Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Iron Potluck

Tomorrow night I am invited to a potluck in Berkeley.

Berkeley potlucks are unto themselves. Jello-molds, should they appear, are either sardonic (think acid green alternating with sickly yellow, set in skull molds) or highly alcoholic. No rice salads or packaged cookies dare show their plebian faces. Think instead heirloom tomato salads, tabbouleh, hand-rolled couscous, fine wines, Acme Sourdough baguettes. The host, a talented Ph.D., loves to cook in his Viking-applianced kitchen. Thus the matter of what to bring necessitated serious consideration. That I needed to create something that could travel with me to work and remain fresh all day either at room temp or refrigerated only added to the challenge.

After some consideration and a few fruitless attempts to locate a recipe on the interet (I was at work, far from my cookbooks), I came up with biscuits, split and filled with oven-roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. Yesterday at five I braved Berekley Bowl, buying buttermilk, a log of Laura Chenel Goat cheese, and a bag of small Roma tomatoes.

The idea with oven tomatoes is to slice them, remove the seeds, hit them with salt, sliced garlic, and olive oil, then leave them all day in an extremely low oven. My problem is my oven's lowest temperature is 170 degrees. I put the tomatoes in at six a.m. this morning, then left for work. When I got home at five, I had shriveled red chips. Pulverizing them in the blender only resulted in a slurry, unincorprorated mess.

Time for plan B.

I baked the biscuits using Laurie Colwin's recipe:

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 stick butter
3/4 C buttermilk

Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder. Stir in the buttermilk. I stir until most of the flour is incorporated, then use my hands. Tip the dough onto a floured board, knead a bit, roll out, then either slice with a knife or cut it with cookie cutters or a glass. Bake for fifteen minutes at 400 degrees.

Colwin points out that nearly anything can be added to fancy these up--herbs, parmesan, sesame seeds. But because I clung to my goat cheese idea, I left them plain.

I pulled the goat cheese from the fridge, mushed a bit with basil, thyme, and a drop of olive oil. I sliced a biscuit and tucked a little of the cheese mix in. Very nice, even without the tomato.

Goat cheese, incidentally, is another of those foods that makes a terrible mess--it's impossible to extract neatly from its plastic roll, getting on your hands and the counter while you ponder how much of your seven dollar cheese is going to waste.

I rolled the herbs and remaining cheese together with more olive oil, which tamed the crumb problem somwhat. I formed a cylinder, wrapped it in foil, set the biscuits in foil lasagna trays, and packed a small knife in my purse. Tomorrow after work I'll duck into the office kitchen, assemble everything, then cart it off to Iron Potluck. Hopefully it'll be a contender.

The biscuit recipe comes from Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking. My edition is the Harper Perennial paperback. The recipe can be found on page 57: About Biscuits. If you have never read Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, go buy them this weekend, read them through in one sitting, then weep because she died in 1992 and these two wonderful books are all we're going to get.

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