about bliss

Sunday, September 16, 2007

kitchen home

My weekend has largely evolved in the kitchen, the only place I seem to feel at home these days. I keep reminding myself that this feeling of homelessness will pass as the weeks and months unfold and I settle into the strangeness that at times seems so jarring. Autumn weekends in Wisconsin are distinctly color coded: Red on Saturdays (to cheer on the Badgers) and Green and Gold on Sundays (to cheer on the Packers). I felt like the only person not wearing the de rigeuer garb as I wandered the Farmer’s Market yesterday and the grocery store today.

Yesterday at the market I was waiting in line to buy delicious beautiful organic veggies--they always have a line, which is heartening (they’re the only table to declare themselves organic or anything close)--when I felt hands on both sides of my waist. It felt like something my Grandma would do if she were here, but of course she lives in Michigan. I turned to see that the owner of the hands was an elderly woman on a mission for tomatoes. I waited for her to say something as her hands left my waist and I turned away, but she silently sidled alongside the table toward the heirloom beefsteaks. I, on the other hand, patiently waited my turn.

I watched kids eating cider donuts, and felt a prick of homesickness when I saw a table of blueberry honey from Grand Haven...And I remembered that the last two years this was “apple weekend,” the fall gathering of my best college friends and myself. We’d stay at my parents’ home and spend Saturday in Saugatuck/Fennville. I would run the Mt. Baldy 5K (last year I even won 3rd place in my age group!) and then we’d lunch at the Journeyman Cafe, pick apples at a conventional orchard (where we’d also buy apple butter and cider donuts) and an organic farm (where we wrestled with the threat of bees and poison ivy), drink coffee and enjoy scones and hummus at one of my favorite coffee shops (uncommon grounds), walk around cute shops, and eat pizza at Marro’s (where I would drink one glass of wine and someone else would have to drive my car back to my parents’).

My kitchen became a place of refuge on a cool, breezy day. I made butternut squash ravioli-- a mixture of roasted organic squash, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, sage (all from local farms), pepper, salt, and honey (from Leelanau) stuffed in wonton wrappers (someday I’ll brave my own pasta). After boiling the ravioli, I pan toasted them with more sage and chopped walnuts in a bit of butter. I finished them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of wisconsin parm, and set them on a bed of wilted organic spinach. A side dish of oven roasted cauliflower and carrots completed this wonderful expression of fall! Oh, and the last glass of my Crios Torrontes, one of my favorite wines.

I also “invented” a tart yesterday, and it’s good, though it needs a little work to be great, and a bit more work to be transcendent. A basic pate brisee topped with dark chocolate ganache (made with half-and-half, which worked surprisingly well), and then a layer of butterscotch pudding (made mostly with skim milk--it is a bit less voluptuous, but makes me feel better about eating the dessert:). A sprinkle of toasted nuts or shaved chocolate on top. Yeah, it’s fairly good, but the crust is a tad tough and too thick. It’s been awhile since I’ve made pastry and hence am a bit out of practice.

Today I made stuffed shells despite a DIRE situation with ricotta/cottage cheese. Yesterday I bought cottage cheese, brought it home and then remembered that it’s one of those products that often contains various gums and stabilizers. So I went back to the grocery store today and the only like product I could find that’s not filled with various gums and stabilizers was marscapone and I couldn’t justify that high level of fat (especially with my cholesterol test on thursday morning!). So I used cottage cheese with all that CRAP in it and I was quite put out by the whole situation. I might not have pursued the dish but I already had the cottage cheese at home and would feel bad about throwing it away. My cover-up strategy involved adding tons of good stuff to the cottage cheese filling: fresh basil and parsley, roasted garlic and roasted peppers, spinach, black pepper, wisconsin parm. But, I swear I could still discern a difference in taste and texture since I usually avoid all such fakery. And this situation annoys me to no end because it is endemic of agri-business. If we bought local, sustainable foods, we wouldn’t need such crap in them because they wouldn’t be coming from some faraway place. And everything would be simpler and taste better!

But I can feel myself being self-righteous and that’s not a good combination with a feeling of homelessness:) Besides, I need to check on my raspberry jam, the last fresh dish to come out of my kitchen this weekend, and then rest for the week ahead.

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