weekend

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.

because: caramelized onions

I felt productive this weekend, mainly because I roasted more tomatoes and had the inspired plan to caramelize onions in the oven at the same time. It worked brilliantly, beautifully. I know this because I couldn't stop eating them this morning. They are velvety, jammy, savory and sweet. We planted onions this spring and ended up with a lot of them come harvest time. I'm pretty happy about this. However, there were a few that didn't cure well that had begun to go a bit mushy. I decided that since I had the oven on at 275° for the next five hours anyway, I may as well put some onions in. I sliced the good parts of five or so of such onions thickly and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil in a pyrex dish. Nothing makes me tear up like these homegrown onions (not quite true, but they are certainly tear inducing). I think I stirred them twice over the course of the evening, and by the end of the cooking time they were very soft and lightly browned. I turned off the oven and left them to stew overnight. In the morning they were perfect. I added a touch of thyme-infused sea salt, and ended up snacking on a few spoonfuls before breakfast.

Because I wanted to eat more caramelized onions and because I was pretty hungry, I concocted a salad which made use of a few generous forkfuls.

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September Salad with beets, caramelized onions and pecans

I didn't measure anything because I wasn't planning on writing about it, but it turned out so good that you will have to accept my approximations until I make it again, and adjust it to taste. I thought about dressing the salad, but I'm glad that I didn't because the oil from the onions coated everything nicely.

⋅ ~ 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed, kneaded til bright green and cut into ribbons ⋅ several handfuls diced cooked beets (I used cold beets but warm would probably be lovely as well) ⋅ several forkfuls caramelized onion (and I do mean full) ⋅ soft cheese, crumbled (I used fromage frais, but a creamy feta would also be nice, such as Doric Macedonian Feta - Elise I silently thank you every time I find myself in possession of a bucket of the stuff) ⋅ a smallish handful of pecans, hand crushed and toasted over medium heat = Assemble and eat.

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