Wow. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but today I discovered I actually have something in common with Paul Ryan.
No, I haven’t come out in favor of arming the mentally ill, allowing the murder of hibernating bears inside a wildlife refuge, enabling mining companies to pollute rivers, demonizing Planned Parenthood, shrugging off overt racism, downplaying Russian election meddling or turning a blind eye to the president’s continued hidden financial interests.
But I have found a tiny area where we overlap.
I am realizing, as he is, that it’s a lot easier to repeal than to replace.
Ryan and I have both spent the past seven years or so railing against the status quo and proposing changes that neither of us had the power to enact. Now that we might be in a position to actually effect a change, we’re each having a hard time figuring out a plan that works in reality.
Though in my case, the stakes are a lot lower. I haven’t been complaining about Obamacare, and I’m not voting to take away millions of people’s health insurance.
I’m just talking about remodeling my kitchen.
Loyal readers know that I have been whining for years about my kitchen with its white tile countertops and floor, insufficient storage, shallow cabinets and inefficient layout. Time after time, I have voted to abolish it, take it down to the studs and start over.
That was a pretty easy vote, as I knew I could not get any proposal past my house Ways and Means Committee (even though I’m the only voting member).
But the last time I brought up kitchen repeal, an unexpected thing happened. The committee looked at the budget numbers and my available resources, and gave the project a green light.
And uh-oh. Time for a reality check.
Like Ryan and the president, I have made countless promises about how much better the replacement will be than the current plan. It’s easy to come up with a dream plan when there’s no hope of realizing it.
But thunk (that’s the sound of me falling back to earth), if I want to make it happen in reality, I need to come up with a kitchen concept that fits my enormous and fully equipped fantasy into the less-than-ample space available to house it in my modest 1940 bungalow.
Besides the tight layout, there are a billion other questions to ponder as well, from stove and sink to cabinets and faucet — not to mention resolving the island versus peninsula debate and dealing with the load-bearing walls, the badly placed door to the garage and any number of other issues. It turns out that kitchen renovation is incredibly complicated (who knew?).
For the past month I have spent as much time peering at remodeling photos on Houzz as I have watching pundits try to make sense of our senseless government. And I’m equally confused by both.
But here is where I differ from certain elected officials. Rather than just announcing “I’m going to build a great kitchen, the greatest kitchen anywhere, for much less money than anyone else could do it for, because I know how to negotiate,” and then proceeding to make every mistake in the book, I thought I’d try a novel approach.
I’m consulting experts for advice and opinions. And I plan to actually listen to them. (I know, what a concept.) Even if it means putting the repeal on hold and waiting to take a sledgehammer to that stupid white tile until I know exactly what is going in its place.
It could take a while until all my ducks are in a row, so demolition probably won’t begin for several months. But however long the process is, I’d be willing to bet on this.
My shiny new kitchen will be in place long before Ryan can figure out a workable health care plan.
(Peruvian Pasta with Pesto)
Adapted from 177 Milk Street Magazine
Right now, I’m using my still-functioning old kitchen to check out simple recipes in anticipation of having to make do with the outdoor kitchen at some point in the future.
A friend I’ll be traveling with to Peru this summer found this easy recipe for spinach-based Peruvian-style pesto. I tried it and liked it, so I’m passing it on. However, after I made it, I browsed the web and discovered that pretty much every other recipe for this dish also includes basil, which I think would be quite different (and probably better). I didn’t have a chance to test it that way, but I’m offering it as a variation in case you want to try.
Either version will make for a gloriously green, rich and tasty dish.
Serves 4 generously
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
12 ounces baby spinach (12 cups)
1 bunch fresh basil (optional)
1 Tbsp. dried basil (optional)
1/4 cup cream or evaporated milk
12 ounces fettuccine
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
Undercook the pasta in boiling salted water, removing it about 2-3 minutes before it is done. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of the cooking water, putting it and the drained pasta aside.
In a food processor or blender, combine the onion, olive oil, 1/4 cup water, garlic and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. (I overlooked adding the olive oil when I made it, and it still came out fine, though probably a bit dryer than intended, so feel free to cut back a bit.) Add about a third of the spinach and process until smooth, then add the rest (and the fresh and dried basil, if using) in two more batches, continuing to process until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a large skillet and cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, until it thickens. Add the reserved pasta water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the partially cooked pasta into the sauce and cook about 3 minutes longer, until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the heavy cream or evaporated milk (or I used Mexican table cream). Remove from the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, then taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, portion out the pasta and sprinkle generously with the queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on top.