Springing forward, falling behind

Life is flying by right now, with plans being finalized, dates being nailed down, reservations made and notices given. It’s a really exciting time for us, and looking at the photos of what will be our new home, thinking about furnishing it, decorating it, and taking our new kitchen for a spin puts the biggest smile on my face, but I have to admit that at times, it’s a bit overwhelming. I mean, there’s still our life here to consider – work and errands and keeping up with friends, trying to cull and pack and still find time to do the things we want to do before we say goodbye to New York City for a while. I’ve fallen behind on email and blog reading, and this week I have even had a heck of a time getting up the energy to deal with dinner. I mean, we shopped, I wrote up a meal plan, it’s all mapped out but honestly, what I’ve wanted to do more than anything is to just sit out on the stoop or in the back yard with a glass of wine, breathing in the early spring air, absorbing the sights and sounds and smells of what has been our home for the last three and a half years.


The March issue of Gourmet sat unread on the sofa for days before I finally tossed it into my tote bag in frustration, vowing that I would make time to crack it open on my commute home from work. When I finally did I found about 15 things that I wanted to cook pretty much immediately, but the recipe I couldn’t wait to show Mike was for an Onion Tart With Mustard and Fennel.

Teamwork meals have been working well for us lately, and this was no exception. Mike prepared the tart dough according to the recipe and I riffed on the filling, caramelizing three baseball-sized red onions and one large bulb of fennel, all sliced thinly, in a mixture of butter and olive oil. I added some fennel seeds that I had ground in a mortar and pestle, as well as a teaspoon of dried Herbes de Provence. I did spread a layer of Dijon mustard over the tart dough as in the Gourmet recipe, and when the tart came out of the oven after baking for half an hour I sprinkled some fennel fronds on top.

Dinner:  March 4, 2008

The crust was spectacular – it cooked beautifully and evenly, and it was light and buttery. Mike was delighted at how well it turned out and how easy it was to put together, and he’s already thinking of variations on the theme. I was pleased with the filling, too. I loved the bite of mustard under the caramelized onion and fennel mixture, though I think I might use a soft goat cheese next time instead of the parmesan – the flavor got a little buried under the layers of fennel-y goodness. But overall, this was a win, and the crust is definitely something we’ll pull out again and use with whatever is in season.

24 thoughts on “Springing forward, falling behind

  1. You’re leaving?! And here I am, constantly hoping that I’ll run into you at Marlow & Sons so that I thank you for all the tips over the last month! Good luck on all of your future ventures!

  2. Jennifer Hess says:

    rebecca – Thanks! It’s true, we’re moving away from NYC but we plan to come back to visit often – Providence isn’t too far away! And we are definitely going to get in another visit or three to Marlow & Sons.

    Anita – Nope, this is it! :D

    Mary – Thanks! I could go on and on about that crust but I’ll stop now and just encourage you to try it yourself. ;)

  3. OK, so tell me honestly, how long did it take you to caramelize the onions? I’ve heard foodies insist that you can’t really get good flavor unless you do it slowly, but I guess I don’t know the difference — the only time I’ve ever done it is for a baked brie en croute with caramelized onions, which I did over high heat with a bunch of oil, stirring like a madwoman because my guests were going to be there any minute. I love the flavor of what I did, but is it amazingly better if you take an hour?

    Best of luck with your move. Can’t wait to see what you cook up once you settle into the new kitchen!

  4. Wow. Looks better than it did in the mag. I saw this and thought, ah… But your version is definitely something to try. I really need to work on my crust skills. The last crust I made was like a rock!

    I wish you luck on your move. Providence huh? Maybe you can cameo on the Brotherhood.

    I hope you guys aren’t doing a DIY move.

  5. well, in that case: Congratulations!! I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that we’re impatiently waiting for new-kitchen posts and pictures :)

  6. SallyBR says:

    Well, good luck with your move and new life!

