Monday, April 7, 2014


My theme for A to Z this year is a wildly different, but very exciting, HERE'S TO YOU all month long. 26 posts to be precise. The most difficult part was narrowing down the 26. All of you deserve your own post. What you will find here is a post by the featured blogger, with traveling music chosen by me that complements said post, and two links. One will link back to the original post and the other to the main page. This year's A to Z is all about making new friends!

The Food Floozie is none other than my friend Yenta Mary. No, we haven't met in person, but it FEELS like we have. Mary defines a Food Floozie this way on her blog: "floo·zie \ˈflü-zē\: a usually young woman of loose morals. Thus a Food Floozie is not a woman who can be seduced by virtually any man, but rather a woman who can be seduced by virtually any food (other than sushi)."

Mary is experiencing a year of change. She just moved to Toledo to take a job as the food editor at The Toledo Blade. I am so excited for her. She is a shining example of all the great things that can flood into your life when you follow your dreams.

Turn up the traveling music:

Orecchiette for a Snow Day by Yenta Mary, The Food Floozie

I read Frank Bruni's autobiography, Born Round, a couple of summers ago. Although it tells a tantalizing tale of his years in the seemingly enviable, but complicated and stressful, position of New York Times restaurant critic, more importantly it's a story of finding oneself, of a difficult relationship with food, and of a loving family.

One portion has stayed with me since reading the book:

"Adele's (Frank's grandmother's) specialty was what most Italian food lovers know as orecchiette, which means 'little ears.' Her name for them, strascinat, pronounced something like strah-zshi-NOT, came from her southern Italian dialect. It alluded to the Italian verbs for 'to trail' and 'to drag' (strascicare and trascinare), because to make this pasta, you'd drag a knife along a sheet of dough, repeatedly pressing down and pinching off just enough of the dough to make an ear-shaped nub of pasta ....

Adele used her thumb as the mold for each strascinat. She would sit at a sizable table, an enormous rectangle of dough before her, and pinch and mold and then flick, the concave nubs landing in a nearby heap. She'd sit for hours, because there was no reliable machine for this endeavor, no dried pasta from a box that could emulate the density and pliancy of her strascinat, no alternative to doing the work, no matter how numbing it was. And even if there had been an alternative, she wouldn't have taken advantage of it. Dried pasta from a box didn't advertise how long and hard you had labored. Dried pasta from a box didn't say love. When you ate a bowl of Grandma's strascinat, covered in the thick red sauce that she and most other Italians simply called 'gravy,' you knew that every piece of pasta had the imprint of her flesh, that the curve of each nub matched the curve of her thumb."

Most people would read this and think, "Wow, Frank's nonna really loved her family. Good thing you can buy so many different pasta shapes at the grocery store, now!"

I, of course - you know what's coming! - read that and immediately thought, "I've gotta try making these some time!" The love infused into the pasta, the passion for preparing real food from scratch ... I was seduced.

Well, last week we had a snow day: 6+ inches of snow coupled with messy roads and no power at work. We didn't have any power at home, either, but Jeremy and I made the very best of it. He played Nirvana, the Ramones, and the Pixies on his Kindle, and - thankfully! - our gas stove worked as long as we lit the burners ourselves.

And so, the day had come. Jeremy and I made our own pasta!

I mixed the dough, then Jeremy came to help me with the shaping. After reading a number of recipes for strascinat, which - as Frank noted - I've always known as orecchiette [ohr-ay-keeAY-tay], I saw that many involve rolling the dough into a cylinder and then cutting pieces which are then formed, as described above, by imprinting one's thumb into them. So, that's what we did. One by one by one by one ... over and over again. To some, it might be boring. To some, it might be futile.

To us - yes, even to Jeremy (though if we'd been making enough to feed an entire family, rather than just ourselves, he might have had a different opinion!) - it was fun. We chatted, we compared homely samples to ideal ones. We made dinner and a memory, all at once.

