Jan 22, 2010

life has become complicated. one week - two awful events.

1 - some bitch stole my wallet. right out of my purse. while my purse was sitting next to me. then she went to ann taylor loft (wtf?), the chicago cultural center (wtwtf?) and target (ok). my beautiful orla kiely wallet that i bought in san francisco last year. the best damned wallet ever. and my whole life - insurance cards, credit cards, my drivers license with the really great photo, chicago sanitation card, cash, lots of quarters, countless business cards, notes and memorabilia that i'll never be able to replace. a sweet little card that craig gave me years ago to cheer me up that i always kept with me. it's all gone. on one hand it's sort of a relief to be starting something from scratch. building back up my identity, my life. on the other it's a giant pain in the ass that i'm not thrilled about dealing with right now. as i wait for a new orla kiely wallet to show up (thank you, ebay!) and slowly acquire new credit cards, insurance cards and cash, i'm becoming more and more paranoid about my stuff. got a new big purse with a big zipper to keep my stuff safe, and i'm keeping it close.

2 - two days later my doctor called me to let me know that some blood work i had done suggested that i suffer from celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten. it is a hereditary disease, one that my maternal grandfather has, and in light of last fall's baking bonanza in culinary school, it makes sense that my symptoms started showing up around that time. i am slated to see a guts doctor next month, but in the meantime i have been advised to cut out gluten (hard) and alcohol (harder) all together until i feel better and we get this sorted out. so no bread, pancakes, pizza, tortillas, breaded fried things, pasta, etc etc etc. it hasn't been totally terrible - except for ordering at restaurants where there are delicious rillettes and pates and bone marrows on the menu that i can't eat the vehicles to take them to my mouth. toast crostini is going to be missed. but, i am feeling a lot better so far, despite the inability to cut alcohol completely out of my life so far.

but, things are looking up. we have a catering gig tomorrow - a big one - that i'm super excited about, and Team Awesome is rallied and ready to help us pull it off. once again, i'm so grateful for the culinary school friends i've acquired, and am thrilled to have their talent and excitement about this catering thing i'm trying to figure out. i've also started my first personal chef gig for a wonderful family i'm so pleased to know. i'm nannying for their 15 month old sweetheart of a little boy once a week as well, which has been both challenging and totally relaxing and rewarding. reminds me how much i am looking forward to having one of my own.

and since i'm cooking for a living now, and talk about food all the time, i'm going to try to leave a recipe here on a regular basis. today - the best side dish ever - green beans and fennel. try it. it's delightful.

The Best Green Beans You Will Ever Eat

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 head of fennel
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp shaved parmesan

- Cut the feathery fronds off of the fennel and reserve. Quarter the fennel bulb, core it, and slice it into strips roughly the width of the green beans. Roughly chop the fronds (discard the woody stems) and set aside.
- Heat a large saute pan (one with a lid - or set aside some aluminum foil to cover later) to medium high. Add the oil and the green beans and sliced fennel. Stir often - you want some caramelized edges on the fennel and spots on the green beans, but no burning - until beans are bright green and still crunchy.
- Add the juice from 1/2 of a lemon, the minced garlic, and a little water (2-3 tbsp). Cover. Steam for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are softened but still have a little crunch....or to your desired doneness. But don't let the green beans get mushy and grey. Vegetables should never be eaten that way.
- Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste, the fennel fronds and the shaved parmesan, add a little more oil if desired and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Jan 11, 2010

wow, so it's been almost 3 months since i've visited here, it's safe to say i've had other things on my mind. introspective words aren't coming so easily to me anymore, as i've been spending more time writing recipes and catering proposals and emails apologizing to friends who i haven't spent much time with in the past year. i've finished my last kitchen class in culinary school - i only have one lecture class (nutrition) to take before completing my program. i feel torn about that. the last year went by so quickly and i'm still putting together what i learned from a year in culinary school. aside from the techniques, ratios, methods and recipes, i'm incredibly grateful for the lifelong friends and connections i've made - people with similar culinary views, tastes and visions as myself, as well as those with opposite ideas, strongpoints and goals who i will continue to be in awe of and learn from.

culinary school taught me more than i could ever put into words, and most of it not directly connected to cooking a piece of chicken or making a delicate sauce. being creative, understanding ratios, textures, traditions and the basic science behind cooking. being confident and adventurous and standing behind a vision. culinary school, for me, has been more about personal growth as a chef than about simply learning new skills and memorizing recipes. every one of my classmates is taking away something unique from this experience, and i'm glad to have been able to participate in it.

2009 was an incredibly life changing year for me. i am in such a different place today than i was one year ago. i'm 30. i'm being paid to do something i'm passionate about. i'm comfortable and enjoying life. i'm less stressed, more relaxed, and i have a much better vision of my future, both personally and professionally. life makes so much more sense to me now. i attribute that to many things - going to culinary school, meeting new people, quitting my full time job (and subsequently re-learning how to live on a budget), turning 30, and the continued support and guidance from my friends, family, and my wonderful husband. i couldn't have asked for craig to be more supportive of me during the last year of transitions, and after 11 years together, our relationship is the strongest it has ever been.

2010 is going to be equally epic, i can feel it. i've given up making new year's resolutions, but i will say that after everything i have experienced this past year, i vow to make each year subsequently better than the last. have new experiences, push myself, pursue happiness. life is proving to be so much more enjoyable that way.