The Kitchen Rituals of a Very Tired Teacher
For Christmas this year, I had the great joy of unwrapping heart of the artichoke and other kitchen journeys by David Tanis. This gift may not have been a surprise since I had strongly hinted in several ways that its presence in my apartment would not be a problem. I am a big fan of Alice Waters and David Tanis, the great minds behind Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. I have not yet had the opportunity to eat there (why do three thousand miles separate us???), but the restaurant that sparked America’s local and simple food movement owns a very special place in my heart.
Furthermore, David Tanis spends the half of the year that he isn’t acting as head chef at Chez Panisse living in Paris. Paris! Only my favorite place in the world. I majored in French in college, spent time in Paris, and have surrounded myself in my apartment with pictures of Paris so that I can at least feel like I’m there. This dude rocks.
While receiving the book was not a surprise, each page and photograph served as a delightful piece of the unexpected. Tanis combines ingredients in a way that I have never thought of and in way that I am not likely to forget.
Most memorable to me are not the exquisite, seasonal menus for every occasion, but the first thirty pages of the book where Tanis reveals, in a series of short vignettes, his own kitchen rituals. These are the practices that he indulges in when he only has to worry about pleasing himself in the kitchen. These rituals range from his recipe for “pasta for one” to the way he peels an apple.
In homage to my personal hero (of the moment), I thought up what my kitchen rituals are. I do not have time to indulge in these everyday, since most of my weeknight cooking involves me frantically coming home from work and cooking something despite the fact that I want to sit down and take a nap instead. Such is the life of a first year teacher! When I do have the time in my kitchen, these are the rituals that make me smile on the inside.
My Kitchen Rituals
1. Hot Beverages: If I had the time and presence of mind every morning, I would never buy coffee and tea out. My favorite coffee comes straight out of my french press, and tea is so lovely and versatile that I relish in mixing together my own loose leaf teas and brewing a pot. The best part is holding my face over a steaming mug and letting it fog up my glasses and warm up my face. For a constantly cold person, this is delightful!
2. Hummus and Pita Chips: This is a powerhouse combination and I think I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack– not all in the same day of course! I tend to buy hummus from the grocery store, but I almost always bake my own pita chips. Then, I can put my own choice of spices on there myself and it is just too easy not to. Take some pita bread (any type that you like), cut it into eighths, brush with olive oil and your spice selection, put on a baking sheet, and place in a 350 degree oven for ~12 minutes, until they are golden brown. Prepare yourself for crunchy, creamy goodness.
3. Poached Eggs: I LOVE poached eggs. One of my favorite foods that my mom would make me when I was little was poached eggs on toast. I still make that for myself occasionally. I have also experimented quite a bit about what can go under that egg. The list seems limitless- soups and stews, breads, beans, cooked vegetables, rice, polenta, potatoes, mmmmmmm. They are so sweet, fluffy, colorful, and good for you that they seem like I’m eating a bright piece of sunshine.
Now, I cheat a little bit when it comes to poaching an egg. I still haven’t mastered the way my mom does it, dropping the eggs into boiling water. Instead, I have a little silicone cup that I put the egg in. Then, I stick it into a pot of boiling water, cover the pot, and wait five minutes. Voila! Perfectly poached egg every time!
4. Cookie Dough: While I love to cook, my real talent lies in baking. While I do not like to eat too much of my baking experiments, I am fortunate to have found a variety of people to serve as my guinea pigs! One recipe that I love (and I don’t tend to share) is the recipe for chocolate chip cookies over at Smitten Kitchen. This cookie dough can be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer, meaning that you never need to bake more cookies than you are willing to eat.
These cookies are my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, as well as the most delectable chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t know about you, but if I have a chunk of frozen cookie dough in the freezer, that is much more interesting to me than the finished product. After the initial baking of a few cookies from that batch of dough, most of it is consumed in its frozen form.
5. Yogurt and Blueberries: I make my own yogurt. Yes, you read that correctly. As a gift to myself, I bought a yogurt maker that creates my own organic, non-fat yogurt in 10 hours. No supervision is required; it’s like a crock pot in a way. Guess what? This yogurt tastes better than any yogurt I have ever bought from a store!
I purchased this because I am a yogurt addict. Almost every morning for breakfast, I eat yogurt mixed with frozen blueberries. Once mixed, it is almost like eating a super creamy and delicious ice cream!
What about you? What are your kitchen rituals? Post them in the comments!