Every year at just about this time I renew my obsession with tomato sauce. It’s late August, after all, and just about anyone who has ever gardened or knows people who garden is drowning in tomatoes and I am here, with my virtual bucket, eager to help you out. Don’t be too fooled by my so-called benevolence, however, as it’s really a selfish endeavor; I find spaghetti with tomato sauce to be one of the universe’s perfect meals, so I’m hardly kicking and screaming my way to the kitchen the next time the whim for a new one strikes me.
August, 2011 Archive
Everyone’s got their superheroes; I’m sure when I was younger they were things like Super Grover and later, Jem but these days, they’re decidedly more humble: I admire the hell out of people who manage to put homemade meals on the table everyday, as this has never been my strong suit. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent the last year or so developing recipes for very specific things — a side dish, a salad, a tart — that don’t exactly add up to be a dinner, and that NYC makes it quite easy to order in whatever parts of your meal you haven’t made at home. I’m a terrible multitasker — really, no fan of it at all — and when I’m making brioche, I’m making brioche, and not brioche with a side of a pot of beans with something braising in the oven, no matter how much I wish I were.
There are few paths that led to this recipe but the main one is that it instantly reminded me of the kind of crumb pies I remember from bakeries growing up, not the kind with a crumble topping but ones with a crust also composed of pressed crumbs. And guys, I love a buttery, flaky, ethereal pie crust woven over cherries and bronzed in the oven as much as the next person, but the idea of choosing it over a crumbly composite of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and sometimes nuts is pure madness. But the filling gave me pause — a custard? a custard that suspends fruit? How odd, right? Or delicious? I went back and forth over the odd-versus-delicious line for the better part of a decade before deciding to finally make it this week. A decade. This recipe was actually published in a 1999 Martha Stewart Living. I was living in Washington D.C., dating a terrible idea and trying to figure out how I could find a place in New York that didn’t charge more than $600/month rent. This recipe is ancient history, people.
We spent the last week in what I call the vacation trifecta: among beaches, wineries and farm stands. The vacation was supposed to be a reward for getting my book finished by August 1st. Instead, I all but tried to cancel the vacation when I realized I wouldn’t be done. Despite all of my practice over the last few months, I’m not very good at not finishing things. I don’t like going to bed with dishes in the sink, I’d rather stay up until midnight getting something done than have to start the morning with an old item on my to-do list and I did not want to go on vacation until I finished my project. Oh no. I did not. I might have even dreaded it.
One of the things that has surprised me the most as I’m chugging my way along to my manuscript’s finish line is how little clear my vision was for it from the beginning, and how little I’ve erred from my original list of recipe ideas, as in real life, I am a bafflingly indecisive person. “What should we order for dinner?” can send me into a tailspin. “Which colander looks best from Amazon?” will lead me to read 30 minutes of reviews. And yet, half the recipes that are lined up for the book right now (except the breakfast section; we should definitely not discuss that again) are pretty much as I scribbled the ideas while my then-newborn was napping in the fall of 2009. It’s probably for the best I jotted it all down then because my brain has probably not been so centered for 5 minutes since.