A Week of Cooking Lessons

I slept until 10:30 yesterday morning.  I even missed a bike ride.  Not my usual habit, but my body needed the downtime.  Why?  This has been a great week for cooking lessons (and cooking lesson parties!).  Especially for August, when things are a wee bit quieter than the rest of the year.  It started with a private/corporate lesson on Tuesday night.  A group of 12 co-workers in Northampton showed up at Different Drummer’s Kitchen for a night of fun and food.  And we all got both.  They were a blast, and played together very well.  It was even a hands-on class.  As a rule, I don’t usually arm the guests,  But no knives flew, and the food was very good.  The most popular item of the night?  That’s a tough call.  Was it one of the variations on flatbread?  And in case you were wondering, we made the dough from (yeasty) scratch.  Or maybe one of the two variations on garlic bread?  Or maybe the chicken or pork tenderloin kebabs?  Oh, these tough decisions.

Then,  after cooking for The Author on Weds, it was my bi-monthly cooking and nutrition evening for a group of women going through breast cancer treatment.  We did healthy variations on chicken piccata and chicken Marsala.  With the addition of a great suggestion on the perfect seasonal salad: fresh tomatoes and peaches (yup!  Peaches!) with basil, a little balsamic vinny, and olive oil.  It was excellent.

Which brought me to the finale of the week: a cooking lesson party at a bridal shower, in scenic Somerville (formerly known as the “Paris of the ‘90’s”) It was a blast.  Maryland crab soup, dates filled with goat cheese, bacon, and gorgonzola.  Shrimp pad Thai.  And finishing with pots de crème, the rich and palate-boggling baked chocolate custard.  It was a very fun night.

On top of all of that food, I drove almost 850 miles for the week, too.  But alas, AmEx doesn’t do frequent driver points.

And this week?  A bit quieter, finishing with a dinner for seven people in Williamstown.

This really is fun.

Blueberries and a Cobbler

In this rainy season that’s rumored to be summer, there are two crops which seem to be doing well.  The first one is corn.  In case you were wondering, fresh, local corn on the cob is my favorite food in the whole wide world.  Even more than pizza and fried clams.  Just steam the corn for 8 minutes, skip the butter and salt, and send it my way.

The other crop doing well this summer?  Blueberries.  Is it due to the rain?  Well, if it is, then finally something good’s come from this ark-building weather.  And, there are farms and farm stands all over the place near my kitchen here in western Massachusetts,.  So, along with the milk, beer and leftovers in the fridge, I’m keeping a supply of blueberries until the season ends.  I eat them on cereal, in blueberry pancakes, and by the handful. But my favorite thing with blueberries is a cobbler. The great thing about cobblers is that their definition is open to interpretation.  There are cobblers, buckles, betties, you name it.  Some have dense crust toppings.  Some are almost cake-like.  And some are lighter.  I like the lighter ones, because that emphasizes the berries, and not the cakey topping.  Plus, this is my cobbler recipe for the whole year.  After the blueberries are done (heavy sigh), we’ll have peaches.  Then apples and pears.  The winter (groan).

So, bon appetit.  And go wild with the berries.

Julia Child

It seems that Julia Child is back.  And she didn’t even get top billing, either.  “Julie and Julia,” the new food and date-night movie, has brought Julia back to the front pages and tv screens.  Yes, she was the first big name tv chef.  But what many people don’t realize is that almost 50 years (gasp!) after her first show, she is still the best.  Sure, there are  any number of good, even great tv chefs among us.  But Julia is still in a league of her own.

So, for the first time in a long time, I picked up one of my copies of her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  In the introduction, she  champions using ingredients that are fresh and available in local supermarkets.  Oh (heavy sigh), if only more food writers paid attention to this still-brilliant advice.  That really is my all-time pet peeve: easy-to-find published recipes with ingredients obtainable only via FedEx or a trip to Tangiers.

So I randomly flipped through the book and found a recipe for cauliflower.  Yeah, it’s a bit complex, with a béchamel (white sauce), and a few other odds and ends.  But I also noticed that a VERY light version of this was in the South Beach Diet book.  I thought that was very clever.  Oh, and her recipe was a fat bomb, and tasted VERY good.

Yup, Julia had it right in 1961.  And she’s still right today.