CTB post for Molly Wizenberg’s A Homeade Life (or I thought making marshmallows would be easy!)

The current “Cook the Books” selection

I first became aware of Molly Wizenberg from her column in Bon Appetit.  (Of course, those more hip than myself knew Molly early on from her blog, Orangette.)

I remember our first meeting well.

It was the Summer of 2008 and I read about making homemade marshmallows in the July edition of the magazine.    But what really caught my attention about her was that somewhere,  either in that column or on NPR,  I heard she was from Oklahoma.   Always intrigued by fellow Okies whom have hit the big time (and to me,  having a column in Bon Appetit was huge),  I decided to make these marshmallows with the nephew for a fun kitchen project.  We would use our homemade treats for S’mores that July Fourth.

It was a disaster.

Nothing against Molly;  it was not her fault.

It was due to my failure to read through a recipe (AGAIN!).  When will I ever learn to read ALL the directions and have ALL the ingredients?  It started out by me not having potato starch,  running to the store to search for potato starch,  figuring out I could use arrowroot powder instead of potato starch,  finding said arrowroot,  and then the nephew (bless his heart) dumping this much sought after powder into the marshmallow mixture.   (Besides ruining the marshmallows, do you know how fine of a dust arrowroot powder makes over EVERYTHING?)

Tired,  frustrated,  and  dusty,  I started to clean up,  sending my nephew out to pop fire crackers and my sister back to the store.

We used store-bought marshmallows for our S’mores.

Despite my marshmallow debacle, I still eagerly read her column every month.  (See Fresh Lettuce from the Garden and how I used her Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs recipe.)

When her book came out, I knew I had to have a copy.  I was lucky enough to find an autographed one at a local bookstore.

My autographed (if not personalized) copy.

I could not believe it when Cook the Books announced this was our September foodie read.  And I was elated that Molly would actually be judging the posts.  (I hope she doesn’t hold the marshmallow fiasco against me. )

I first read Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table  last summer.   I was hooked.  I was laughing out loud in most sections and bawling into a Kleenex after some of the other chapters.

During her childhood, she mentions a few personalities, places, and events that I remember myself growing up near OKC.  Even though I am  older than Molly,  I too remember the McCain brothers on our local television station.  Probably my favorite chapter is “The Whole Messy Decade”  regarding the eighties.

Anyway, can I just say, despite my failure with that first attempted recipe, that I am hooked on her humor, her outlook, and her recipes!

Since reading A Homemade Life,  I have used a few recipes from her book like “Burg’s French Toast,” “French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon,”  and “Slow Roasted Tomatoes.”   I even posted about “Pickled Grapes” and “Potato Salad”  last summer.

Can you see the vinegar splotches on this recipe?

I did not reread A Homemade Life  for this post, but I did revisit the recipe index.  I decided that since I had LOTS of basil and had recently been the recipient of a friend’s surplus of zucchini that I would make  “Zucchini Noodles with Pesto.”  Also, my husband is not a big pesto fan, so I thought that if he knew the dish was for one of my blog posts,  he might have a different attitude.   Always the realist though, I thought it would be good as a cold leftover pasta  salad for my lunches.

(Due to the size of this post and my ramblings, I am condensing her original recipe a bit.)

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto
from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

1.  Make the pesto using your favorite recipe but use Molly’s technique first:

Put the basil leaves in a large heavy-duty ziplock plastic bag.  Press all the air from the bag, and seal it carefully.  Put the bag on the countertop or floor and, using a rolling pin, pound the bag until all the leaves are bruised.  This helps to release their flavor.


Since I have a marble rolling pin, I did not whack the basil to death and risk my countertops or tile floors. Rolling seemed to work well, too.

2.  Start a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

3.  Using a mandoline slicer, julienne 3 medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 lbs.).

I only cut myself once while julienning the zucchini. I know that this beast is going to send me to the ER one day!

Zucchini “noodles”—leave on the skin for more color (and more nutrients).

4.  Heat 3 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 5 minutes).

Sauteing the “noodles.” Be careful not to over cook them.

5.  When pasta water boils, cook 3/4 lb. dried spaghetti until al dente.  When done, transfer spaghetti to skillet using tongs.  (Another good tip:  This way some of the pasta water will get transferred as well to help create a nice sauce.)

6.  Add 1/2 cup of the pesto and toss with both kinds of “noodles.”

7.  Serve immediately.  Season with salt and pepper and “lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.”

I topped this with some slow roasted tomatoes.

I really thought that a pop of color would really add a POW to this dish.   I started some tomatoes to roasting prior to making the dish.  I had about a pint of grape tomatoes that I halved, drizzled with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and then popped in the oven at 250 degrees.

