I took a deep breath while standing at my kitchen sink this morning after doing the breakfast dishes. One boy ate leftover blue cornmeal pancakes from yesterday morning, and the other several leftover rolled up crêpes spread with an iteration of Megan Gordon's chocolate-hazelnut spread. My timing was on. It was 7:15 and everything was cleaned up. I had my pre-measured coffee beans in the grinder and ready to brew, 2 hours before I usually even think of making my coffee. Not taking into account the time needed to dress myself appropriately, I feel like I'm getting this. My new life is about to start and I have one last week of daily homelife to myself before embarking on this new adventure, new chapter in my life. Before it all begins for real.
As this space where I collect my kitchen life felt slowly more and more neglected, I have found all the words pouring around in my head. A food blog is no place to recount the details of broken hearts, and lives forever and irrevocably changed. Or maybe it is. The truth of it all is that the broken bits of my life that have suddenly arranged themselves into a brand new pattern, one I probably would have never put together myself, but also intricate enough that I know the Almighty power behind it all: the One pushing me out and into a place that might feel foreign and uncomfortable. A brand new normal with all of the knowledge of the past decade to back me up.
I hesitate to go into detail. Every relationship that comes to an end has moving pieces and two sides to the story. But my conscious is clean. It's the only path through that I could see. For the immediate time being, I'll move through life once again a single person - albeit one with two boys in tow. The inner workings of a girl who has spent 10 years cultivating a home, growing boys and plants, becoming a preserver, a baker, a writer are tough to separate and sift out. I continue to struggle with the feeling that my life, the essence of my personhood, is changing. I'll no longer measure my days with sourdough feeding and line dried clothes. But the slow timing in so much change has convinced me that it is, after all, only change. I'm going to stand at the helm of my kitchen with less time, but never without homemade bread. I will still be me, just with a little less time.
Meanwhile, I have been wordless at the outpouring of support from the people in life that have graced me with their friendship. There have been quick notes from those in my tribe, the Internet friends that are real and living and aren't at all hollow and dismissive, and there have been too many coffee beans dropped at my doorstep to count. I am bolstered by support of people who get what it is to be forced into so much change, those who have been through something similar themselves, those whose voices echo that yeah it is hard, but you are able and that trials in life are not purposeless. Those that remind that something good will come again and that it really is an adventure to find out just what that will include.
I wondered if this was the right post to include my review of PRiMO's new Strawberry Ancho Preserves, and offer up a jar to give away. I mean really. Life changing, deep sorrowful stuff, written with total ambiguity? But it can't be any other way. Somehow all the little pieces of this gigantic puzzle also include this small company, and their truly homemade jams. Somehow them sending me a jar in the mail (and they have IMPECCABLE packaging which always makes me smile even wider) for me to give my honest opinion of made me feel validated as a small time food writer and recipe developer.
This jar was bright and warm, not spicy really - but like the blend of chiles only added to the "strawberryness" of the strawberry. I originally thought that I'd come up with something complicated to showcase it, a mole maybe or a marinade for meat. But then I realized that complicated is just not what I do anymore. I make scones instead of croissants and other laminated doughs. I make a big pot of dal and we eat it for days in a row instead of cooking every night. And this special jar of jam fit right in with the timing of my life which I am ever so mindful of right now. It is perfectly enjoyable on a spoon, in plain yogurt, on toast. It complements all the most comforting things, because after all it is strawberry jam and strawberry jam is king of the jams. And royal jam is meant to be eaten so that you can really taste it.
Crêpes might seem like a luxury, but they don't actually take too much time - especially if you mix the blender batter in the evening and let it laze about in your refrigerator for a couple of days. They actually only improve with time. When you get to making the actual crêpes, layer them on a large dinner plate with a square of waxed paper between each and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge. Covered well with plastic wrap, you can get another 2-3 days storage out of them. Don't worry if you need a bit of practice to get nice, round crêpes, all of your practice is edible.
Crêpes with Strawberry-Ancho Ricotta
for the crêpe batter (Alton Brown's is best in my book):
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 c. ap flour
- 3 T. melted butter
- 1 T. granulated sugar
- 1 t. vanilla
- pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well. Transfer to a wide mouth canning jar and let rest at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours. (Stir gently to recombine if resting for a long time.) Cook the crêpes using a scant 1/4 cup batter in a nonstick skillet, using a brush of butter after each one. (If you want to use them for savory purposes, omit the granulated sugar and vanilla.)
Mix 2 parts premium ricotta cheese (homemade ricotta would also be stellar) to 1 part PRiMO Strawberry Ancho Preserves in a bowl. (6 T. ricotta and 3 T. preserves makes enough to fill at least 6 crêpes.)
Spread the preserves/ricotta mixture evenly on a crêpe and fold in half and in half again. Melt a little butter in a skillet and gently fry them on both sides until browned and crispy around the edges. Dust with powdered sugar and do eat with mint leaves if you have some growing as I did.
The generous folks at PRiMO have offered up a jar of this new release Strawberry Ancho to one lucky reader! Please comment on this post with a simple but favorite food that brings you comfort and inspiration before midnight next Friday (May 6th, 2016) and you might find a jar in your mailbox shortly thereafter. You may also decide, and rightly so, that you can't wait for all of that and find your new favorite strawberry jam at PRiMO's website. I'll number the comments and select the winner at random. (Please be sure to shoot me an email from the contact tab at left if your comment isn't attached to an email/blog/way to get in touch with you.)
I've spent the past month gearing up for my new job, outside of the home, out in the big world that lies past the threshold of my own kingdom. It's been a good run. I'll look back on my 30's at home with general good thought and pride in my independent work. I'll remember all of the lessons learned and remember there are still more to come. When I prepare for the workdays ahead, I page through some of my most favorite simple food books, Peter Miller talking about collaborative lunches at his bookshop, Cal Peternell's chapter on toast, and Tamar Adler's making the most of boiling pot of water and I know life doesn't end with work outside the home no matter how scared I am of that. It's just another chapter in my own running story, one that's still developing and "fast breaking". And that chapter includes a ton of simple food and the pleasures found therein.
Is there room for preserves? Most definitely. Certainly, there is ample room to purchase a few jars this year as well, and from a small producer like PRiMO, I'll almost consider them my own.
Disclosure: PRiMO did send me a jar of their preserves for review, but as always my thoughts and opinions are fully my own.