    I have been very patient, but this post makes it impossible to go on……. how about that recipe for the cast iron pizza-concoction your hubby made a couple of months ago????

    you cannot possibly imagine I would forget about that!

  7. Jennifer Hess says:

    Laura Grace – You know, it never takes me as long to caramelize my onions as most recipes say it should. I think a lot depends on the pan and how high your heat is. I think it took me about 30-40 minutes to caramelize these onions and fennel. And thanks for the good wishes!

    Donald – DEFINITELY try this crust. And thank you! We are doing some of it ourselves but hiring movers for the big stuff.

    Anita – Thanks! We’re really excited about the new kitchen. It has multiple drawers! And cupboards! And counter space!

    SallyBR – Thanks! And for the record, the blog’s not going anywhere… I still plan to do lots of cooking and look forward to exploring what the R.I. food scene has to offer… and sharing it all with you, of course!

    I’ve talked to Mike and he PROMISES we’ll do the cast iron skillet pizza this weekend, so look forward to a post about it in the coming week!

  8. Well, no wonder you’ve been sounding distracted! Congratulations on the new place and good luck with your move!

    And yes, that tart looks completely fabulous. I would definitely put goat cheese on it – yum.

  9. SallyBR says:

    Ok, great!

    I promise to make the cast iron skillet pizza within 7 days of your post! How about THAT for commitment?

  10. Hi. I like your blog. Good luck on your move. It’s always so exciting moving to new place. We wish you the best of luck.

    Regarding this tart. The one you made looks WAY better than what the Gourmet web site had. That crust looks really good. I’ll put that one in my recipe book to try later!

  11. OMG, you’re leaving? WOWWOWOWO! Congrats! But who’s going to take care of the kitties? Oh how I wish I could take them in. I’m so excited for you. Heaps and heaps of congratulations!

  12. Ooh, ooh, ooh! What a great way of using fennel! The tart looks really delicious and I too will keep the base recipe. You can never have enough I think.

  13. Whoa! I’m surprised too, Jennifer! Good luck on the move and enjoy your new kitchen. Do you know Susan at Food “Blogga”? She lives in San Diego now, but grew up in Rhode Island. She would probably have lots of good info for you.

  14. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks so much, everyone!

    ann – our neighbors upstairs have been great with the outdoor kitties, so when we leave they’ll be in good hands! We’re hoping to get them a couple of these to replace the makeshift huts we have back there.

    Terry B – I don’t know Susan but thanks for directing me her way!

  15. Cindy Hufler says:

    Jennifer even though I’ve been reading your blog just a few weeks I feel as if I’m moving and I’m missing the markets in NYC already ! I guess we just don’t have access to all the great ingredients here in Atlanta. Good luck with your move. I can hardly wait to find out what great things to cook with you scope out in your new hometown.

  16. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks, Cindy! I’m actually really looking forward to checking out the shops and markets in Rhode Island. We’re totally spoiled here as far as how easy it is to get just about anything, so it will definitely be a change.

  17. rachel says:

    Sometime from Providence, you must run over to New Bedford, MA and pick up some linguica (Portuguese sausage) — it’s amazing. Big Portuguese population there, you can get some excellent authentic food. Best of luck!

  18. Jen, I *love* your site – I lurk on it all the time and revel in your great ideas. My family loves it when I cook from or riff off your recipes and methods! I had to laugh when I read about your move — we, too, are in the process of packing up our lives here in Metro DC and moving to somewhere a bit slower-paced — New Hampshire. Good luck with your move, and I look forward to reading about all the new tastes you’ll discover in New England. I’ve had a ball finding local food sources up near where we’ll be…yum yum yum!

  19. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hey, rachel! I lived in the Boston area for a few years, and I am very excited about getting back up there for linguica and other Portuguese goodies!

    notdancingqueen – Thanks! Best of luck on your move as well – it’s a stressful but exciting time for both of us, I’m sure. :)

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