An Evening with a Cooking Idol

We had a really lovely weekend. Michael’s birthday was on Saturday so we celebrated with good food, wine, movies and football. I’ll update you on all of that in the coming days once I can upload all the photos to my computer. But at the moment I’m on an Amtrak making my way back down to NYC.

The reason for my visit is that my sister scored tickets to an event called Three French Chefs in NYC. Scored is probably not the right word as I don’t know that this event is massively popular, especially considering that they’re discounting ticket prices for those under 35! But to us this is a once in a lifetime event.

One of the French chefs speaking tonight will be Jacques Pepin. Growing up, Jacques Pepin was an idol in our house. Long before the Food Network became popular and we were inundated with celebrity chefs, there were the PBS chefs: Julia, Lidia, Jacques. And because my father was a chef, these were the programs we watched every Saturday morning.

To him, Jacques could do no wrong. He was classically trained and cooked the way my father cooked. I think he went as far as saying that besides using two hands to flip an omelet, to my Papa’s one, he couldn’t criticize a thing. My father was the most opinionated person on earth so this was a very big deal. We came to trust in Jacques’ techniques, his way with wine and his easy manner in the kitchen. As they both got older, they also started to look alike, haha, donning their bright blue aprons, polo shirts and gray hair.

My father passed away 2 and a half years ago and when the hollowness of losing him starts to weigh on me, I go looking for Jacques. Just tuning in for a few minutes makes me feel like a little piece of him is back here with me. Teaching me to chop a carrot, make an artichoke sauce or swirl a sip of wine (always looking for the hint of blackberry, the finish of chocolate). It’s, of course, no substitute for the real thing, but because he was my father’s favorite, he has become mine and I can’t help but feel joyful when he makes roses out of radishes and flowers out of tomato skins just like my Papa did. If you want a glimpse of life growing up check out the Smooth Food episode where he cooks with his daughter Claudine, our real life scarily resembled this.

So you see, tonight we meet a legend to our family and he holds a special place in my heart as another person who’s had a hand in teaching me how to cook, how to love food, how to find joy in the kitchen.

Today I’ll end the most appropriate way I know how…happy cooking!

My Papa in 2009.

[Photo Source]

Recipe FAIL(s)

It’s not all rainbows and kittens here at quinoa, kale and exhale. Sometimes you start a recipe with the highest of expectations and then it turns out to be a big fat flop!

Yesterday I set out to make gluten-free bread sticks. I did some research online, per usual. I mixed the yeast with warm almond milk and sugar. I added it to the dry ingredients, plus some fresh rosemary. I formed the bread sticks, brushed them with garlicky vegan butter and crossed my fingers. Michael came home about an hour later and I eagerly showed him the baked bread sticks, they looked so nice. He took a bite, looked at me with a mouth full and shook his head ‘no, I do NOT think so’. He’s my biggest fan in the kitchen and often says things are better than they actually are so when he denied the bread sticks I knew I had to admit defeat…this time.

With no bread stick recipe to share with you I scoured the web and my cookbooks for some inspiration. Last week I bought some mustard seeds and I thought maybe a sweet mustard salad dressing would be the perfect make-up recipe for today’s post.

But, some days the cooking gods are just not in your favor. The only successful thing I’ve done in the last hour is burn two sets of mustard seeds and make a horrible charred and acidic mustard dressing.

I am now sitting under a big blanket with the windows wide open, letting in the 40 degree air so I can rid the house of the smell of failure 🙂

Lunch today? The simplest kale salad with rice wine vinegar, salt and water chestnuts and some Trader Joe’s veggie pot stickers.

White flag waving.

Until tomorrow.