Thursday, September 9, 2010
There are years that ask questions and years that answer. So says the text on the card I received from my parents today for my 30th birthday. According to my mother, I am in one of those years that answers.
At the moment, I still feel as though as I am asking a lot of questions. Where will this year of culinary school take me? Where will I be working? At the end of this year will I get to stay in New York or head back to Los Angeles? Or somewhere else?
At least one question has been answered. Will I ever go to culinary school? Yes. In fact, I am doing that at this very moment. Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself that I am, in fact, doing that very thing. I have been putting this dream together for years and it is so easy to forget that I am finally here living it.
I feel particularly grateful today. It is 1:30 in the morning and I am up late riding the adrenaline of a day that included the 30th anniversary of my birth and the practical and written finals for level one of culinary school. As we were waiting in the hall at school for our exam to begin, a man walked by and asked if there was a final going on. I glanced up and realized that Jacques Pepin was standing in front of me wishing our class good luck. “Cook from the gut,” were his final words as he continued down the hall after graciously posing for pictures with some of my classmates.
Chef Pepin is a dean at FCI, but it’s not as though the man is there every day roaming the halls. It was, without a doubt, a celebrity sighting. I had already decided it was very apropos that I should spend the night of my 30th birthday chopping vegetables during the level 1 final, but Chef Pepin provided the icing on the cake for a notable evening.
There is a bit more icing in my life right now as I lay in bed eating the slice of devil’s food cake I picked up on my way home from school tonight. Final or no final, a girl has got to have cake on her birthday. Lest you start thinking I eat cake every night, I am including the recipe for one of my more common evening snacks.
By the time we finish with school and I catch the subway home, it is usually at least 11:30 pm. To help myself wind down from a busy and late night in the kitchen, I make a quick snack of pears on rye toast with ricotta and agave nectar. The pears and rye feel judicious after an evening that inevitably includes a butter-enriched something and the ricotta and agave sufficiently satisfy my sweet tooth to spare me yet another visit to Billy’s Bakery and a subsequent trip to the gym.
If you are not a fan of the combination of savory and sweet, you can leave out the salt and cracked pepper, but I think it would be a mistake. The more pepper the better and make sure it is freshly ground. It is the perfect offset to the creamy ricotta and sweet agave.
Pear and Ricotta on Rye Toast
1 large slice of rye bread
1/2 small pear
1/3 cup fresh ricotta
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Agave nectar for drizzling
Toast the rye bread. Slice the pear thinly and place the slices on the rye bread. Spread the ricotta over the pear and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle the agave nectar over everything.