Adventures in Cooking

I love to cook, always have. But when I was single (most of my life), I didn’t cook much at all.

It’s not fun to cook for one. Too much work, too much cleanup, too little enjoyment.

So for the last four months or so, I’ve been playing lots in the kitchen.

Some experiments have gone painfully awry, and other results have been mixed.

For example, last week I made some bread with hard wheat flour (or something like that) and a little spelt flour that I bought at the coffee shop that also doubles as a little store with local products.

I loved it, but Andrew wasn’t so thrilled.

He liked it better with the fresh apple butter I’d made from apples we got at the Fruit Loop in Hood River, however.

His sister and brother-in-law go every year, and this year, they invited us to go along. I strongly suggest hiring them as your tour guides if you want to make the loop. They knew which orchards had the best of what, from jams to food to the petting zoo to the apples themselves.

We ended up buying a whole box of apples and a gallon of freshly pressed cider, which was like drinking an apple.

I used a recipe from a dear family friend from my childhood, Shirley Barrett, for crock pot apple butter that you freeze. It turned out nice and dark and absolutely fantastic. So that was fun.

Beef stew, on the other hand, wasn’t so successful.

For some reason, we decided we wanted stew. I thought Andrew really liked stew, and I guess he thought I did, too.

I had some good grass-fed beef in the freezer that needed to be used up. So I dutifully cut up carrots and turnips and potatoes and celergy, and I zipped up onions in the food processor (I hate chopping onions).

I have to say, I think the turnip may be the most beautiful vegetable. I haven’t used them much (at all), but they are so white and sweet and crunchy. They’re quite lovely.

The outcome was a really lovely stew, along with some potato rolls. The problem was that neither of us liked it very much. There wasn’t much wrong with the stew (except that our cornstarch had ants in it, so I used flour instead and didn’t make a slurry, so there were some lumps), but we’re just not stew people.

We want to be. We think it’s really good, hearty fare, perfect for fall. But we’re not making it again.

In fact, a recipe from Nigella Lawson for zucchini and chickpea pie made with phyllo dough was much more to our liking. It was subtly spiced and made with basmati rice and chicken broth. Andrew’s mom had given us a huge zucchini, which was the base.

It was fantastic, but it only took half the phyllo dough. What to do?

Make baklava, of course. I used an Emeril Lagasse recipe, but cut it in half and substituted almonds for the walnuts, because I had them.

I am a rather lazy cook, so I didn’t trim the edges of my phyllo dough. I just sort of bunched it up. It tore apart, too, despite my efforts to keep it covered and butter fast. I had bits of flaky dough all over the floor.

But who cares? Because in the end, I had really good tasting baklava. We had enough to eat our fill all week long and share.

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