Like everyone I have taken some lumps, but on the whole life has been pretty good to me. I am currently living my dreams of being a writer and a mom. OK, so I had to readjust the setting of the dream, but in this version I'm only 30 minutes away.
That's just the thing about dreams, you have to be flexible to let them come true. Nothing is perfect, except for a dream that just lingers softly in your mind and heart. Making the dream come true, working on it, bringing it into being- well, that's where flexibility and effort and a little heartbreak come in.
The first chapter for the book is due in two weeks. After my initial baffled "Huh?" reaction, last week I sprung into action. We decided that we would start with Hanukkah, which 10 days into the process I'm having another "huh?" moment, this time with irritation. I'm smack dab in the middle of the loveliest summer weather I have enjoyed in a long time. So while working on Hanukkah I'm also doing July 4th. I'm serving fried food for dinner, accompanied by light crunchy summer salads, and fresh, sweet, fruity desserts. I haven't heard a complaint from the tastebud set yet.
Donz and I are trying to figure out the format of the chapter introductions and recipe headers. Being a writer I care as much about the words as I do the food. The two go hand-in-hand, without one there cannot be another. Donz is breakneck-speed busy, with a show a day, and a couple of meeting sprinkled into the mix, in addition to her homelife. And we are trying to figure how this all works, and how we work ourselves into it. As is my way, I'm figuring it out as I go along, sometimes I'm a few steps behind- once in a while I'm a little ahead.
For guidance I have turned to books. I have consulted with Julia Childs editor; Judith Jones. She was very helpful, informing that many of the best cookbook authors were unschooled culinarially. She also told me that many were over 40 when they got their start. But her best nugget of advice was to have passion and a point of view.
I also turned to a contemporary. Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" is based on her blog Orangette. In addition she was a contributor to Bon Appetit, and that's how I became acquainted with her food and words. Since I didn't follow her blog, the book is fresh and new to me. She has a charming style, I say this through gritted teeth. She is very very talented. And she deserves the attention and acclaim. She has passion and a point of view, which she expresses often-times with beauty and grace. What more can you ask for?
So here's what I've come up with: My best offering so far, the one that delights everyone the most - is the summerfruit kuchen. It's a snap to make and can be personalized to taste. I like it with plums personally, but nectarines, peaches, or apricots work just as well. The cake layer is soft and sweet thanks to the juices of the fruit layer on top. I made this stonefruit dessert every day last week, for many of my taste buds. It will fit nicely into my Fourth of July menu, which has been a pleasure to devise. Summer is my muse, and the plentitude of fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs provides me with real inspiration.
My Hanukkah menu, which calls for an inspiration that takes me in the opposite direction, has been a little more challenging. Why we decided to start with a holiday that is placed in the heart of cold and barren (vegetationally speaking) winter, mystifies me, and makes me think that my intuitive powers may need some fine tuning. I have recipes for three different kinds of fried fritters so far, that are solid. My jelly donut muffins are good, and the chocolate dipped dreidels are adorable. I'm still playing with a couple of crispy-fried ideas. Trying to get myself back into a winter-state-of-mind, which happens to be a difficult time in the year for me to begin with, is a bit of a drag. But, on one of our hot and sticky days, it's not hard to yearn for the cool austerity of winter. I need to idealize winter, and get that Brighter side of Winter in the Hanukkah menu.
1/2 c. butter/marg
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. reg milk, soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk
4-5 thinly sliced peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines (or a combination)
2 tbsp. sugar (I like turbinado)
1 tbsp. butter/marg
Preheat oven to 350F
On medium speed and in a medium bowl mix together butter/marg, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until a batter forms. In a sperate small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to wet batter and mix in until combined, the batter will be thick. Fold in milk to make a smoother more spreadable batter. With a spatula smooth out batter evenly over bottom of greased baking pan. Place fruit slices in whatever design you desire over batter, overlapping, and ensuring the top is completely covered with sliced fruit. Sprinkle sugar over surface and dor with butter/marg that was cut into 6-8 little slivers. Place in oven for 40-45 minutes, the fruits will be shrubken and golden around it's edges, and a toothpick inserted will come out mostly clean (save for a few clingy crumbs).
Enjoy this fresh taste of summer with ice cream, whipped cream, or on it's own.