An Impromptu Visit To London
Feeling homesick and in need of a break from Los Angeles, I made a quick impromptu visit to London. It felt like a strange time warp being back, especially staying so close to my old stomping grounds this trip. Memories flooded back as I strolled past our old house in the Bolton’s, the gardens where Tatjana played as a child, and the church hall where she celebrated her 2nd and 5th birthdays on my way home from her flat.
Memories in the old neighborhood come flooding back
Since Tatjana and Aaron live in a tiny one bedroom flat, my friend and former neighbor Daphne McKinley kindly offered me refuge in a sensational South Kensington home she designed nearby. There are so many unusual and spectacular features in this dream home – a car stacking garage, glass staircase and lift from top to bottom, an al fresco reception room (yes, the ceiling slides open) with roof terrace, an indoor living wall and waterfall, glass encased wine cellar and a killer kitchen that looks as if it would cook the food for you! Normally places this sleek feel somewhat impersonal, but the light permeating throughout the space make this home incredibly warm and welcoming just like my remarkably gracious host, thank you, Daphne!
One of the most spectacular homes ever – photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
With a house of this caliber, I half expected James Bond to greet me at the door with a couple martinis, although I was delighted to meet Mr. Darcy, Daphne’s 17-month-old Cockapoo in his place. He made me feel right at home since he happens to be a dead ringer for my Cockachon, Daisy. I couldn’t help thinking how cute the two of them would be playing together.
Daisy, Mr. Darcy, and the Canadian Geese
Mr. Darcy and I became fast friends enjoying cuddles, plates full of treats from the local restaurants, and long walks in Hyde Park together. He’d point at squirrels, run lickety-split, then chase the Canadian geese as he dove straight into the pond until the swans, defending their watery turf, would hiss him back out again.
Tatjana’s favorite restaurant (both to pronounce and to eat), the Phat Phuc
Then, of course, there is the main attraction of my visit – my daughter Tatjana. Even a torrential downpour could not deter us from a shopping trip down Kings Road, and a quick bowl of pho from her favorite, the Phat Phuc. I was convinced Tatjana just liked pronouncing the name of the restaurant to shock me until I tasted the succulent chicken and silky noodles in a tasty broth as it slid past my tongue on the way to warming my tummy. That doesn’t mean mum got off kitchen duty, though. Tatjana requested all of her old favorites, starting with this simple pasta dish with tons of Balsamic Marinated Vegetables on the side.
Penne & Zucchini Arrabiata
Zucchini makes a lovely addition to this Italian classic, and a wonderful way to introduce finicky children (small and big) to vegetables. This recipe has been in heavy rotation in our household for over 25 years now, and a client favorite as well. Remember you control the heat, so just halve the red pepper flakes or omit them altogether if you are not into spicy, or double the amount if you like your food really hot.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
8 ounces pasta uncooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 small zucchini chopped
28 ounce canned diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
1 tabelspoon fresh oregano stemmed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese grated for serving
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions, being sure to add enough salt to the water that it tastes like the sea, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant but not browning. Add zucchini, and saute until starting to turn brown on the edges. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste; cook until sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Add basil and oregano, and cook an additional 2 minutes.
3. Serve sauce over the pasta, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired.
Balsamic marinated vegetables, green salad, and/or garlic bread.
HEAT TO EAT
Heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10-12 minutes; or vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly.
I only had grilled zucchini in my fridge to use today, and the smokiness added an extra dimension of flavor. Another trick I love is to add some chopped fresh buffala mozzarella just as you toss the sauce with the hot pasta before serving.