Tim and I were both a little under the weather this past week, something I always forget how much I hate until it happens. This was the first time we've ever had colds together, at least anything that didn't go…
The month of August has been a quiet one for us. Expected guests had to cancel at the last minute, plans changed and, while you’d think this would be the sort of thing to discourage us, in fact, it’s been the opposite. We’ve been dealing with the wide-open weekends of Tim’s homemade pancakes, afternoons spent writing, evening walks in the park, impromptu trips to thrift stores or out for tacos. The weather’s even cooperated, moving from the abrasive 100s to more reasonable upper 80s, making it a little easier to enjoy cooking in the kitchen again. For years, Tim’s told me about his homemade Chinese food, and this August has been his chance to take a few hours in the kitchen to show me. I’ve baked cookies without recipes. We’ve slow-cooked vegetables via Marcella Hazan. And not once, not twice, but three times, we’ve made homemade kefir-soaked spelt pizza crusts, topped by peaches and spinach and goat cheese.
In so many ways, August has been a contrast to the months before it, in which we’ve hosted out-of-town guests or traveled ourselves, and, to make up for the hours we’d be missing, worked double-time beforehand. In the same way that you appreciate your sophomore English teacher so much more because you disliked your freshman one, we’ve been basking in the beauty of this August and its slow, steady schedules.
Most Tuesday nights, we share dinner with Tim’s brother, Nathan, who lives about a mile or two away, in the house where Tim lived before October. Every other week, by the time he arrives, we’re also unpacking our biweekly CSA haul, a tightly packed bushel box of yellow squash and watermelon and sweet corn and tomatoes and so on, which we pick up from the 12 South Farmers Market held late Tuesday afternoons. On one particular week, we’re pulling away from the market, not yet home, when I catch an image on Instagram of a peach-topped pizza. Despite the loot in our back seat, we beeline for the grocery.
At home, we launch into our biweekly routine, Tim slicing up watermelon that we snack on while we divvy up the goods. Meanwhile, I mix together a pizza crust, letting it soak in the warmest spot above our oven.
By the time Nathan arrives, the August sun is lowering, the house enjoying that late-summer twilight that turns everything golden and dim, and two pizzas are in the oven, one on a stone and one on a baking sheet.
That first time is magic: crackery crust, sweet and soft peaches, the tang of goat cheese mixed with drizzles of honey. We eat it on the sofa, piece after piece after piece, the three of us flipping through channels on TV, occasionally interrupting the programming to marvel at the way the crust holds up or the way the edges have a faint hint of Saltine.
When Nathan leaves, it’s barely 8 p.m., so Tim and I clean up the dishes and put away the leftovers and take a drive, headed nowhere in particular, off to enjoy a lazy summer night, with nothing to do. I say to him, This August has been like one long date!, enough that I almost feel guilty!, and he says to me, I know.
There are recipes you make because you like the way they taste (chicken pot pie, carrot risotto, thin and chewy pizza crust); there are recipes you make because you're trying to show love (hot chocolate cookies, homemade cheesecake, soft and…
February 17 was a big day for my family this year. Not only was it my mom’s birthday, but it also was the first time they came to visit Nashville. Ever! And while I’ve been wanting my parents to visit ever since I first moved last February, I’ll be the first to admit that in the valley of a few weeks ago, it felt a little impossible. So I’m thankful to say that in fact, we had a busy four days, filled with many moments where I’d look at Tim and say, I’m not in pain!, amidst marathons of Downton Abbey, antiquing in Franklin, a visit to the gym and grabbing them Olive & Sinclair chocolate-dipped popsicles at Hot and Cold. It all started when they arrived early Friday morning, having braved a 6 AM flight to get here, and so we had a birthday breakfast waiting—and the star of that show was this quiche.
Here are the reasons I like this quiche: 1) You don’t have to make a pie crust. It’s not that I have anything against pie crust (especially not this foolproof one!); it’s just that sometimes, say the weekend where you’re already making two other pies, one pumpkin and one lemon meringue, you don’t feel like another. And even sans crust, I love how this quiche holds together beautifully, firm and solid, like an egg bake.
2) It’s a meal in itself. It’s true this quiche was our breakfast, alongside sprouted cinnamon raisin English muffins and fruit, but it could just as easily be lunch or dinner, maybe with greens on the side.
3. It is the perfect blend of flavors. I hesitate to use the word perfect here, mostly because it feels a little pushy amidst a sea of competing opinions for the best this or the most delicious that, but I’m doing it anyway because, objectively, this quiche was so good, everyone had seconds, and the one small piece that was leftover after the five of us ate it was gone the next morning. And also, you know how sometimes you cook a new recipe and all you think is how it’s missing something? This quiche was the exact opposite: it was precisely as it should be, from the dispersion of spinach and chard to the blend of three different cheeses.
But beyond that, perhaps the most convincing argument, if you want to know the truth, is that my mom, the birthday girl herself, has asked me for this quiche recipe three times, and something like that hasn’t happened since the Great Pot Roast of 2010. After that kind of ringing endorsement, I don’t know what else to say but that here, I bring you, Mom and everyone:
our new favorite crustless quiche!
