When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: Exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: A story about the intersection of school nights and dreams -- and why all of ours should involve this warm, cinnamony lamb pie.
When I was 10 years old, I wanted world peace, no capital punishment, and an endless supply of Fun Dip Sticks.
At 44, I want my kids’ homework done, the table set without triple requests, and for all of us to sit down to dinner at the same time with napkins in our laps.
I want my son to take a bath at least once a week.
I want a slow, luxurious husband-kiss delivered to the side of my neck while I chop herbs.
I want my fall filled with warm and cinnamony lamb pies.
I want to sit at the kitchen table -- red wine in hand, breathing deeply, staring at the wall, thinking about nothing -- while my husband does the dishes.
I want to stop yelling at my children.
I want all of the laundry folded and tucked away, the bills organized and paid, the leak under the kitchen sink fixed.
I want us all to feel safe.
Last Wednesday, at 6 PM, I try for these dreams.
But there are some issues.
My husband is out of town.
The red wine gives me a headache. I google perimenopause and red wine. The news is horrifying.
So I become a yelling machine.
No way. Not on a school night. No. I don’t care how nicely you ask. No screentime. No. No! Nooooooooooo!
No. Please, Dash. Don’t sharpen your pencil with a chef knife!
Pick up your lunchbox your Legos your jacket your dirty socks your homework your cheddar bunnies!!!
I turn away from it all to stir a pungent paste of garlic, anchovies, tomato paste, and spices into the ground lamb. My world fills with cinnamon, paprika, cumin. The juices reduce down and thicken. I turn off the heat and reach for the dough.
I hear a jumble of voices: teacher, mama, recipe writer. Don’t move your body, move the dough. Don’t overhandle it. Add flour. Move quickly. Look at the beautiful marbling of butter. Isn’t dough amazing? Want to make a honey pie with the scraps?
I pour the filling into the pie shell, slide as much cheese as possible underneath the top crust, and bust out a scrappy crimp.
I am no longer yelling.
I snap out of my pie trance and remember that kids need to be fed at a reasonable hour on a school night.
And 8:30 PM isn’t reasonable.
I pull out the frozen pizza.
2 batches of your favorite pie dough (enough for two 10-inch circles rolled out 1/4-inch thick)
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and diced (yielding about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14 1/2 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I prefer creamy Grey Poupon)
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (fleur de sel or Maldon)
Photos by Phyllis Grant