I like to riff in the kitchen. It is true that when I'm giving a dinner party I plan and schedule and shop, I pore through the recipes in our forty linear feet of cookbooks, plus my dozen large binders of collected recipes. I allot two days to the preparation of a company meal, and I enjoy every minute of it.
But what I really like to do is to riff in the kitchen. Mealtime comes. I pull out every leftover in the refrigerator, I inventory what's on hand, and then I play with my food until it becomes a meal. I must acknowledge here that cooking became a lot more fun once the three children had left home. My dear husband will eat anything, even my mistakes.
Recently I was on my own for dinner. My husband was at some gala tasting that would overfeed him with too much protein, too much fat, and too much wine. What would I fix for myself? Well, my supper was nothing fancy--but it was more to my taste than a banquet.
Here's what I had on hand: some unbaked pastry dough; a little egg-and-milk mixture left from that morning's French toast (I never throw anything away); half a cup of liquid from a creamy onion soup; a large handful of uncooked spinach; five tablespoons of heavy cream left from the weekend's party; and about two inches of a goat cheese cylinder.
And here's what I made. I rolled out half the dough and laid it in a small pie pan. I heated the cream and wilted the spinach in it, then roughly chopped the spinach while it was still in the pan. I mixed together the egg and milk, the milky soup liquid, the goat cheese, an extra egg, and the spinach and cream mixture and poured them into the pie pan. This was a quiche-like creation that can never be repeated.
Now, because you can never have too much pie, I lined another pie pan with the remaining dough and spread it with apple butter. I sliced an unpeeled apple and laid the slices in concentric circles on top of the apple butter, then topped the apples with a mixture of ground almonds, a tablespoon of sugar, and a little melted butter.
Nothing fancy. While everything baked I sat on my chaise in the living room, reading, while the gas fireplace hummed. And when the meal was ready I ate it, still sitting on the chaise, still reading.
My favorite way to eat: warm, comfortable, with a book in one hand (and we wonder why I spill so much food on my clothes). But nothing fancy.
Copyright 2009Ann Tudor