My friend Stacie and her husband used to live in the flat upstairs. In many ways, it was an ideal arrangement: for one thing, they own the building, and so not only were they able to rent to friends, we had our landlords nearby in case of the inevitable homestead crisis.
Second, and more importantly, we got to enjoy that kind of perfect friendship that is easiest when you live in a city, in close quarters. We could, on a whim, walk down to Cole Street and grab sushi; share the overflow from baking projects; or have an impromptu glass of wine on a weeknight. Plus, Stacie and I have known each other since we were born. Our dads were friends since they themselves were young, so we grew up together. It was like having family around.
Sometimes I would encounter her in the evenings, around 9 or 10, on the back stairs as I made my way out to the recycling bin or to get the last of the laundry. Usually I would have just put away a sizeable dinner, a glass or two of wine, and was headed for bed after hoisting myself weakly off the couch.
"What are you up to?" I'd say, knowing the answer would make me feel more like a lump than ever.
"Oh, just working on a few projects," she'd reply casually. Painting something for her little dollhouse, or sewing a purse out of cool fabric scraps that I would eventually covet.
It's doesn't seem fair that some people get piles of talent on top of mountains of motivation, does it?
A couple of years ago, Stacie and her husband moved to a bigger house, on account of having a kid and needing more space. I like to think that this decision was difficult for them, that they knew they would miss our perfect, symbiotic living arrangement, two couples connected by a rickety staircase and almost four decades of friendship.
I'm pretty certain this isn't true, though, and I can't blame them. They found a great place not too far from here, and a few weeks ago, they threw a wonderful party. In addition to a magazine-worthy array of roast chicken sandwiches, risotto, and tomato salad, there was a heaping bowl of gorgeous creamy pasta, full of butternut squash and flecked with basil, of which I proceeded to eat many, many helpings.
As I threw down on my second or third bowl, it occurred to me that this recipe seemed familiar, although I was sure I'd never eaten it before. I then realized I'd come across it a few months earlier on Stacie's blog that she writes with her friend Simran. (And in case you're wondering, yes, Stacie is responsible for the groovy drawings on the site.)
She'd written this post about a delightful penne with roasted butternut squash and creamy goat cheese, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis. The recipe floated around in my brain for awhile, but like so many, got lost in the shuffle.
I finally got around to making it this week. And I am happy to say, it did not disappoint.
I'm a little bothered that I didn't think of this combination myself, because it's really fantastic. The squash and onions get roasty and sweet; the goat cheese tangy; the walnuts crunchy; the basil bright and licoricey.
So, thanks, Stace, for doing not only doing a test-run of this recipe, but letting me sample it first. I suppose I should thank Giada, too. In any case, I highly recommend the pasta. It takes a little time for the squash to roast, but otherwise is extremely simple. I suggest you give it a go, and invite a good friend over to enjoy it together.