What do you do to get out of a funk?
Exercise, pray, cook, do laundry, meditate, hike, bike, or surf?
I have two go-to activities to get me out of a funk. One involves sneakers. The other involves my kitchen.
After a weeklong staycation with my sister and bro-in-law, ( actually they were only here for three days, but it took me four to get the house ready), I found myself not all that interested to get back to work. Usually I’m more than ready to type, cook, photograph and edit.
But not this week.
This week I’m anxious. Waiting for “the letter” from Storey Publishing about the “Salmon” manuscript. And I have every right to feel this way. In a world fraught with rejection, not matter how excited and interested I thought the agent sounded in her email, I am afraid to hear those dreaded words. It’s good, but not good enough.
I confessed my fears to Elvis, who said the best damn thing a husband could say ever! “You’re going to get the letter and she’ll say yes,” or something along those lines, I felt better. Clear. I knew what would ease my mind.
Homemade chicken stock.
Chicken stock only needs a few ingredients and a bit of time. Making stock is a task that would whisk me from my current state of mind-freaking out and unfocused-to a steady, calm and focused-on-the-day mindset, instead of worrying about the outcome of that book proposal!
A stock is by far, the easiest thing to make. Sure, you can get fancy making stock, but that’s not the point of a making stock. Save your creativity for a roasted eggplant galette. See recipe idea below. Simmered on low for several hours, a well-made stock takes care of itself. And has multiple uses. Like replacing stock for water when cooking vegetables or rice. A cup added to a Bolognese sauce or to your favorite red sauce. Soup obviously. Risotto.
I opened the refrigerator. Two chicken carcasses, a quarter of a candy onion, two carrots, a bunch of celery hearts, three ears of cooked corn on the cob, and a handful of hericot verts would get me started. I used my 9-inch chef’s knife, a vegetable scrubber, a cutting board, an 8-quart stock pot. A few chopped red bliss potatoes, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a shake of dried cayenne pepper later, I filled the stockpot with water and placed it on the stovetop on medium high heat. By the time I filled the stockpot with water, my issues began to circle the drain.
I went back to the cutting board and turned my attention to the yellow watermelon (yes, yellow) and the two lovely Sicilian organic eggplants.
I thought to make a watermelon sorbet or a granita. Since the latter requires a bit more fuss, (all that scraping with the fork every few hours), I opted for the former. I had plenty of simple syrup in the fridge, plus a few lemons and a ruby-red grapefruit.
Have you ever made a melon-related dessert?
Let me tell you, once you commit, you won’t have to worry about thinking about any book proposal or anything else. There is so much prep work involved; you will be thinking how crazy you were to start something like this. First you cut the melon into cubes (about 6 pounds worth). Then you pulse in a blender or food processor. Then puree. Then strain. See where this is going? Then stir in the other ingredients. Then cover and refrigerate for several hours. This all before you put it in the ice cream maker. And of course, just as I pour my Natural Geographic yellow melon liquid into the machine (from a large bowl with a spout mind you), the spill Gods must have taken a smoke break, or an early happy hour. So in addition to this labor-intensive recipe, the sticky cleanup is the insurance that you (read me) will probably never make this dessert again. In retrospect, the granita seems like the easier of the two.
Back to the eggplant. I confess. I am not an eggplant fan. Neither is Elvis. But I couldn’t resist the farmer who was insistent about growing them this year. Their farm didn’t produce them last year and she had an entire crate. Surely I could figure out something?
She offered a simple recipe idea-roasted eggplant-then said “Eggplant is my favorite.” She looked at them like they were her babies.
So of course I wanted to make something fabulous and then tell her about it on the next visit. I adore the organic farmers here. They’re my hero’s. Just as I’m sure you have your favorite farmers too.
Enter Roasted Eggplant & Heirloom Tomato Galette.
While you may use puff pastry for your galettes, I use pie crust. I’m obsessed with making the best damn pie crust ever! Yes, I use this expression often (a cheeseburger story for another post). I whisked flour, sugar and salt. Cubed butter. Dribbled ice water into the dough. Then formed a disk, wrapped it in plastic and placed the dough disk in the refrigerator. Fyi, I found the perfect pie crust recipe in The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.
I sliced the eggplant (about 3/8 inch), coated it in olive oil, sprinkled the slices with sea salt, garlic powder (don’t judge) and fresh oregano, then roasted on a baking sheet (no parchment paper or foil, just a little spray oil), flipped once, for 25 minutes in a 425 degree oven. The eggplant looked tan to caramel in color and tasted like melt-in-your-mouth heaven. After I put the extra sliced, roasted eggplant in the food processor, I smeared a spoonful on a crusty sourdough bread, added a little diced heirloom tomato. Yup. Delicious.
Tip: roast eggplant a day ahead. Just cover and refrigerate. Which is what I did because I got it in my mind that if I didn’t like the way the eggplant turned out (which I did) or didn’t want to make hummus (my original thought), then I should have something sweet, salty and crunchy to eat. Because what good is a day in the kitchen without something to nibble on?
Maldon Salted Chocolate Pretzels anyone?
Yep. While the eggplant roasted, I melted a handful of Ghirardelli chocolate wafers over a double boiler, then plopped in several handfuls of mini pretzels. Within minutes I sprinkled my perfect creation with Maldon salt to make the best damn late afternoon snack ever! See what I mean about that saying?
But by the time I finished the dishes the stock was done six hours later. I was tired. Imagine. I will have an assistant one day!
I strained, portioned and froze the stock. Satisfied with my day in the kitchen, I poured a glass of cab sav then headed to the porch to sip and listen to the tanagers, hummers and robins.
The galette could wait. Tomorrow’s fretting would come fast enough.What’s your favorite go-to stress-buster? Please share your ideas. I suspect there is more waiting-to-hear-from-the-agent stress in my future.