If anyone out there in Cyberville has a clue as to how to get the smell of toasted cumin out of a plastic mini-prep, I’m all ears. It’s true that I’m the jerk who probably melted the plastic of said mini-prep by adding toasted cumin seed to it straight from the stove without cooling it first, but someone somewhere must know how to rectify this sorry state of affairs. I tried scrubbing, I tried soaking in soap and then in white vinegar. I even tried steel wool both to the chagrin of the skin on the knuckles of my right hand and also to no avail, and I’m ready to say Uncle.
I’ve been a little overly, well, scrubby about things lately. I mean the cumin smell in the plastic isn’t exaggerated at all, but it is sort of indicative of a kind of OCD-like desire I’ve been having to scour things clean and to contain stuff. The result of cleaning and organizing is great; certainly it makes life a lot easier, but building what is essentially a bomb shelter in your chemical room (yes, I did this a couple of weeks ago) may not signal the height of rational behavior.
In the Clark Kent portion of my life I’m a goldsmith. And being a goldsmith that actually forges and welds gold myself, I’m required to have a space with a hood to contain the fumes from various chemicals I use that either remove or add oxidation to metal. When I moved into the studio space that I live and work in (if you’re curious, you can see pictures of the space here), there was a back office area that conveniently already had a hood built in, which was great, but it also had a pile of crap in it (panes of glass, 15-20 carousels of slides, a slide projector, apple boxes, a slab of iron that weighed at least 500 pounds, a ladder, sand bags and rusting C- stands). Which would be fine if I hadn’t already spent the first several weeks of my occupancy ripping down walls, painting and cleaning up the previous tenant’s meshugas. So I “organized” these things into a few corners, brought in the bedraggled fridge from the kitchen (it makes a great beer locker) and added my chemical tables to the mix. And then there were the extra boxes that soon piled up (what if I need to move my Le Creuset 15.5 qt french oven someday?) , the odd items that I was holding in storage for my gay boyfriend (whose computer and SCALE--why I don’t know-- I am babysitting while he is teaching in China) and a panoply of shit that almost reached the ceiling. Looking through the glass windows into the room was giving me heartburn.
I am exceedingly organized normally. Compulsive, actually (have you seen my label-making hobby? It’s amazing the cat isn’t forced to wear a name tag). I can get annoyed by the way someone uses and replaces a hand towel in my guest bathroom, for Christmas sake, and this stupid chemical room had come to symbolize everything I rail loudly against and I was beginning to think that a Producer from the A & E network was about to descend upon my loft at any moment and offer me a guest appearance on Hoarders.
But it took a tsunami, well two tsunamis actually-- one literal and one figurative (a story for some other time)-- to force me to face the dreaded chemical room.
I spent several days and hundreds of trips to the dumpster in what could only be described as a glazed frenzy, cleaning out and organizing the embarrassing excuse for a room, my Achilles heel, until there was enough space for all of my costume design equipment and supplies, soupapolooza! gear, the goldsmithing chemicals in addition to enough water, powerbars, cat food and batteries to last several weeks. In case of another tsunami, of course.
So, at the very least, I have a clean room that somewhat prepares me for future tidal waves and other earth-shattering events since I am powerless to control when they actually might happen. And at the very most, I have a diagnosable mental health pathology. So I’ve got that going for me.
soupapolooza! Sunday (that would be two Sundays ago, just to be clear) created a mess of its own, of course, and it was a pretty crazy menu: I did passed hors d’oeuvres (that I bought, did not make myself); two salads: a pesto potato salad with quail eggs and a baby spinach green salad with avocados, shaved fennel, oranges and toasted almonds in a blood orange vinaigrette (which I did make myself and with the help of the nimble fingers belonging to Semi-sweet Bitters and Legal Eagle); a spring pea and roasted poblano soup with a cumin and mint crème fraîche garnish and fried serrano ham; and for dessert, I made a honey almond cake (I am a SUCKER for any bundt pan, but especially one that has bees on it) that was served with lemon lavender ice cream.
Here is the recipe for le soup:
Bobby Flay Serves: 4
Roasted Poblano Puree
2 poblano chiles
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place poblano chiles on a baking sheet, rub with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the chiles until slightly charred and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove, let cool slightly, remove skin and seeds and coarsely chop.
Place the poblanos in a food processor and process until smooth.
½ cup crème fraiche
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons toasted and ground cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.
Crispy Serrano Ham
¼ cup pure olive oil
8 slices thinly sliced serrano ham
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Carefully add 2 slices of the ham at a time and cook until crispy on both sides. Remove to a plate line with paper towels.
4 cups enriched chicken stock (page TK)
1 ham hock
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons toasted and ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons crème fraiche
Cilantro or parsley leaves
Combine stock and ham hock in medium saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the ham hock and add the peas, salt and cumin and cook until the peas are very soft, 15-20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, place the peas in a blender with 2 cups of the stock and blend until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add additional stock ¼ cup at a time. Transfer the soup to a clean saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the poblano puree and the crème fraiche and cook until heated through.
Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the cumin crème fraiche and top with 2 slices of the crisp Serrano ham; garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley leaves.
My poor mini-prep may just be a lost cause since it’s salvation is beyond the grasp of my OCD and because I’d hate for any of my future pestos or vinaigrettes to taste like Texas chili. So if you have any ideas about how to clean up this particular mess, I’d love to hear them. Hell, if you’ve got any tips about prepping for any number of disasters, I’m here waiting...