Molly says to roast for 4 hours, 6 hours, or even 8 hours.

(I had my oven set on “convection roast” so it only took about 90 minutes.)

The tomatoes look a little dark in the pics, but they are SOOOO GOOD. Molly states that they eat them like candy. I concur!

I love this dish.  It is healthy, light, and helps showcase some of the late summer’s best offerings:  basil  and zucchini (and offerings that most people have lots of.)

I have learned many things from Molly’s book and her recipes:

  • The above bruising basil technique.  (It does make a difference.)
  • The fabulous slow roasting tomato technique on page 192.
  • The best brand of canned garbanzo beans to buy.
  • To laugh at yourself in the kitchen (if you don’t believe that, I will revisit the infamous “arrowroot powder disaster of 2008.”)
  • To remember the best family memories with recipes and food.

CTB is hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen,  Johanna at Food Junkie, Not Junk Food,  and Rachel at The Crispy Cook.   Deb, thanks for a great pick!


Note:  Molly has a new book in progress, Delancey:

It’s about a marriage, in a sense: about a man and a woman and the restaurant that they, however uncomfortably, gave birth to. It’s about what we do for the people we love. It’s about growing up. And most of all, it’s about a small business that we made with our own hands, on our own terms, and the community that came with it, a life that I had no idea would be ours.

I know I am not the only one who can’t wait!


Final Note:  I did have these for lunch the next day at work.   It is delicious cold, too!!!!!!  (And, the hubby didn’t protest too much.  In fact, I think he rather enjoyed this dish.)


Absolutely Final Note:  For my other Cook the Book Club posts,  you might want to visit the following:

Embarrassment of Mangoes

Lunch in Paris

Garden Spells






15 comments to CTB post for Molly Wizenberg’s A Homeade Life (or I thought making marshmallows would be easy!)

  • Hey Eliot,

    The other day you entered a giveaway on my website “A Zesty Bite”. You won the plate to pixel book and I need your address. Please send me your address at meagandwied@gmail.com

    • Eliot

      Wow. Thanks a bunch! I’m excited and will send you the info soon. Thanks again. As you can probably see from my posts, I need all the pic and pixel advice I can get! 🙂

  • Liz

    What a great post! It always makes me feel better to read about other kitchen fiascoes after living through numerous of my own. I bet you made some great memories with your nephew that day. And your zucchini noodles and pesto look amazing…love the bruising tip, too. Looks like another book I have to buy…thanks for the recommendation!!!

  • Great post–very funny! I am sure she won’t hold the marshmallow escapade against you. 😉 I bout a spiralizer and love eating zucchini noodles so i almost made this one too. I love the addition of the roasted tomatoes.

    Thanks for joining in another round of Cook the Books–I am glad you could revisit a favorite. 😉

  • Great post for Cook the Books. I really enjoyed reading this selection too. But man, I wouldn’t go near a mandoline after an X-acto knife incident in my college days. You are a very brave cook!

  • I enjoyed reading your adventures through Molly’s book, and can totally relate to kitchen disasters. Great review. I’ve made some of her recipes and now want to try that Pesto and Zucchini Spaghetti, as well as… okay I have a list.

  • Kaye

    Love the marshmallow story! Sound too much like something that would happen in my kitchen. 🙂

  • Great choice of recipe and a beautiful plate of pasta.

  • Oh, such a fun post. I’ve loved my (more in-depth) introduction to Molly from reading this book. I can’t wait for her new one!

  • That was enjoyable, reading your post but I am most pleased to have read many of your other posts on your site…..why haven’t I found you before?!

    Thanks for the nice comment at my site, I had been comment free but had to open it for the Fairy Hobmother. Happy to have met you!

  • I love that you had the opportunity to purchase a signed copy! I live for signed copies of my books 🙂 that being said, I loved your whole post and your marshmallow story! I am also one of those people who can never read the recipe all the way through. I drive my boyfriend crazy doing in the moment shopping runs 🙂

    • Eliot

      I know what you mean. I have a grocery store almost too close to my home. I haven’t learned my lesson yet.

  • Seriously, how could Molly have not commented on this wonderful post! If I was her, I would have been cracking up at the marshmallow fiasco and tickled with the entire thing. This was probably my favorite post of yours–thanks for including the link in your comment on my zucchini spaghetti! I have a lot of basil right now and would love to try this. Do you have a good pesto recipe? I remember the only one I made was kinda yucky.

  • My second favorite would be the turned over chair “storm damage” you had a while back. haha!