Throughout the afternoon, Jeremy and I checked on our "babies" as they dried. I cooked up some diced tomatoes, red onion, garlic, hot Italian sausage, and kale, because the beauty of orecchiette is that the little scoops hold bits of the sauce. Different pasta shapes are designed for different toppings. The sturdier and heartier the base, the sturdier and heartier the sauce should be; thus, a light marinara is lovely served over angel hair pasta, but our orecchiette required something substantial.

And then, as the sun went down and the house was cold and every candle I own was burning, Jeremy and I ate an amazing hot and heart-warming meal.


2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup water
1 egg

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours and the salt.

In a measuring cup, combine the water and the egg; pour over the dry ingredients and stir to mix.

Sprinkle flour on the countertop and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, incorporating a bit more flour as needed. Divide dough into quarters, wrapping the unused portions in plastic.

Take one piece of dough at a time and roll it out into a 1/2"-long cylinder.

Cut pieces of dough about the size of a chickpea.

Roll the small pieces of dough into balls, rolling in a touch of flour if needed; then press down with your thumb to make a flat disc that curves slightly like the shape of an ear. Continue until you've used all of the dough.

Let the discs rest for 30 minutes, then re-press each one to reinforce the shape. Let rest for 1 hour to dry.

Flip the discs over and let them rest for 1 hour or more, until almost dry.  They won't be hard like boxed pasta, but they'll be drier than when you first formed them.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the orrecchiette and cook for 6 minutes or so, until they float to the top and are just "al dente" - slight resistance to the tooth.

Drain. Serve topped with a chunky tomato sauce.

Serves 4.

Drop in on Mary for new recipe ideas and a story!


  1. I've not met Mary. Wow, making your own pasta takes a lot of time, doesn't it?

  2. First time hearing about Mary. If I had this relationship with food, I'd be 100 pounds overweight. I might just try that Orecchiette recipe though.

  3. WOW A gal who can cook. That is always impressive to me. Those little pasta things look interesting. I used to have a pasta maker and that was my closest thing to cooking. Ha

  4. I've always wanted to make my own pasta. I wonder if egg substitute would work though?

    1. An equivalent amount of egg replacer (like Egg Beaters) should be just fine, Diane ... :)

    2. Diane - if you mean Egg Beaters, it should be just fine. If you're using flax seed, I don't know if it would or what the proportions would be ....

  5. Alex ~ My mom sometimes makes her own noodles and those are pretty easy. It's just rolling the dough out and cutting it. This dish is a Process.

    J.L. ~ I love reading Mary's recipes. I've only tried half a dozen of them... maybe. I am not the best cook:(

    Manzi ~ I know. Me too. I think about a time when everything was made from scratch. Cooking was an all day adventure.

    Diane ~ I don't know. If you ask Mary, she will tell you. She is excellent about that sort of thing.

  6. I enjoyed Mary's tale of homemade pasta, making the food together enhancing the taste. It's a great piece of writing about a shared experience.

    1. Thank you so much! My column tomorrow is all about food writing, and how it's really - to me - not so much about food but rather people. Food just starts the conversation or is the vehicle for the story ....

  7. I so envy foodies. They love the whole process of shopping for the food,preparing the food, and eating the food. I wish I felt that way....

  8. Good thing I ate breakfast before I read this (but now I'm hungry again). :)

  9. Tim ~ That is what I like about it, too. It isn't about the food, per se, but the making of a memory.

    Karen ~ I know exactly what you mean!

    David ~ ha! Are you having pasta for lunch???

  10. A post with a recipe, can't beat that. Making the food with love is a lot different than just making it quick, which is for when you don't have time, like after work. That's what I like about making soup and one pot meals that simmer for hours - the love and the spices and herbs.

    A very interesting post that makes me want pasta. Never made it from scratch. I might buy it 'fresh', but I doubt I'd make it. I taught myself French cooking and took a few courses instead.

  11. Good luck at your new job, Mary! My daughter wants to be a chef like her daddy one day. I try and let her make dinner/breakfast once a week. She still thinks it's fun, so we'll see. I'd rather be an editor of food, like you.

