Some people have a way in the kitchen. They don’t need recipes, they don’t need culinary school, they just have a gift. My aunt, Joan Wolford, is one of those people. If you’ve ever had a spoonful of her soup or a drop of her salad dressing, you know what I mean. Her food is indulgent but balanced, familiar but special. She’s the founder, owner, and Executive Chef of Savoir Fare in Round Hill, Virginia, a restaurant and catering firm that has significantly raised the bar for quality cuisine in Loudoun County. Joannie, as we call her in the family, has built a successful, resilient career. She has a legion of devoted regulars, she’s made countless brides ecstatic, and her creativity is boundless. She also happens to be my favorite chef.
I am learning to love the Jamaica Plain Whole Foods. It’s small and mighty, packed with just enough of just the right stuff. Sure, sometimes it’s stocked out of basics like brown sugar and chicken broth, but it has a variety of imported cheeses to make up for its faults. The only thing about the J.P. Whole Foods that continues to challenge my affection is the width of the aisles. They are narrow. Passing people mid-aisle is not a polite maneuver; it’s impossible unless someone is willing to go flat up against the shelves. Navigating around loose kids, full-sized shopping carts, sample tables, and artisan salumi is no easy task. On any given day, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Guy Fieri in there piloting a new Food Network show, “Yuppie Grocery Gauntlet.” Frustrating though those aisles may be, they do force me to get close to the food, which is how I discovered that the J.P. Whole Foods regularly sells hot-from-the-oven bread. That’s also how I developed a bread surplus problem. And a bread pudding solution.
As you may have heard, it’s been just a little cold out there lately. The kind of cold that makes it even harder than usual to climb out from under the cozy protection of my covers in the morning, and has me curled up under my usually purely decorative couch blanket when I get home in the evening. The kind of cold that makes me want only warming, hearty, and comforting foods. Unfortunately, this cold snap has perfectly coincided with a post-holiday desire for lighter and healthier fare, as Laura mentioned earlier in the week. That’s where this lovely gratin, made up of sweet Italian sausage, cannellini beans, and Swiss chard, comes in.
“The heart wants what it wants,” Jessica said to me after we noticed how few light recipes we have on this site. The revelation came as we were brainstorming what dishes to feature under the “Fresh & Light Favorites” sidebar on our homepage. We found a couple of truly healthy posts, but ended up including cheese-laced salads, too, which is kind of cheating. There’s no denying that we’re partial to the tasty taste (after all, we named our blog butter poached), but we like things that are healthy, too. The trouble is that it’s a lot harder to find dishes that are delicious enough to write about AND can be categorized as Good for You. Naturally, when I found Gimme Some Oven’s Skinny Orange Chicken to be satisfying, full of flavor, and downright blog-worthy, my heart skipped a beat.
We had big 2013’s: we both moved, Laura got married, Jessica got engaged, and lots of other things happened along the way. During some of the busier months in our personal lives, our blogging and cooking took a back seat to our life-living, but we always loved returning to this space. It looks like 2014 will be no less exciting, but just like last year, butter poached is top of mind for us as we look forward to the year ahead. We made mixed progress on last year’s resolutions (of course), but we’ve nevertheless crafted a new list of cooking things we are resolving to do.
laura and jessica at laura’s wedding, august 2013 (photo by genevieve leiper)