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21 February 2008

our morning routine disrupted

leek and prosciutto pasta

Damn you, Jamie Oliver. You always make me hungry.

Long, languid morning moments in bed with the Chef are almost always my favorite of the day. In a way, that time is sacred space. I don’t mean that we light candles and chant incantations. I mean, in the utter mundanity of cups of hot coffee, worn cotton pajamas, and the rustle of the newspaper between us — there is life.

The two of us? We have increasingly busy lives. I have to work hard to resist climbing onto the computer as soon as I wake up (comments to publish! Intriguing emails from New York! More questions to answer!), starting the workday before I have put my contacts on. Sometimes, the lure of the outside world calls to me like a siren song. But then, I look up and see the Chef shuffling to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. His hair looks like he has survived a windstorm in the middle of the night. He’s rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and he probably could have slept for an hour more. (That man works hard. Ten hours of prepping and cooking without sitting down once? Whew.) Even though there are always emails to answer, I step away from the computer and slip my bare feet into the wet grass outside to retrieve the paper. We meet back in the bedroom.

And there we stay for the next few hours, listening to the Bob Rivers show on weekdays, eagerly anticipating Breakfast with the Beatles on Sunday mornings. Every morning, I take apart the newspaper, throwing away the sections we never read, and folding open the living section to the comics. I hand it to him. He always reads the comics first. (Frankly, I once thought this was strange. Now, he has me reading Pickles and Lio too.) Long silences lapse, interrupted only by the turning of pages, the sipping of coffee, and the laughter between us. We discuss nearly every story. By the end, our fingers are stained grey and black. Sometimes, I touch his face when I kiss him, and I leave a grey smudge running down his cheek.

And at some point, early on, one of us always says, “What do you want for breakfast?”

(The answer is usually eggs.)

Something we don’t do much of in the mornings that might surprise you? Talk about food. Other than the daily discussion of the first meal of the day, we don’t dream up recipes, hash out last night’s dishes, or imagine what we could create next. Why? Long ago, we tacitly agreed: this is our time together, apart from our work, apart from the world. We are far more than our love for food, expansive as it is. Our love for each other doesn’t always involve memorable mouthfuls, meals that linger in the mind, and mache salads. There are reminiscences of eye surgeries as a child, imagined trips to Lake Powell, and the repetition of a thousand inside jokes that no one else could possibly understand. Food wants to creep in, but we gently push it aside. We want to be alive to each other in a different way, on those long, lovely mornings.

Besides, whenever we start discussing fish specials and speculations of future recipes, the Chef starts dancing. His fingers start tapping on his knee and his toes start pointing north. This waltz has a frantic pace. He’s thinking of the restaurant, and it’s time to go. All his sentences shorten. The languid kisses become pecks on the cheek, followed by a quick pat on the back. I know that routine: time to go.

And so, I’m more than happy to not discuss food until noon.

Damn you, Jamie Oliver. You’ve interrupted our morning.

Really, I should blame the Food Network. I’m not sure why they would relegate the brilliant Mr. Oliver to 9:30 in the morning on Saturdays. Especially because this new series of his, Jamie at Home, is the most mature and compelling series he has ever done. Older and even more sure of himself, Jamie has calmed down his frenzied hand gestures and incomprehensible sound effects. Instead, he’s simply cooking, in a rustic kitchen somewhere in the country.

(He still makes extravagant faces and joyful noises when he loves a bite of food. And frankly, half the time I watch him now, I feel like I’m watching the Chef.)

For me, half the appeal of this show is watching the life I can imagine for ourselves someday. A spacious kitchen filled with light, and an enormous garden just outside the door. Look at Jamie’s kitchen — or at least the one on television. It’s not that luxurious; it’s not outfitted with the latest in gleaming kitchen equipment. But the wooden cutting boards are scarred from so much use. And in that garden are vegetables so enormous and gorgeous that people shopping at grocery stores can only dream of something that good.

Watching Jamie together makes us both laugh with delight at his excitement about fat white leeks. For long moments, there is silence, as we both sit staring at his hands chopping in the kitchen, both our mouths open. And then our minds start racing.

Sometimes, the Chef sends himself a text message with an idea, a squiggle of an idea that will develop through the day into meals for the people who come in that evening.

