Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Necessary Detour

It's been weeks since my last post and my guilt is overwhelming! How can I let my blog just languish in the ether? How can I call myself a blogger if I don't constantly post?

Well, I guess the important thing is that I haven't been languishing in the kitchen. While I've taken a necessary detour from my mother's cookbook project (for reasons that will be revealed later), I have been truly inspired by the freshness of the season: peaches, tomatoes, arugula, fresh figs, lemons, mint...

[Grilled Peaches with Gorgonzola and Proscuitto over a bed of Arugula]

The above came together on a gorgeous Sunday morning that Olivia and I had all to ourselves (one of the few gorgeous mornings we've had this year, thanks to an unbelievably long season of June Gloom).  Daddy was out of town so we pulled out the little swimming pool and a beach chair and made the backyard our own private resort. 

I had been wanting to grill peaches for a while because they seem to be a staple item in every celebrity chef's cookbook and on all the gourmet magazine covers when summer rolls around. So I thought I'd give it a go. Now normally, I don't touch the grill—it's not my domain. I leave that to the expert in the house. But why not? It doesn't require actually building a fire after all. Just turning some knobs. Once I figured out how to find the Low setting on the dial...I know, kind of a standard operation, but I was in foreign territory...I whipped out those peaches, brushed them with some olive oil, and laid them on the grates (is that what they're called?) along with some homemade bread and a frozen thin crust margherita pizza I had in the freezer. 

While Olivia splashed around, I whipped together this beautiful little picnic with very little fuss and in very little time. Under our big, beautiful tree, we sat on a blanket and ate and played and laid on our backs looking up at the tree, and it was perfect. For just a few moments, mommy and daughter had a sunny summer moment, and Angus didn't even try to steal our food.

I've mentioned homemade bread before—it is my new obsession, when I have time to be obsessed about something.

I've been baking bread with my new best friend, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the greatest bread baking cookbook on the planet by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I don't know what it is about baking bread, but it is empowering for me. And the Master Recipe in this cookbook is so incredibly simple but produces the most amazing loaves—I've made several batches in the past few months and have not screwed up a single time. It's truly foolproof. If anyone out there is intimidated by baking bread, go buy this book and a pizza stone, and go to town! 

The recipe is essentially this: 3 cups lukewarm water; 2 packets of yeast; 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt; 6 1/2 cups of flour. Mix it with a standmixer with the dough hook. Let rise for two hours and then you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just pull off a grapefruit size hunk, knead it a bit, form it into a variety of shapes, let rest for about 40 minutes, then bake on a pizza stone at 450 for about 30-35 minutes. There are many variations on this recipe in the book, along with great recipes for side dishes, pizzas, appetizers, and main dishes.

[Pesto Chicken Salad with Burrata, Sundried Tomatoes, and Arugula on Homemade Ciabatta Rolls]

While on my detour, I've also spent a lot of time perusing some of my favorite food blogs, gaining inspiration, and marveling at how prolific they are!! How do they have the time? The one I got the above recipe from is called BGSK (Big Girls Small Kitchen) and I wish they were around when I was a "quarter-life cook" living on my own in my tiny apartment and just beginning to learn that I could actually prepare food that wasn't intended for the microwave. This was around the time that cooking shows were starting to change my culinary landscape, and that of the entire country. My first show was The Naked Chef with Jamie Oliver, years before he would become a crusader against childhood obesity. He was darling and hysterical and his food was so unfussy and pure. From then on, the only channel I would ever want to watch was the Food Network—that was really all there was when it came to cooking shows—and then my cookbook collection started, and my repertoire of "go to" recipes expanded, and now it's food blogs and Top Chef and my very own cookbook project. 

Anyway, the sandwich above was perfect for a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl; one was plenty for my husband and I to share. Knowing that I had roasted the chicken myself a few days before, and that the pesto was also homemade, the recipe was that much more satisfying. While I love eating out at restaurants fine and cheap alike—and will eat almost anything a food truck will serve me—I am truly appreciating the satisfaction of a homemade meal that involves as little prepared or packaged food as possible. I guess I'm trying my hand at making things from scratch, whenever I can possibly find a few extra moments to do it. 

I'll be making my way back onto the cookbook project road soon, now that the reason for my detour—morning sickness—has seemingly passed. I just couldn't face another chewy, gooey cookie recipe when all I wanted to do was have a pickle and a saltine cracker. Yep, that's right baby #2 is on the way in February, so I've got to "get on the stick" as my mother would say and whip this cookbook into shape before another little munchkin enters my life. I've realized I need to focus more on compiling the recipes into the cookbook layout itself than on testing recipes. I have a huge stack of cards I just need to type up and lots of decisions to make about accompanying copy, fonts, colors, photos (I'm a graphic designer after all, and could spend a year just creating the book!) So back to it I will go with a jar of pickles at my side.


  1. Just ordered the bread book from your link - Missy had seen it but hadn't gotten it yet. By the way, 4pm is the wrong time to read your blog posts. Didn't realize how hungry I was. And no grilled peaches nearby...

  2. Will definitely have to pick up that bread book...sounds perfect for someone like me (i.e. suffering from a fear of bread failure). Oh and congrats on the upcoming addition to your family! Blogging with two little ones is challenging yet possible!

  3. I don't know where to begin!

    First, congratulations on Baby #2! That is sooo exciting.

    Second, your photos are really terrific. All your food looks amazing. Food photography is not my strong suit - what kind of camera do you use? Are you a photography hobbyist?

    Third, I love that you conquered the grill. Reminds me of the Pablo Picasso quote: "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."

    I could go on and on, but I'll shut up now. Loving the blog!


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