A Little Taste of (Grocery Store) Home

Dan and I are both incredibly busy this semester. For example: I got home tonight around 8 PM after spending the weekend competing in a mock trial competition. Luckily for me, this weekend’s competition was in DC—meaning I got home at the civilized 8 o’clock, rather than the more typical midnight. I spent the rest of the evening working on schoolwork, which has to get done tonight because I will be at work from 9-4:30 tomorrow and in class starting at 5. You can bet I relished the extra hour of daylight-savings sleep I got last night!

And really, my schedule looks downright leisurely when compared to Dan’s. Dan currently spends a good part of his time working to end genocide and mass atrocities at STAND, the student led division of United to End Genocide. Both organizations do a lot of good, and are really worth checking out if you’re unfamiliar with them. As fantastic as Dan’s work with STAND is, it’s also particularly time consuming. He spends a fair amount of time taking the message on the road, traveling to conferences and meetings around the country.

Practically speaking this means two things. First, between my mock trial schedule and his STAND activities, we are rarely in the same city at the same time on the weekends. And secondly, I eat a lot of pasta.

When Dan was first diagnosed, I thought that my days of eating big bowls of pasta for dinner were largely behind me. Instead, I’ve discovered that carb-heavy meals are one of the hidden advantages of our conflicting schedules this semester (right up there with Doctor Who marathons and sleeping in until noon). Pasta is undeniably a comfort food: easy to prepare, soothingly warm, and (at least when I make it), full of garlic.

This recipe is my best approximation of the positively addictive Fusilli Pasta Salad at Fairway. The big meaty taste here comes from the eggplant, making it a great vegetarian option (if you omit the Parmesan, it could also make a fairly tasty vegan meal). One of the interesting things about this dish is that it absolutely tastes better the day after it is made. Sitting overnight in the fridge gives the flavors a change to blend in a way that a quick stir around a bowl just can’t accomplish.


Ingredients—Serves 8 (or 4 over 2 days)

1 box dry fusilli pasta—340 g

1 large(ish) eggplant—26.6 g

4-10 cloves garlic

4 cups baby arugula, washed and dried

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes. To do this, begin by slicing the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Then cut each slice into a rectangle.

2. Place all eggplant cubes in a large bowl, and drizzle a heavy drizzle of olive oil over them. They taste best when they’ve had a chance to absorb some sincere amount of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and mix with your hands to make sure every piece is properly oiled, salted and peppered. Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge, so move pretty quickly here.

3. Spread the cut eggplant out on a parchment paper- or aluminum foil-lined baking sheet (this isn’t necessary necessary, but it will save you a headache when washing the baking sheet later). Put the eggplant in the oven, and set your timer for ten minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the back burner of your stove. Ignore it until it reaches a rolling boil.

5. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, chop your 4-10 garlic cloves. Last time I made this recipe, I used five large garlic cloves and found myself really missing a stronger garlic flavor. Let your own taste be the judge here—if you’re the kind of person who hates bad breath more than you love garlic, take it easy with the garlic.

6. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté until softened, about a minute or two. Set aside.

7. When the eggplant timer goes off, check the eggplant. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven. Use a spatula to scrape any stuck pieces of eggplant up, and flip all of the pieces over. Then put the eggplant back in the oven with the baking sheet facing the opposite direction (rotate it 180 degrees from the position you took it out in). Set your timer for five minutes more.

8. When the pasta water comes to a boil, pour the full box of pasta in the water and stir. Cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it, rinse it in cool water, and set it aside in a large bowl. Pour a heavy glug of olive oil over the pasta, and stir it to prevent it from becoming sticky.

9. Add the 4 cups of washed arugula, the sautéed garlic and 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan to the pasta. Stir to combine.

10. Check the eggplant again when the timer goes off. It may still need another five to ten minutes. The eggplant is ready when it has darkened and softened. At that point, remove the eggplant from the oven and add it to the pasta mixture, stirring to combine.

11. Taste the pasta and season it with salt and pepper, if needed. For the tastiest result, let the pasta sit in the fridge overnight, and eat it for lunch or dinner the following day.

Total Carbs: 367

Carbs Per Serving: 46


“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.”

        – Dodie Smith

In truth, as taken as I am with my new kitchen sink (the entire kitchen is new, not just the sink, and when I say new, I mean new to me because the kitchen, and the entire house, are decidedly old), it would not be a very good place to sit.

