I don’t give my dogs enough credit. Honestly, they drive me insane a good majority of the time, as I’m sure anyone can attest who follows me on Twitter or is my friend on Facebook. But if I didn’t have them around constantly, underfoot and underhand, I’m pretty sure I would go stir-crazy. I love my dogs – they’re my furry babies, my therapists, my source of love and aggravation when my husband’s not home. And you wouldn’t think it to look at them, but their needs are actually very specific – and Tucker the Princess of All Things, will not let a minute go by without informing me, constantly, of how things are supposed to be. For example, we add a little bit of vegetable oil to her food every morning, to help with digestion and cut down on shedding. She will not touch her food, much less eat it, unless there is oil on that food. I’m not kidding. She will stand there and stare at me until oil is mixed in, and then daintily chomp away. Mac, my once-upon-a-time hunting dog, will not go out in the wet yard to relieve himself. If it’s raining, you can forget it. The priss. And Gunny… well, Gunny is a whole thing unto himself. Any dog that is two feet tall and can jump four feet up into my open office window, flat-footed, is a special little dog indeed.
Ever since I picked up Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food at my puny local library, I’ve been inspired. Grow my own. Prepare simply, eat simply. The nine principles in the beginning of the book are simple in themselves, and easier than expected to follow in most cases, especially when you’re like me and love to make things yourself. The pages in the first half are descriptive and loving – roasted chicken with crispy skin, pan-seared fish, handmade pasta and pizza. Handmade. I love that word.
The handmade pasta I’m looking forward to at another time – I have an unearthly desire to make black pepper pappardelle, or spinach ravioli with ricotta – but the pizza dough was last night. And this is where the lesson in trust comes in.
I am not, in my opinion, a seasoned baker by any means. Adventurous, a little impetuous, yes. Not seasoned at all. I do enjoy baking, which still occasionally surprises me because I used to hate baking. Too much work, too much fiddly preciseness. But now I love it, almost as much as I love cooking and grilling. They all have their own draws, different but nonetheless appealing. Yeast, especially, used to scare me. A lot. But then I manned up one day and made bread, and it hasn’t really had the same scary tack to it since.
If I could only make one dessert for the rest of my life, although God forbid that should ever happen, it would be this one. This stuff is absolute magic. I’m serious – if it wasn’t for crème brûlée, I might not have a husband.
You think I’m kidding, I’m not. This is the first dessert I ever made for my husband (when we first started dating). It saved me from the disaster that was his first birthday supper with me. I’m convinced that it was what made him decide I was the one he needed to marry. Once you taste this, you’ll understand why.
It seems like strawberry ice cream is a summer staple. Every time warm weather rolls around, the photos overtake Tastespotting and Food Gawker. Strawberry sorbet, strawberry ice cream, strawberry gelato – strawberry, strawberry, strawberry. Forgive me, but strawberry isn’t necessarily one of my favorites. I like other berries, if any at all. The Husband, though, really like fruit ice creams, and strawberry is a flavor right up there with the rest.
We went to one of the local farm stands and picked up some fresh strawberries. Other than strawberry shortcakes, we didn’t have any idea what to do with them – then I got the “wild idea” to make ice cream with them before they wasted away. Again, too lazy to deal with separating eggs and wasting whites, or to cook up a custard (although the recipe across the page from the one I used looked pretty damn tasty). I found the recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream and thought “what the hell, let’s go.” I halved the recipe since my ice cream maker only makes a quart at a time, and still got just shy of two.
Biscuits, like pound cake, are a requirement for Southern life. Biscuits and gravy (yuuuum), biscuits and jelly, the ever-popular chicken biscuit, smoke link biscuit… mm, mm. And no biscuits are the same – everyone has a different method for making biscuits, more often than not a method and recipe passed down from generation to generation. Everything is important and rather particular. Cullen’s grandmother, for example, used only Martha White (with Hot Rize®), Crisco and whole milk. She mixed with her hands in a certain bowl (The Biscuit Bowl) and baked biscuits on a certain pan (The Biscuit Pan). She never cut her biscuits, just rolled them out and tapped them flat. My grandmother, on the other hand, cut her biscuits with a biscuit cutter that her mother had used. I don’t remember what flour she used, but I’m almost sure she used lard when she was still making biscuits. Toward the end, she couldn’t make biscuits by hand anymore and used whop biscuits instead.
My grandmother passed away several years ago, before I got into cooking as much as I am now. My mother isn’t really a biscuit maker, and of course my father didn’t learn how to make biscuits from his mother. It somehow fell to Cullen’s grandmother to give me the Biscuit Touch – and even so, she never taught me how to make biscuits “like Grandmoma made.” But it was because of her that I tried making biscuits at all, and because of her that we have The Biscuit Bowl and The Biscuit Pan. Yes, in our house. And I don’t make biscuits exactly like Grandmoma did, but I make them all right.