    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

    1. Thank you so much, Elsie! That's fabulous that your daughter likes to cook - if she can hold onto the enthusiasm so it's fun, not work, that will be perfect ... :)

  12. As a foodie who loves to cook I've always wanted to make my own pasta but never have. I bet something like this could be great in my famous lobster mac. Uh oh, the seed has been planted. Ideas are forming...

  13. ROBIN ~
    You picked a great song for this blog bit.

    I see how it works on TWO levels... the food aspect AND the recent move to Toledo, OHIO!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Robin is amazing when it comes to picking songs, especially for me! She's always absolutely spot on!

  14. If my food looked like that, I'd be a food floozy, too!

  15. Hah! Seduced by any food. I like that. Might have to try this recipe. Thanks!

  16. I do follow Mary's blog. She is terrific. Congrats, Mary.

  17. I haven't met Mary...yet. Thanks for the intro, Robin. How does she look so lovely and slender?

    Be well.

  18. I'm going to have to go check out Mary's blog. Thanks for the intro :)

  19. Mary's blog is new to me. Just what I need--something to make me hungry.

    You're not going to trick me into listening to "Yummy, Yummy". That's another one of those earworm songs. I happen to like that one, but if I listen to it I'll be hearing it in my head the rest of the day.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  20. D.G. ~ You've taken cooking courses? Sounds like you're a bit of a food floozie, too...

    Elsie ~ All of the job reports I've read are good. Isn't it wonderful when life delivers a job you love????

    ABFTS ~ Let me know how that turns out...

    StMc ~ Yes! Finally someone noticed that Yummy Yummy Yummy was sung by The Ohio Express. It just doesn't get more perfect than that!!!

    Sherry ~ I know what you're saying!

    debi ~ Be sure to report on how it turns out...

    JJ ~ Yes, she is:)

    Robyn ~ I do not know. I wonder this all of the time. She cooks up a story and stays thin. If I cooked like that... well, I'd just rather not think about it.

    Mark ~ YW. Happy to oblige.

  21. Somehow I've always found it difficult to follow my dreams. It sounds so easy but maybe that's just me, Robin. Maybe I need more love in my tummy, is all. I happen to be no Master Chef but I'm fascinated by people's fascination for making the perfect dish.

  22. How have I missed this??? A Food Floozie??? Just my kind of gal! I'm heading over. And maybe, just maybe, I'll try making that pasta! Oh, yum!!!

  23. Cheers to getting that writing job, perfect for a Food Floozie.

  24. Love the idea of a food floozie, and so excited that she clearly got the perfect job!

  25. I've never made pasta before. I've always been too intimidated to try it. And what a great job to be a food editor and follow your passion. :)

  26. Yummy...You got me with food! My dream job...Anthony Bourdain has it!

  27. Mmm, food! I love seeing pics of the food people make. And whatever that was on Mary's blog looked so perfect w/the lines carved in it. Like a little work of art. =)

  28. Blue ~ We all need more love in our tummy. Or maybe there is no such thing as too much love in your tummy...

    Liza ~ I have no idea. I have featured Mary several times in my HERE'S TO YOU postings, though not recently....

    Susan ~ Isn't it? I love how things turn out sometimes.

    Andrea ~ Food Floozie. It just rolls deliciously on the tongue.

    L.G. ~ Me either. I have trouble flipping eggs over easy. But, I am so happy for her!

    Brandon ~ Yeah, she is getting invites to all of the best places!

    Siv ~ You had me with Food... hahaha.

    Leandra ~ What is it about pictures of food? That was rhetorical.

  29. Who can resist a Food Floozie?! I can't wait to meet Yenta Mary! She sounds like a lot of fun, and I can certainly use some new exciting recipes! You are doing a fantastic job, Robin!


  30. My blog focus was on a Mary today, too. I wish your Mary the best of luck with her new job!!

  31. Well, I'm hungry; but not inspired to cook. I just like people who know how to make food enticing :)


  32. Thanks for sharing the Food Floozie blog Definitely going to check out her blog!

  33. I have a love hate relationship with food. I love it but my waistline doesn't. ha! Food Floozie, great title/name!


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