Let’s talk about neglect, for a moment, shall we?
I’ve been going to work a lot lately. Like nineteen-of-the-last-twenty-days a lot. So I think it’s safe to say that I’m not neglecting the dessert menu at 40 Paper. In fact, the current menu might be my favorite one yet.
But working that much? It's making me feel very neglectful of other parts of my life. My attention to housework has become minimal. My actual accomplishing of any of it is practically non-existent. While scrounging around in the fridge trying to pull together dinner, I remember that it's been weeks since I've gone grocery shopping. Which I haven't really noticed, since we've been eating far fewer meals at home than we're used to. And the times when we do manage to make it to the dining room table to sit down and eat . . . well, most of those meals aren't anything to write home about, never mind post on a food blog.
Needless to say, this space hasn’t gotten as much attention from me lately as I’d like. Although the stories that I could tell (of drive-through coffee in place of breakfast and prepackaged snacks hurriedly wolfed down at work) might be instructional, in a don't-do-this sort of way, they aren't really inspiring me to sit down and write. Plus, I haven't been doing much in the way of recipe development, outside of restaurant menu work, so I don't have any baked goods to give you.
It's easy to start feeling frustrated in the face of all this, frustrated at myself and at my lack of time and at unfinished tasks and at the dust bunnies threatening to take over the house.
But then something horrible happens to a family, a family I don't know at all, but one I feel connected to nevertheless because of this crazy, wonderful thing called food blogging, and instantly, like a switch has been thrown, everything is called into perspective.
I'm not neglectful. I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing. Because all the dirty laundry and cluttered counters, the slapdash meals and unmowed lawn, even the overdue library books and scum on the shower walls — none of them really matter. Not really.
What is important is that I'm spending my time in a professional kitchen again, one which has given me complete creative control over the food I make. I am spending my time contributing value to something that's important to me and my family, and it in turn makes me feel valuable.
I am spending my time with my family, taking the boys to local summer festivals where we've celebrated things as diverse (or interestingly similar, depending on your perspective) as lobsters and fairies. I am spending my time watching my children experience bounce houses and go down impossibly tall slides and race around a garden maze.
I am spending my time exploring a state park, searching for wild raspberries, listening to the foghorn, and discovering treasures on the beach. I am spending my time outside with my boys, thrilled that they feel so comfortable and at home in nature.
And this week, I am preparing to spend my time enjoying my extended family's annual late-summer camping trip. Three whole days away from home, where I can't vacuum even if I wanted to, where swimming and roasted marshmallows and naps are mandatory, and where Josh and I have planned our first (mini)date in over two months. I can't wait.
So you see? I'm accomplishing exactly what needs to be done. It's a relief to realize that all my guilt trips have been completely unnecessary. In that spirit, I hope this post finds all of you exactly where you need to be, as well, doing everything you can to keep your priorities in line.
Actually, I do have a baked good to share with you: a recipe for really awesome gluten-free bagels! But you're going to have to travel to get it — don't worry, it's not far, just over to The Blender, Williams-Sonoma's blog, where I have a post on gluten-free lunch ideas for kids heading back to school. I was honored to be asked to contribute to the site, and I'd love for you to head over and check out my article! But first, read on for my kids' favorite pesto recipe . . .
Yields approximately 3 cups of pesto
Speaking of neglect, this pesto fortuitously came about due to my neglectful gardening habits. Last fall, I forgot to harvest the last of the kale, and there was a frost, and then snow, and I pretty much figured the kale was done for and I'd rip the dead stems out of the ground in the spring. Well, imagine my surprise when spring came and the kale sprang to life! And not just any life, but really vigorous, growing-like-a-small-tree life. Although we cut from it now and again, it finally starting encroaching on the rest of the garden too much for me to ignore any longer, so I got out a large knife and sawed away at the stem (it was like wood!) until the three-foot-high stalks broke off. I made this pesto, and felt grateful for such a large harvest, which flourished with no direct input from me. I had intended to dig up the roots of the kale stumps, to make room for a late-summer planting, but when I went back out to check on the garden, all the stumps had sprouted a fresh crop of kale leaves! I had no idea kale was such a determined plant. It makes me love it — and my large batch of pesto — even more. Because on nights when my neglect of dinner-planning seems like it's about to ruin our evening, this pesto is a life-saver. Toss it in pasta, spread in on pizza or sandwiches, pair it with roasted vegetables, or brush it over your favorite protein before baking. It's versatile, it's delicious, and it's healthy, and having a bunch stashed away in the freezer is a wonderful culinary security blanket for me.
4 large bunches kale, tough stems removed
100 grams (about 3.6 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
60 grams (about 2.12 ounces) raw walnuts
2 large garlic cloves, cut into pieces
100 grams (4 fluid ounces plus 4 tsp) extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
In a large pot of boiling water fitted with a steamer insert (a large pasta or lobster cooker works well), steam the kale for 5 minutes, then drain.
Put the steamed kale, cheese, walnuts and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, and process while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Scrape down the bowl as needed to get all the kale puréed, and then season to taste. Pesto keeps, refrigerated, for up to a week. However, I advise freezing most of it in ice cubes trays, so that you'll have a stash of pesto ready at a moment's notice. After the cubes have frozen, pop them out and stick them in a freezer bag — you'll have easy access to kale pesto for the next three months!
Posted by Tara Barker at 2:34 AM