There is something about really good bread that makes people get a little dreamy. Here, Austin Hall, head baker (or yeast farmer!) at She Wolf Bakery in Long Island City talks about his baking philosophy.
Breakfast is always a mad dash, and at dinner I do my damndest to cook things my husband and daughter will both enjoy (haha) but lunch is mine all mine, and that means vegetables galore, eaten straight out of a serving bowl. I’ll tear into whatever produce I’ve got – grab leftover blanched green beans, roast some summer squash in the toaster, throw in some diced beets or chopped cucumber. There are often random hunks of cheese or a boiled egg, some pumpkin seeds, peanuts or cashews, and enough glugs of olive oil to make the salad as caloric as a calzone. Then lemon juice, apple cider or sherry vinegar, and plenty of salt. If I’m going all out (like, if I’m on deadline and want to procrastinate an extra minute) I’ll use kitchen scissors to snip some scallions, mint or basil over it all. I’m often too lazy to mince garlic, but since no one’s looking, I’ll just grab a scape and gnaw on it in between forkfuls. I try not to get any olive oil on the keyboard.
No shocker here, but leftovers are where it’s at. Although I work from home, I usually don’t allow myself to take a large chunk of time out of the middle of the day to cook — I’d rather address my responsibilities, step away from the computer and approach the kitchen without the rush. So when I do cook in the evenings, I often make a several portions that will hold me over for a few days and hopefully not be too removed from their original state when reheated. Some simple go-tos include large quantities of soups in the cold months, as well as simple taco fixins, tomato salads and homemade tart/quiche/pizza leftovers during the warmer ones. Of course sandwiches are a consistent choice and I’m currently all about thisBLT and aioli recipe from ‘wichcraft — aioli can be made and stored ahead of time and the rest just requires a little little slicing and toasting. That’s a happy desk lunch if I’ve ever imagined one.
I work from home, so I am lucky in that I have my entire kitchen to draw from when I make lunch for myself. However, that doesn’t mean I actually cook anything. I am a fan of toast: good bread, cut thick, toasted till very brown, and then topped with whatever is handy, almost over-ripe or leftover. That can be roasted squash, smashed with the back of a spoon and drizzled with olive and topped with sea salt; slivers of avocado; a piece of meat (with a pickle) or cheese (with honey or jam); leftover salad now nice and wilty; yogurt or sour cream or even (and often) peanut butter and jelly. If there’s no toast, I usually just eat all the above with a spoon, standing up at my kitchen counter.
I am a firm believer in toast. As Nigel Slater writes in his memoir (called, appropriately, Toast), it’s impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. It’s true and it’s delicious, regardless of how it’s made: buttered, fried in a pan with olive oil, rubbed with garlic, cinnamon-sugared, slathered with jam, set afloat in a bowl of soup. But my favorite way to eat it, and the way I prepare lunch for myself at least once a week, is with a half a ripe avocado smashed on top, with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly hungry or decadent, I’ll slide a fried egg on top.
My lunch strategy is most likely subconsciously inspired by a favorite childhood book about a Badger named Frances who will only eat bread and jam. At the end of the story, when Frances finally gets tired of jam, there is a tantalizing litany of all of the things that her parents have packed in her school lunch, and which she eats with gusto. I, too, find I am very excited about eating lunch at work when I have many small dishes and snacks that comprise a whole meal in miniature. It makes me feel a little fancy, and it’s also a nice way of repurposing whatever’s in the fridge. There is usually a small green salad, or some vegetables vinaigrette (the latter either alone, or tossed with some leftover rice or barley), a nice piece of bread or crackers with cheese, a piece of fruit and a couple of squares of chocolate or a cookie (if I’ve baked recently and managed not to devour all the products of my labor). Sometimes there will be sardines or salami, or a few bites of whatever was dinner. The key here is lots of small containers and, if you’re like Frances, a cloth napkin.
Feature photo: Gabrielle Langholtz