Pesto Pasta With an Egg
It's been a long, cold January, and it seems like everyone I know is either knocked out with the flu, slogging through seasonal blues or grieving the loss of a loved one. I fall into the latter, having lost my dear friend and long-time hairdresser, Carey Carter, to a stroke. For the second time in my life I wrote an obituary, my dad's being the first. It's a cathartic gesture to be able to help when everyone is numb with disbelief, helplessness and grief. I had a few days to absorb it - he lingered in a coma before dying in hospice the day I was set to visit him. It helped me process his death by being able to help. I could write. And so I did. I got great stories from friends that made me laugh and cry. He was a huge presence on Atlanta's social scene, having chaired all the major galas and raising millions for countless causes. But to me he was the kindest man, who always made me feel beautiful. I took comfort in knowing that he was happy when I found Jeff. One of the stories someone shared was that when Jeff asked me to marry him, Carey scoured the Jewish community to find out what kind of a guy he was. I had kissed a lot of frogs, and Carey didn't want to see me make another mistake. He was elated to hear only great things. And so was I - one bad report and who knows what he would have done with those scissors. I was one of Carey's "girls," and Carey took care of his girls.
Of course the thing about grief is that you can't hide from it. After writing and editing and re-writing, I submitted the obit to our daily paper and a nonprofit newsletter. And in the quiet that ensued when there was nothing left to do, the grief washed over me and I ached for him. Once, I was having dinner with a friend who had lost her husband suddenly two years before. "Well, he's not coming back," she said as if she had finally figured that out. I was so sad for her. But I still catch myself wanting to call my dad. Even though I feel his presence around me all the time, he's not there. And he's not coming back.
Grieving makes me crave comfort food. Slow simmering stews with chunks of seared beef and carrots, rich and spicy chili loaded with shredded cheese and sour cream, and golden roast chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes. Jeff's on a month-long cleanse, so I have no one to chew with. I've resorted to my old favorite comfort meal from my single days: A perfectly cooked sunny side up egg atop pasta with pesto and dotted with Sriracha. It's a rather beautiful contrast of bright colors -- the orange yoke oozing over the green and smeared with squirts of red. We eat with our eyes but grieve with our stomachs. Try this dish on a cold rainy night, and if your husband is on a cleanse just eat it over the kitchen counter with a dishtowel across your chest lest the yoke drip down your chin and onto your PJs.
1 C fresh basil roughly chopped
1/4 C Marcona almonds
1/4 C Parmesan cheese cut in chunks
1/2 C olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste
In a food processor combine the nuts and cheese and whirl until finely chopped. Add the basil and whirl until you get a pebbly green mixture. Pour in olive oil and blend. Stop and scrape down the edges of the bowl and add salt and pepper. Whirl again to make sure you've incorporated every delicious smear.