Back to the Grind, by Lauren
I won’t lie to you it’s been a rough couple of weeks. I took a new job for four months in which I subsequently feel overqualified and underqualified for all at the same time. It’s running a department of 3D artists and VFX for commercial production. It’s not really my forte, being directly involved with the artists, as I would usually just supervise a vendor. But now I am the vendor and I’m on the ground floor making this stuff happen. Creating something out of nothing. So I’m playing catch up not only on the workflow pipeline for 3D but also how this new company works. And honestly I’m not sure why I even took the job.
The past two months I’ve been mostly not working except for a week here or there from home. I had created a little writing schedule for myself where I wrote every day between 9:30-11:30. Then I’d go to the gym, shower, do any errands, then focus on writing homework for my novel-writing class and before I knew it, it was dark and time to cook some dinner. It’s truly amazing how easy it is to fill a day with doing absolutely nothing. And in a way I guess that scared me. The ability for days to go by without feeling a sense of accomplishment. And it’s not that I didn’t accomplish anything. In these two months I did two fantastic food events in Amsterdam, met a lot of new great people, feel more integrated into the foodie scene in Amsterdam, raised money for charity, and wrote part of a book. But I think it’s that nagging American work ethic that is still crawling under my skin swirling around like a tapeworm that eats at my insides, that if I’m not working at a REAL job, one where I get paid for it, then alas I’m not really working at all.
So I took this job. I guess I haven’t been able to shed my corporate self just yet. I was tugging at the sleeves, wrenching at the collar to untangle myself from the binding business jacket, but I’m still in it. I’ve started the fight, the fight to be fearless, to be free, the fight to do what I really want to do whatever that may be, but my logical, rational, right-brained part of myself has won. For now.
And its only four months. As a freelancer, I always have that fear of if you turn down a job it may be your last. I turned down a job in October and then didn’t get a call until now. Part of me took the job because it’s winter and its about all I can do to stop myself from booking a one way ticket to the Caribbean right now. Part of me took it because it is good experience and essentially rounds out all of my skills as a film and video producer. Part of me took it for the challenge. Part of me took it to get some work experience in Amsterdam. And part of me took it so I would be around people. I was going a little stir crazy sitting in my house all day every day talking to myself as if I was an old spinster.
So I started this job and Hilary came to visit and then my parents came to visit and then Stefan’s dad fell ill. So it’s been a rocky few weeks filled with mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. My parents and I went to Paris for a few days and then they came to Amsterdam for a few days. We’ve mostly been eating out and haven’t been cooking much. Except for one night we cooked at home with Hilary a few salads out of the Ottolenghi cookbooks. From all the pastries, and butter, and meats from the last few weeks I’d been craving some freshly made vegetable salads. So these really hit the spot. Even though the chargrilled courgette, asparagus and halloumi really uses summer vegetables, the brightness of the green courgettes and basil oil really lifted my winter blues to look forward to hints of spring. And then she made a seasonal pumpkin crusted wedges with soured cream that was just delicious
I brought the leftovers the next day to work. Work provides lunch every day, but it is always the same thing. It’s a typical Dutch lunch of breads, cheese, jams, cold cuts, sprinkles, peanut butter, nutella, and pakaged salads like filet american or kip sate. And maybe there is a fresh avocado or tomato or rocket to dress it all with. For me, it’s not a sustainable lunch to eat every day. So I brought in all these fresh vegetables and some of my co-workers went ballistic over it. One had never even tried pumpkin before. Another was going to run out and buy the Ottolenghi books. So maybe little by little, I’ll leave an impression on the place after all.
Crusted Pumpkin Wedges with Sour Cream from Ottolenghi
700g pumpkin (skin on)
50g grated Parmesan
20g dried white breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
Grated zest of 2 large lemons
2 cloves garlic
Salt and white pepper
60ml olive oil
120g sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the pumpkin into 3/8-inch-thick slices and lay them flat, cut-side down, on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
2. Mix together in a small bowl the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, half the lemon zest, the garlic, a tiny amount of salt (remember, the Parmesan is salty) and some pepper.
3. Brush the pumpkin generously with olive oil and sprinkle with the crust mix, making sure the slices are covered with a nice, thick coating. Gently pat the mix down a little.
4. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender: stick a little knife in one wedge to make sure it has softened and is cooked through. If the topping starts to darken too much during cooking, cover loosely with foil.
5. Mix the sour cream with the dill and some salt and pepper. Serve the wedges warm, sprinkled with the remaining lemon zest, with the sour cream on the side.
Chargrilled asparagus, courgettes and halloumi from Ottolenghi Cookbook
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
10 Asparagus Spears
1 Large Courgette
150g halloumi, sliced about 2cm thick
course sea salt and black pepper
50ml olive oil
1 garlic clove
25 basil leavess
1/4 tsp black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Mix the tomatoes with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Spread them out on baking tray lined with baking parchment, skin side down. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes or until semi-dried. Remove from oven, leave to cool.
2. Trim asparagus, blanch in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Slice courgettes thinly lengthwise, toss both veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat griddle pan on high heat, grill the vegetables and get nice char marks on all sides. Remove, leave to cool.
3. Grill halloumi cheese on griddle pan for about a minute on each side.
4. Make the basil dressing but blitzing all the ingredients together. Any extra dressing can be kept in the fridge for other salads. (I used the while lot!)
5. Assemble the vegetables in layers, drizzle with as much basil oil as you like.