And so, on Saturday mornings now, we have given up our morning routine. We still read the paper and drink our coffee. We still kiss and giggle. But at 9:30 in the morning, I look over at the clock and jump up for the remote. “Time for Jamie!” I shout. And we settle into bed, cuddling with each other, the remote control clutched in the Chef’s hands. (You know that cliché that men need to control the remote? It’s really true.) Television in the morning, a show about food. The Chef may start dancing earlier in the day than he does on every other day. We leave earlier on Saturdays than any day of the week.

But with Jamie in our ears, and visions of fat white leeks simmering with prosciutto in our minds? The interruption of our morning routine is more than worth it.

Thank you, Jamie Oliver. You always make us happy.

leek and prosciutto III


If you saw the Jamie at Home episode shown last week, you may have run out to buy the ingredients and made this pasta with slow-simmered leeks for dinner that night. I certainly did. Easy-peasy to make and filled with flavor, this pasta dish made us both sigh with happiness, in bed, at midnight.

If you didn’t see the episode, you want to make this for dinner tonight.

One of the tricks we have learned with gluten-free pasta? Undercook it. Italians cook their pasta al dente — a solid surface with a slight bite. It seems that most Americans cook their pasta to death, to the point of flubbiness. Let’s change our ways. With gluten-free pasta, it’s especially important to undercook, just a bit. And until we have created handmade gluten-free pasta we love, we’re using Tinkyada penne for this dish. It works.

When I asked the Chef to make this again, at the restaurant in the afternoon, so I could take photographs, he added a few of his own touches. Sautéed hedgehog and yellowfeet chanterelles mushrooms. Fresh mozzarella. Drizzles of aged balsamic vinegar. Oh lord, I wanted to take those photographs fast.

We shared the bowl of pasta afterward. His face told it all — wide open and rubbery with excitement. “It just melts, all of it together. My mouth is just filled with melty goodness.” And then he made this the pasta special for the night at the restaurant.

So, you know, it works.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, fine diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
3 fat white leeks, root and green parts removed, washed and sliced thin (if the leeks are slender, use 5)
7 slices of the best prosciutto you can find
½ pound wild mushrooms (whatever is within reach for you)
½ teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups cooked pasta
1 large ball fresh mozzarella
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (as aged as you can afford)

Simmering the leeks. Bring 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic cloves to the oil and sauté until you can smell the garlic perfume. (Be sure not to burn the garlic.) Add the thyme and cook until the herb releases its smell. Toss in the sliced leeks and stir for a few moments, until all of the slices are coated with the garlicky, herby fat. Turn down the heat to simmer. Cover the leeks entirely with all the slices of prosciutto, making sure that no steam is evaporating by the end of the process. Cover the skillet with a lid and allow the leeks to simmer for 30 minutes.

Sautéing the mushrooms. In a different pan, bring the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir and cook them until they have shrunk and released their juices. Set the mushrooms aside.

Preparing the pasta. Take the pan with the leeks off the heat. Remove the prosciutto from the top of the leeks. Set those pieces aside and slice them into slivers. Put the cooked pasta into a bowl. Add the sautéed mushrooms and the caramelized leeks. Season with salt and pepper (remember that the prosciutto is salty, so you might want to go light on this one).

Divide the pasta into two plates. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Settle slivers of prosciutto on top of the pasta. Serve immediately.

Feeds 2.


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shauna-
Another delicious post! We are sympatico, amiga- I made Tinkyada fettuccini last night, al dente of course. I made it with my homemade clam sauce- with Penn Cove clams. The island garden has just started giving us fresh oregano and chives again... and my surprise discovery was: Adding salmon roe to the pile of pasta and clam sauce!

I had leftover salmon eggs (ikura) from Valentine's day. So on a whim, I decided to add a teaspoon to the top of each plate, and then put the fresh herbs around the clams, sauce and pasta. WOW! The salmon eggs emulsified the sauce, and with the grated Locatelli romano, made a rich, creamy, out-of-this-world combo... what a nice surprise!

Let's do that together soon.
-xo-La Niña

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't they put Sandra Lee on his spot and upgrade him. I love his new show and yes, his tamed down mannerisms are sexy... watching him simply cook in that rustic kitchen.

I admire your Sunday mornings.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger House of Jules said...

