This was my toughest assignment yet with the Secret Recipe Club. OK, except for that little mixup I had on my first post with this fabulous group. Not because I couldn’t find anything to make on my newly assigned blog, Karen’s Kitchen Stories. To the contrary – I’ll be trying recipes on her delicious blog for the next few months. No. The problem, as many of you know, is we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel.
I really thought we’d have that range installed by now, and for one brief shining moment we almost did. But when we uncrated the new baby, it was the wrong stove. So we spent the next hour (unsuccessfully) trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube of fitting all the foam and cardboard packing paraphernalia back into the crate with the range.
Now we wait a little less patiently for the correct stove — the one we originally pointed to in the showroom to the salesman — to be delivered. Until then, I’m working skillets on the gas grill on the back deck to whip up dinners that have become less amazing with each passing week. The sense of adventure I initially felt is gone.
Yes, I know. I live in California so don’t have five feet of snow or slush through which I must shovel a path to the grill, and yes we’re in the middle of one of the worst droughts we’ve had in a long time. But, and this is a big but, because we’re remodeling, it’s now raining. Every few days, in fact. God knows, I can’t complain because of the whole drought thing…. if I squawk, people will think I’m just a teensy bit self-involved. So our contractor erected a tent on the back deck for fabricating, sawing, and other things that make a mountain of wood chips and a lot of noise for the neighbors and their dogs to enjoy. The grill is just outside the tent.
A couple of nights ago, I cooked dinner wearing a large black rain hat — which I suddenly realized resembles a witch’s hat and may never wear again, my body angled against the flaps of the tent so they wouldn’t blow up, catch on fire and create an even bigger remodeling project, one hand working the skillet on the grill, the other holding the grill lid part-way down to keep the rain off the food. It worked out fine, but I was a bit of a mess by the end. If you’re still with me, my point is, my cooking and baking support systems are a bit lean right now. And Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories is a master baker – and particularly with breads.
And this is why this was a tough assignment for me this month.
I love to bake bread. I love everything about it. The meditative quality to kneading, the magic of rising dough, and periodic spraying to get a nice crust. If you want to expand your bread baking skills I urge you to visit her blog. But don’t stop at the breads, go look at her cakes, cookies. and tarts too. But I’ll be back with more of her recipes over the next couple of months, starting with her Basic Sourdough Bread, since I’ve got a sourdough starter I’ve been feeding for the last couple of months as a birthday gift for our stepdaughter, Robin. Then I’m moving onto Karen’s Apple Kuchen, Assyrian Spinach Pies, Carrot Bread, and Jalapeño Cheese Bread with Corn. For a non bread-y recipe, I want to make her Mexican Breakfast Casserole. And I must warn you, her photography is lovely, guaranteed to make you hungry.
Go check out her blog and come on back to see what I chose to make for today: Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Tartlets. I made a couple of changes – I had some favorite sheep’s feta on hand that I used in place of the goat cheese. It was delicious with the feta, but I’m sure the goat cheese would be great too. And I switched honey in for the balsamic syrup – it was going to be a little too tricky to make that the syrup on the grill. These little tartlets were really, really wonderful, and don’t forget the fresh thyme. It makes a surprisingly huge difference.
As an entertaining note: if you’re in a jam for time and have guests coming soon, this can be a great last-minute appetizer if you have some caramelized onions on hand. I frequently do, but you can also purchase onion confit or onion marmalade to have on hand and quickly pull together a beautiful appetizer that, trust me, everyone will love.
And now, go check out the rest of the SRC monthly posts!