Thursday, October 29, 2009

Arugula Fennel Salad With A Twist

I must admit that I’m having a difficult time finding a good balance this fall. I wanted to find the happy medium between work and play, but I have to accept the reality that I find it very difficult to be disciplined in more than one area of my life at a time. I’m thrilled to be working on a major project right now, one that is exciting and unusual, though it is taking up a vast amount of my mental energy and is eclipsing most of the time I would ordinarily spend cooking. I don’t mean to be a hopeless tease about my so-called Project X, for I hope to be able to share it with all of you in time. Please forgive me for being cryptic at the moment, but perhaps I can appease you with a recipe for my new happy discovery: an Arugula Fennel Salad with a bit of a crunchy twist.

Arugula has long been my salad green of choice, and I’ve often tossed it with paper-thin slivers of fennel, finished with a drizzle of good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. But I was inspired by a salad that I had at the Zuni Café in San Francisco this summer, one in which the baby arugula and fennel shavings were enlivened with a scattering of toasted breadcrumbs and finely chopped pistachios with a hint of orange. I was so delighted by the Zuni Café version that I had to recreate my own variation for myself here at home.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marinated Goat Cheese and the Power of Memory

Most of us have certain foods that hold the power to instantly transport us back to childhood or another memorable time. In “Remembrance of Things Past”, Marcel Proust famously wrote an eloquent description of how a single taste of a petite madeleine cookie conjured up a flood of childhood memories, and I think many people can relate to a particular taste triggering a stream of involuntary memories. However, I’ve started to realize that I actually have the reverse issue. My awareness of the current date—and the memories of what happened on that day in any given year—is often the trigger itself for some very insistent cravings.

Sometimes these cravings are seasonally prompted, but my cravings are often weirdly specific, usually corresponding to the first time I tasted a particular dish. It’s not terribly unusual to seek out desserts featuring fresh berries when these summer gems are most plentiful, but I have had an insatiable craving for Mixed Berry Shortcakes every July 4th ever since I first experienced these in 1996. For five years now, I have been overwhelmed by an almost desperate need for Chocolate Toasts every January 30th, and I am likely to create a scrumptious BLT made with fried green tomatoes each August 19th in honor of the outrageous sandwich I had in 2006. And I get strangely hungry for goat cheese on October Ninths, largely because of a hilarious conversation I once had with Christopher Walken about bizarre dreams and goat cheese soufflés before a matinee performance on October 9, 1999! (Click here to read the story.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Amaretto Truffles For A New Season

I’m very happy that the new concert season has finally swung into full tilt. After a quiet summer, it’s been a treat to reconnect and make music again with so many friends and colleagues whom I hadn’t seen since May. What cracks me up is how many times I’ve been asked the same three questions in rapid succession: “How was your summer? How’s CocoaRoar? When will you make more truffles?!” I guess I’m not the only person who often has chocolate on the brain!

Since chocolate is highly temperature-sensitive which makes it too difficult to work with in warm weather, I take an extended break from chocolate-making in the summers, but I think it’s time for me to spend some consistent time in the CocoaRoar kitchen again. (Okay, you all know I don’t have a separate kitchen for my little chocolate truffle side business, but a girl can dream, right?) Granted, I only make truffles around specific holidays—partly in order to avoid burn-out and also because I need time to be a violinist—but CocoaRoar has been on hiatus ever since February and I’ve missed it.