After the week that almost ended me, I continued on in the same way during Week Twenty-Five. It is interesting me to look back on my notes from this week and see a marked difference in the word count. Up to this point I had poured out any and every thought, feeling, response, description, and possible follow up plan for every recipe I was cooking. This week, my notes were bare-bones, concise, and straight to the point. Reduced to a single sentence sometimes (“This is a cinch to prepare.”), you can tell that I am in a state of no nonsense, without room for any fluff of any kind.
I swore to myself when I started Ina In A Year that I would not willingly choose to embark on a project the that would obviously require a lot of me, and then whine and complain about how hard it is. Of course it’s hard. No one needs or wants to hear me complain about how hard it is. I chose to do this. I made this whole thing happen. If I choose to complain about it, then why am I doing it? So this is not going to turn into a weekly update where I complain about how hard this project is.
I will, however, continue to let you know that juggling this many hats has tested and pulled me in ways I could not have predicted. I have wanted to quit several times over the past five months. But this week, I began to wonder if I would have to quit in order to save my business. How can one person possibly complete all this cooking while managing a kitchen and running a business? The truth is, in Week Twenty Five, I did not have an answer. To make it even worse, I also had no hope of an answer. Nothing on the horizon that pointed toward relief or a change. Just miles of hard work ahead of me and no one to tend to it but me.
I dug in and kept going.
WHAT I COOKED
Chilled Cucumber Soup, Back to Basics
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, Back to Basics
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, Make It Ahead
Sole Meuniere, Back to Basics
Wild Rice Pilaf, Family Style
Rich Beef Barley Soup, How Easy Is That?
Smoked Salmon Spread, Family Style
Shrimp Salad, Parties!
Chinese Chicken Salad, Parties!
Pasta, Pesto and Peas, Parties!
Lemon Cake, Parties!
Portobello Mushroom Lasagna, At Home
Fresh Fruit Platter, Barefoot Contessa
Chunky Banana Bran Muffins, At Home
Maple Roasted Bacon, At Home
Zucchini and Leek Fritatta, Cooking for Jeffery
Easy Sticky Buns, Back to Basics
WHAT I LEARNED
LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE (and LEMON LOAF CAKE).
This formula is one of Ina’s classics. Her Lemon Loaf Cake is the gold standard, and this version, baked in a bundt pan with the addition of poppy seeds, does not disappoint. I love this cake in all of its iterations so much. I cannot for the life of me figure out why we must soak the poppy seeds in buttermilk for two hours (TWO HOURS!!!), but it was delicious none the less. Next time, I will skip the soaking. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that my bundt cake stuck to the pan, but have no fear! The glaze covered a multitude of mistakes and made everything beautiful. You really cannot mess up a cake when glaze is involved.
If you’ve never cooked sole, let me see if I can describe it in a way that will make it as real as possible for you. Imagine taking a small piece of tissue paper, coating it in flour, and then sautéing it in a pan. That’s what it’s like to cook sole. Yes, it is delicate and (in theory) delicious. But it is also delicate and (in reality) prone to turn to mush like the paper thin fragile fish that it is. I did not enjoy this.
PASTA PESTO PEAS.
This is a classic Ina winner. I have served this at so many memorable family gatherings, and it is the hit of every buffet. It makes a huge amount, it is beautiful, it is fresh, it is absolutely delicious. I never regret making this pasta salad, and each bite reminds me why.
ZUCCHINI LEEK FRITTATA.
This is my favorite Ina frittata recipe. About a year ago I started making this version once a week and portioning it out for breakfasts during the week. Then I started to add my own twists, changing up the vegetables or cheese, but always using this formula as a base. It is fantastic. I served this at an Ina Brunch, and the flavor was the topic of conversation. The caramelized leeks really pack a punch on the bottom of the skillet, and all the other elements work so well together.
EASY STICKY BUNS.
Heck. Yes. These are amazing!!! Top ten breakfast treat for sure. Puff pastry is rolled around brown sugar and chopped nuts, swirled in a sauce, and baked until puffed and golden brown. They get dumped out and served up, and I dare you not to salivate at the sight of these beauties.