Reflections on Seasoning
I have been reflecting, lately, on how the quickly the seasons go by, and how, as I greet every one, I become more seasoned, and season my food with more certainty. Did you know I’ve been teaching for 29 years? In the food business, for the most part, since I was 19, which means, it was still the 1960’s when I began? Yeah, I took a few breaks, working at other things while I had young children. But the majority of my majority, I’ve been in the kitchen or teaching.
Perhaps because I’m getting ready to semi-retire, I have been reflecting on the changes in my palate over the years. Sometimes, I get really tired of a dish — there are a few that, after December’s groups chose them again and again (to the point where I often had the same dishes 5 times a week), I never want to see again — or at least, not anytime too soon. Yet I often put dishes on group menus that I developed years ago — some of the most popular things we make are inventions of mine that have stood the test of time. Tastes change, but some things just work, yet I think about how unsure I was, how almost apologetic I was when I brought these dishes out and shared them with my unsuspecting students and clients. I didn’t believe in myself with confidence back then, didn’t trust my instincts in the kitchen. I’ve learned that I really do know a few things, and really did, even way back then.
Changes to Come
Here it is: I mentioned casually above, that I’m kind-of retiring. Not all the way, mind you. But the kitchen will be sold, hopefully, this month, and our new owner will continue to do what we do — he had a similar business and lost his own kitchen lease. I will still be taking events, basically renting back my kitchen for them, although on a bit more limited basis, and passing on some of the work to our new owner. Frankly, while the mind is willing, the body can’t keep up this pace anymore.
This is the hardest decision I’ve made, since I built the kitchen in 2003. I’ve had a great 13-year run, and my promise to myself was that if I sold, I would find the right buyer, who would continue and build upon the work I’ve done. I feel I have fulfilled that promise as well as possible, or will have, when this deal finally closes. Now, as the sale terms are getting finalized, it’s time to move on to a few other projects. I will still publish this newsletter, and occasional Quick Bites emails, too, although I don’t rule out eventual format change to a blog. I will still have the website, some changes of course. I will still take a limited number of jobs, both corporate and private. But, I will no longer have the huge stress of running the kitchen, and I can’t wait.
Summer Camp News
The classes are on line at the Cook! Programs website, and registration has begun.
COOK! Programs will be operating this year as it's own business. This will be a seamless change, one that should not affect you, really, except that you might see our new business name, OishiCore, on your financial statements.
The most dramatic change is that Cook! will be hosting camp at a new facility, just around the corner from the old home-base. The new address will be 6270 Overland Ave, at 63rd St. This is literally in the same building complex as Paulding & Company. The space will be open, light-filled, and well-equipped, with some fun new appliances for us to use. In addition, drop off and pick up will be in the building’s parking lot, making the process a little safer and, hopefully, less chaotic.
Please contact Tracy if you have any questions or concerns, and remember to sign your kids up soon to get your choice of classes.
Classes for Grownups
Classes will continue, probably with some enhanced offerings as time passes. For the moment, we have Rosetta Costantino’s Making and Using Ricotta on Saturday, March 4th. This class will teach you (and has taught me) how to make ricotta for yourself, and use it from appetizers to desserts. Note that Rosetta has moved her classes to Saturdays, starting a bit earlier, after getting feedback from students that they’d prefer it. After that, she’s got A Taste of Sicily on March 18th, and April 4th, her wonderful Pizza class.
In the Market
Winter markets are a challenge, of course. So much rain, some of the farmers don’t have any way to get into the fields to pick without ruining them. And, the more delicate stuff just doesn’t make it. Still, Grand Lake had raspberries and blackberries right up to Christmas, and they’ll be back in a few short months, and last week there were strawberries, a surprise that of course depends on the weather. Plenty of leafy sturdy greens, plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, kale and chard. Thicker-fleshed lettuces, plus lots of great Romaine right now; bitter greens like treviso and raddiccio, ample turnips, beets (and their delicious greens), root crops like carrots and parsnips, potatoes, and great winter squash. Fruit such as apples, grapes, Asian pears, and citrus crop are all present. I also always get my eggs at the market, and nuts and dried fruit too. My favorite nuts to buy are the almonds you can get from several farmers. You may not be aware that commercially sold almonds must be pasteurized — because of salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 — but at the farmers market, you can get truly raw ones. I dehydrate soaked almonds, following a Weston Price recipe, and they make a great snack. Using raw almonds, not pasteurized, maintains the healthy enzymes and nutrients of the nuts. You just soak them in water with good sea salt (I use Brittany salt), 1 tsp. per pound, for at least 8 hours and up to 12, then dehydrate at 150°F. for 18-20 hours. They come out crispy, savory and delicious, and good for you as any snack can be.
On a personal level, I always go to at least one market a week, more if I’m working. Getting great, fresh produce that comes directly from growers I trust, makes me feel much healthier. The time from field to table being shorter, the nutrients are not as dissipated. I also feel that it has been what sets my business apart from my competitors throughout the years — quality of product equals stellar results when cooking.
Recipe of the Month
I developed this recipe long ago, way back when I started teaching. It's one I was thinking of when I wrote the first section of the newsletter. Then it was just “weird” and now it’s so much more mainstream. Who roasted cauliflower back in the late ‘80s? I think I may have been one of the first. Try it, you’ll love it!