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April 12, 2010

Leftovers: Pickled blueberries, miso mayonnaise

Right now, my life is about crushing deadlines.

If you're self-employed, you know that your time is never really your own. If a client calls, you do the work. You have to.  Because every hour you're not billing is time you don't get paid.  If you don't work, there's no paycheck coming in.  There's no closing the notebook, turning off the lights, powering down the computer, and getting to it another day.  There's no delegating it to someone else on the team. 

I love what I do, I love the clients I work with, and I love the flexibility I have (The month of August off? Yes, please!), but sometimes 3 or 4 clients descend at once with full-time amounts of work and although it's incredibly energizing and one hell of a roller coaster ride to get it all done, it can be hard (for me) to switch gears and relax... even for an hour.

Right now, I'm working 18-hour days and will be for the next few weeks. There will be time for an Alinea dish or two in there... but not much more than that.

Oh, how I've wanted to cook this past week, and write about what I've cooked.  And I will.  Soon.

But for now, I hope you'll be content with a few words and a few lovely pictures along the way, because every time I've sat down to write about something other than the speeches and op-eds and press kits and other things I'm doing for clients, I'm all flibbitydooooo and wonkalazooooo because my brain is jammed and nothing even remotely coherent comes out.

I'm not cooking these days as much as I am assembling.  I don't have time to leave the house for takeout, and there aren't any delivery options in my neighborhood for someone who can't eat gluten.  So, I'm merely putting together 2 or 3 things and calling it a meal.  Like this:


That's Fage Greek yogurt with leftover pickled blueberries and some orange blossom honey. That was breakfast last Wednesday. And it was goooooood.  Sweet, tangy, pickle-y... and with Portland Roasting's Goose Hollow blend, I started that day off just right.

Friday lunch was a salad of romaine lettuce, carrots, honeycrisp apples, marcona almonds and a vinaigrette made with the leftover miso mayonnaise from the Yuba dish:


That dressing was ridiculously easy -- miso mayonnaise (instead of oil), white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, salt, pepper.  And it tasted so, so, so, so good.

I loved cooking my way through The French Laundry Cookbook, but there's something I've discovered that's a little different about cooking through the Alinea cookbook: more adaptable leftovers.  There are so many individual elements in each dish, and many of them yield incredible opportunities for what's left over.  I made salad dressing three times, and thanks to Charlie Baird who told me over Twitter that he used the miso mayonnaise on grilled vegetables, I brushed some of it on some sauteed Brussels sprouts with tofu and crushed peanuts for dinner last night, and life was good.

It's also interesting to me that, lately, I don't have time to over-think how I'd use these leftovers.  They've served a very basic purpose and have come in handy in such a fundamental way: to feed me.  While I wish I could focus on the pleasure of food as my primary goal, right now it's all about sustenance.  What's fantastic, though, is when what you've thrown together in 2 minutes for sustenance turns out to be so freakin' delicious you actually do stop in your tracks for three minutes, maybe five minutes, to really taste what's going in your mouth.

That's one thing I really love about this project.  It has the power to turn sustenance into pleasure when you least expect it, and when you really need it.

Hope to see some of you at Smith Meadows Farm Day -- I've already heard from a few of you that you're coming... and I am counting the minutes until May 1.  Getting away from the laptop and the phone, and mucking about the fields among cows and chickens for a few hours is gonna be fantastic.  I can't wait!

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I just wrote a post very much like this last night. April and May are crazy months -- hard to get time to eat, much less photograph and write about it! Hang in there, and we'll all be around to read about your adventures when you've got more time to play in the kitchen.

Take your food outside to your table and enjoy the day if only for a few minutes.

------------> As soon as the pollen count goes down, believe me, I'll be LIVING out there. :) [CB]

Coffee from Portland? Ma'am, I have got to get you something locally roasted, not to mention delightfully good. Do you go to the Takoma farmer's market on Sundays?

-----------> I do. Who there sells coffee? [CB]

Hello Carol,
This is my first time post, but I have been lurking in the background since early on with the French Laundry blog.

My wife is a celiac and this post made me smile, because we end up with some pretty interesting combos for meals. I am the family cook and stuff on the run can be somewhat randomly thrown together, but usually tasty. Especially impromptu vinaigrettes and "fridge" salads. I love your voice and humor, thanks for keeping it up!

More leftovers from Alinea than FLAH? I'm totally surprised by that. I would have thought full servings would be better than bite-sized portions for leftovers. Things that make you go hmmmm. No surprise though about the Fage and fruit combo. I can't wait until peaches and berries show up at the Dupont farmer's market - so much better than bananas on cornflakes.

I'm with RT. The Alinea concept has always given me pause for reasons directly contrary to your remark about sustenance. This food has always seemed so much about the thought, perhaps the experience, and not so much about eating in its most basic forms. I'd always seen that as the primary difference between Keller's and Achatz's food (w/o having eaten either's, aside from one delightful lunch at Bouchon Bakery). Do you think this realization has more to do with the changes you've experienced in the way you approach food since you started this (and the FLAH) little project, or is it more about the mindset behind the Alinea dishes, themselves? Interesting conundrum. Perhaps complexity is a backdoor to simplicity.

Hey carol,

i just read this article in the Times about the cilantro adverse and it totally reminded me of you! It also talks about one guy who taught himself to love cilantro! imagine that!



I saw this article and thought of you! It's apparently in your genes not to like cilantro!

Whoops! Apparently I'm late in sharing! Just saw that Kevin had already shared that article. Sorry!

leftovers would be great, and normally are for us. Not this week though. Hellish week at work,2 injured children make for basic coping with nutrition needs rather than leftover creativity. Your post is inspiring, though-made me think that there was always something to put together rather than relying on the quick fix between ER visits this week!

Good luck with the next few weeks. I'm glad that the leftovers are providing a bright spot here and there in an otherwise hectic time.

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