daylight slaving time
April 7, 2006

I've worked well into dark most nights this week, so Daylight Savings Time hasn't really registered. But the magazine closes in record time on Friday, and I'm on my way home by 7. When the F Train shoots above ground I actually gasp to see it's still light out. This is freedom! This is life! This means I have time to make dinner!

It's backwards, really: In winter we should cook to make our apartments cozier, but it's dark so early that we don't have the energy. In summer we have light, but who wants to turn on the oven?

I jump off the train a stop early at the grocery store with a head full of big ideas—and brighter pictures. Food photos are great inspiration, and I have two vivid ones in mind: a Black-Eyed Pea and Butternut Squash Salad from the new Bon Appétit I scanned late last night, and a Plum Tart with Goat Cheese I was describing to my co-worker a few hours ago. I'm buying ingredients based on intuition and image recall—but I can see what kind of feast I'm going to make.

Of course, by the time I leave the grocery store it's dark, and this dampens my ambition a little. I'm hungry now, and I imagine it's going to take a long time long to cook the butternut squash. But at home I throw a burger on the George Forman to reassure myself that at least something will be ready to eat in 15 minutes (and pour myself a glass of Jameson's), and take a look at my recipes.

It turns out butternut squash roasts in 15 minutes by these particular means (baking dish with water, olive oil and garlic), and since I've bought canned black-eyed peas as opposed to dry, I can skip the first third of the recipe (which Epicurious hasn't posted yet—I'll add the link when it's up). I have red bell pepper instead of green and no basil or cucumber, and I sub lemon juice for lime—but it turns out pretty tasty anyway. And it goes perfectly with a cheeseburger, which I manage to hold off eating until the salad is ready. This goes in the repertoire as a great riff on picnic fare, somewhere in between potato salad and bean salad in texture, but considerably less boring than both. (And don't skip the cucumber and basil if you can help it—even better.)

Since dinner went so quickly, I persevere for dessert. I've been waiting for an occasion to make this tart, but decide small-dish portions without piecrust won't need to stand on ceremony. Even so, I end up with five ramekins of cheese and streusel, a bit excessive for dinner for one (luckily Tracy can be prevailed upon to share). I've been thinking about olive oil as a flavoring because it keeps showing up in unusual places, like the potatoes we made for Rebecca's birthday. Here I'm afraid it will seem a little sickening against the sweet streusel and honey (a little like the olive oil gelato at Otto's), but somehow it works, just like the thyme asserts itself just enough amidst the brown sugary streusel. I'm fully a devotee of this salty-sweet dessert-cum-cheese course.

And all this by 10 pm. I don't feel like I've spent the whole night slaving in the kitchen, and yet I've made a full dinner and a very unique dessert. I consider (again) the improvement nightly cooking could make in my life, how it might make me feel less like the only place I slaved was for work. I lie down on my bed to think about it some more—and fall fast asleep, in my clothes with all the lights still on.

And that is why I don't usually cook on Friday nights.