An off week

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You could say last week was an off week. It started with a really sick kid, and failed pie, and moved slowly downhill toward a shingles diagnosis. For the record, shingles is not fun. The disease is the physical embodiment of the word annoying. And though it’s reached great milestones treating myriad evil diseases, our modern medical machine has no sure-fire cure for annoyance.

I’m trying to work through it the old-fashioned way–with food. I started with pasta slathered in a spinach-garlic sauce, simply because I had over a pound of spinach to use and garlic is a natural disease fighter. I sautéed the spinach until it was perfectly limp, splashed it with cream, and whirled it up with raw cloves until it turned the kind of green that tells you in no uncertain terms that these days, there’s a lot growing outside. I piled it into bowls from the dishware set my parents had when I was growing up. Then somehow, I dropped one. When the bowl shattered, my first instinct was to scoop as much as I could up off the floor, avoiding the little ceramic shards. (Nothing improves shingles like a shredded esophagus, right?)

And so it went. A friend helped me clean up the entire mess, and gathered bowl-free food for our kids. She placed a dish of twirly green noodles in front of me, and snowed it with Parmesan cheese. My child ate three or four bites of his own dinner—a major improvement over the rest of the week—and I ate too, imagining the garlic spreading into each cell, appreciating the combined power of a good dose of spinach and a generous friend.

Last night, my son slept in his own bed for the first time in a week. Today, I simmered up more spaghetti, simple as it gets, gussied it up with the rest of the spinach and garlic sauce, and ate it without dropping the bowl. Today, I’m eating Jill’s kitchen sink cookies with iced coffee and deciding that tomorrow, things will be better.

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Spinach and Garlic Spaghetti (PDF)
In Seattle, when things grow, they grow. More than one friend has complained recently about an overabundance of spinach, so I created an answer: sauté it in olive oil until it’s limp, whirl it smooth with fresh chopped garlic, and slather it on hot pasta. With a showering of Parmesan cheese, there’s nothing better—unless you feel like adding chopped toasted pecans.

Time: 15 minutes active time
Makes: 4 servings

3/4 pound spaghetti (or other long pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound baby spinach (stems removed if long)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and cook to al dente according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the spinach, a little at a time, and cook and stir, adding more spinach as each batch wilts down until all the spinach has been added. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the heavy cream and cook until the liquid is almost gone, 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the spinach and any remaining liquid to a blender or food processer, add the garlic, and whirl until completely smooth.

When the noodles are done, set aside a bit of the pasta water. Drain the noodles, then toss with the spinach sauce, adding a bit of pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately, garnished with plenty of cheese.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “An off week

  1. This looks simpe but very very good!
    Sympathise about shingles – I once had it in my eye. It was, to put it lightly, painful and annoying. Hope it clears up soon!

  2. Jill O

    The fact that you can bake cookies, make a healthy dinner, take care of your sick child and still write this post while suffering from SHINGLES no less, means you are awesome–in the original sense of the word! Hang in there. Spinach sauce sounds delicious and I may have to make it to slather on everything that doesn’t move!

  3. annie

    Wow, when it rains, it really does pour! Hope things will get better. Shingles is horrible and painful. Keep well.

  4. So sorry about your off week–and the pain associated w a sick boy and painful body of your own. But am gratedul for both your post and this lovely dinner idea. We’ll make it this week. Summer comfort food—yum.

  5. I’m with Jill-O. You are awesome — truly awesome. This dish will live, not in infamy, but in…. ‘pro-famy’? ‘bon-famy’? Goodness, let’s call it goodness, in my summer kitchen. Looks like the missing ingredient of substance for the Southern vegetable-plate supper. Sliced tomatoes, cuke refrigerator pickles, corn on the cob, and this garlickly-good-green-light noodle-nest. We didn’t know from garlic, or spinach — we still think macaroni and cheese is a vegetable — so we need this, today and forever. So sorry for this bump in your road: Note to Universe: Moving forward, skip JT’s house with the bumps, quota met. Gratitude/admiration for your brilliance in turning this all into another beautiful delicious post.

  6. Heather

    Jess, I can sympathize with how you are feeling, I had shingles when I was 28 and I have to say that is the closest to dying I ever hope to come without crossing through the pearly gates! Shingles are (is?) their own form of Hades, I’m so sorry that you are going through that, hopefully you are having a mild case…if not, put your seatbelt on it’s gonna get rough. Mine were all over one side of my torso and I quiver at the memory. Your pasta dish looks SO yummy, it’s one that I’ll definately try.

  7. Your words are all so lovely – thank you, thank you. And Nancie, you put it so perfectly – QUOTA MET.

  8. leslie

    Don’t know where those shingles are, but if they are somewhere that your clothes touch and could nearly send you flying off the closest bridge ….try wearing something tight over the shingled area, sounds strange but it worked for me. That light touch of clothing nearly drove me insane.
    Good Luck!!!

  9. Michaela

    Shingles and broken bowls. That would have made me slump to the floor, cry, and then probably eat directly from the hardwood – shards or not. Feel better!

  10. Oh my. You remember I live close by, right? Please let me know if you need anything. I worked for a dermatologist right after college and he would prescribe narcotics to shingles sufferers. Those little buggers are no joke.

  11. Hey there! I just found your blog. I’m originally from the Spokane area and I will always love the Seattle area. I got shingles last year, while on a romantic vacation with my hubby. To make matters worse, they were located on my rear and inner thighs. Kinda ruined the mood. Lydocane (sp?) patches and Vicodin got me through it.
    Thanks for the new recipe… adding it to my “to-try” pile.

  12. This sounds delicious. Feel better!

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