I am doing my best to resurface from drowning in my self-pity. Ugh, feeling pathetic is awful. I am falling in a hole. The weird hole of unemployment… When I was working full time I allowed my imagination to go places and I fancied myself opening my own bakery like my friend, Angela (Ethos Bakery), or owning a yoga studio (Yoga Hut) like these Jen(n)ifers. But now that I actually have time to make things happen, I'm not doing much except for sitting around while dreaming away. When I wake up (figuratively), the day is almost over and all I have accomplished is cleaning the kitchen and doing the laundry. Yoga practice is a given since I pretty much practice every day and perhaps a walk if the cold doesn’t scare me from stepping outside.
The proverbial question of what to do with my life constantly looms over my head. What is it that I really want to do? I can get lost in my own world chopping vegetables, stirring a pot of soup, kneading bread, cracking open pistachios, and chopping chocolate to roll in cinnamon buns. These are the things that I have been doing every day of my unemployment (except during the time when I was at yoga teacher training). But, I need to earn some dinero and hiding in my kitchen listening to podcasts and Pandora will not get me anywhere.
This would have been the best time to record all the amazing stuff I have been cooking up and share with you guys. But I have been very selfish with my cooking lately and unwilling to disrupt the process by recording everything and snapping photos. Forgive me for that. Do allow me to share some humble pieces of advice though. I believe in cooking instinctively and I live by these simple rules that I have learned in my kitchen adventures:
1. Buy seasonal ingredients and utilize whatever you have on hand.
2. Cook with lots of garlic.
3. Salt (noun and verb). Don’t be modest with salt BUT always make sure to use just a little bit to start and then add according to your taste.
4. When something is amiss with whatever you are making, a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice always helps.
5. Save the last wedges of hard cheeses (Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, extra sharp cheddar) and add it to soups especially tomato based ones. It is a wonderful flavor enhancer!
6. A handful of fresh herbs never hurt.
7. Poach eggs on soups (especially tomato-based soups, minestrone, or any soup with beans and legumes). Makes for really great, heart-warming meals.
8. Use full fat Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. Or add a big dollop in a bowl of chili that accidentally got doused with a little too much chili powder.
9. Olive oil is a magical elixir… for cooking, roasting, and baking.
10. Keep tasting as you cook. Maybe add more salt, maybe some cumin (this ingredient is a great flavor enhancer like MSG, only it’s not bad for you), or maybe some lemon!
A peek at what I’ve been up to in my kitchen and loose bits of recipe information:
Lemony Crab Pasta… This was quite amazing. I bought some fresh (kind of) crabmeat from a local fish monger and paid a big amount of money for a tub. The price almost gave me a heart attack when he rang it up but I was too embarrassed to say “Uh, I don’t want it anymore, muy expensivo ”. The main ingredients are crabmeat, lemon, garlic, fresh parsley, rotini, and of course a generous heap of freshly grated Parmesan. The cream sauce is made of leftover heavy cream and some cream cheese.
Leche Flan is one of my most favorite Filipino desserts. It is so rich and so melt-in-your mouth wonderful. I had to make this because DFJ left me a dozen egg yolks after he made me an angel food cake for my birthday. I adapted this recipe slightly by using 12 eggs instead of 10.
Rough and Ready Turnip Potage from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets. Talk about delicious, comfort food for these cold cold days!
Creamy Ginger-Coconut Sweet Potato, Cauliflower, and Kale. The made-up recipe name tells you exactly what is in this bowl of sweet, earthy, warm-spicy goodness.
Joy The Baker… she is so, so, so BONKERS AWESOME! I spent most of my afternoon a few days ago baking these Pistachio, Orange, and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls. These are the best cinnamon rolls ever! The dough itself tastes really good and can stand alone as a perfect breakfast or dinner or snack roll. And seriously, how much better does it get when you add in some fancy dark chocolate, salty pistachios, and orange zest? The strong chocolate flavor complements the cinnamon sugar and the salty pistachio bits are super fun to bite into… unfurling the rolls with all of these good things is a special treat.
Lemon, Rosemary, and Olive Oil Shortbread… Oh, these are super addictive in a really good way. I over-baked mine and it ended up too hard to bite into. So, I stabbed edges off inch by inch with a small, sturdy, sharp knife and ate one shard after another of rosemary infused shortbread heaven. This is definitely something I would eat for dessert every day and not feel guilty about. There’s nothing too overbearing about this cookie and it is soooo good in its simplicity.
Ruby Red and Rosemary Honey Cocktail… I fully intended to have DFJ make this exact concoction for me, except for I accidentally grabbed navel oranges instead of grapefruit. It still tasted pretty damn good! I might have one again tonight… with navel oranges.
Roasted Brussels sprouts, amazing roasted onions (recipe here), mashed avocado (in lieu of mayonnaise), and apple slices on an open-face sandwich. The bread is recipe is Ken Forkish’s Overnight White Bread from Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Of course what is a sandwich without french fries??? This is my take on homemade oven-baked rosemary, garlic, Parmesan fries.
A lonely girl’s lunch of leftover roasted Brussels sprouts, the mind-blowing (sweet and tangy) roasted onions, and a hard-boiled egg, with the homemade artisan bread. YES, I’m baking artisan bread at home again. I plan on baking all the bread recipes in Ken Forkish’s book and then opening my own bakery (yeah right on the latter but truly planning on the former).
Writing all of that just made me feel so much better! It is almost dark out and I will try to get that walk in before the day is over.