Life of Leisure
August 7, 2008
Will you resent me too much if I itemize all the reasons why I love my post-Bar Exam life (the name I’ve coined for this seven-week period I’m in, bookended by the Bar Exam last week and my start date at my law firm in September)? First, there’s the weightlessness: the vice grip of stress has slowly released and, now, is completely gone. Then, there’s the fact that I can read—like, for pleasure. That’s something I have hardly done since I started law school. Plus, our house is spotless, my life is organized and the dark half-moons below my eyes have disappeared. And, of course, there is cooking. I’ve been planning more elaborate menus full of new ingredients, techniques and recipes. I’ve compiled a list of dishes to try that stretches well into the dozens.
One of the biggest treats is being able to do my shopping on an as-needed basis, rather than doing one big shop per week. Not only does this afford me the ability to have the freshest ingredients, but I also find that I waste much less food. And, probably best of all, I can wake up, decide what I want to make, research the nearest farmers’ market open that day and head there. That’s exactly what I did on Tuesday, when I visited one of the farmers’ markets in the Loop, this one conveniently located near my gym. I had a panzanella in mind and when I saw a basket of tiny tomatoes in a kaleidoscope of colors and sizes, I snapped it up. I also grabbed a bundle of basil and a handful of chives to flavor the panzanella, and selected a bouquet of flowers for good measure.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipes.)
The panzanella was for a flickery-candle-and-political-discussion-filled al fresco dinner with our friends Maggie and Matt later that night. Maggie just left her job because she’s going to business school this fall, which means that she too is a woman of leisure (for now). The two of us might have boasted a bit too loudly about the gobs of time on our hands in front of Matt and Kevin, but luckily they were mollified by a giant platter of ribs. And this panzanella, which—while I’m boasting—was very tasty, thanks in no small part to the fresh, juicy, ripe tomatoes.
My take-away point from the evening (other than this recipe, which is certainly a keeper) is that when one-half of a dinner party is living the life of leisure, the “party” portion of “dinner party” tends to eclipse the “dinner” portion. Which makes for late bedtimes and more than one drained bottle of wine—two things that don’t really phase this woman of leisure.
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Several grinds of black pepper
Cornbread Croutons (recipe below)
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, chives, salt, and pepper. Add the croutons and toss well. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups cubed cornbread (1/2-inch cubes) (recipe below, but store-bought would be fine too)
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter. Transfer the bread to the prepared baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with the cheese and toss again while warm to melt the cheese.
Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chives
1 clove garlic, minced
Vegetable cooking spray
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients; stir in chives and garlic. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.
Spoon batter into a 9-inch square pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.