GET OUT! (a sneak peak!)

GET OUT!

No, really, I mean, get out!

Not as in get out because I don’t like you but more like let’s go outside.

So, last year we bought a little house. An adorable, well-loved house. And in the past 9 months we’ve turned the house into a home, complete with a brand new interior and a color treatment that makes me weep tears of joy. I mean that literally. Take a quick look.

before-after-nook

It’s not my intention to keep any of this a secret because a) I’m a blabbermouth and b) I love our home and its interior design thanks to the amazing Christian May.  But acknowledging how we all like to look at interiors these days (“Before/After”, “The Big Reveal”, “Move! That! Bus!”), I’m choosing to hold off just a bit before sharing it with the world. If you’ve been over then you’ve seen it taking shape, slowly but surely. And if you haven’t, well, check back shortly because we’ll be ready to share it with the world soon enough. Maybe here, maybe somewhere else. Who knows :)

Oh, but back to that Get Outside bit.

Ever since moving to California 17 years ago, I realized one thing: I am happiest outside. Bright sun, cool air (and sometimes not-so-cool and yes, smoggy) and views of the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other have fueled me and made me a very happy man. And I made a promise to myself when I first got to this Golden State: set up shop, make a home, and entertain with abandon. While a few of those things have come true over the years, we’re only now realizing that last part with the actual dream of being homeowners who just happen to want to throw a party in the backyard every now and then.  And a few months ago we began the process of turning our yard into something magical, a place where friends can stop by for beer and cocktails, enjoy a bbq or a pizza from the wood-fired oven, take a quick dip in a little pool and sit around next to a fire, wrapped in a blanket under the stars and talk about things until wee hours of the morning. Or until Adam tells me to get to bed and makes everyone leave. Or stay. Whatever.

In a nutshell, I’ve dreamed of turning this…

yard-before

Into this.

seating-area

And while the firepit with its seating is complete, there’s still quite a bit of construction left to be done. In the next few weeks I’ll be documenting the process, sharing images and progress, and eventually uploading the quicktime movie I’ve made of the entire project (from demolition to completion because yes, the camera tech geek in me couldn’t resist).

I also must perfect pizza doughs and learn to cook in a wood-fired oven and I’m sure there will be plenty of mistakes. Maybe I’ll document those too (if I don’t eat them first!)

But lastly, I want to say one thing.  A huge part of me never wanted to take this leap of faith (and part with the hard earned cash) to make something like this come true. In a way I never thought it was possible or that I should do it, for whatever messed up reason. Deep down inside I still feel like a modest kind of guy. But in light of realizing that so much in this world can disappear in an instant and that life is meant to be lived and shared with others, well, I’m just going to stop analyzing it all and just be. And I hope you’ll be there with me to come over and eat.

So let’s get out, shall we?

Caroline Wright ‘s Cacio e Pepe and a giveaway!

9780761174936_p0_v1_s260x420I can’t exactly remember when I met Caroline as this whole online food world introduces you to so many people on a regular basis. But I do remember this: instant connection. Bright. Fun. Sharp. All the qualities I love in friends, and the fact that she knows food made it all the better.

So when she told me she was writing a book , Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, I couldn’t help but get excited. But little did I know this book would actually help me. As in I-need-something-quick-n-easy-but-still-delicious kind of help, and early on while reviewing the galley of the book I noticed myself actually cooking from it. And it’s not that I don’t mean to cook from the books written by my friends, but after spending all day in the studio with food I don’t usually get excited enough to step into our kitchen at home. Caroline has changed this.

 I wrote her a quick email and thanked her for really amazing solid recipes that feature ingredients that get me excited. And then I thanked her for the Cacio e Pepe recipe that has literally become a staple for us. As in once-a-week, as in super easy and delicious. And while I’ve tried quite a few recipes for this dish that features a delicious play between cheese and black pepper, I must tell you that this is my favorite and you will absolutely want to follow her steps for toasting. It makes all the difference in the world. Seriously.  (And yes, I was lazy once and tried to skip it and it just wasn’t the same, trust me on this).

Matt-Pasta

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 1 pound spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta (reserve 3/4 cup pasta water) and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Place 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns in the pan and toast until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the peppercorns in a mortar and crush with a pestle until coarsely ground. Transfer the pepper to a medium bowl with 3 large egg yolks and 2 packed cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

When the pasta is done, stir 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water into the egg mixture, add the pasta, and toss to coat. Stir in the remaining pasta water, if needed, to reach the desired consistency. Season with salt, and serve immediately.

Excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, Copyright 2013 by Caroline Wright. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York. All Rights Reserved.

I’m giving away a copy of her latest book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, to a random commenter below. Leave a comment, I’ll pick a random number, and the book shall be yours!

Caroline Wright is a food writer, editor, recipe developer and tester, food stylist, and photographer who works for Cooking Light, Real Simple, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Women’s Day, and Oxmoor House, among others. A former food editor at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, she is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne.