Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday Lunch

Today was Monday Lunch. I've been doing Monday lunch for about four years. Monday Lunch is lunch for friends who work in town and would just like a lunch made by me once a week. It all started with my friend, Elizabeth. Actually, the whole thing was her idea. In my small town in north Idaho, not many job opportunities exist and those that do are usually the real low pay jobs. In the restaurant industry that can be really low because this is a "Right-To-Work" state, which means waitresses and waiters, for example, might only be paid $3.15/hr. Hard to believe isn't it? Very sad but true. So, Elizabeth had this idea of delivering lunches for a business.

Well, with all the health requirements most home kitchens wouldn't pass inspection, so, she kind of gave it up. But at the time she was working at one of the local florists and requested that I make her lunch once a week. Well, the owner wanted lunch, as did the owner of the local bookstore, and my friend Julie, at the health food store, and so the business just blossomed. At one time I had too many customers, so much that I almost had to double up on everything. I cut back and now I have but a few who wait eagerly every week for lunch.

Lunch is a prix fixe deal. It's cheap, six smackeroos for an entree (usually soup, but could be risotto, panini, etc.), a side dish (usually salad, maybe a sandwich if lunch was soup, a veggie dish and so forth), homemade roll, and dessert (anything from tiramisu to dacquoise to bundt cake to creme brulee). Each business has their own decorated box (made by my friend, Diana). Their lunches come in glass containers and wax paper bags. They have to wash their dishes which I pick up later in the week. And they all get the same thing, and that's whatever I feel like making that day. I do take into consideration some serious likes and dislikes: John does not like raw onion, Alice refuses offal, and Julie doesn't do beets. But other than that, it's the cook's whim. And I love it! And I think they do too. Indeed, Diana eagerly awaits the description alone....and seems satisfied with the food....

Every Sunday is like Iron Chef America day. I scour the fridge and pantry to see what ingredients I have. Most of these lunches are organic, by default of my preferences, and many of the entrees include ingredients grown over the summer which have been canned or frozen. It's fun figuring out what to make. For desserts, it can be based on what's available, but I've also made it a point to try every recipe in Nick Malgieri's book, Perfect Cakes. So far every recipe has come out perfect and I've tried over half of them. Sometimes I do a vegetarian lunch but usually I use some of my local beef, pork, lamb and game.

Last week I made one of my customer's favorites: a multiple cheese panini. I included ham this time but the 3+ cheese paninis are always hits. Usually I take the end of strong cheese, chop it fine and mix it with cream cheese. This is the spread. Then I add slices of at least two, sometimes more cheese. If I have several cheese ends, I'll mix all of them with the cream cheese. The layers are always put on day old homemade bread and then the bread drizzled with olive oil before going into the panini maker. Being a cheese lover, this is also one of my favorites, but in the interest of good health, it's not frequent.

Today I made a corn and turkey chowder. I threw in onions; garlic; tomatillos concassé (I love that term, learned it while reading Michael Ruhlman's The Making of A Chef. It's used with tomatoes and concassé means crushed or pounded.); chopped bell and poblano peppers; a bit of roasted tomato; turkey; reduced turkey stock frozen in cubes; oregano, cumin, salt, and my own hot pepper (Baci di Satana). It was good! Thank goodness we have enough for our own lunch tomorrow. Salad was a simple green with tomatoes and Maytag Blue Cheese with a Dijon vinaigrette. Homemade rolls were, this week, the No-Knead Bread Recipe which I made into rolls. Finally, dessert was a homemade vanilla pudding with crushed amaretti and amaretto laced whipped cream. I hope they enjoyed it!

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