My life is chronicled in the pages of a little journal, hidden amidst cookbooks on my kitchen shelf.  At once inspiration for the oft-asked question “What’s for dinner?” and treasured narration of vacation memories, dinner dates & quiet evenings at home, my dinner journal is a tradition I cling to.  Cookbooks

If a stranger picked it up, they may read ingredients; however I pick it up and instantly remember the smells, tastes and the company that I shared. My journal entries are often more vivid than flipping through the pages of a photo album; it masquerades as travelogue and memoir. I dutifully record dinners at home and faithfully tuck it into my suitcase when I travel. Opening the journal evokes culinary memories that bubble to the surface in the blink of an eye.  Moments captured in the inexorable passage of time.  

JournalEntrySmallI turn to the entries from October 2012 and am transported back to our anniversary trip celebrating 10 years. Transcendental Smoked Fettuccini, Sea Urchin and Bacon topped with a luxuriously soft quail egg (with a big heart doodle next to that entry) at SPQR in San Francisco.  Lazy morning breakfast pastries at Bouchon Bakery in Napa.  Immaculate sashimi of hamachi with sticky rice, edamame and lime ginger sauce at REDD.  

Of course not every meal can be an evening enjoyed al fresco with exquisitely orchestrated wine and food pairings in Napa. My journal reveals an embarrassing amount of harried nights dialing Malnati’s or (gasp!) Domino’s for an extra crispy, easy cheese pizza topped with pineapple and ham.  Mostly it reminds me of our sacred evenings at home.  

A fragrant bowl of chicken curry when the leaves are turning crimson and gold, a favorite beef bourguignon when snuggled in from the falling snow, burgers sizzling on the grill as the sun sets on a breezy balmy summer evening, golden strands of fettuccini rolled out for the first time by my five year old daughter.

So, I ask myself the question, what’s on the menu tonight? I casually flip through my journal and see that last May we enjoyed Lemony Roast Chicken with Croutons, Lamb Meatballs with Ginger Mint Yogurt, Orecchiette with Crispy Broccoli & Parmesan, Asparagus Ricotta Tarts with Balsamic Vinaigrette…  

Since I’m feeling like something easy, I settle on some pasta. I am assured by my choice when I realize this recipe is from Dinner: A Love Story, the cookbook that inspired my culinary journal in the first place.

Happy Journaling!

Orecchiette with Sausage and Crispy Broccoli
Serves 4
  1. 3 1/2 cups broccoli florets, trimmed
  2. 4 T. olive oil, plus more to taste
  3. Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  4. 1 pound orecchiette
  5. 2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  6. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  7. 1 T. butter
  8. 4 heaping T. ricotta (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Line a baking dish with foil, add the broccoli, and using a spoon, toss with 3 Tablespoons of the oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, or until broccoli looks crispy but not completely brown.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salty water until al dente. Strain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta liquid.
  4. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking it up with a fork, until cooked, 5-7 minutes. Add half of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and turn heat to high; cook, stirring, until it looks emulsified and saucy. Add the pasta, Parmesan, and butter tot he skillet an dtoss with tongs until everything is evenly distributed, adding more pasta water to loosen as necessary. Divide into four bowl and top with crispy broccoli, a little more freshly grated Parmesan, and a dollop of ricotta if you are feeling indulgent.
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/


  1. Love this, Amy! You are a talented writer!

  2. Jennifer says

    I have had the pleasure of enjoying some of your lovely meals. This is truly your calling! Thank you for those delicious memories.

  3. Maria Shull says

    Amy this was so well written. It evoked so many memories I have of you bringing the most exciting appetizer or desserts to the evening!

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