Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Therapy and A Saffron Lesson

Today started out like any other day. I woke up tired, I drank chugged my grande Americano from a corporate coffee shop, and drove Erik to work. I had no idea it would end with such a sense of satisfaction, inspiration, and accomplishment.

I walked 2 miles down to Internship #2 early this AM, not knowing what to expect. The Teacher immediately greeted me, picked up her reusable shopping bag, and walked me to Pike Place Market. Her other kitchen.

She was like a honey-bee, buzzing around the shops and stands, saying hello to everyone by first name, and picking up ingredients as she went. She knows the best places for each item she needed: DeLaurenti's for pine nuts and pancetta, Market Spice for Spanish Saffron, Frank's for a giant beefsteak tomato and lemons, and The Spanish Table for Jamon, 3-month old Manchego, and a Paella pan.

I am in awe.

While in Market Spice, she explained to me the intricate process of how saffron is harvested. A person, single-handedly picks each stigma from a saffron crocus. It takes about 225,000 single stigmas to make a pound. She also told me to buy ALL of my spices for Market Spice because they turn over their entire product weekly.

Now hold onto your keyboard for this one:
Disturbingly, grocery stores generally have their spices on the shelf for 15 years. And, to boot, they are filled with preservatives to make them last longer. Gross.

Actually, Disgusting. Buy local, and in bulk. I am.

On her menu today was a Spanish theme inspired from The Spanish Table Cookbook. Her simple masterpiece included: Portugese limonade made with piri piri peppers, lemons, San Pelligrino and local orange-blossom honey; Summer gazpacho with beefsteak tomatoes, English cucumber, red pepper, and stale bread; the simple but satisfying snack of jamon y melon; and lastly, my absolute favorite, an orange chocolate torta with a saffron simple syrup and saffron whipped cream.

Today, she taught a cooking class for twelve. And, as usual, her brilliance was captivating. After giving them a one-hour tour of the Market, she came back to teach them (and me!) about the menu, and how to cook all of her dishes.

After filling water glasses with Portugese limonade, doing dishes to keep up with the mess, and cutting Macrina potato bread to dip in olive oil, I got my second "chance" to cook. I got to make the second, unplanned, batch of the gazpacho!

Of course, mine was not as good as hers. But, I followed her recipe. I promise.

To a tee.

I let her taste my creation out of a small metal ramekin with a sterile spoon. She let the flavors hit her palate. Made an "mmm" sound, and promptly told me to add more Walla Walla's for bite and to use less bread next time because of color. I agreed with her.

I am learning.

I learned a little more about her kitchen, too. It is like a mantra for me. I whisper her directions in my head so that I do not forget them: Metal nesting bowls under the counter, short glasses double-stacked in dishwasher on the right.

When the class left, she smirkingly said, "I know you want to try that torta."

We stood at the counter: The Teacher and Kitchen Bitch #2. We ate with our fingers, sharing the last slice of chocolate deliciousness, while licking Saffron whipped cream from our upper lips. We cleaned up, making small talk, and hashing out the vibe of the cooking class. Then, as the cleaning was coming to an end, we started talking about jobs, passions, energies, and the universe. A normal Wednesday conversation at 1:00 in the afternoon. Don't ya think?

The Teacher explained to me that the best way to be happy and fulfilled in life is to always be doing what is your greatest love and passion. She said that what I put out into the world, will eventually come back to me, good or bad. And, she emphasized the importance of having a quiet place to go to. When I need to think.

Especially when you are an artist, as she is.

How did I find this woman? A cooking teacher and a therapist?!

Now, I sit at the end of this fulfilling Wednesday, belly full of brown-rice sushi, a green garden salad, a half-glass two glasses of Gruner Veltliner, and one-bite of (by mistake) raw carrot cake from PCC.

I have passed my Food Handler's test with a 100 percent score, I have the sharpest knives a girl could hope for, I have a newly purchased brown and blue polka-dot knife bag (that I was so trying to avoid getting), and I am anxiously awaiting a date with my pillow as I read "Tender at the Bone".

Life is truly good.

I am excited for what tomorrow will bring. The Teacher wants to me call her, as soon as I can, and give her the run-down of my first evening at The Restaurant.

I will definitely be taking her up on that, and maybe begging for some more "couch time".

Saffron Whipped Cream
1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. sifted confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp. crumbled Spanish Saffron
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip the heavy cream together in a cool metal bowl with a hand mixer or a standing mixer until it forms soft peaks.

Makes 1 cup


  1. I love Market Spice. I want to be that organized person who has a tidy row of glass jars filled, only as needed, with the freshest of spices bought in bulk from a place that specializes in spices from all over the world. Needless to say, what I have is a jumble of supermarket jars and bottles that fall on my head whenever I open the cupboard, some that are nearly as old as I am, interspersed with inadequately sealed plastic packets from, yes, Market Spice.

    I think I will walk down to the market this weekend.

  2. Kari,
    I am really enjoying reading your Summerspoon. I visualize each post as if I'm reading a book. Perhaps if you ever write a book, you should call it "Summerspoon, Adventures of KB#2.

  3. I love getting a glimpse into this other life of yours!

  4. Now I understand why saffron can cost a pretty penny!

    The Teacher sounds so inspiring and we all need to hear life lessons once in a while (as cheesy as that sounds).

  5. I learned a little more about her kitchen, too. It is like a mantra for me. I whisper her directions in my head so that I do not forget them: Metal nesting bowls under the counter, short glasses double-stacked in dishwasher on the right, Saffron extract .