Cook in the Moment: Rhubarb Clafoutis

Rhubarb Clafoutis (c)2012

This Mother’s Day I’m thinking about my little sister. We were only born two years apart, but in my mind she will always be somewhere between 5 and 15 years old. When I look at her, it’s a different story. I’m in awe of the woman my sister has grown up to be. At first glance, a true beauty, with those innocent blue eyes and pearly white skin. Beyond the surface I can see a surprising strength and determination. She is the newest mother in our family. Last June, my one and only sister gave birth to a beautiful boy, and I still can’t believe she’s a mother. I can’t believe I’m an aunt. I can’t believe our mother is a grandmother and our grandmother is a great grandmother. Though I live 800 miles from my sister, I have felt the repercussions of her becoming a mother like aftershocks from an earthquake.


Cook in the Moment: Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce (c)2012

I’m not into celebrity chefs, per se. My favorite cookbooks are penned by self-taught home cooks with an interesting story to tell and a reverence for the craft of writing. Paula Wolfert, Nigel Slater, David Tanis, even Nigella Lawson. I want more than recipes. Give me history, culture, tradition. Let me be lost in your story and see the world through new eyes. I’m drawn to people who have a contagious enthusiasm for life. José Andrés is one of those cooks. He’s joyful and driven in his mission to share Spanish food with the world. Sure he is a celebrity, but to me, he’s not a celebrity chef. It’s substance and meaning and a new spin on traditional recipes that give his food depth. When I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time (in April), eating at one of José Andrés’ restaurants was at the top of my list.


Cook in the Moment: Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (c)2012

Olive Oil, More Than Just a Commodity

Olive oil- to us, it’s just food. Many of us here in the U.S. have never seen a gnarled olive tree. Olive oil comes from isle 9 in the grocery store, with no history, no context, only pictures on bottle labels depicting romantic Italian villas. Olive oil is a commodity. Merriam Webster defines commodity as “a mass-produced unspecialized product.” Reading Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller, took me on a journey through the olive growing regions of the world, beginning in Italy, passing through Spain, Greece, Australia, and California. Amongst discussion of olive oil pressing methods, olive oil tasting notes, and corruption in the olive oil industry, the pit stop that stuck with me most was Palestine. In an interview with Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mueller explores the olive branch as a symbol of peace since ancient times, now warped into an emblem of conflict:


Cook in the Moment: Braised Halibut and Artichokes

Braised Halibut and Artichokes (c)2012

The sky is grey and a cool breeze whips through the tree branches. I watch from my apartment window as they wave back and forth, as if in slow motion, tender spring blossoms quivering. The rain pelts the window, “tap, tap, tap.” “Come in, “ I invite her. On Sunday I enjoy her company like that of an old friend who has been away for too long. Rain is rare in Boulder, Colorado. Snow, however, is a frequent visitor, often overstaying his welcome, as winter becomes spring. This year is off to a dry start, and summer in Colorado will be very dry- dessert like. The unexpected rain shower is a welcome guest I embrace, inhaling her perfume of wet grass, savoring the sound of each drop like laughter between friends. She takes me back to my childhood in Arkansas, where humidity was a constant companion and rain poured readily from the sky. These are good memories of green country fields cloaked in fog, sopping wet clothes from a surprise downpour, and playing in puddles.


Cook in the Moment: Lemon Curd Tart

Lemon Curd Tart (c)2012

One of my unofficial resolutions this year is to bake more fruit tarts. Year after year I find myself wishing I had baked with the strawberries of spring, the peaches of summer, and autumn’s glorious apples. Time passes so quickly, and I regret not celebrating fresh fruit at the peak of its season. It may seem silly to worry about such things, but I believe investing precious spare time in baking a fruit tart slows time down a little. Eating fresh fruit out of hand is a true pleasure, but it’s a fleeting one. Baking a tart is a ritual beginning with selecting the fruit, composing the pastry and blind-baking it, filling the tart shell and finishing it off in the oven. We plan each step then we wait as fruit bubbles and crust caramelizes under the heat of the oven, filling the kitchen with its tantalizing aroma. To me, a fruit tart embodies hospitality. If you’ve got a tart and a pot of tea, then you’ve got a party waiting to happen. For my first fruit tart of the year, I’ve baked Martha Stewart’s Rustic Meyer Lemon Tart, which is actually based on a recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts. I made the tart with Meyer lemons and then with regular lemons- both variations were delicious.