It’s been a busy few weeks. First, Restaurant Week came and offered too many good meals to pass up. Then a combination of work and meetings made cooking impossible. Besides, who really wanted to cook when the temperature was in the triple digits?
The closest I got to cooking something in earnest was throwing a few hot dogs on the grill — and then running for the air conditioner while they cooked.
But the more time I spend away from the kitchen, the more it seems to call me.
Everywhere I look, there are recipes galore that just begged to be tried. The New York Times offered the idea of grilled peaches with dukkah, an Egyptian nut and spice blend. Yahoo wrote about avocados. The Los Angeles Times offered a refreshing take on icy granitas, a perfect antidote to the heat.
Even a collection of essays from Leo Tolstoy that I picked up at the Borders going-out-of-business sale included a lengthy piece on vegetarianism that made me want to eat every vegetable in sight.
So, this holiday weekend has been a good time to get back to where I feel best.
I started out by making a Zucchini and Fresh Ginger Velouté from Patricia Wells’ great new cookbook, “Salad as a Meal” (William Morrow, $34.99). This soup went together in minutes and is just as good cold as it is warm, so I can have it both ways.
Something easy is exactly what I need when stepping back into the kitchen after an absence, even if it’s only several weeks. There’s no need to have to think about anything tricky. There’s also no need to have to think about whether certain flavors go together. That’s why I always try a new cookbook or pull an old favorite from the shelf and select something I’ve never tried before.
My other two get-back-to-work dishes are also from new cookbooks. Next up is a plate of Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples on puff pastry from “Real Simple — Dinner Tonight: Done!” (Real Simple, $24.95). There’s nothing too extravagant here. Nothing requires a special trip to the store, except maybe the puff pastry, if you don’t have that handy in the freezer. That’s the point of the book, and it’s what helps make it a welcome find.
That will be followed on Monday by cake, which I will write about in a day or two. This recipe is slightly trickier, so I won’t write about it until after I’ve given it a try and can hopefully offer you a tip or two. This one will exercise a few culinary muscles that have atrophied. I haven’t baked anything in more than four months and I can’t remember how to cream sugar and butter properly.
What’s the longest time you’ve taken off from cooking or baking? What are you cooking in this heat? Post your answers below.