Day 220: If you can’t stand the heat

August 8, 2007

Almost 2 hours after we cooked dinner this evening, I am still trying to cool down. Having the broiler then the oven plus the stove top all going at the same time on a hot August day can certainly contribute on the unpleasantness scale of home temperatures. Not to mention the equally soaring grumpiness factor. L and I are starting to freak out a little about our upcoming move. The ceilings and walls are almost ready to be painted upstairs, but they are coming to sand the floors tomorrow. With the required 3 coats of varnish, it will be Monday before we can go in to paint properly. L can go in Sunday but there will be no footwear other than socks allowed, and no ladder. And he really only likes to decorate in heels so that’s not a good solution. So on Monday, I will supervise the packing over here at the old house, while he frantically paints Baby A’s bedroom and any others that can be managed. On Tuesday, we will move and set up A’s room while the removal company presumably piles all our possessions into as small a pile as possible somewhere in the living room, with the unbuilt Ikea kitchen, and the rest of the remodelling supplies. At some point in the future, hopefully once we have a bathroom and a kitchen, the stairs are going to be sanded and varnished. That means we’ll either have to have a forced holiday somewhere- like camping in the back garden- or we’ll just have to live downstairs for a while. In all of this we still have no real idea where the cats are going to be. Or where we’ll be for that matter. At least A’s room should be better than the one she has now. We’ll just have to feed her and bathe her outside then somehow whisk her upstairs to bed every night, without letting her see the state of the house. And we can’t let her walk anywhere at all herself, given that the house is currently a death trap. Let’s hope that despite all our better instincts, it stays warm for a while.

In other news, today I received my admission papers from the hospital for the impending birth of Baby #2. Who isn’t due for 2 more months, I hasten to add; let’s not be so keen, hospital people. Last time round, the papers came sometime around my due date, and were a very welcome arrival signifying the good times ahead. This time round they were an terrifying reminder that time is ticking by, and yet our kitchen remodel seems to have ground to a halt. Anyway, we should theoretically have enjoyed making Charred Tomato Soup with Pesto and Prosciutto Stromboli this evening, what with our lovely oven installed in a functional kitchen and all, but we were just too damn hot and grumpy. The red onions and tomato were charred under the grill, then pureed in the food processor. They were added to some garlic being sautéed in olive oil with red pepper flakes, diluted with chicken stock and cream, seasoned with salt and pepper, and served with basil. Had the vegetable mixture, which I decided to pulp in batches, not overflowed out of our tiny mini food processor, twice, this would have been relatively straightforward. Also, our substitution of half-and-half for the specified heavy cream, meant that the soup separated a little, but it still tasted ok.

The stromboli looked pretty straightforward; squares of pizza dough were topped with pesto, provolone and prosciutto and rolled up. They were topped with a mixture of sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning, and baked in the oven at 400?. Between us, L and I have a number of degrees under our belt, and are fairly highly educated. I say this not to brag, they are all arts degrees after all- and as such are pretty much utterly useless, but to explain our bewilderment at our bewilderment at the recipe. Ms Ray says “Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces: Working across the dough, cut it in half and cut each half in half again.” We couldn’t figure out why the recipe didn’t just say cut the dough into 16 pieces. Only when we had 16 tiny squares, which were in no way each going to hold a piece of provolone and 3 slices of prosciutto, did we realise that the instructions were actually telling us how to cut a piece of dough into 4 pieces. Bearing in mind we are both sleeping terribly and are stressed and inattentive, this actually took us a while to figure out. And then we were all, “I can’t believe she is explaining how to quarter a square of dough, how stupid does she think we are?”; all smug as can be. But we are pretty stupid, evidently.

Anyway, anyway, once the kitchen was at least as hot as the oven, dinner was ready to be served. Obviously the camera battery died just as I was about to document the meal for posterity, so we had to wait a while for it to recharge. When we finally sat down to eat, the verdict was reasonably good. The soup was flavoursome, with a good balance of spice to acidity. It would have been better with heavy cream rather than half and half, but that was our decision and we pretty much knew that ahead of time. Still, it tasted good, and would probably also have been successful cold. Chilled, from the fridge, mmm. Maybe with ice cubes in, oh yeah. The stromboli were supposed to be made with dough that is stretched out, so presumably they would have been longer and less doughy than ours. We were using the refrigerated pizza dough in the pop-open container, which mysteriously popped open on the way home from the shop. When we came to unroll it, that was impossible, so we had to try and roll/ stretch it out from scratch. I don’t know what’s in that stuff but trying to get it to stay stretched is like wrestling with a rubber band. It always wins. So our stromboli were tasty but a little dough-heavy. They were cheesey and salty and a good winter comfort food. The spicy topping helped add a welcome little kick, and actually the saltiness of the prosciutto went well with the (half) creaminess of the soup. I think I enjoyed these more than L, but then melted cheese has always been a bit of a pregnancy favourite of mine. Last time I was pregnant I ate a lot of cheese on toast and baked potatoes with cheese, so at least this time around I am having a more varied diet. Because I’m pretty sure that this time two years ago I would not have considered having Chunky Turkey, Potatoes, and Veggies in Red Wine Sauce, and yet that is what we’ll be eating tomorrow night. Perfect August fare.

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  • Reply The Home Cook August 9, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I feel so bad for you guys eating all this cold-weather food in the middle of summer. Hopefully there’s something more weather appropriate coming up soon…

    It sounds like you guys have a lot going on right now between the house, baby #2, the heat, moving, etc. I hope you guys are able to relax in your new (finished) house very soon!

  • Reply Helen | One Year Project August 9, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks very much! I’m sure all the crazy will calm down soon…

  • Reply Jojo August 10, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Ooooh, sorry to say that soup does not look appetizing. Kind of greasy! I have to ask — did you start this one year project because you’re a big fan of Rachael Ray? I mean, what other reason could there be? 🙂 I’m wondering if making all of these recipes has changed your opinion of her, her cooking, or her shows. ???
    I like your star ratings. Very handy to find the really worthwhile recipes!

  • Reply Helen | One Year Project August 12, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Jojo, we started talking about following a cookbook from start to finish so that we would not have to discuss what to eat for dinner every single night. It sort of started off as a joke, then we decided to try it. We chose this book not because of Rachael Ray but because it is supposed to be a year of recipes. We wondered if anyone had actually followed the book in order… and here we are today.
    We’re pretty ambivalent towards Rachael Ray herself, we don’t tend to watch her on TV much if at all, and think that some of the food is good, some awful and most reasonable. The thing that is annoying is that I wonder sometimes if anyone checked this book before it went to print, but presumably lots of books have mistakes, you just don’t find them all at once.

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