Moving to a small town again, wasn’t exactly in my plans. I guess when I pictured life in a small town in my future, I assumed it would be Cornville, AZ or Jerome, AZ where I would be surrounded by amazing wine, and easily be able to get down to Phoenix to see my friends and family, for dinners and drinks in my favorite restaurants. Enter, love of my life, Mr. Paul Child, and off I go packing up my cookbooks and knives, into my FJ, and accept a job as an executive chef for a farm bakery in Yuma, AZ.
I grew up on 60 acres of land and went to college at a school that was built by farmers and known for a long time, for it’s agriculture. Apparently, living in a city has become ingrained in me, because the moment I see a combine driving down the road, on my commute to work, I started laughing. The third day it happened, I started to get pissed, trying to get around it. Now, it’s a common day annoyance.
This is a massive change in my life and exciting development in my career, all rolled into one. It thrills me that my job includes being able to order seeds for the fields and watch the guys lay the irrigation lines for the pumpkin patch (see photo above), knowing that soon I will pull them from the fields and turn them into delicious edibles. It’s a dream gig for a chef to have a field of produce at their fingertips, and now it has happened to me!
Mr. Paul Child no longer has to listen to me proclaim my love for chickens and how convenient it would be for me to be able to retrieve eggs for cooking from a coop, if I had one. The shabby chic coop will house 50 hens and is made from all up-cycled materials from the farm and the vintage shop. It’s going to have a chandelier and a guest book for kids to leave the chickens messages.
Part of what we are trying to do at the farm is to feed people good food. In a world where store bought bread doesn’t mold for a month or longer, we are going to be offering breads to our customers. I’m in love with breads, and the simplicity of the ingredients, that must be manipulated by a skilled hand, to create a rustic, beautiful product. This is how they made breads for centuries before we got the cockamamie idea to commercialize the process. Our breads will be made by hand, specifically, my hands.
I am missing Phoenix and all my friends and family there. I’ve been trying to create really healthy habits for myself and just be kind to myself. While I’m working every day getting everything in line for the opening of the farm bakery, a couple weekends ago, I zipped over to San Diego for the Color Me Rad, color run. If you haven’t done one of these 5K’s, it’s amazing. A sea of people in white arrive, a sea of people colored by pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow cornstarch leave. It’s renewed my desire to get my butt into shape so that I can run a half marathon at some point.
I made my first solo pot of my mom’s (passed down to her from my grandma) sauce. Waking up to the smell of onions and garlic being sautéed, is home for me. Letting the scent permeate the house, so that leaving and coming back, it smells like my parents house…happiness. I think I needed the reminder, since I’m missing my family.
And now, a new recipe for you. I’m sure I’ve seen a recipe like it somewhere before. Have you ever craved a recipe you’ve never had? That’s how this was for me. I was hungry for it, and I had to create the recipe from the taste I dreamed of in my head. I just knew I wanted veggies, herbs de provence and some crunch.
Mr. Paul Child likes veggies, but doesn’t love them like I do. I could eat roasted veg for dinner every night, but I’m pretty sure he would view that as torture. I have to come up with different ways to get him to eat veg, hence this recipe. Yeah, there’s some parm and breadcrumbs (panko) on there, but it’s a light sprinkle, and in the end, he’s eating veggies.
The farm I work at has a U-Pick, and I can’t wait till we get the delicious fall veg coming off the fields that I can use with this recipe.
Roasted Veggies with Panko
2 small zucchini
1 small-medium eggplant
3-4 small potatoes, purple or red
1/2 cup panko (can be found in the asian section of most grocery stores)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. herbs de provence (I use about 1 1/2 tsp. but herbs de provence is not for everyone, so start will a little less if you have never tasted it.)
freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub a baking dish with olive oil. I use a Le Creuset baking dish that's 10" X 6 3/4" x 1 1/2", and it works perfectly.
Mix together panko, parm, herbs de provence, salt and pepper. If you want more cheese, add more cheese. I usually do this by eye.
Thinly slice the veggies, making each slice close to the same thickness. I cut the eggplant in half length-wise and then slice them from each half.
Toss the veggies with olive oil. Start with one veggie type and line them standing up down the shorter side of the pan. Sprinkle with panko mixture. Line with the second veggie type. Sprinkle with panko mixture. I think you get the point. Once layered, I sprinkle any remaining panko mixture on the top and drizzle the little drizzle of olive oil that's left in the veggie bowls, over the top. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes to bake. After 30 minutes, my oven doesn't get it nice and browned, so I turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the cheese and panko topping.
I just wanted to let you know that I ate the last of the delicious shortbread marmelade cookies you mailed me last FEBRUARY (that’s right, I hoard and ration those babies in my freezer!) and it was utterly delicious. So, sooooo good.
It sounds like you had a wonderful season writing for Stratejoy, and I just want to encourage you in pursuing your pistolwhipped dream. I am sure you are very busy in Yuma with Mr. Paul Child, but someday I hope to be able to buy more pastries from you there!
All the best!