Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

I started this blog almost immediately after a close friend of mine suggested it a year and a half ago. That same evening I came up with the name Cuoco Contento. For those who don’t know, Cuoco is my married name. It translates to the noun “cook” in Italian. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know that when Joshua and I got married in 2014. I also didn’t like to cook before we were married. Actually, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to, it was that I simply never tried to. Living at home I commuted to college and, towards the end, lived off a less-than-stellar diet of boxed soup and sushi takeout. My wild passion for the kitchen began the very first night I cooked for Josh. If you are wondering, it was chicken parm. He approved.

With that in mind, the word “contento” translates to “happy.” It was simplest and most straight-forward word I could think of. No frills, no elaboration. Recipe planning, grocery shopping, food prep and cooking make me truly happy. The entire process is like therapy. Hosting guests in our my home makes me giddy. I am, quite literally, a happy cook.

Through my teen years and into young adulthood I’ve sought after contentment at different times. The word “content” means to be “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” What a virtue! I am far from perfect, a feeling we can all relate to. Life throws different things our way. How we handle them is up to us.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV). You can interpret this how you like, but on some level I believe this means that we need to look at the big picture. The bright future. No one can convince me otherwise: the best is yet to come. Always. How terrible would it be if we thought that today (or 10 years ago) we hit our peak? That our prime time was up and over with? I believe that we’re all ever-developing beings, constantly changing, growing and learning– even if you’re 85 years old. Often times we need to go through the storm in order to appreciate the sun. Having patience through the rain is the tough part. There is glory to be revealed in all of us.

I’ve been looking for a way out of a storm in my life for a while now. But every time I do, I feel God telling me that instead of getting me out of it, he will get me through it, if I only trust Him. Really trust Him.

I am a “working document.” Constantly making mistakes, coming under discipline, learning and growing. There will never come a day when I will wake up and say, “okay, now I’m perfect!” It’s just not possible. We are human. We fall. We are tempted. We try to hold the weight of our world on our shoulders. And we come back to the realization that we are not the one in control. And really…thank God for that.

It all boils down to one thing: trust. If I truly trust God, with my whole being, I would not worry about my job. I would not worry about money. I would not worry about my family’s future. Being content means being satisfied and happy with the way things are right now. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve struggled with it for years. You’re not alone if you do. There’s nothing wrong with having a hustler’s mentality, always wanting to reach higher levels. I believe God honors that ambition. But it is not healthy is to find it impossible to enjoy today because you can’t stop daydreaming about tomorrow.

There is a huge, bright light at the end of my husband’s medical school journey. We talk about our plans, even though there are about 200 different directions we could be lead at that time. Everything about our lives after his graduation is completely up in the air. Where we’re live being at the forefront of our minds. That part excites me even though it is so unknown. Yet, getting to a place where I can patiently wait for that huge, bright light has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I get why people say that patience is a virtue. So many times Josh has said to me, “you need to enjoy today.” And I know he’s right. I’m emotional just writing this, because it’s a message that hits me like an arrow straight to the heart.

Why is it so hard for us to wait? Why is it so hard for us to let go of the steering wheel and let God drive? The most interesting thing to me is that I have no problem having the biggest faith when it comes to Josh’s career. If ever even the smallest speck of doubt or fear enters his mind, I jump on it immediately and with such confidence tell him that God’s already worked it out. That God has made a way for him already. Look at His provision for you so far! Trust Him! I’m so sure of that, when it pertains to his life. So much so, it’s often frustrating when he doesn’t always see it for himself. How is it that we can be so sure of God’s provision in the lives of others but can’t seem to grasp it on our own lives?

God is watching over us. More than that, he is right there beside you, holding your hand, wanting so desperately for us to trust Him with our whole hearts. He’s the one who is saying to us, “I’ve already worked it out. I’ve already made a way for you. Look at my provision in your life so far! Trust me!”

Every day I am learning that nothing is too difficult with God’s help. What might seem impossible in our human weakness is not impossible with Him. I’m so fragile. So prone to complaining, to discontentment, to unhappiness if I let it take hold of my heart. Stand firm against it.

I pray that if you are struggling with being content that your heart would be filled with peace today. To rest and know that God’s timing is perfect. That he longs to give good gifts to his children who only trust him. Be happy today. Enjoy this moment, because you’ll never get it back.