But, like Cassandra Mortmain, I find myself nervous to be starting a new project. There is nothing quite so unnerving as an empty journal, except, as I am coming to learn, a blinking word-processing screen. Nonetheless, I have steeled my courage and intend to make a solid go of it.

To help me along, I have years of learning at my mothers apron-strings, a few years of cooking for the same sweet and silly man, and a heavy shelf of cook books.

You may notice that between the creamy (and sometimes terrifying) La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E Saint-Ange, the delectable Julia, and the essential Joy, two cookbooks for diabetics managed to sneak in. And that, reader, is the real reason for this blog.

Several months ago my boyfriend Dan was admitted to the intensive care unit two days before we were supposed to leave on a long-planned and much anticipated vacation to Canada. I was going to try skiing again, he was going to persuade me to go snowshoeing, we were going to eat our way through Montreal. Instead, he found himself hooked up to an IV in New York Presbyterian. Dan was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. He took it with his usual cheery forbearance, while my mom accompanied me on an eating tour of the city (à di la and the Clover Club in Brooklyn, Veselka, Grand Central Oyster Bar and the Mermaid Inn in the city) and held my hand as I cried on the couch. Well. Not my bravest hour.

After our week of not-vacation, Dan and I came home to Washington, DC and I realized I was going to have to change the way I cook and the way we ate. I’ve always loved to cook, but cooking on a student’s schedule and budget in a student’s kitchen meant I ate a lot of pasta. When people ask what my go-to dish is, the answer is Pasta Puttanesca without the slightest hesitation. I could cook pasta puttanesca in my sleep, blindfolded.

(This is not as much of an achievement as it sounds. It is absurdly easy: gather together olive oil, tinned anchovies, 1 can of diced tomatoes (make sure the can contains tomatoes and only tomatoes–none of that basil and herb nonsense), some coarsely chopped pitted black olives, red chili flakes, a head of garlic and a jar of capers. Fill a big ol’ pot with water on top of the stove and pour some salt in there. Set the water to boiling–you will be done with the prep work before it comes to a boil. Cut up the garlic–you can slice it or mince it depending on your mood. I say two to four bigass cloves for two people, but know that I like garlic. Take some of the anchovies (I use about half a tin for two people, but I am anchovy mad. Normal people would probably like about 3 anchovies for this) and chop them roughly. Pour olive oil into pan over medium heat, and dump the garlic, anchovies, and three shakes of red pepper flakes in there. Heat for a while, until the anchovies start to look melt-ed-y. Open and drain your can of tomatoes, then dump that in there too. Ditto the olives, and oh, let’s say a tablespoon of capers. Put your pasta in the big pot when the water comes to a boil and cook to package instructions. Taste taste taste the pasta sauce; add salt as needed. The sauce can hang out on low, covered, while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, pour the sauce on top. A meal that actually takes less than thirty minutes, and costs less than ten dollars! Horrah!)

Dan is a Type 1 diabetic, which means butter, bacon and cream are still a-okay for him at the moment. The two things that really needed to change were the amount of carbs and vegetables we ate. Half of Dan’s plate is supposed to be filled with vegetables at every meal (this is actually true for all Americans, but this was the first time we were taking it super seriously). Dan takes insulin before every meal and bikes around the city nearly every day, so carbs can still play an important role in meals. Gone, however, are the days of a big pot of pasta counting as dinner.

The first few weeks, I carefully counted out the carbs in every meal. This was completely new territory for both of us. A big fan of butter and cream, I have never exactly been the type to think too closely about the nutritional value of a meal. Now I do, for every meal. It’s gotten easier for me to estimate the amount of carbs in a meal, and it’s easy enough to see whether half of a plate is taken up with vegetables.

It’s getting easier, but it hasn’t been easy. Dan’s diagnosis has absolutely challenged me as a home cook. I decided to start this blog to keep track of the food we eat and our efforts to find comforting, healthy options. I’m going to post recipes and nutrition facts as often as I can.

As a disclaimer: please don’t assume that these recipes will be perfect for every diabetic. Listen to your own doctor and your own common sense. Nutrition facts come from calorieking and should be taken as guidelines, not God’s own word.

Here’s hoping!