Gone are the days when I thought baking 40 cakes in a week was a big deal.
Do you remember that? Ok – to be fair, the 40 cakes actually meant baking 80 cakes because each cake was 2 layers high. So 80 cakes in one week in a tiny oven in mine and Ted’s charming apartment.
I was stressed. It was summer. It was hot. I had a meltdown in the middle of the kitchen when I couldn’t fit everything into the freezer. Crazed, hair looking like I’d just stuck my finger in a socket, apron full of red velvet cake batter, I proceeded to throw all the contents of the freezer onto the floor in the middle of the kitchen. Frozen fruit. Frozen pizzas. Nuts (they are best kept in the freezer so the oils don’t spoil, FYI).
Ted came home that night and instead of getting a pleasant and loving, “Oh hello, honey bunches of oats, how was your day?” he got the ramblings of a whack job, “I need the freezer space for these cakes so you can either eat this food or I’m throwing it out.” Or something along those lines.
Eesh. It wasn’t pretty. And yet he still loves me. Man I’m lucky!
This week at Charm City, I was a baking machine. I didn’t sit down. I ate in a manner that can only be described as hit and run: I shoved sugar snap peas and hummus down my throat as I ran past it at high speed, hoping to get most of it into my mouth. The result? Happy clients, a very tired me, and a grand total of…..drum roll please…..
898 cakes and 663 cupcakes.
Oh yes, my friends. Oh yes.
Last week was slightly better: 850 cakes and 656 cupcakes. The week before: 780 cakes and 479 cupcakes. You get the picture.
There are 2 major differences between my home kitchen and the bakery kitchen:
1. There is a mechanical dishwasher. Yes, I have to scrub the pans and utensils before they go in, but hey, it’s better than all hands.
2. There is enough space for me to work. Cakes aren’t cooling on top of the tv, the piano, and the windowsill.
Aside from the sore legs, exhaustion, and at times, conversations with imaginary people (I work alone – don’t judge), I also get a lot of good out of baking like a maniac: a sense of accomplishment when I can check off the items on my to-do list, the confidence to know that you, friends and future clients of my now-imaginary but some-day-soon very real, very successful bakery, the peace of mind to know that if you want something done, I can get it done, on time and well.
But most important of all?
I got to work at the LA Food and Wine Festival last weekend – a full access pass to all of the events, all weekend! It started with Asian night on Friday night. I made ginger green tea cake and got to hand it out to guests who strolled the booths, appetites in full throttle as they sampled foods from some of the best chefs around. In a word: amazing.
Saturday night, Ted and I gave ourselves stomach aches as we filled our bellies with foods from restaurants in Vegas, LA, and NYC. Scallops. Lobster sausage. Peanut Butter Honey chocolate truffles. Fried Squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and drizzled with truffle oil. Delicious, to say the least.
More than the food, being able to go to this festival marks a milestone for me. I set a goal over a year ago to work for Duff Goldman. And now, here I am, working for him, lucky enough to be able to put a pass around my neck that not only calls me by name, but deems me a chef for a bakery I once watched on tv, hoping to one day be a part of. And the pass happens to be for a lavish festival reserved for the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Michael Chiarello, Susan Feniger, Hubert Keller, my current employer, and a plethora of culinary masters.
Life is just magical. If you put your goals out there and not only work hard in the direction of those goals, but also have enough faith that no matter how big, you can achieve them if only you believe you will, hang on long enough and you will see it all happen.
With that, I leave you with an Asian inspired dish that I concocted a few weeks ago based on recipes in Cooking Light Magazine and The Vegetarian Times:
Misa Salad with Miso Grilled Veggies
For the grilled veggies:
2 tablespoons white miso paste (or any color you want)
1 tablespoon lukewarm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/3 inch-thick slices
1 eggplant, cut into 1/3 inch-thick rounds
1 red bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
1. Preheat your grill to high heat. If you don’t have a bbq, which I don’t, just get a grill that you can place on top of a gas burner. If you can’t do that – no worries! Just pan fry the veggies
2. Combine the miso and the water. Add the oil and whisk.
3. Place the cut veggies in a bowl, and drizzle with the miso dressing, tossing until all the veggies are coated.
4. Grill the veggies for about 4-6 minutes per side, or until tender. Set aside.
You can eat them like this – they are delicious! But if you want to make it into a salad, read on…
For the Salad:
1 bag of mixed baby greens
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon miso paste (again, any color you want, but I used white)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1. Whisk the dressing together.
2. Place salad in a bowl. Toss with dressing.
3. Individually plate the salad, and top with miso grilled veggies.
Happy Sunday, all! I’m off to Florida tomorrow to see my dear friend Amy, and to gallivant around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios!! Woohoo!!