Getting my kitchen mojo back


Crab cakes from Eatzi's

When Mary V. is coming for supper, she always emails to ask what she can bring, and I reply nothing, that I will cook for her. Over the years this back-and-forth has developed into a ritual. I like to feed Mary because she enjoys many of the things my family doesn’t—think smoked salmon and sardines.

 Last week, when I was still getting over my unexplained sinking spell, Mary was coming for supper, and I planned to make an asparagus/goat cheese/tarragon tart, something I’d never tried before. Truth is, I was more than a bit daunted by the prospect of fixing it. So when Mary emailed to suggest she bring something either from Charleston’s or Eatzi’s, I pulled up menus and began to think about what might sound good. And when she pushed the idea of crab cakes from Eatzi’s, I folded. She arrived with three crab cakes and eight stalks of asparagus. Jordan made us a big salad with her special blue cheese dressing, and we feasted. And I thought it was good not to cook. I did draw the line at letting Mary do the dishes—there weren’t many anyway.

But later I began to worry. “What,” I asked Jordan, “if I’m losing my ability to cook?” I think in my mind was a worry that I would no longer find joy in one of my main activities. Jordan tried to reassure me. Meantime, life went on with no real opportunity to cook—the pending celebration of Sandra Burton’s life cancelled all regular schedules, and everyone ate on the fly. And from my fridge, that fresh asparagus, goat cheese, and crème fraiche mocked me, along with a few fresh sprigs of tarragon.

So last night the kids said they would be home by seven, and I committed to fixing dinner. The asparagus tart was not as challenging as I expected, though it did not come out picture-perfect, a consequence of fitting the dough to the pan that will fit in my toaster oven. (Packages of puff pastry warn against using in a toaster oven, but I have no choice—it comes out fine though it might be “puffier” in a standard oven.)

Asparagus tart
not too shabby for a first try

I accompanied the tart with roast chicken breast and carrots, mostly because I had both the chicken and the carrots. I love roast carrots though I made the case for balance—a green vegetable and an orange one. There’s not a way to pound boneless, skin-on chicken breasts so I thought the meat was dry but the carrots delicious. Christian loved the meat, avoided the carrots, fearing they would be soggy. I told him they weren’t. That divergence of taste is pretty common around here. And the dry chicken made a good chicken salad for lunch today.

No more cooking for a few days. The kids came home from the Burton’s house in Coppell with all kinds of leftovers from the reception, plus we had some from the Friday night gathering. So it’s leftovers for us for a few nights. But now I know I’m back in the kitchen, I have a list of meals. Marinated chicken drumettes in lemon sauce, anyone?

Saturday night supper

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