Monday, November 27, 2006

The Chefs and I, and Chicken Liver & Raspberry Salad



As you might know, I've been doing the working in the restaurant business as a waitress on a regular basis for the past, oh... eight years. Woo. Eight years? Has it really been that long? Time travels fast when you're having fun!

Funny thing is - I keep this food blog of mine (okay, I try!) and you people out there know just exactly how enamored I am with food and baking. Even so, I've never told anyone, on either side of the pass about Food & Thoughts existence. And I think if I was to ever tell anyone, I'd start with the waiters. Because somehow, the idea of the chefs knowing intimidates me. Like a lot.

Over the years I've met and gotten to know quite a couple of chefs. There's far between the ones I don't admire, or even adore. With them, I've taken on a role of sorts. I was - or should I say am? - the brown-haired girl with the green eyes and the glasses that, at first anyways, didn't know a whole lot about food. The difference between a glace and a jus? Eh. Hot plates for serving? Ouch! Putting plates down facing the right way? Ooops.

But I learned. I learned to ask questions. And they learned, gradually, that I actually meant it when I wanted to know things. They learned that I was sincere when I asked weird food-related questions. Why a bavarois and not just fancy jello-ish thing? How do you make your bread? They learned that I cared, on a level deeper than just satisfying the customers.

But I digress. I was saying I think it might intimidate me, that they should know how much I really like this thing that they - or some of them, at least - spend every hour they're awake thinking about. This blog and the idea that one of the guys might find it terrifies me. It's this little project of mine, but it's also very personal. Would they be slapping their thighs with laughter, point their fingers at me the next time they see me and say: watup housewife? Baked some brownies lately? Quirped about your family?

A chef I know through another chef actually dropped by a couple of months ago. A guest of his had mentioned that the reason she came to his restaurant was because I'd mentioned it briefly here. He sent me an e-mail, thanking me for the kind words. And I was petrified. Who would he tell? Did he even know it was me? I bumped into him recently - and I was ready to spring for cover. Stupid, I know - but for some reason, it felt like he had a peek into a part of my life that I didn't decide to show him.

I'm no chef. I don't claim to be. You could blindfold me and have me taste-test a hundred ingredients and I might be able to tell you what 10 of them were - if that many. But what does a good chef make? What he does, or the way he does it, his way of approaching things? Or how many ingredients he can distinguish form each other?

That's the whole point, isn't it? There's not a blueprint as to how to love or appreciate food. At least I don't think so. Even though it's at a whole other level than what the pro's do, it doesn't make it less sincere, or honest. And as I told you, I'm nothing if I'm not honest.

It's not that I need to have a sign hanging around my neck saying: look at me, look at my blog. But I certainly don't need the feeling of being ashamed either - especially because I am dead proud of what I've made here. It might not be original, it might be down-to-earth - but I enjoy it. It might not be professional cooking, but it's cooking from the heart.

And you know what? I just told one of my chef friends about this blog yesterday. He's become a friend, more than I can say of any of the other chefs I know, so I felt safe telling him - although even that was a bit of a hurdle. His comment: why haven't I ever gotten any of all of those cakes?!? I guess it ain't all bad then...:-)

Chicken Liver Salad with Raspberries - from Madjournal by Paul Cunningham - another of the chefs who has no idea what he's meant to me and the way I approach this whole food thing...

I know we're out of season with the raspberries here in the northern hemisphere, but I promise you, it's worth waiting for. If you can't wait, I was thinking you could substitute pomegranate seeds, or maybe gently defrosted frozen raspberries. I really like the contrasting flavors of slightly sweet and soft chicken liver with the tart, acidic berries. The bread croutons add a nice crunch.

For the vinaigrette:
2oo ml. extra virgin olive oil
150 ml. raspberry vinegar
250 g. fresh raspberries (or substitute frozen, I don't think these necessarily have to be fresh)
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
- mix all of the ingredients, crushing the raspberries slightly in the process. Leave to infuse for at least a couple of hours, preferably a couple of days, in the fridge.

For the salad
400 g. chicken livers
couple spoonfuls flour
4 + 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 big shallots, sliced into neat slices
Mixed lettuce leaves, spinach, rucola, mustard leaves - your choice! Washed and dried
250 g. fresh raspberries
1 small (preferably sourdough-) loaf of bread
Olive oil for making the croutons, and more olive oil and butter for frying
Salt and pepper

Start by making the bread croutons. Cut up the loaf into 1,5 cm. x 1,5 cm. cubes. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and to of the crushed garlic cloves. Put into an ovenproof dish in a single layer and toast in a 200 degree warm oven for... oh, about 20 minutes? Until crunchy. You might have to toss them around every now and again, for even browning.

Then go ahead with the chicken livers. Toss them in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper, then fry in olive oil/butter with a little crushed garlic thrown in. You might have to do it in to batches. You want the livers to be nice and crisp on the outside, but still pink on the inside - that's how I want mine, anyways, you do as you please.

Toss the lettuce leaves with the vinaigrette, shallots and raspberries. Put the chicken livers and croutons on top, add a sprinkling of salt and a grind of pepper, and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Flawed

Sweetcorn tart from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Art of the Tart. Just not what I thought it would be.

The pictures in this post are of food made from recipes that turned out okay, but just not as I thought they would. I don't think the recipes were off, and you might like them should you find the recipe somewhere and try them out. I just thought I'd use the pictures to accompany this post on how things that look good on the outside might be just a little flawed at the edges. Like I feel at the moment.

It seems that lately, all I do here is trying to resurrect my blog. Maybe I'll keep doing that for another year or so, maybe I'll stop completely someday. But the silence the last couple of weeks has had it's very own reasons. Personal ones. And reasons that are really hard to talk about in a place that concentrates on food, and the good kind, mostly. It's got to do with me, how I percieve myself and the people around me, and oh.

Spaghetti and meatballs from Nigella Lawson. Just plain blah - but M spiced them up the next day and they where SO much better. There you go, trust your own (or your boyfriend's) instincts.

Lately, there hasn't been much food. There hasn't been much good, either - not food, not much else. And before I start sounding like I'm somewhere down in a deep depression, I better tell you that I'm not. Things are just hard right now. In my head, mostly. I told you before, that even though I don't think it's something I plan my life around, I tend to try to be a perfectionist. Sometimes, that illusion breaks into a thousand pieces, and there's nothing you can do but try and pick up the pieces and put it back together. Hopefully in a stronger pattern. But there really are no promises. And while you do it, it takes a whole lot of concentration.

Chocolate Swirls from Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate. Dry and just not interesting enough, considering the amount of work that went into them. Eh. They looked pretty, though.

Why let you all know about this? I don't know. I actually don't, because face it, I'm not saying much anyways. What I want to do, mostly, is just to be honest and straight up. Is it a weird forum to put all these thoughts out in? Perhaps. But it's also a forum that I trust and love. And one that I miss, as I've said many a time before. One of the things I'm trying to focus on, is to do things that actually make me happy. To really listen to myself and do the things I want to do, and not necessarily what is expected of me.

Ricotta pancakes from Nigella Lawson - BORING and dry-ish...

So I'm trying, again, to come back here. It might not happen. This post might get stuck up here at the top for ages. Just know that I'm trying.