I have had a crush on Jamie Oliver for quite some time now, whether it was first due to his accent, his seeming-mischeivous nature, or his drool-worthy cooking, I'm not sure. Regardless, I totally understand what you're saying about his allure. When I first came to your page today and saw the photo, I had a pavlovian response and actually said, out loud, "What the? WHOA." and I mean that in the best, "Darn you, Shauna, you & The Chef always make me hungry" kind of way!
House of Jules

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Cannelle Et Vanille said...

You just described perfectly my ideal morning (Breakfast with the Beatles) and Jamie Oliver at 9:30am. I saw the leeks show and I thought that dish was amazing. I also want to live in a country house like that, wear my wellies and my Barbour jacket, have a wood burning oven outside... That new show is like you said the best he has ever had.
Thank you for sharing that with us. You are the most amazing writer and I look forward to reading your blog!

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Tanaya said...

Shauna, I love you. I love chef, I love Jamie....

but sauteed hedgehog??? As in HEDGEHOG????

tell me this is a secret code for something else. What am I missing out on? :) Tanaya

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is wonderful. First, I wanted to go fetch a cup of hot coffee and pretend I was enjoying a slow, relaxing morning at home. Then I thought about paying for cable, just so I could watch Jamie Oliver's show. Now? I think I want to give that recipe a try...

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Kathleen said...

I read the comics (and do the crosswords) first, too! And now my 8-year old has started.
That pasta looks amazing. Any suggestions about how to do it without the prosciutto? My hubby is not a huge meat-eater, especially when it comes to cured meats.
Thanks for all your posts. I've become a real fan.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Jennwynn said...


I'm not gluten-free, or a cook really even, but I love to read your words about food and love and life.

Thank you for sharing the moments between. :)

(Maybe eventually you'll convince me to cook...)

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Daniela said...

Oh great Shauna, now I am hungry even though I just had lunch (Just a quick Tofu, Asparagus, and Red Pepper Stir-Fry with Quinoa)

I love Jamie - he was so popular in Europe that everyone in my family, including my grandmom, owns all his books. Now he made to the US and people love him here too.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Lora said...

I've read and re-read the recipe and perhaps I'm just blind, but I don't see where we are supposed to add the fresh mozzarella. Is that supposed to be the thin slices near the end (where you reference slices of fresh prosciutto)? This sounds wonderful and I will certainly be adding it to my list of recipes to try.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger chris said...

Several hours in bed in the morning? Reading the paper? Actually having a conversation? Every parent of young children who reads this will remember that as a distant memory!

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Allergic Girl® said...

now that looks really delish! thank you chef and jaime!

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Shauna! You mentioned the Chef's morning hair, and I couldn't help but think of the lyrics to the silly song "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" by Trout Fishing in America. It begins, "My hair had a party last night/
It musta got into a terrible fight/
'Cause when my head hit the pillow it was lookin' all right/My hair had a party last night."


This dish looks delicious. I've been eating cinnamon rolls for two days and, blissful as that's been, am hankering for some protein! Yum yum yum.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Larc said...

Love that Jamie Oliver and all his shows! This one is special, though, and everytime we watch it we wish we could buy a house in the English countryside, too. That Pavlova he made in the egg episode? I am so making it next time we have company!

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have been reading for awhile now and have never commented. Similar to another reader, I love your words, after I discovered your site I had to go back and read about your wedding, honeymoon in Italy...and many other posts, I am addicted. Anyhow, I had to write today because my husband and I are just as entranced with Jamie's new show! We were never into him before, but I won a few of his most recent cookbooks in a raffle and suddenly he was on our radar. We had stopped watching the FN and then all of a sudden I tivo-ed his new show and poof...addicted again!

I am saving the episodes b/c I want to make everything...similar to the way I feel about your posts! Thank you for the incredible writing and sharing of your life!


At 8:21 PM, Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

This sounds incredible. Though we do not have celiac, ny husband is a Type 2 diabetic and we thought we couldn't enjoy pasta since even the high fiber whole wheat versions spiked his sugar. But we have recently found quinoa pasta, which tastes good (my kids can't tell the difference) and keeps his blood sugaron an even keel!

At 11:49 PM, Blogger Amanda said...


Of course the weekends are when I don't watch the Food Network, and clearly I've been missing a goldmine.

What a lovely recipe. I can almost taste it from the photos.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger elizabeth said...

Oh my- this does look so tempting and delicious... pasta for breakfast, maybe?

I love Jamie's new show too (and that kitchen/ garden). It really makes me want to leave the city for the country sometimes.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger rebelgirl7 said...

