Before I write:
Examine my fingernails and wonder if there’s something wrong with the bumpy one; make a mental note to file them soon.
Send funds to two friends who are waiting to get paid back.
Look around for the right place to put my teabag; stare into space, check the time.
Switch my phone to airplane mode. Turn off Gmail and close all of the other tabs that I’ve opened since sitting down at my desk. This all feels like an accomplishment and I haven’t even put anything on the page yet.
Finally there’s nothing left to distract me so I think back on my week last week, when I was in the kitchen a lot. A whole lot. I’ve spent the past six months in the initial phase of a career transition - but after trying a bunch of things on for size (I’m a personal chef! I cater parties! I’m a kitchen coach! I’m opening a cafe! I teach cooking classes!), I’m back where I’ve been many times, wanting to focus on writing about food and cooking and figure out a way to make it pay.
I narrowed my focus through a process of looking closely at everything I’ve been doing for the past six months and evaluating whether it met certain structural needs - is it flexible; can I do it anywhere my family ends up moving; can it be lean and agile with low expenses; can I grow it to a point where my income contributes significantly to our household’s bottom line; can it be something that leaves me time to pursue interests outside of work?
I kept coming back to writing about food and cooking. And just like that, I found myself in the kitchen, coming up with food to eat and ideas to write about. Here are a few of the things I made, things I think I’ll find myself coming back to again and again:
On Monday, I was getting ready for a Fresh Collective event and had signed on to do some of the food - I made three quarts of green goddess dip and a whipped a great deal of feta with olive oil and lemon juice until it was fluffy and smooth. When the event was over, we had tons of food left over so our team divvied it all up and I went home with roasted red peppers, bunches of mint, carrots, hummus, baguette, and assorted other vegetables I’m still trying to work through.
The next night I made pesto with some of that mint and toasted pumpkin seeds. Tossed it with pasta and smeared some over toasted baguette. Topped the toasts with the roasted red peppers and made a big salad with radicchio, fennel, and asparagus spears.
On Wednesday I was teaching a class so together we made hand-made pasta, steamed artichokes, more green goddess, and I demonstrated strawberry-rhubarb galette. I need more artichokes in my LIFE.
Thursday evening we thought we were having friends over so I prepped dough and fruit for another crostata and marinated a chicken in yogurt with garlic and smoked paprika - the friends weren’t coming until Sunday so we grilled the chicken and ate it anyway, with some sauteed peas and lettuce (have you ever sauteed lettuce? It works) - I was tired, drank too much wine and ate too many corn chips and was in bed by 9pm.
Friday was leftover green goddess with assorted veggies and handmade rye fettucine, which is easier than you might expect though still a little extra for a Friday night. But it was light and springy and we kept it simple - tossed with butter and pecorino and a little shower of chives.
No cooking on Saturday, but Sunday was Mother’s Day so I made this delicious crowd-pleasing lemon chicken dish from the Silver Palate that my mother used to make. I’m bringing it back - it’s a little bit of work but can be done ahead and taste great cold or at room temperature. And people love it. With a green salad and some roasted baby potatoes tossed in tarragon and mint. Small slices of strawberry-rhubarb tart for dessert.
Went home and cooked some more for the out-of-town friends. Another yogurt-marinated chicken, some steamed asparagus, and a spinach salad I’ve made a few times lately: spinach, blackberries, toasted sunflower seeds, and crumbled gorgonzola. The usual mustard vinaigrette that I make in a jar and keep on hand always. Oh, and I made a romesco sauce to go with the chicken and asparagus and I also set some bread on fire under the broiler.
I don’t think I usually cook this much in any given week. But it felt like the thing to do. Soon I’ll get both of those chicken recipes together.