I can remember my mom telling me how, when she was pregnant with me, she would ride the bus into downtown San Francisco for work. For the entire first trimester, she would bring a plastic bag with her, to barf in discretely. I knew this story my whole life, but it was not until I was pregnant the first time – and not so discretely barfing into my office trashcan – that I realized exactly what she meant, exactly how often ‘every day’ was, exactly how exhausting it could be.
When I was pregnant with Lucas, the sick part of things happened in the thick of summer. Almost every morning, we would go to the pool. I would plop Jacob down in the kiddie wading area, lower myself gingerly in next to him, and then attempt to hold still enough that I could keep down whatever bread-ish item I had managed to eat for breakfast. When the heat of mid-day came, we would head out. I kept lunch for him (and plastic bags for me) in the car. We would get home and collapse in our air conditioning, which I shamelessly cranked with not a twinge of guilt, and we would nap. We would eat nut butter sandwiches for dinner, with fruit salad or just slices of melon. Kyle had to ‘cook’ it all because by late afternoon just the thought of the kitchen made me feel even more wretchedly ill. And then …
And then, one day late in summer, our friends Polly and Pat invited us for dinner. Polly was also pregnant with her second – a few months ahead of me and past the sick part – and our mutual friends Elizabeth and Sebastian would be there too … Elizabeth was also pregnant, about a week ahead of me, and had been living on mac-and-cheese for the preceding couple months.
Jacob and his friends Henry and Charlie all played and ate happily together – none of them even vaguely comprehending how soon and how irrevocably their lives as only-children would be changing. Polly and Pat put out the most amazing spread, and as we sat down at the table, I realized something. My stomach was not turning. In fact, the food looked amazing. Including meat, green salad, even barbecue sauce. Things I had not been able to think about, much less actually eat, for months. Suddenly, I was starving. I am pretty sure I ate four helpings of pasta salad, and had room left over for dessert.
It turned out that the barfing-trimester had passed. The roasted-veggie pasta salad that Polly made (and which all three pregnant mamas scarfed down, though perhaps I was the most exuberant) became a go-to for me. We brought it to every potluck we attended that summer. Now, almost two years later, it has been tweaked and toyed with in the way that your most-used recipes often are. It remains well-balanced and delicious, and is a definite crowd-pleaser if you’re headed to a backyard barbecue. When I make it for home, it is a stand-alone dinner that everyone is happy with.
One of the biggest adjustments to the recipe comes via my cousin Melissa (yes, the same one who braved the scallops with me). She gave us a pasta-salad recipe for our wedding cookbook that included fruit. She uses strawberries and kiwis. I like strawberries with apples. Either way, you want to try this.
And if you happen to know any moms-to-be who aren’t feeling so well, perhaps you can make a little extra and drop it off. It might be just the thing to help them out of the plastic-bag period.
Polly’s Pasta Salad – now with Roasted Broccoli, Dandelion Greens, and Fruit
Polly photocopied this recipe for me from one of her Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (thanks Polly!). She made it true to the recipe – as you can see I’ve gotten a little ways away. There are a few critical things that I learned from the original though, and they are the things that make this salad. First of all, don’t be shy with the lemon or with the cheese (feta really is perfect, asiago is another nice choice, this is strange because these are very different cheeses, but both really do work well here). Second of all, dress the pasta while it is still warm – this allows the dressing to absorb into the noodles, and it almost gives it that been-sitting-in-the-fridge-overnight quality that is so excellent in a pasta salad. Finally, once you have had pine nuts in pasta salad – you will never go back to not having them. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but the first time I had this dish, it was a real revelation. And finally – don’t forget the strawberries. Don’t even pretend to forget them because you think it’s weird. Just try it already.
3 cups broccoli florets and peeled, chopped stems
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (original recipe called for orzo, which is quite good – the organic heart-shaped noodles colored with vegetable extracts are popular here)
1 bunch red dandelion greens, stemmed and thinly ribboned
For the dressing:
2 lemons, zest and juice (at least 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice – if you don’t get that much from two lemons, go ahead and juice/zest another one – more is good :) )
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 large shallots, diced
1 scant teaspoon grainy mustard
1 scant teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 scant teaspoon honey
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignolis)
1/2 pound feta OR 1/4 pound asiago
10 strawberries, sliced
1 small apple (Fuji is really nice here, so is Pink Lady), diced
8-10 fresh basil leaves, julienned
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Preheat the oven to 425 F. On a large sheet pan, toss the broccoli with a good drizzle of olive oil and some salt. When your oven is heated, roast the broccoli for 8-10 minutes, or until just starting to darken in places.
While broccoli is roasting, bring salted water to a boil. Cook pasta per package directions.
In a large serving bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. It should be very bright and summery tasting. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and transfer to the bowl with the dressing. Add the dandelion ribbons and the roasted broccoli to the pasta, and toss everything together, making sure everything is well coated in dressing.
Let the pasta-broccoli-dandelion mixture cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, feta, and fruit and gently mix everything together. Check the seasonings, add salt if needed, or another squeeze of lemon juice.
When making this for friends later in the summer I usually add some julienned basil leaves and cherry tomatoes. Kyle doesn’t love tomatoes though so when making it at home, or in spring time rather than summer, I skip that step.
Serve at room temperature. Keeps well for several days in the fridge.