One of the perks of being a health writer is receiving numerous review copies of nutrition and weight loss books. (Hey, it makes me happy...) The UPS man is a regular at my front door, and when he recently delivered Rocco DiSpirito's latest cookbook, Now Eat This! Diet, I wanted to give the driver a big hug, but unfortunately, he had already hopped back into his brown truck. (Actually, it all worked out just fine because he probably would have thought I was a nut—or worse, a putana.)
So last week as I was drowning in editorial deadlines while promoting Vinitaly and all things Italian wine, I took a few minutes to relax my brain and logged on to Twitter. And within seconds of signing in, I noticed that my top Tweet was from Rocco, saying that he'd be doing a cooking demonstration in my area in a few hours.
Being the professional freelancer that I am, I took the responsible route...meaning I jumped in the shower, dolled myself up and decided to finish my work during the late night hours. (Sidenote: Reason #11 why I'm a freelancer.)
Naturally, I wasn't the only person in the audience (which was predominately female—surprise, surprise!) watching Rocco as he cooked his version of healthy fried chicken. When it came time for us onlookers to line up and meet The James Beard award-winning chef, I thought of a handful of EatItalian questions to ask him for this column. For example, when did he discover his love for cooking? What's the first dish he ever made? Does he like Italian girls from Jersey? (Just seeing if you're paying attention...)
When my moment finally arrived, I introduced myself to the author/Bravo reality host (who's actually taller than I had expected him to be, FYI for those interested). And then something happened that took me by complete surprise—Rocco started "interviewing" me. The conversation lasted for a few minutes and drifted from my career to Twitter to TV. But once I noticed the look of disgusted and annoyed fans waiting for their turn, I felt the need to wrap it up, so I asked the chatty one if he'd take a picture with me. In that split second, I thought to myself, "We'll take the shot, I'll ask him a couple of questions and then I'll be on my way before these people start hurling the leftover healthy fried chicken legs in my direction."
As his assistant/publicist/whoever-she-may-have-been was about to snap our photo, Rocco said to me, "I have to tell you, I never notice a woman's perfume, but I notice yours—and you smell unbelievably good!" (Another sidenote: It's Vanilla Lace by Victoria's Secret. The people who know me are laughing right now because they're well aware that I'd drink this body spray if I could.) He then felt the need to announce to the 100+ people waiting to meet him, "Too bad none of you will get close to Amy like I am right now. God, she smells delicious!"
Unable to do anything else for a few seconds but feel my cheeks burn to the point where I could have sworn I'd been lying out in the Caribbean sun for a week, I somehow managed to take back my camera and say goodbye to the NYC-based chef without falling over my own two feet. But it wasn't until I reached the parking lot and double-clicked the unlock button on the remote for my car that I realized I hadn't asked Rocco one single question for this column.
Aahh, the professional freelancer strikes again.
So, for you health-conscious foodies, here's the "Chicken Pesto Pasta" recipe from Rocco's latest book. To be honest, I haven't made it yet, but I will very soon since pesto is on my "favorites" list...along with my perfume.
8 ounces pasta
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup, reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped toasted pine nuts
freshly ground pepper
6 ounces chopped skinless breast meat from a rotisserie or roast chicken
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1. Cook pasta
2. Combine the garlic and sour cream in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the basil, parsley, crushed red pepper, 1/4 cup of the cheese and pine nuts. Puree until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, toss the pasta, chicken and tomatoes with the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top the pasta with the remaining cheese and serve.