Birthday Dinner

July 27, 2011

Thank you to all of you who entered to win the Keurig coffee maker.  I asked my contact there to pick a number between 1 and 239.  She told me that her favorite number is 2, so she picked comment #222.  Francesca wrote:

I moved from Italy to California where I am trying to colonize the locals. My husband has already been assimilated and happily consumes copious amounts of olive oil (the good stuff) and aceto balsamico tradizionale.

It seems fitting that an Italian won a great coffee maker, does it not?  Francesca, I will be sending you an email!

It seems these days that social media is a common topic.  People like to talk about the pros and cons of things like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, etc.  I have very specific uses for Facebook and Twitter.  Keeping up with far-flung friends (Facebook), directing people to my blog, networking in the Seattle food community, and getting answers to cooking and dining questions (Twitter), and making sure I get as many birthday wishes as possible (both).  If you have ever felt down on a birthday, then you probably aren’t on Facebook or Twitter.  Yesterday was my 41st (bummer), on a Tuesday (bummer), and it was raining (double bummer).  If that doesn’t sound depressing, then I don’t know what does.  But through the magic of the internet, I got so much love and attention that my little Leo heart was full.

Now you might be wondering why I cooked on my birthday.  Did I mention that it was my 41st, on a Tuesday, and it was raining?  Plus, my brother is fond of saying that the best vegetarian restaurant in Seattle is actually my house.  Would I be the most arrogant person in the world if I said that I agree?  I’m not saying the best food in the city can be eaten here – far from it – but if you are going to take me out for veg food, I’d rather eat my cooking.  Plus, I like to cook.

Sometimes I feel like I should only post grand recipes here.  Like blow your socks off things that I have spent hours in the kitchen making.  Never mind that I don’t make things like that all that often (unless we are talking dessert) and that the truth is, I am a huge fan of simple dishes.   If something tastes great and doesn’t take a lot of effort, I will sing its praises.  From the feedback I get about my recipes here and requests for upcoming classes, I would say that many of you are wanting more and more “weeknight” type recipes.  So here you go.

I know much of America thinks that we vegetarians eat only pasta and salad.  It is true that I eat a lot of salad but the last pasta recipe I posted was way back in February.  I do crave it in the summer when fresh and light sounds just right and I want to keep cooking time to a minimum.  Here, lots of fresh herbs were pureed with some olive oil and garlic – think pesto without the nuts or cheese.  I tossed warm pasta with that mixture and then stirred in cherry tomato halves and Kalamata olive quarters.  The whole dish got a healthy sprinkling of Pecorino cheese which is truly a favorite of mine.  It took about 15 minutes start to finish and the dish can sit for hours before serving.  Pretty perfect weeknight meal – even for a birthday.

Two Years Ago: Indian Spiced Chickpea Salad with Yogurt and Herbs
Three Years Ago: Creamy Eggplant with Peas

Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Pecorino
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 pound penne
½ cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp. coarsely chopped thyme leaves
2 tsp. coarsely chopped marjoram leaves
Kosher salt
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino cheese (about 3 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the penne and cook according to package directions until the pasta is just al dente.  Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Place the herbs, garlic, and olive oil in the bowl of a mini food processor or the jar of a blender and purée.  Stir in a large pinch of salt and scrape the purée into a large pasta bowl.  Pour in the pasta and toss well to coat, you may need to add a bit of olive oil if the pasta seems to dry.  Stir in the tomatoes and olives and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.  Just before serving, add the Pecorino and season to taste with pepper.  Toss well.   (Can be made up to 2 hours ahead.)


  1. Happy happy ones. You do know you get a do over on a non rainy day, right? Nonetheless, I often cook for myself for my birthday.

    Comment by Kate @ Savour Fare — July 27, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

  2. Happy Birthday my friend….if we were “friends” on facebook, I would’ve known this. It’s good to be 41. xo

    Comment by stacey snacks — July 27, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

  3. Happy Birthday!

    The decade of my life from 40 to 50 was by far the happiest – and I look forward to the next decade to match it! ;-) so I wish you decades and decades of bliss

    I know it is common place to say age is just a number, but common place or not, it’s the truth.

    Be happy and enjoy the ride!

    Comment by SallyBR — July 27, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  4. Happy Birthday Dana! Funny thing about being a vegetarian and pasta, I rarely find myself cooking it either until Summer and fresh tomatoes come. Most of the time it’s rice, quinoa, or some other grain. I hope you had some cake or at least chocolate too finish it off!

