One afternoon, about 12 years ago, I was with a friend at the UBC Bookstore when we found ourselves in front of the massive bookshelves jammed with all the various books for sale. I looked at them all and thought, How on earth does one write a book and get it published and get it noticed amongst all these others. My friend looked at all of those same books and thought, How great is it that there are so many people who have penned novels and works of nonfiction and have them published.
The anecdote illustrates how differently we think. And it illustrates that my friend knew better than me.
Because, in one month, I will have a book on store shelves.
Here’s a little look at what it looked like when I was shooting the cover.
And here is what it looks like. (Small squeal of excitement!)
In the last several months, I’ve often repeated I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I came up with the idea of writing a cookbook. The phrase ‘labour of love’ is used a lot, but it’s accurate when it comes to Pucker. I’m not sure anyone saw much of me in November or December last year when the manuscript deadline was nearing, nor in February and early March as the clock ticked down on when the photos had to be handed in.
But as the weeks and months have slipped past since those deadlines, the frustration over muffin recipes that never seemed quite right or the lemon bars that needed constant tweaking, the constant questioning of whether the recipe really tastes as good as I think it does, and taking some 1,000 photographs for what will be about 100 or so in the book — I’m a proponent of having too much choice — has faded.
And, guys, I’m SO PROUD.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the third round of pages — a PDF document of how the book will look once printed — and I got really excited. All that recipe testing, all those photos have been transformed into this thing that looks like a real book. I’ve been told that actually having it in hand is the best feeling of the process, but we’re still a month away from that point.
Since that’s still a ways to go, how about a sneak peek?
I had a hard time picking which recipe to share here. (Yes, this Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour recipe is in it.) The burger (Oh yes, you knew there was going to be at least one of those in there) that my friend who tested the recipe now can’t stop making? The Thai soup featured on the current, unofficial, holder-place cover? Or maybe the Chewy Lemon Cookies that Anna Olson made with Karl Lohnes and posted on Twitter after reading over the manuscript to write the foreword?
Or, let’s start with a classic. Like Spaghetti Al Limone.
Sure, it’s not the fanciest recipe in the book, but it’s a great recipe to have in your back pocket on busy nights or when groceries are running low since it doesn’t take much time nor uses ingredients most of us don’t regularly have lying around the house. And, of course, it’s got a nice Pucker to it.
Spaghetti al Limone
It sounds much more exotic and interesting than lemon spaghetti—more authentic too—but the truth is that a straightforward name probably better reflects the simplicity of this pasta dish. I found versions of it that required cooking the cream first or called for other extra steps. In this one, whisk a few ingredients, pour over hot pasta and toss, toss, toss. That’s the sum total of it. At the end, it’s a creamy tangle of pasta, each strand coated in a rich, lemony sauce. Add some freshly ground pepper for a bit of heat and parsley for freshness at the end for a well-rounded pasta dish.
1 pound (500 g) spaghetti (or another long noodle, like linguine)
2 lemons, zested, juiced and strained, divided
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup (80 mL) whipping cream
3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (250 mL) grated Parmesan, divided
freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 mL) parsley, coarsely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, salt heavily and add the pasta, cooking until al dente. (Start checking the pasta a minute or two before the package instructions suggest it will be cooked.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, egg yolk, cream, olive oil and 3/4 cup (185 mL) Parmesan. Add a few grinds of pepper and make sure it’s all well mixed. Pour in about 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the lemon juice and mix again.
When the pasta is cooked just al dente—there should still be a bit of chewiness to it—scoop out 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and add about 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the reserved pasta water. Toss the pasta (I find tongs are best for this part) so it’s coated with the cooking liquid, adding more if the noodles still seem dry. Pour the cream–lemon juice mixture over the pasta and toss and stir, getting it well mixed. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg yolk and melt the cheese to create a creamy sauce. Add more pasta water if it seems a bit dry or the sauce isn’t coating all the noodles.
Taste for seasonings, splashing on more lemon juice, if desired, or salt, if needed.
Serve sprinkled with the remaining grated Parmesan, chopped parsley and more pepper.