When I was growing up, in Vermont, one saying that I particularly loved hearing on the weather reports, especially in the summer, was that we were in for “good sleeping weather.” That means cool but not cold, maybe just the perfect temperature for having the window open and a cosy blanket to snuggle in.
That window of opportunity for good sleeping weather is surprisingly small in our little north-eastern state, where the annual temperature range is anywhere from -30C to 35C, and on a daily basis the weather can change from an idyllic sunny day to a blustery, gale-force storm. So Vermonters also have another saying: If you don’t like the weather….wait a minute.
Students preparing Fresh Ricotta and Broad Bean Ravioli
Sometimes I feel that cooking is an act of faith.
In life, there is no guarantee that what you’re doing will end up the way you want it to. Even if you do the same thing, day after day, you might not get the result you are looking for. There are so many changing factors. It’s a total crapshoot.
With cooking, following a recipe will give you some assurance, but still, the variables that get thrown at you can change the outcome. I was thinking about this because I have just gone through a few weeks of intense cooking for various events, and each time, various obstacles were thrown in my path over the course of creating the meal. It was a little worrying. When you are catering for 120, you can’t afford to start over (time-wise, money-wise, sanity-wise) if something goes wrong.
Take ricotta, for instance, which I have made four times in the past 2 weeks. Ricotta is a very simple cheese to make. You bring milk (cow, sheep or goat, or all three if you want) to 190F – or just before it starts to boil – and then you add the vinegar. Stir it a bit, let it sit, then strain it, and voila! You have just made a lovely, fresh ricotta cheese. Or maybe not. Continue reading →