I've tried in a million different ways to get this blog started today, irony being, I've been looking forward all week to sitting still, drinking coffee and writing. But *sigh*, there is simply too too much to take in to write about it all. Blurbs... I'll write in blurbs, and perhaps next blog I'll be able to focus more.
1. School. School is everything I expected and nothing at all like I thought. The group of people I'm with are a little different from the food-obsessed bread baking fiends I was with this summer. Maybe it's because this is a professional course and people take it for practical reasons, not the whimsical flight of fancy that had me sailing halfway across the country this summer to ponder the life cycle of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. No, in this group I've become known as one of the the several resident foodies ("You really like to cook" has become a phrase I've heard a few times). I don't want to say this seems funny to me, but what the hell, I'll say it. This seems funny to me. Then again, I am nothing if not fanatical about my pursuits, so perhaps these folks have a point. It's a great group and I think one of the best things about it is that we all have different reasons for and ways of approaching this new experience.
Right now we're making baguettes. Millions and millions of baguettes. This coming week we are promised even more of the same, yet this time with poolish and biga and pate fermente. It's not until week three that the real fun begins. Sourdough, enriched doughs, whole grains.... Honestly though, I'm mostly excited for the laminated doughs. Five more weeks and yes, I am counting down.
2. Trader Joe's. I will not and cannot take back my rant from last week. However, I can admit when I'm wrong and here's where I do that. Trader Joes does have merits beyond criminally cheap wine and miles of coffee. They make a damn fine banana vanilla yogurt. Lick the bowl clean and not care who sees you do it, good. It reminds me either of something I ate on a vacation to Spain when I was 5 or Yoplait. I'm not sure which. All I know is it's pure unadulterated yumminess.
3. Why is it so expensive to live in California? I'll tell you why. Living here in Northern California seems to be the equivalent of living in an impeccably landscaped and meticulously fed garden. The flowers!! There are six foot tall rose bushes, covered in roses that are so bright and perfect that they look like plastic. That sounds cheap and tawdry, but it's not. It's fantastic. It's Alice in Wonderland. There are flowers growing out of a crack in the house I'm living in. There are trees covered in blossoms everywhere I turn. At the Farmer's Market there are people trying to sell even more flowers. And people are buying them, as if there are not flowers upon flowers wherever you turn. So there you have it California, you get what you pay for. It's fucking beautiful here.
4. Meat. I don't eat it as a practice. Something came over me yesterday at the Ferry Building, though. Everywhere I turned there was sausage and prosciutto and cut upon cut of gorgeous and glorious humanely raised grass fed meat. I was overcome. And then I encountered this.... this tiny little pizza of ricotta and Meyer lemon and prosciutto. I gave in. She is a beaut, ain't she?
5. The Ferry Building. There really are no words for the bounty that awaited me there. It was nothing like this summer. It was bigger and bad-asser. It must be harvest time. I stopped shopping when I realized I could hardly carry my bounty home. I even gave into my Rancho Gordo cravings. Tonight is taco night. Many thanks to Rancho Gordo and the fine fine farmers of California. I hope my tacos will do you proud. But that's for the next post.
6. Friends. Just a quick shout out to my fantastic friends here who, in my first weekend alone, have made me feel so welcome and really really happy to be here.
7. Exhaustion. I am bone tired. It's rare that I'm psychologically tired, but right now I am. I intend to spend my day, butt firmly planted on the couch, watching movie upon movie. I'll get up for tacos and maybe for yoga. But that's it. Girlfriend's gotta rest.
8. Bookmarks. I miss my blogs. I've spent the last few years faithfully reading several blogs and the New York Times every week, carefully bookmarking each recipe I want to try and generally forgetting all about them. I've no time for reading blogs lately, but I do have all the time in the world for dinner. I finally dusted off my bookmarks folder and peeked into its contents. Link upon link were awaiting me, some so old their blogs have disappeared (which is very sad to encounter). With mouth watering I ventured forth. In that bookmarks folder I found a recipe I wish I'd tried ages ago. It's so rich and lovely with layer upon layer of flavor. The ingredients can be altered easily, so it's a great whatever's available type of meal. Hungry? Make this tonight because you'll be kicking yourself if it sits in your bookmarks folder as long as it sat in mine.
Olive Mill Pasta
Adapted from The New York Times
1/2 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, minced
1/4 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
5 1/2 cups, approximately, vegetable stock
14 oz pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and diced, or 1 cup diced canned tomatoes with their liquid
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A handful of arugula, plus extra for serving
8 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add butter. When it melts, add onions, potatoes and mushrooms. Cook, stirring gently, over medium heat until they begin to turn golden.
In a small saucepan, bring stock to a slow simmer.
Add dry pasta to sauté pan, and stir gently. Lightly season with salt and pepper, and add tomatoes, garlic and arugula. Add 1 1/2 cups stock. Cook, stirring gently, until nearly all stock has evaporated. Add another cup of stock, and cook, stirring, adding additional stock from time to time, so there is always some liquid in the pan, until pasta is al dente, about 18 minutes.
Fold in cheese and remaining olive oil. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to warm soup plates, on a bed of arugula.