filling the empty nest with food
Lots of people around me seem to be trying out healthier ways of eating than our standard American cuisine. What were once fads or “alternative” diets, now are commonplace. Students I work with are regularly vegan or vegetarian. Some good friends are following a “plant-based” diet–which, fortunately, includes beer and wine or our evenings out might not be so lively. And one of my sisters, over at Elsie Marley, who has three small children, is eliminating all wheat. She’s always fed her children high-quality food, so this decision comes from a goal of staving off gluten intolerance in her kids. Her diet, unfortunately, does not include beer. BTW, can you live in Wisconsin and not drink beer?!? I would think they’d kick you out of the state.
But back to the gougères. I have embarked on my own experiment with healthier cooking and eating. Since I’m not cooking for children anymore, I’ve decided to stop buying prepared foods. It was easy to declare and I felt instantly virtuous. But, then the questions started piling up. What’s my definition of “prepared”, I wondered. Will I be butchering my own cows? Grinding my own wheat? Churning all that butter? Good questions, and ones I’ll need to be pondering in the days to come.
But for now, it was clear when I stopped by the grocery store the other night salivating over my plan to buy a loaf of crusty French bread (is it ever possible to describe French bread without the adjective “crusty”?) and a small wheel of Hervé Mons Camembert–to accompany the roasted red pepper soup my husband was whipping up at home–that my plan, which sounded eminently doable when I hatched it–was going to require some serious changes in my kitchen.
Of course, I realized with sadness that bread is a prepared food. So is cheese, but I’m not currently capable of making that at home. I bought the cheese but left the warm, wonderful-smelling, crusty bread on the shelf.
So, needing something bread-like to whip up in the 20 minutes or so that the soup needed to simmer, I found a recipe for gougères. They’re French cheese puffs. Mostly flour, water, butter (natch!), eggs, and cheese. They looked simple but turned out not exactly simple to make or fast. But interesting–and soft, warm and cheesy right from the oven. Here’s David Lebovitz’s recipe and instructions. Be sure to check out his photos, since his gougères look more appetizing than mine.
My gougères wouldn’t be allowed in the vegan or wheat-free diets, but they did qualify for me as a non-prepared food!