A marine biologist. That's what I wanted to be when I was a little girl. I wasn't sure what that job would exactly entail, but I knew I’d do anything so long as I got a career that would let me play with otters and dolphins.
I remember being fairly vocal about this dream to my friends and family all the way up until middle school. As I got older, my passions obviously changed, and just before graduating high school I found myself in an odd place. Instead of having a clear idea of what career I wanted to pursue in college, I was instead confused and fearful. When I was a little girl I truly believed that I could be anything, now here I was, debating what major made the most practical sense for me.
At this point marine biology was off my radar, but I nonetheless knew what my passions were: I loved baking, I loved cooking, I loved anything that had to do with food and the people for whom I'd make it. But I didn't approach college with my passions in mind, instead I made a decision on what would cost the least amount of money, what would make the most practical sense; something I believed I could actually do.
It was at that moment that I really needed my seven year old self to scream into my ear and say “just go to culinary school.” I needed the zeal of that little girl who didn't think twice about whether or not she was capable of being a marine biologist, I needed the girl whose only concern was what made her happy. I'm telling you all this because I think all too often we let fear get the best of us; I know that's at least the case for me. Fear has prevented me from dreaming. When I was little I didn't care if I failed, because if I failed in the end, it wasn't the end of the world; and the funny thing is that's still the case, I just became too scared to believe it.
Before I started The Broken Bread I had always dreamed of writing my own book, though fear told me this was not an option. But nevertheless such an opportunity fell into my lap, and at that moment I had a decision to make. Consider, with the flick of a pen at the end of a contract, I was now committed to a project that would undergo a great amount of scrutiny not only from a publisher, but from the readers that frequent this space I've created. The fear of judgement expectedly lodged itself in my throat like a rock, and I was faced with the decision. I could either let my fear of failure consume me, or I could focus on the joy of being able to share my stories and creations. I needed to stand firm in the belief that no matter how this book was received, my life didn't depend on it. I had the opportunity to learn from it, to grow through it, to be changed by it; even if I in some sense failed, it wouldn't be the cause of my undoing. Of course fear doesn't go away, it's stirred anew each day. But writing this book transformed me, it taught me what life looks like when the little girl's heart finds its lived expression, when fear is relegated to a place of annoyance rather than of influence.
Now since strawberry season is in full swing, I thought I would share a recipe from this little book of mine that celebrates such a beautiful berry. When I lived in California, my father would take my sister and I to the Oxnard strawberry festival each year, so whenever I eat a ripe strawberry I can't help but remember our times at that festival. The recipe in my book doesn't call for pistachios, or for vanilla beans in the créme fraîche, but I had those ingredients on hand so I thought, why not? I love following recipes, but sometimes wonderful things happen when you end up using what you have on hand; which is a point I drive home in my book. If On Toast ever happens to find its way into your kitchen, I hope you'll be able to use it as a springboard for inspiration next time you find yourself craving a satisfying piece of toast.
Vanilla Bean Créme Fraîche
recipe ever so slightly adapted from Date Night In
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 vanilla bean seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Equipment: Glass, or plastic jar with lid, cheese cloth, or tea towel
Pour the heavy cream and buttermilk into the glass, or plastic jar and seal the lid. Shake the jar vigorously to mix the ingredients. Once combined, remove the lid and place the jar on a kitchen counter top and cover the top of the jar with a piece of cheese cloth, or with a tea towel.
Let the jar sit at room temperature for 12- 24hrs (time depends on warmth of the rooms) until a thick and creamy texture is achieved. Once the correct texture is achieved, mix in the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean pod. If a more present vanilla flavor is desired, mix in an additional 1/2 teaspoon into the créme fraîche. Seal the jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Here's a link to a site that give some really helpful tips when making créme fraîche at home.
STRAWBERRY&CRÉME FRAÎCHE TOAST
1 slice of brioche bread
softened butter, for toasting
3 tablespoons vanillla bean créme fraîche
11/4 teaspoon rose sugar
5-7 small to medium sized strawberries
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios, toasted
honey, for drizzling
pinch kosher salt (optional)
Remove the tops from the strawberries, and either half, or quarter depending on size. Add the berries to a bowl, along with 1 1/4 teaspoons rose sugar; tossing to coat. Let strawberries sit at room temperature for 15-20, or until their juices begin to release.
Brush both sides of the bread with the softened butter, and place onto a skillet set over medium heat. Toast each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
Let the bread cool just a bit before spreading a layer of the vanilla bean créme fraîche. Top the toast with the strawberries and some of their juices. Garnish toast with a a sprinkle of chopped pistachios, a drizzle of honey, and a pinch of kosher salt.
* also many thanks to Swissmar for sending me that beautiful olive wood salt keeper!