Hey Shauna

I think you need to put a caveat on your Rosemary/Garlic finger-lickin-chicken dish. That would be: Best prepared during the summer months, with the door open. I am making some bread and the house smells like roast chicken from last weekend and I'm thinking about licking the drywall!

At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you and the chef have children, those leisurely days of lying around pondering the day will be LOOOOONG gone, never to return until the kids go to college. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won't.

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Made that dish for dinner tonight (just leeks and prosciutto, without balsamico and mozzarella). I am cooking under chaotic circumstances right now, as I've just moved - just rudimentary burners, no kitchen. I used a plate to cover the pan, too, because I have not found the lids yet.

It turned out fine and very delicious. So simple!

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great looking pasta and weekend morning!

At 4:05 PM, Blogger chris said...

Hey now, Kate just said that because we're jealous. Seriously. Don't scare the woman.

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I made this dish tonight, and it was super super rich. Which is fine, but I probably only needed to make about half as much. Delish, though.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Gourmama said...

Shauna - I love Jamie Oliver, and have even posted about him on my blog too. Loved the leek episode - did you see the recent rhubarb one? It was great, too. :)

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna,

How funny that you post about this pasta, as my mom called me up from California a few days ago to tell me that she had just made it and I should give it a whirl. While in London in January, she and I both bought 'Jamie at Home', the book that accompanies the series. To date, its probably my favorite of all of his books! Thanks for the nice post.


At 9:56 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

I remember those lovely pre-kid Saturday mornings in bed with husband, coffee and newspaper. Enjoy! And thanks for the heads-up about Jamie Oliver's show. It sounds like something we would enjoy too.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love his new show. I've never even eaten leeks but when I saw him make that pasta, I got very excited about trying it.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I love mornings. when it's just the two of you and nothing else. the best.

By the end, our fingers are stained grey and black. Sometimes, I touch his face when I kiss him, and I leave a grey smudge running down his cheek.

I always hate getting newsprint on my fingers, yet, of course, you make it sounds adorable. ;P

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Sheltie Girl said...

Shauna - The chef did a fabulous job on the pasta! I love his version with mushrooms, slabs of mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I think this is something I'll have to serve to my husband, he'd love it.

Thanks for the Saturday AM tip about Jaimie Oliver's show. On Saturday, everyone sleeps late at my house, except for me. I drink tea and have a long spot of alone time...well the Sheltie likes to hang out with me.

Thanks for sharing!

Sheltie Girl

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a small world! My boyfriend and I ate at The Chef's restaurant Sunday evening and he told us to drop by your blog.

Then, this morning, I read your comment on Heidi's 101 Cookbooks!

The Chef's food was phenomenal, and I'm glad I made it over here, however meander-ingly!


At 1:13 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

Jamie Oliver is the one of the few reasons I get out of bed besides tacos and coffee.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Zoomie said...

Thanks for sharing your slow, loving mornings as well as your recipe (which sounds delicious!).

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really wish that I could will myself to spend forty dollars a month for cable. Jamie Oliver might just be worth it.

I really look forward to your posts. You have such a way with words, full of passion and love. I want to jump up and hug my husband and then go bake a gratin. Thank you.

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks luscious.

I use Trader Joe's rice pasta exclusively now. It's organic and much cheaper than Tinkyada--$2 for a 16 oz package, as opposed to around $3.50 for a 12 ounce pack of Tinkyada organic pasta (to compare apples to apples). In my opinion it's quite as good as Tinkyada. I serve it to non-gluten free friends with nothing but good results.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Jean M said...

goodness, i love bacon so I have a hard time understanding the bacon-hating!

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to tell you, the Food Network has butchered Jamie's show. They've cut out all the best bits. I bought the DVD from England, and watch it on my computer. The show is as much about his garden as the recipes. He has a gardener, they converse, there are growing tips, you miss all that. There are many humorous moments too; but the Food Network has traded those for commercial time. I am happy, so many are enjoying the show in spite of the high-handed editing. Jamie is the best...v

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Keith said...

We just had a bunch of leaks in our fridge and we saw that episode of jamie oliver. We made the pasta too. mmmm. He can be so dreamy.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger bb said...

Inspired by the photo, I made this last night. It was insanely good. Maybe there's good food after Celiac after all. Thank you.


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