Monthly Archive for October 2009
Somehow, October has all but slipped away. Along with it will go the leaves that have been so beautifully dying, daylight savings time, patches of late summer weather, outdoor farmers’ markets, that lovely golden fall light, and, perhaps most sadly of all, pumpkin baking season.
I know many of these things won’t disappear immediately, but the end of October, I think, is the beginning of the end of the fall. Quite an ominous honor, but late October carries it well. And sure, when it comes to pumpkins, the gourds will be around for weeks more, but most will be jack-o-lantern-bound this weekend or pie-bound at the end of November. Let’s face it: the time for pumpkin is waning.
Pudding and I have been only recently reunited. For a long while, it was banished from my diet. In my mind’s eye, pudding was an oddly-textured substance found in those little foil-covered plastic cups and, after I hit a certain age, even Cliff Huxtable himself couldn’t convince me that they were delicious. I suppose, if I’m being fair, my mind’s eye could also see a pudding that started with a box—one not much larger than a deck of cards, stuffed with powders and packets. The former breed of pudding (the “snack pack” breed) was a staple in my friends’ brown-bag lunches as a kid. The latter type (the “homemade” variety) was a mainstay on the church buffet table and it seemed to come in two flavors: chocolate, with a swirl of Rediwhip, or banana, adorned with a crown of Nilla Wafers.
I had no idea that there was another category of pudding altogether. So, for years, I went pudding-less.
After what felt like weeks on end full of deadlines, pressure, and not nearly enough time in any given day, things have slowed down a bit for me. And, can I just tell you, it’s lovely. It’s given me the opportunity to smile and sleep and breathe a little more, not to mention spend more time cooking, baking, taking pictures and tidying up around this site. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to:
(1) The Recipe Index is current! An update was a long time coming. The site user statistics indicate that many of you out there visit the Recipe Index quite a bit, which, to tell you the truth, completely thrills me. If this site is a resource for even one person, I am a happy camper. So, take a peek at the index. Quick! Before it falls out of date again.
I had my doubts about this recipe. First, after discovering it, apparently the recipe for the bolognese ragu that Mario Batali himself favors, I soon found other bolognese recipes online, all attributed to the same chef—the one in the orange clogs. While the first recipe had me shuffling toward the stove at first read, the recipes I discovered subsequently gave me pause. An Italian chef’s ragu recipe is something, I would think, he would defend fiercely. He would mark his territory, stick to his guns—it would be his ragu or the highway.
In the end, I debated between the recipe I’d seen first and the recipe Mario purportedly serves at Babbo. I went with the recipe I saw first. If it was good enough for Mario, I concluded, it was good enough for me. But I still wondered about the recipe’s siblings and what the apparent proliferation of Mario bolognese recipes meant for the reliability of the one I’d chosen.
Last Saturday was dazzling, which I might not have made clear, focusing in my last post, as I did, on my very least favorite part of the day—that dratted tart. In doing so, I buried the lede, as we used to say in journalism school. Because the lede is this: the day was spectacular. It was that perfect fall day that, in some years (and I am afraid this year is one of them), comes but once. It was sunny and cool and, when I woke up, it stretched ahead of me like a giant, lazy yawn.
So I filled a good part of the day with all sorts of cooking. Our friends Maggie and Matt were set to arrive at 7:30 for dinner and cards and I had been dreaming of the things I would cook all week long. That Saturday afternoon saw six recipes, each brand new to me. The tart was the only dud among the six, and today it’s time to tell you about one of the best.
I’ve been putting this off. I’ve been seeking out distractions, studiously avoiding a little kitchen incident that stained my Saturday. Yesterday, for instance, I uploaded a bunch of photographs snapped during a morning spent in Evanston—trees practically aglow with their multi-colored leaves, gourds at the market. It was all fall, plus a stray bagel, but no signs of a kitchen mishap. Then, tonight, when I meant to say that enough was enough, to sit down here to write, I turned instead to the dishes, happy to give Kevin the night off. When the dishes were dried and replaced in the cupboards, I glanced sidelong at the computer and turned the other way. I started to pick up the rest of the apartment. Before I knew it, I had a roll of paper towels stowed snuggly beneath one arm, with an eye to the spots on the bathroom mirror.
When I had achieved a streak-free mirror, though, all that was left was my reflection. It was time to stop avoiding it: it was time to tell you about the tart. The brown butter apple tart, if you must know. But let’s just nip this in the bud: don’t let that recipe title seduce you. God knows, that was the effect it had on me.
When it comes to lunch, I’m pretty predictable: I’m generally a sandwich-or-soup kind of gal. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll make the sandwich hot or the soup cold, but I’m adventurous less often than not. On the weekends, from time to time, I’ll spice it up—eschewing my normal fare for a mish-mash of cheeses and crackers and fruit and such. In a very blue moon, I’ll manage to keep my early morning hunger at bay long enough to trade lunch in for brunch.
But, it might be time to rethink my ways.
As it turned out, my weekend wasn’t dusted in flour, as I’d hoped it would be. Instead, it was littered with work. I won’t try to sugar coat it: it was exhausting. It wasn’t leisurely and photo-filled. There were no leaf peeping excursions or apple-picking missions. There was a brief breeze through the farmers’ market, but only on the tail end of a Sunday morning jog.
But take heart.
To spend an afternoon in the kitchen, arms dusted with a powdery veneer of all-purpose flour, is one of the true pleasures of a weekend. Especially when yeast is in involved (building in pockets of time, like it does, for a brisk walk to get fresh air or a quick spell to put your feet up) and kneading is called for (a mindless task, satisfying in its physicality).
And all of this is pleasant enough when, in the end, as the late afternoon sun bends in golden through the windows, a tall loaf or a squat boule or a broad focaccia or a twisted challah emerges from the oven.