I realize that I just talked about citrus-zest pasta a month ago, but I got such a lovely surprise in the mail last week: a big box of end-of-season organic Meyers from Karen at Lemon Ladies Orchard. Karen & I are by way of being friends: although we’ve never met in person, we interact frequently over social media, chat now and then on email, and when I confessed to her last year that I wasn’t quite sure what all the Meyer fuss was about, she hand-picked an assortment of her gorgeous lemons for me and sent them winging to my frozen New York door.
And, oh, did I ever learn what all the fuss was about! Apparently my sad, wrinkly, months-old supermarket Meyer lemons (when you can even find those) were no comparison to the little orbs of sunshine that come out of Karen’s orchard. Or maybe it’s just her own special Meyer magic? Whatever it is, these beauties bear zero resemblance to any Meyers I’d had in the past. I had been told by more than one person that once you try Lemon Ladies, you’ll never go back. All I can say is: true that.
Fast forward to last week. The horror in Boston: bombs and blood and tears. On Patriot’s Day. During the marathon. In my hometown. The horror in West, TX. Fire and death and devastation. A town flattened, a dozen dead, dozens more missing. The failure of gun safety legislation in Congress, with Sandy Hook parents and Gabby Giffords looking on in numb shock. And with everything else going on, many of us didn’t even notice that an Elvis impersonator attempted to poison the president. There is little I can say about these events that hasn’t been said: horror seems to be becoming a part of our daily lives, and few people can agree on why, or how to stop it. But one thing I can say with absolute certainty: now, more than ever, we need to be nice to each other.
Compassionate. Kind. Tolerant. Understanding. People are this way, after a tragedy. I vividly remember driving from Boston to New York in the days following 9/11: everyone on the road was polite, no aggressive driving, no cutting you off, letting people into lanes, using their directionals. I remember thinking: if only we could maintain this civility, this feeling of national pride that is not jingoistic but hopeful. Like family, we Americans are all in this together. The civility fades, alas, with the horror. But with each fresh assault on our senses, with each hurricane, flood, tornado, shooting or explosion, I think: I will be a better person. I will be more kind. I will be more generous. I will throw so much light into the world that darkness will have nowhere to hide.
Karen obviously gets this, with her lovingly tended organic orchard and her care packages of gorgeous lemons. After all, what throws more light than a vibrant, fragrant Meyer lemon? So, I take a page from Karen’s book, and I make pasta. I toss and knead, I roll and roll, I cut and pull and cut and pull. I’ll dry most of that pasta and I’ll pay it forward: send it out into the world, to whomever needs a little light in the darkness this week. Because: Boston. Texas. The World.
Shaping advice from Pasta Cavatelli at Domestic Fits
- 3 cups (13 and ½ oz) all-purpose flour (or substitute up to 2 cups semolina, or 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 3 packed tbsp Meyer lemon zest (from about 6 medium lemons)
- 1 cup water
- Make dough. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Add in Meyer zest, rubbing flour between your palms to distribute and break up any clumps: really work the lemon oil into the flour. Add ½ cup water. Stir vigorously, adding additional water 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture comes together in a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board.
- Knead, adding additional water or flour as necessary, until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Shape cavatelli. Remove dough from fridge, cut off about one quarter of the dough, re-wrap the remainder and stick back in the fridge. Take your first piece and roll out to a thin log about the size of your finger. Flour your board if the dough is sticky. Slice ¼-inch sections and sprinkle with a bit of flour to prevent sticking. With the long side of a section facing you, place a small spatula or bench scraper at the top of the ¼-inch section, angle it to about 45 degrees, and press into the board, pulling the pasta towards you until it curls over the edge of the blade. The final shape will look like a little canoe or hot dog bun. See here for detailed pictures.
- Cook or dry. Store finished cavatelli on a flour-coated baking sheet. Allow to dry for at least 15 minutes prior to cooking in a large, salted pot of boiling water. Cook at a brisk boil until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and serve with your favorite sauce. Otherwise, dry cavatelli in a dehydrator, a low oven (170 – 200 degrees) overnight, or in the open air, turning every so often to speed drying time, until firm and dried through.
Yields 10 servings.
- Shown here with a simple olive oil, garlic & fresh thyme sauce. I do think a creamy cheese sauce would be lovely, as would a summer basil pesto.
- Substitute any citrus zest that you like, or a mix.
- I found the 100% all-purpose dough to be tough to roll, developing gluten quickly and resisting shaping. I much prefer my standard whole wheat pastry flour dough (I’ve run out and have yet to order more from Wild Hive). I suggest adding at least 1 cup of semolina for ease in working the dough.
Fresh pasta can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Dried pasta will keep in airtight room temperature for up to 1 year.
Winter into early Spring.