Friday, February 12, 2010

Back in the Kitchen

I'm definitely back in the kitchen and it feels good to cook for family and friends. I think one of the things I like so much about cooking is that there is a beginning and an end. And most importantly there is something to show for the effort. And if you did a good job, there is feedback. So different from my life in the corporate world where projects piled on projects so that by the time you finished one there was no time to stand back for a minute and look at what you had accomplished. Most of the time there wasn't any feedback either until you got a promotion or a raise but it didn't seem to be tied to anything in particular. I like the short-term cycle of planning, execution and reward that comes from cooking.

My menu last night was green tapenade with toasts, also cheddar coins. Then a creamy carrot soup with crema and chives. Roasted pork tenderloin, couscous with peas and carrots and roasted asparagus, and the dessert was an apple rustic tart. Oh, and I also made a loaf of no-knead bread.

The green tapenade was a recipe from Julia Childs. I followed the recipe exactly and I thought it was a little overwhelming. Next time I'll cut the garlic and anchovies by half. As a spread it was too strong but it could work with a pasta or maybe as a garnish for a grilled steak.

I've been making the carrot soup recipe for years but last night it was especially delicious. Everyone thinks it is full of cream but it isn't. You add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rice to the soup while it cooks and then puree it until very smooth. It has the texture of a rich creamy soup and you can use that trick with other cream of vegetable soups. I did add a teaspoon of crema as a garnish along with some chopped chives from my terrace garden. It looked very pretty.

The rest of the menu was nothing new but I did learn something with the Rustic Tart. The recipe calls for the dough to be made in a stand mixer. I've been making it in the food processor because it seemed to be faster and worked okay. Yesterday I followed the recipe exactly for the dough. It was the easiest dough to roll out I've ever made for the tart. And it rolled out in a perfect circle and made perfect pleats around the apples. I've been struggling to learn to make good crusts and I'm getting better. Can't believe I waited until I was this old to start learning to do make crusts but I couldn't live up to my Mother's crusts and I could buy suitable substitutes from the frozen food section in the grocery stores. So I was lazy. Now, here I am in Mexico and I am forced to learn to make a decent crust. I love this apple rustic tart recipe. It is a dessert that isn't overly sweet and makes a nice finale to a dinner. Also, I have to admit that it makes a pretty good breakfast as well.

Yesterday was the first time I made the no-knead bread. Ned has made it a couple of times but I have bought a book of recipes for no-knead breads so I thought I should start out with the one that our friends Suzanne and John showed us how to make. You start it about 20 hours before you want the loaf of bread but it is simple to make. Talk about a big reward! Everyone is really impressed with homemade bread. I brought back some loaf pans to try some of the other recipes in the book by Nancy Baggett, Kneadlessly Simple, Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads If you want to try the no-knead bread, here is a link to the recipe.

I really do love thinking about food. I already have a couple of other dinner parties all planned out in my head. I'm definitely back in the kitchen.


Leslie Limon said...

I feel the same way! I love being in the kitchen and making wonderful dishes for my family and friends to enjoy. I've been wanting to buy one of those No-Knead bread books, so I will have to try this recipe.

Hope you have a great weekend! :D

Sam and Bob said...

Everything sounds delicious. Glad you are doing what you enjoy.

Calypso said...

Good to have you back in the kitchen!

Anonymous said...

What's cool is you aren't pigeonholed but are of many passions. Thanks for the dinner party glimpse. Danaj

Billie said...

Thanks everyone and Leslie, do try that recipe. It really isn't hard. My friend cooks hers in a Mexican clay pot with a lid. You'll need one that has a lid that really fits because it is the steam in the pot that helps make the great crust.
Danaj, a special thanks to you. Your comment about being of many passions made me feel very good.

Cynthia said...

Is it possible to get the carrot soup recipe? Sounds wonderful.