Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I do now

I never thought it would be a year. I did think it might be a while before I came back here regularly, but really, I didn't think it would be this long. I read somewhere that you're not supposed to apologize to your readers on your blog if you haven't posted in a long time because that will make them think that you have a far more interesting life outside the blog.

But it's been a very long time, so here I am apologizing nonetheless. And admitting (shocking!) that I have an interesting life outside this space.

There have been a lot of changes in the past year. A new home, a new job (oh this endless medical training I've signed up for), and a new addition. Baby H was born last October. She's adorable, but even though she looks like she's ready for the kitchen (thanks to my brother E and S), she's not super-helpful (yet).

She crawls and pulls up and is very active. She has an internal magnet that steers her to anything and everything that she's not supposed to touch (outlets, the hearth, paper, the remote control, and I could certainly go on). I must watch her like a hawk, which makes cooking somewhat challenging. With great frequency, she makes me feel like a bad housekeeper. She finds lint and cat hair and cat toys on the floor; she picks them up with her perfect pincer grasp and deposits them into her mouth. I wish her pincer grasp were as reliable with actual food, but this 25th-percentile-weight baby of mine goes in fits and starts in terms of eating.

She's still enjoying purees, but I know that will end soon. Once we wean her from the bottle in the next few months, I fear for her nutrition. Though they are healthy and nutritious and excellent at lowering cholesterol, Cheerios cannot be one's only sustenance. Oh, darling baby H: "You really wear me out, but I love you anyway." Also, you are too young to worry about your cholesterol.

Purees aside, I cook grown-up food too. I do think about food writing, even composing bits of future blog entries in my head when my mind wanders. (Robin described this excellently here.) Before baby H arrived, I had all sorts of mistaken ideas about the work I was going to get done on maternity leave. Besides planning to finish a research paper that is still far from finished, I wanted to write here. Even though I was cooking regularly, somehow I wasn't able to make that next leap to writing. And then it became downright paralyzing: what sort of recipe should I post when it had been so long? After having a very delicious recipe mentioned by a real food blogger, what could I make to match up to that? Should it be a "wow" recipe like Suzanne Goin's halibut with roasted beets on a bed of arugula (page 366)? Should it be my modification of a truly fantastic standby? Should it be something simple but elegant, the sort of daily evening meal that I strive for around here?

As it turns out, my foray back into blogging falls into none of those categories. Instead, since dinner is already made (new recipe—we'll see) and baby H is asleep (along with B, as these nighttime wakenings are exhausting for all), I took some lovely strawberries from our local farmers' market and dipped them in chocolate.

They're not fancy, nor difficult, nor baby-appropriate, but they are dead-easy and delicious (and somewhat retro). As always, I recommend paying close attention to your ingredients. Use only the best strawberries and the best chocolate for the best results. Remember that there's nothing more disappointing than inferior chocolate marring a delicious strawberry. I find the best strawberries are not the ones picked with long stems and designed for dipping; they are often watery and tasteless, suffering from what a friend calls "big berry syndrome." Also, I think there's something perfectly imperfect about the variety of sizes of berries in a typical pint from the farmers' market.

It's been years since I've dipped strawberries, but I'm not really sure why it's been so long. I'm also not really sure why I thought of dipping them today. But I did. And I wrote about it. The paralysis is over. I hope the radio silence isn't as long in the future. In the meantime, enjoy.

Chocolate-dipped Strawberries

Serves: 4
Time: 15 min active, 2 hours 15 min total for chilling

1 pint strawberries
4-5 oz good quality chocolate (I like Scharffenberger 62%)

First, rinse the strawberries. Allow them to dry completely on a towel before proceeding, at least 30 minutes, or the chocolate will not stick.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Coarsely chop the chocolate, and melt (my preferred method is in the microwave on power level 3 or 4 for two to three minutes). Holding the stem end of each berry, roll the red flesh in the chocolate evenly, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off. Carefully place each dipped berry on the wax paper. Repeat. (You can of course choose other fruit to dip also; banana is an obvious choice.)

Chill for at least two hours, or up to twelve. They can be served immediately after being taken out of the fridge, but I prefer to let them warm up for five minutes so that the chocolate doesn't crack with your first bite.

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