    Comment by Jacqui — July 27, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

  5. There always does seem to be that pressure, to make something impressive and different. But how often can you really do that in real life? I love dishes like this because they really let you get to know the person (cook, blogger, etc.). I had something so similar to this the other night, except it also included grated zucchini. Really though, I’ll take anything with olives!

    Comment by Clara — July 27, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

  6. HA! you don’t want to know my age. I don’t show it, thankfully from the good Danish genes I have and those very expensive bottles of skin cream.
    Glad you had a good bday.

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — July 27, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  7. Happy Birthday! I don’t cook pasta too often, either, but it seems to pair well with lots of summer veggies. I hope you had a fabulous dessert to go with your birthday dinner!

    Comment by Anna — July 27, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

  8. Ha you know I actually ate more pasta BEFORE I was a vegetarian even though I’m pretty sure my parents are convinced that’s all I eat.

    I’d also much rather eat in on my birthday, as well. What can I say…I love my cooking. Although, on second thought, I’d also be perfectly happy going to your place. I know you’d give me an amazing meal, even if it was one as simple as this!

    Comment by Joanne — July 28, 2011 @ 12:23 am

  9. So simple, but so very good. And so easy to toss in roasted seasonal vegetables, too.

    Comment by Lesley — July 28, 2011 @ 12:42 am

  10. Dana! We have the same birthday. Yesterday was my birthday too. I wish I had come to your house for dinner–that looks delish. Alas, I just picked through some leftovers in the refrigerator.

    Comment by Donna — July 28, 2011 @ 1:50 am

  11. i’m very curious – why in the world do you think that turning 41 is depressing? i mean if you were diagnosed w/ cancer or your spouse was abusing you. but just turning another page on the calendar? it is just another number – right. not necessarily something to celebrate but not something to be depressed about. please don’t let society/culture “shame” about turning older – in some cultures that is something that is still celebrated. as perhaps it should be.

    Comment by jacquie — July 28, 2011 @ 2:51 am

  12. Happy belated birthday. Sorry it rained on you but this dinner looks just the ticket – and way better than what I ate in a restaurant last night. I cooked myself tonight as after two nights at “family” restaurants I couldn’t face it again – so much for vacation from my regular routine.

    Comment by Charlotte — July 28, 2011 @ 3:28 am

  13. Well Jacquie, of course you are right in some ways. But I will say that you never know what is going on in someone’s house and it’s best to not criticize someone for sharing a feeling. I don’t feel shame about being 41 at all. It was a bummer of a day for the reasons I explained.

    Comment by dana — July 28, 2011 @ 3:48 am

  14. So fresh and screaming summer at every bite.

    Comment by bellini — July 28, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  15. Dana, ’tis true: the best vegetarian food in Seattle really IS at your house!

    Comment by Melinda — July 28, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  16. Dana,
    Happy Birthday! It was a dreary day on Tuesday but sometimes a birthday at home is nice especially if it’s your cooking! :) Hopefully this weekend with all the sun we are expecting you can get out and do something fun to celebrate!

    Comment by Deborah — July 28, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  17. I hope you had a wonderful birthday! This meal is perfect for a special occasion or any weeknight meal!

    Comment by Maria — July 28, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  18. Simple yes, but oh so yummy! When it’s hot outside, I don’t want to spend hours slaving in the kitchen!

    Comment by Lisa @ The Cooking Bride — July 28, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  19. Happy birthday! I love this simple recipe. Sometimes the simple ones are the best!

    Comment by Deliciously Organic — July 28, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  20. Happy Birthday! The pasta looks yummy, sounds like a good birthday dinner to me. I like to go out to dinner for my birthday if I can wrangle a few friends into celebrating with me. There is a restaurant here that has a 5 course vegetarian dinner once a month (that I normally can’t afford) and it falls near my birthday (and I get birthday coupon!) so I get to treat myself once a year!

    Comment by melinda ke — July 28, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  21. I have missed reading your posts & had ELEVEN to catch up on (you have been busy!). First of all happy, happy 41st. This would be my kind of bday dinner as well–can’t go wrong with a simple pasta dish. Secondly, I had to laugh at the Keurig Giveaway post as I recently received an email to try out chicken. I was very close to writing back a rude email about knowing your audience, but I took the high road and hit delete ;) Thirdly (and last, I promise) love the savory muffin recipe. I’ll be trying that one soon. Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

    Comment by fresh365 — July 29, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  22. I love simple dishes too and am glad you shared this! Happy belated birthday. :)

    Comment by Ashley — August 26, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

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