Whenever I start to feel less than content with my current situation, I rehearse these things in my heart:

  1. Crush every fear. It has no place in my life.
  2. Trust God. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. Let Him take control of the things we can’t.
  3. Be still and know that He is God. He is good. He is love. His promises remain true for all of time.
  4. Be thankful for where you are, how you got there and what you have been given.

My dear friend Liz and I shared a quiet Sunday afternoon in my pint-sized apartment talking, laughing, cooking (and eating) as we reminisced about our college trip to Milan now five years ago. Liz is a HUGE talent, and so humble, check her out on Insta!

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Serves 2

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for shaving
  • 1 bunch asparagus tips, blanched
  • 1 ball fresh burrata cheese
  • course ground pepper
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add the eggs and yolks and mix just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add a few drops of water if the dough is dry. Turn the dough out into a bowl, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes. You may refrigerate the dough wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.
  2. In a food processor, combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container, and add the rest of the oil slowly. Add the toasted nuts and cheese. Pulse until relatively smooth, or you can leave it a bit more on the chunky side.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Divide the dough into four sections. Roll though through the pasta attachment on the number 1 setting about 10 times, folding the dough in half with each pass. Pass through the number 3 setting once or twice. Repeat this with the other 3 sections of dough until you have 4 pasta sheets.
  4. Cut the dough sheets into 3×3 or 4×4 squares. They can be rough, no need to break out the ruler. Gently add to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. The dough squares should rise to the water’s surface. Reserve the pasta water.
  5. Toss the pasta with the pesto and blanched asparagus tips. Add a spoonful of pasta water if pesto needs to be thinned out. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and shaved parmesan cheese.
  6. Divide burrata between two dishes and serve.

Pasta recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.

Toronto Road Trip

HILTON TOR 1

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Hello from Canada! My husband Josh and I packed up and drove North on Saturday on our road trip thru Niagara Falls to Toronto. I have been so incredibly excited for this trip. I spent hours in the weeks prior planning out the itinerary (I’m your Type A planner, I LOVE planning). What we’d see, where we’d stay and especially where we’d eat. 98% of the trip itinerary revolved around food. Is that weird? My guess is that if you’re reading this, you agree with me: food is the best part of travel. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Day 1 & 2: NIAGARA FALLS, ARRIVAL TO TORONTO

Niagara Falls is about a 7-1/2 hr drive from where we live on Long Island. We got up there at about 5:30pm with only little spurts of traffic along the way. Half-way into the trip, I decided to Google “Tips for Crossing the Border.” One would have thought I’d have looked into this prior to getting into the car, but I digress. I already knew we couldn’t bring fruit or vegetables (check). You can’t bring any firearms (check…) and of course, we had our passports (check). The tips I read (you can find them here) suggested you have your vehicle registration handy, as they are always on the lookout for stolen cars. Josh is driving and I start rummaging through my glove compartment sorting through 1,000 Bed Bath and Beyond coupons until I finally find the registration sticker (I’m generally very organized but can’t seem to find the knack for keeping up with the car related stuff– anyone else?) I look down at the expiration date and and ask Josh what date it is. July 23rd. Guess when my registration expired? July 22nd. After overthinking this blunder for a solid 45 minutes, i.e. “We’re not getting into Canada,” “How did you let this expire”, “Border control is going to investigate us,” etc., we decide we’re going to be perfectly fine getting thorugh with the mostly-true story that the new sticker has not come in the mail yet. In actuality it has not come in the mail yet because I haven’t ordered it yet. Cut a girl some slack, alright! I was too caught up planning where we were going to eat…

Regardless of our expired registration, we got across the border in 15 seconds with minimal questioning. I know you were hoping for a more saucy story, but I couldn’t be happier we made it through. The Canada side of Toronto is filled with tourist attractions like falls tours and Bird Kingdom (what?) but we stayed clear of most of it and went straight to our room and conked out. We’re real party people. This is the quick pic I took from a moving car. Not too shabby.

NIAGARA 1

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

The next day, we headed to Toronto and checked into the Hilton Toronto. It’s a beautiful property with nicely designed rooms. We had lunch in the hotel restaurant and later walked to the Spa at the Trump International Hotel. Let’s not get all political, but I’ll say I’m happy to support his properties (#trumptrain). Pure Beauty Salon and Spa is on the 31st floor overlooking the city. Lush interior, beautiful showers and amenities. It’s ranked one of the best in Toronto! I almost fell asleep during our couples massage. This was the ideal prelude to dinner.

