Cooking, Music, Missing Horses

I’m really into cooking right now. If I had a horse I’d be into riding but since I don’t, it’s food and music. I got a few Jacques Pepin books from the library and I’m thoroughly enjoying making some of the dishes. I augment the experience by watching old Jacques and Julia cooking shows on Hulu. Robert said it’s like cooking porn. I love the way they smile and say, “That’s not how I do it.” I can’t tell if it’s amicable…or not. Either way his accent sounds like home and her voice, well, I think it makes food taste better just to have it around.

Anyway, I don’t like making food in a way that seems silly. I don’t like taking steps that are unnecessary. I don’t like to break my back making something difficult that could be done easily. So I’m all for Pepin. His style is fast, simple and delicious. Plus he’s teaching me something about presentation. I’ve always had an F in that department. So I made the almond cake, which I posted. That was adapted from his recipe to fit the molds I found at the thrift store. I thought they were brioche molds which was very exciting to me since I had just made some brioche dough, but they weren’t. I looked them up online and I think they’re fifty year old jello molds. Whatever. They worked to make the gorgeous little vegan almond cakes. The children loved them.

The brioche dough recipe came from the Five Minute bread book. I’ve been baking bread everyday thanks to their no-knead refrigerator methods. It’s so easy. I bought a huge container from Sur La Table and I just make a big batch of dough on the weekend and grab a hunk each day to rise and bake. Then I get to eat fresh bread daily, just like that. I wanted to try the brioche dough and make something really fancy for the  house guests I was supposed to have, but it didn’t work out. Instead I made little knots which I cut and filled with Nutella and packed in the kids’ lunches. They loved them but I really don’t think the flavor was good enough to merit quite so fatty of a dough. It’s stuffed with eggs and butter. I love eggs and butter, but I think you can get something more delicious out of those ingredients.

Another big winner from the book this week was Jacques’ cream dressing. That was delicious and, as he pointed out, there are only half the calories in a tablespoon of heavy cream as there are in a tablespoon of oil. It seemed sacrilegious at first but it really is so good. I also adored the potatoes, roasted and stuffed, and the gratin version. Always comforting.

Today it was back to desserts. I made his meringue cake with candied oranges. I burned most of the oranges when I took a break to sit down but enough survived to decorate the cake. I also made an almond cookie rolled in sugar (amazing) and a pasta dish. The cake is so pretty I can’t wait to serve it Sunday when we visit friends in Ojai with Sean and Jenny. The process was pretty lengthy and required some patience but I think the results are impressive. I was able to save a bit of the extra meringue and cream and I served it for dessert tonight and everyone just loved it. The meringue is very sweet but the cream is so delicate and under-sweetened that the combination is really quite special. Of course my presentation, while not an F, doesn’t come close to the pretty piped version I tried to mimic in his book but I think it will do.

Orange Vachrin Jeannette

There isn’t much more to report. The days are so quiet and low-key. Without a horse to ride I feel like I’m half handicapped. I remember once this guy Oscar saw me walking around the corrals and he joked that he didn’t know I was so short because he’d never seen me anywhere but up on the back of a horse. That’s how I feel now. I feel like my wings have been clipped or something and I’m walking instead of flying. I feel like having my feet on the ground instead of the stirrups has really cramped my style. I miss the air, the sun, the smell, the feet, the frenzy, the joy of the trail. I wonder what will happen next. I don’t know, but I’ll keep playing guitar waiting to find out. If you’re hungry you can come over and taste some cooking while I play you a song.

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