Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday morning song

I am a firm believer in lazy Sunday mornings.

I realize that this is probably because for the past few years, lazy Sundays have not existed for me. Especially during my time in San Francisco, I was working nearly every Sunday for at least a few hours, and oftentimes much longer than that.

During my last year of college, Sunday was the one day of the week when I didn't work or have multiple dance classes (only one class on Sundays, you see, and that was the rehearsal when I was the choreographer). My Sundays that year were comprised of quality time in my school's dark room in the mornings and early afternoons before dance rehearsal around dusk. Then I'd head home to have some dinner and study. They were lovely days, though a bit too filled and scheduled to be my ideal.

Every other Sunday here in Louviers, I am cleaning, doing mise en place and then helping Susan serve the students their Welcome Dinner while hanging out with F. Not the lazy Sunday of my dreams, but we've been really good about going for bike rides and swims these past few weeks as the weather has warmed up, so I'm not complaining.

Today, however, well, today is my kind of Sunday. I got up, tidied the kitchen a bit and hung some laundry out on the line before heading to the bakery for a brioche to dunk every so delicately in my morning milky tea. I then curled up on the couch and read for an hour in perfect silence.

Mornings like this one don't come nearly often enough.

But I love them when they do.

I don't have a recipe for you today, but I would steer you in the direction of the link Molly put up recently on rhubarb compote. Except that I would tell you to take some direction from this lovely lady and leave out the orange liquor and throw in a touch of pure vanilla extract. It's heavenly.

Now go enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

On school and simplicity

Cooking school provides opportunities where entire evenings are completely devoted to making three different cookie doughs, rolling them out into logs, wrapping them in parchment paper and slipping them neatly into plastic bags to be refrigerated, then later frozen. Those white logs sitting side by side in the refrigerator are more than enough to make a girl feel proud.

And of course, a half log snuck out of line, sliced up and baked, yielding midnight black sablés to be eaten in between batches with a glass of wine...well that's one of life's best and simplest pleasures.

I've been thinking a lot about how I eat recently (that probably comes as no great surprise), and I've discovered that simpler things really do satisfy me.

I had a phenomenal dinner last night that consisted of steamed asparagus, tossed with olive oil and thinly sliced, quickly blanched, spring onions. The whole mess was then showered with grated aged goat cheese and left alone for about 10 minutes for the cheese to melt slowly over the still-warm asparagus and onions. Then we took it outside with some cut up bread and ate to our heart's content, enjoying the mild weather, view of the church and the great company.

That's the kind of dinner I want to eat all the time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Its perfect complement

My my, but it has been awhile.

Unfortunately, I seem to be saying that rather frequently in this space as of late, but this job has been keeping me quite busy. We just finished up a wonderful 3-day class here in Louviers and starting tomorrow we have three classes in two days in Paris.

The week before, my mother came to visit and help celebrate my birthday, and we had a lot of fun. From a degustation in a tiny underground cave to navigating French highways in a stick shift van to drinking a white Languedoc while watching My Fair Lady...well, we did it up right.

We took trips to Rouen and Honfleur, and had many a walk around Louviers, which was showing off by flowering blooms everywhere.

We also managed to do quite a bit of cooking together, with my mother discovering the wonders of pre-roasted beets in salads and broiled mackerel with tangy lime/soy vinaigrettes. I think I also may have created a fellow addict to a phenomenal Turkish yogurt that I get at a little Kosher grocery store in town. That stuff is like yogurt crack.

And as it happens, its perfect complement is my grandmother's famous rhubarb crunch recipe, which we prepared mid-week.

I say famous, because this is one of my favorite desserts of all time, and was a staple in my house growing up. So...I suppose it's famous only in the Douglas household, but it really should be in yours as well.

Rhubarb Crunch
Adapted from Agnes Douglas

1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, cut into rough cubes
3/4 cup oats
4 cups fresh rhubarb, any leaves removed, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9' X 9' glass pan with butter.

Place the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and oats into a medium mixing bowl. Use your hands to toss and mix them together. Add the butter pieces and use your fingers to thoroughly incorporate the butter into the oat mixture. To do this, you'll want to squish the butter cubes and dry ingredients between your fingers, rolling them a bit until you no longer have any large butter chunks.

Place the sugar, water, cornstarch and vanilla into a medium saucepan and warm over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has begun to thicken up.

Press half of the oat and butter mixture into the bottom of the pan. Top with the cut rhubarb slices, then drizzle the sugar water over the rhubarb. Layer the remaining half of the oat and butter mixture on top, taking care to evenly cover the rhubarb underneath.

Bake for 1 hour, or until bubbling around the edges.

Serves 2 throughout an entire week. Under normal circumstances, serves 12-16.

Note: You want to try this fresh out of the oven with some vanilla ice cream. Trust me on this one.