prioritizing what makes you feel happy, fulfilled, and empowered (see this post, for instance). This isn’t a site about those things so I didn’t go into much detail about them, but I’ll just say that it’s those kinds of thoughts that have helped me make some big changes in my life (leaving my job back in December, for one) and that have driven us to take this big leap of faith. We have faith in ourselves that we can make this year one of the best and most important of our lives, faith in the world to send our way amazing opportunities and experiences, faith that all of this will make us better citizens, better people, and eventually better parents, and faith in both ourselves and our community that when we return we’ll be able to build ourselves an amazing home and a fulfilling life somewhere new.
So. Whew. We’ve got about seven weeks to sort and pack up or sell all of our things and to prepare ourselves for this big adventure. In the meantime you might notice some strange things here on the site, because things are a little interrupted in our house right now … like how yesterday I went to photograph some raspberry meringues (beautiful but unfortunately soft and gloopy failed raspberry meringues) and realized all of my cake plates are already packed. Or how, as we try to eat and drink everything left in our house, we’re getting a little creative with available resources (henceforth referred to in our house as “quinoa and sardine” dinners). (Also, if anyone has ideas of how to finish up a bottle of smoked black tea liqueur, please let me know.)
I do intend to keep up the site while we’re traveling, but I doubt as regularly and with slightly different content. Weekend Links might turn into a monthly thing at certain times of the year, and during the times we don’t have a kitchen or bar to work with posts might focus a little more on stories about food we’re eating or places we’re going instead of specific recipes.
We’ve also started a blog specifically for our travels, so check that out if you want to keep track of where we are and what we’re doing. The About page talks a little more about why we’re doing this whole thing, and there’s also an Itinerary page with a general outline of the plan for the year (nothing’s really set in stone past October, though, so we’ll try to keep it updated as we make plans/get to places).
But now let’s talk about some food, shall we?
Last night – after finishing up a catering order for today and before we cleaned out our closets (Goal: each of us get one dresser each for all of our clothes. Holy crap.) – we threw together a pasta dish inspired by one of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower. The tangy freshness of a parsley, lemon, and caper sauce pairs perfectly with the sweet, nutty, creaminess of roasted or grilled cauliflower, and I knew this would be an easy thing to toss with pasta for a complete dinner. Brett threw some whole garlic cloves on the grill tray along with the cauliflower, and we mashed that in as well.
It was a lovely dinner to divert us from our packing to-do list and from the realization that we only have about three weekends left in town before we leave (even if we still spent much of the time debating which board games will come with us and which will stay behind …). We’re hoping to make the most of our time left, and this sort of thing enjoyed in the backyard with a bottle of red wine was a good way to do it.
Pasta with cauliflower, parsley, capers, and lemon
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side
Note: The cauliflower can be grilled or roasted, making this dish perfect for preparation year-round.
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (if your head of cauliflower has a stem, peel and cut this up too)
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled (optional)
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp capers, rinsed and minced
- 3-4 anchovy filets, minced (optional)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or more, to taste), plus more for tossing with the cauliflower
- Zest from 1 small lemon
- Juice from 1/2-1 small lemon (to taste)
- Around 2 Tbsp. red or white wine vinegar (to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 servings of dry pasta – spaghetti, orecchiette, and penne would be great choices, but anything will work
- If grilling the cauliflower, preheat on medium-high heat and prepare with a tray/grate for grilling small items. If broiling, preheat the broiler. If roasting, preheat oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper. If using the garlic cloves, coat those with olive oil as well. If grilling: add cauliflower and garlic to grilling tray/grate and cook until well browned and tender when tested with a fork or a small, sharp knife. The garlic should be golden brown and softened. Remove smaller florets and cloves as they finish cooking, moving them to indirect heat as possible or removing from the grill altogether. Keep the garlic cloves separate and mash them together in a small bowl. If roasting: spread mixture on a baking sheet and roast for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until browned on the edges and tender when tested with a fork or small, sharp knife. The garlic should be golden brown and softened. Remove the roasted garlic cloves and mash them together in a small bowl.
- While the cauliflower and garlic are cooking, prepare the sauce. Mix chopped parsley, capers, and anchovies in a small bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar and whisk together. Salt and pepper to taste and adjust oil, lemon juice, and vinegar as needed, keeping in mind that the sauce will be slightly acidic because of the vinegar and the lemon juice.
- Cook the pasta as directed, using a large pot of heavily salted, boiling water. When done, drain and mix with the cauliflower, the mashed garlic cloves, and the sauce.