On days like this I know I am my mother's daughter. Whenever I get stressed, I crave white, starchy and salty, just like my mom. Pasta with olive oil and heaps of grated cheese. (Or, better yet, spaghetti with Meyer lemon and goat cheese.) Bread with butter. French fries, preferably smothered in gravy. All the stuff I've been trying to avoid over the past few months in the name of better health and losing weight.
For years I've been trying to talk myself out of the idea that food equals comfort, reward or celebration. When I need a pick-me-up, I get my nails done. When I deserve a pat on the back, I buy shoes. This is my version of behavior modification, my attempt to break the cycle of overindulgence. When you struggle to maintain a healthy weight, you're always looking for alternative ways to satisfy your cravings.
Today it had to be pasta. There was no alternative. We went to C&O Cucina, our favorite pasta spot. The pasta was fine - and yes, it did make me feel better - but, much to my surprise, the garlic knots made the biggest dent in my foul mood. Crispy, salty and slick, bathed in olive oil, garlic and oregano. Soft and white and warm on the inside. They're small enough that you don't start feeling the guilt until your third or fourth. We always bring home leftovers from C&O; between the garlic knots and the fine Caesar salad, we're full by the time our bowls of pasta arrive.
Inspired by the garlic knots at C&O, I created my own recipe several years ago. You tie strips of pizza dough into knots, bake them, then drown them in a nectar of butter, olive oil, chopped garlic and grated cheese. Finish with a shower of chopped fresh parsley, set the bowl on the table, and watch them disappear. Wait for a night when everyone's crabby. Garlic knots, I assure you, will make you all feel better.
- 1 lb pizza dough (buy ready-made if you can find it, or make your own - I like this pizza dough recipe from Alton Brown)
- 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Roll out the pizza dough into a rough rectangle, then cut the dough into strips, about 1x4 inches. Tie each strip in a knot and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about half an hour, until they look a little puffed up.
Bake the knots until they start to brown, about 15 minutes. Don't overbake them - you're not going for crunchy. You want them soft.
While the knots are in the oven, heat the garlic, oil and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer about 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
When the knots come out of the oven, tip them into a bowl. Pour the garlic mixture, grated cheese and parsley over the knots and toss. Serve immediately.