The truth is, I’ve been wanting to tell you about this chicken roulade recipe for over a week now—ever since last Tuesday, when I pulled chicken out of the fridge and wondered what to make for dinner. I’d gone through all the usual options in my mind, things I’ve had before, things I’ve made, but nothing sounded like it would be worth the high price tag of the Amish, antibiotic-free poultry I’ve been buying, nothing until this beautiful, impressive chicken roulade.
Chicken roulade, if you’ve never heard of it, is essentially rolled chicken: the meat gets pounded and flattened into a large surface area; topped with cheese and a filling made of greens, onions, dried fruit, and nuts; rolled tightly; tied up with string; browned and baked. When it’s finished, you slice the bundled breasts into slices stuffed with flavor and color, and it’s the kind of thing that makes you go wow.
This version comes from the lovely Angela of Spinach Tiger: she’d posted it as an idea for a spring picnic back in April; I’m posting it as a weeknight dinner in December. That’s what’s great about this dish: it’s versatile. Not only is it timely year-round, but it’s also adaptable to the ingredients you like and/or have on hand, whether type of greens, nuts, dried fruit, or cheese.
As for why it’s taken me more than a week to post here, all I can say is I’m sorry. I could say I’ve been busy, but then so are you, and you’re reading this. I could say it’s the holidays, but truthfully my family’s Christmas is pretty low-key. So the best explanation I can give you is the same one I’m always giving, it seems: I didn’t know what to say.
I keep wanting to tell you about how things are going around here, I mean beyond chicken roulade for dinner, but the words just don’t come. Do you ever feel like that? Like you’re full of stories but speechless? Sometimes you just have to wait it out. But sometimes, in blogging at least, when you’ve already posted the series of photos to Flickr and already typed up the adapted recipe and then still have nothing else beyond that, you just admit it.
So it’s like this: If we were on the phone today, you and me, or sitting across a table, or pounding some chicken breasts together while we worked on dinner, this is what I’d tell you: right now, even as we do this, there are a lot of things I’m trying not to think about, things like worry and doubt that I feel like I fight more often lately. And I’d say there are other things, things like these, which I’m repeating to myself over and over again. I’d say I’m, as always, overwhelmed by good gifts, don’t misunderstand, but hey, how about you talk for a while? And you could do me the favor of telling me about your day and what you’re doing for Christmas and how much you’ve whittled down on your shopping list. We could also make roasted carrots—baked for about an hour with coconut oil and drizzles of maple syrup—and maybe a salad loaded with vegetables.
And then, when we were done, I’d say, let’s eat.
To write this post, I was trying to think back to a month ago, when we ate this salad, on a night when I’m almost sure there was still snow on the ground. I guess there must have been, since that was the night my friend Jackie came over for dinner, and she had to grip the stair railings to keep from falling on the ice on her way inside.
But listen to this: Tonight? I drove home with the windows down, the sun beating on me, and I actually was sweating, if you can believe it. All around me, the grass outside is totally green, there are flowers budding that look like lumps of cotton, and the skies are the perfect shade of blue.
I know I’ve said this before, but it is really spring here. Finally. And honestly, I’ve almost forgotten winter.
I think there’s a lot of value in forgetting sometimes. I mean, it’s not good to forget the story your friend told you yesterday at lunch, but it’s pretty great if you can forget the obnoxious thing that guy said to you at work. And this time of year, I am all for forgetting: forgetting the ice, the snow, the cold, the commutes. Forgetting that last time I posted about the weather getting better, it went and snowed.
This is going to be the one of the fastest post I’ve written here: I’m giving myself 20 minutes, start to finish. GO!
OK, so that picture above—the one of the beautiful puff pastry?—is from Ina Garten, one of those people I wouldn’t mind being more like. She’s so classy, isn’t she? I love watching her and her little husband, Jeffrey. They’re like the wealthy aunt and uncle I wish I had. If Ina were writing this post, she’d probably have something more interesting to say, unlike me, who, I’m embarrassed to tell you, still (STILL!) has very little else on my mind than the weather. (THE GORGEOUS WEATHER!)
If you’ll permit me: This morning, I drove to work with my windows cracked open, fresh, crisp air whipping inside my little Jetta, and I wore my bright-green spring jacket, not the parka or even my dressy wool coat. Everything was so perfect temperature-wise that I actually left the house early so I could stop at Dunkin Donuts and pick up coffee, as a celebration. I’ve decided it’s good to celebrate things like these, which might seem small to other people, just an increase in temperatures and some melting snow, so what? But to me, while I cruised through puddles, Ella Fitzgerald crooning, this was possibly the best day ever.
In the office, where we still haven’t turned on A/C (hello? it’s February?), we had to plug in the upright fan and point it on us while we worked, donning short sleeves and sipping ice water. At lunch, I swear, I was sweating when I got back into my car. The weatherman said it reached 61 degrees today, two short of the record. But let me tell you, walking down my street, you’d never have believed it.
Anyway, while I was driving home tonight (and there was hardly any traffic!), I realized that days like this are the good stuff worth savoring. After all, I’m too eager to tell you when my commute doubles or the snow makes me late. Shouldn’t I rejoice a little when everything’s completely wonderful?
And that brings me to now, when here I am, sitting at the computer, trying to think of what to tell you about the puff pastry, which is really lovely, but all that comes out is weather. What can I say?