Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's the Occasion?

I get this question a lot. Who/what are you cooking for? The answer is me, and the occasion is that it's Sunday. A few years ago I had gotten out of a relationship that had gone on past it's expiration date, we're still good friends and she's a lovely person but we really weren't meant to be together long term and live together. (she didn't eat meat or want to have cable television in the house - for anyone who knows me, it's a wonder that we shared an apartment for 2 whole years). Anyways, for the first time in awhile I found myself living alone and re-thinking a lot of things in my life. It's also when I really discovered cooking and that I had an enjoyment of it and a little bit of skill at it. I had obviously been feeding myself for much of my adult life but I had never really taken much of an interest in it other than making sure I was eating and trying to do it somewhat healthily. I was living in a beautiful basement apartment in the Central District of Seattle. The owners lived upstairs - he was a contractor and she was an architect and they had restored this beautiful, big Victorian home and made the street level into a one bedroom + small den apartment. My friend Michal lived there and it was one of those places that you go see when your friend moves in and you say, "if you ever move out of here, I want a heads up because I would totally move in". And sure enough, a year later I did. It was within walking distance/short easy bus ride of downtown, the waterfront, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, the Seahawks stadium, everything I needed. It was totally cheap, had a huge bathroom, a washer and dryer and also a great kitchen - these things rarely come in a place for under $1000 in Seattle. And I found myself cooking more for myself as a way of being nice to myself and taking care of myself. I would invite friends over for dinner, and a large part of winning over my now ex-wife was done in that kitchen. (thinking about that now, it's amazing I still want to cook at all!)

I don't remember how it started but I started making pretty large and elaborate dinners for myself on Sundays. I was usually recovering from some sort of fun on Saturday night and had a kitchen full of groceries and would make myself something comforting and good every Sunday whether it was just me or a house full of friends. I've really kept that going all this time. Saturday is usually a day I run around, get things done, clean, do laundry, go out, etc. but Sunday is a quieter day at home and I always cook something. It's only lately that I've been talking more about what I cook, it's part of a process of gaining confidence in what I make and sharing it with others. As I consider making this my life's work, I need to really be ready to share what I make and accept people's thoughts on it - good or bad. But regardless of who's here, if I'm alone or entertaining people, Sundays are always a big dinner at my house. Whether it means I'm eating the leftovers for a week or not! It doesn't matter how much work or how complicated a dish is, I won't just heat something up on Sunday night or make something easy. I'm worth a big dinner to start off my week and this is my way of giving myself a nice treat before returning to work on Monday morning.

So that's what the occasion is on Sunday and why I make a big Sunday supper. Part of it is probably the Italian in me, but it's how I like to wind down and prepare for what lies ahead on Monday and I love the feeling of going to bed with a full belly after a nice and fun weekend.

So I guess since it is Sunday I should talk about what I made tonight. Yesterday at the Farmer's Market I found some great local NY strip steaks. I threw one on the grill tonight very simply seasoned with salt and pepper, then topped it with some sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions and horseradish creme fraiche. But the star of the meal was the salad - OMG the salad. At Mirror, a local restaurant they have an amazing fried goat cheese salad that I love but haven't had in awhile. I was thinking about it this morning and wondering how hard it would be to recreate at home. I did a little reading and found a John Besh recipe for a similar dish with fried goat cheese and followed those instructions. It's easier than I thought - slice goat cheese into rounds, dredge in flour, dip in a beaten egg, then coat with bread crumbs and cool in fridge. Right before you want to serve them you heat up a pan with oil and fry at a high temp so the outside is crispy and browned but the inside is creamy goat cheese goodness. I threw them on top of a simple arugula and tomato salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar and it was out of this world. I almost forgot about my steak!

And of course no Sunday supper is complete without dessert. I had some buttermilk in my fridge I needed to use up so I found a recipe for a lemon buttermilk ice cream and added some vanilla to it. Ran it through the machine earlier and it's resting in the freezer now. A scoop of that, with some fresh blackberries will be the perfect way to top off my evening - while watching the premiere of Tool Academy 2 on VH1 - don't judge me!!


amanda said...

um, can you put together a little recipe book, not unlike what we got in the bag at the last innerstrength social? that fried goat cheese goodness sounds amazing!

Erin said...

I totally understand the feeling of being in the kitchen and laboring over an elaborate meal on Sundays. It's so rewarding and fulfilling. :)