I made reservations at TOCA (it stands for Toronto, Canada) located inside The Ritz- Carlton Hotel. The moment we walked in, my breath was taken from me. We were welcomed and led to our seats: a quiet spot just near the cheese cave, an impressive temperature-controlled, glass clad room housing over two dozen international cheeses. At seven o’clock that evening, the dim lighting was moody. The interior was intimate and offered the familiar feeling of home. Clinking pots, pans and silverware rang like bells from the open kitchen. I could tell we were in for an exceptionally good meal.

IMG_1703

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco (@ashcuoco)

The restaurant is collaborating with Chef Oliver Glowig, a celebrated chef in Rome. I spotted the chef’s four-course tasting menu. I eyed my husband for approval. He told me to go for it. The foodie and chef inside me squealed with excitement! Antipasto, Pasta, Main Course and Dessert. From beginning to end, it was the best dining experience we have ever had. Our server graciously offered me the name of the local Riesling of which we had to pick up a bottle. Here’s my take on the four courses:

First Course: Vitello Tonnato (Veal loin, tuna sauce, caper, frisee). The veal was tender and flavorful. The tuna sauce, a unique component, was well seasoned and not overpowering. Capers offered a salty bite. The dish’s cool temperature enticed my palette for what came next.

Second Course: Pasta Mista (Mixed pasta, lobster, potato, tomato, smoked mozzarella, parmesan). A good pasta and seafood dish is my go-to. The mixed pasta along with the small, soft potatoes made for an array of textures with each bite. The tomato sauce was light and soup-like. My only criticism: I got a small piece of lobster shell in one bite. Minus one point (yes, sometimes I pretend I’m a judge on Chopped). Although cheese and fish don’t usually do the tango, the smoked mozzarella was a creamy compliment.

Third Course: Filetto alla Rossini (Filet mignon, foie gras, spinach, pine nut, raisin, truffle jus). This was the highlight! The savory steak cut like butter. A bed of sautéed spinach, pine nuts and golden raisins was nutty, a little sweet and wholesome. The truffle jus (truffle oil) is like earthy, sinful heaven. If you’ve never seen the words ‘sinful’ and ‘heaven’ used in a sentence, now you have! The foie gras (liver of duck) was soft and jam packed with flavor. There’s no denying it— fat is good.

Fourth Course: Tiramisu (Hazelnut cake, mascarpone, almond espresso, vanilla gelato). Intentionally deconstructed, and beautifully presented. The hazelnut cake was soaked in a quality almond espresso. Really soaked, filling every crevasse. That gelato and the creamy mascarpone…I admit to a weakness for cheese. This dish had everything going for it: great texture and contrast between warm and cold. It was a wildly exciting party for the senses! I can only say I wish I had more.

TOCA 1

Second Course: Pasta Mista (Shot by Josh!)

tiramisu

Fourth Course: Tiramisu (Shot by Josh!)

Thank you, TOCA, for the wonderful experience! Your hospitality and friendliness will certainly bring us back for more.

Day 3: BREAKFAST IN BED

My perfect morning was yesterday morning. We slept in, ordered breakfast to our room and relaxed. I love a late breakfast, around 11am. Call it Brunch.  Josh had the buttermilk pancakes with bacon. I had the “West Coast Tostada,” mashed avocado, tomato and smoked salmon with an sunny side up egg and pea shoots. And of course, coffee. The morning light was extra lovely.

HILTON TOR 4

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

HILTON TOR 2

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

HILTON TOR 3

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Day 4: CANADA’S WONDERLAND

Today, I survived Canada’s Wonderland. I am no natural born fan of roller coasters but my love for my thrill-enthusiast husband makes me cave. I went on 23 roller coasters in California on our honeymoon. It was a right of passage, you could say. I made it out of Wonderland alive and (almost) unscathed! My head feels like it was rattled around in a cage but I think I’m on the upswing. A nap and a late dinner really hit the spot. At the Hilton, I enjoyed this grilled cod with zucchini, green beans and tomato vinaigrette.

dinner hilton

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Sigh… we’re headed back home tomorrow. How I wish our adventure in Toronto could continue. Until next time. I’d love to read your comments on your favorite Toronto spots!