When my mother and I went to Napa, one of the vineyards we visited was small. So small that we had to speak into an intercom before the owner herself waved us in, so small that the owner, took us on an ATV ride through her vineyard, whipping around corners so fast that occasionally a vine would slap me across the face gently.
We stopped at a clearing where she'd held a harvest party only weeks before and she smiled as she told us of how the night had devolved into dancing around a bonfire, the kind of dancing, she said, "that you do because it feels good just to move," and I smiled because I was newly acquainted with the simple pleasure of being able to power your own body freely.
It was so small that we retired to her deck and sipped each of her wines, slowly, carefully, as she told us the story of each batch : one round of grapes came from the same season her children went to prom, the other the year they went to college, still another the first she and her husband ever attempted to see through, from seed to glass, in its entirety. The sun glinted off the galvanized bucket that kept the Chardonnay still, and we slowly swapped stories, and I remember feeling as if I could sink into the cushions of the chair and stay in the moment forever. And I wanted to stay in the moment forever.
This recipe is for that kind of delicious slowness.
It is for reclaiming your life from torn cuticles, jumbled to-do lists and Evernotes with scraps of phrases that seemed utterly important in the moment but are now meaningless crumbs, clues to a past mental state.
It is the slowness of uncorking a rich red wine after salting your front steps, and watching a storm lazily roll in. It is the slowness of spending an evening in front of the stove, immersed in a boxy sweatshirt stolen from your brother without guilt.
It is the slowness of realizing that a Sunday with time given to yourself, given to your favorite pursuits, the ones that send you to bed with a heart that sighs happily, is time well spent.
It is the slowness of rich, delicious, healthy food. It is the slowness of food that is healthy that tastes anything but. It is the slowness of vibrant, bursting tomatoes and crunchy zucchini and chicken with a hint of nutty coating.
This recipe I made up as I went along, pinching dried herbs from their containers, whisking in a confetti of cracked black pepper as I saw fit. You should do the same - experiment, taste test, dip the spoon into the sauce twice to make sure it's just as you like it. Eat seconds. Eat thirds. Be slow.
nutty chicken parmesan with homemade quick marinara and zoodles
bonus : gluten-free, sugar-free, tastes like anything but
First - you make the marinara. Empty a large can of crushed tomatoes into a pot and slowly heat. Quarter a handful of cherry tomatoes and add to the sauce - I crushed mine against the sides of the pot, with a wooden spoon, as they cooked. Mix in three cloves of crushed garlic, generous pinches of : oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper. Taste. Adjust. You'll know when it's done.
Second - Preheat the oven to 425. Whisk two eggs in one bowl. Whisk 3/4 cup almond meal, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, pinch parsley and oregano in another bowl. Dip your chicken breast (I used chicken breast tenders, adjust your cook time accordingly if you use a thicker cut) into the egg first, than the almond meal mixture. Place each into a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Third - Cover the chicken with 3/4 of the sauce, then scatter 1/2 a cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup of parmesan atop your chicken. Slice X's into the tops of a few remaining cherry tomatoes and scatter them around the pan. They'll sweeten and burst slightly as you cook.
Fourth - Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Fifth - Place your zucchini noodles in a pan with olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir for under five minutes, mix in the remainder of your sauce.
Serve all together, piping hot. Take a picture and then put away your phone. Pour some wine. Slow down.