Right Aid

16 Apr

I went to Macy’s on Saturday.

April Flowers

Compared to the last time I was there, and to the tumult in my head, it was an oasis of stillness, a sea of calm.

Things have been a little hectic at work since we’ve been back from Italy. I got one day to re-acclimate, one day to tell my silly stories about getting stuck in the parking garage in Perugia, of nearly being trapped on the Autostrade, of running around Orvieto with my nephew like a pair of headless chickens, and then, *wham* right back into the thick of things.

I have been working on my first really big, really high profile project since getting promoted. You see, The Plan worked! The new gig isn’t that much of a change from the old one. It’s more of a readjustment. And my work on this big thing was my first big test. It’s been stressful, and thankfully, it’s over. The project launched late last night and it’s beautiful. I’m really proud of the work I did on it, but holy cows am I glad that’s over!

Almost Cherry Blossoms

I find the tumult of big, chaotic stores soaked in history and cloaked in shabby gravitas soothing when my mind is full of too many thoughts. I like rambling around Tiffany’s, gawking at all the pretty baubles, staring into the depths of the lofty, dark wood ceilings, marveling at the grace with which the sales girls handle the throngs of tourists with dollars burning holes in their pockets.

I love the shoe floor at Saks. The packs of women, milling and foaming, like lions in the Coliseum, or concubines in a harem, protecting their chosen pair from usurpers. The armies of salesmen hidden behind tall stacks of boxes, like a footman in a Jane Austen novel. The bored men, reclining on silly, uncomfortable grey poufs like a pod of walruses, wishing to God there was a newspaper and that his wife would just be honest and buy the damn shoes she wants, not the ones she thinks he wants, because, seriously, he doesn’t care. Lust, betrayl, elation, boredom; it’s a lot like being at the opera.

Buds, Sunshine

And then there’s the men’s store at Bergdorf’s. Isaac and I stumbled in there on Saturday. There’s not a thing in there we can afford. Okay, maybe we could buy a pocket square, or the very cheapest set of cuff links, or a tie… But that’s not the point. Walking around, staring at all the beautiful craftsmanship is, especially when it happens to be a day that they’re serving free wine and very good Scotch and macarons and brie with caramelized pear and toast points with caviar all accompanied by a jazz quartet. It was so civilized and calming and delightful.

But, what about Macy’s you may be asking? Well, I went to Macy’s because I wanted to buy myself a little present, for being almost done with “the project.” I’m such an only child that way… I was standing in line, when a salesman, with massive dreads and a huge smile, waved me over to his register. I popped my chosen gift up onto the counter, and he leaned in and asked me in a lilting, Caribbean brogue, “Is this your first KitchenAid?”

The Darling Buds Of... March

I nodded, and then he dissolved into a puddle of breathless raptures, “Oh my god, you’re going to love it! I have one. I make roti and all my kids’ birthday cakes and pies for my mother and bread for our dinners! Oh, you’re just going to love it! You’re going to always be asking yourself how you ever lived without it!” I was dying. Never in a million years would I have pegged this man for a baker, and there he was, positively gushing about a kitchen appliance. It was too funny. I turned around to leave, giggling to myself, but found my way blocked. There, directly behind me, was another man.

“Oh! Is that your first KitchenAid?” he asked. I was thinking to myself, “Ohyouhavegottobekiddingme.” Uh-huh I nodded. “Oh my! You’re just going to love it! I’m a baker myself. I make a few loaves of bread a week, all different sorts. What are you going to do with it?” “Uh, bread, mostly,” I stammered. “Oh, you’re just going to love it!” he replied in his gorgeous, proper English accent.

Action Shot

I positively floated out of the store. I had been slightly hesitant about my purchase. Where would it live? Would I bake enough to make it pay for itself? But all my fears had been blithely pushed aside by those two gentleman’s enthusiasms.

I got home, unpacked her, (I got black caviar in case you’re wondering) and made a beeline for Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to make first. Focaccia. It’s the one bread you absolutely, positively cannot make in this book without a stand mixer, and it is, of course, the one I’ve been most hankering to make since Isaac brought the book home to me as a gift months and months ago.


It’s a very wet dough that should, as she puts it, resemble melted mozzarella when it is done. It requires 20 minutes of “kneading” during which it forms all sorts of mesmerizing patterns as the gluten activates and relaxes, throwing out strings of dough and then gathering them back in. I stood transfixed, staring into the bowl, rocking with the rhythm of the mixer the whole time.

And then it rested. While the dough was rising and relaxing, I made garlic confit to tuck into little pockets of the dough. The garlic was delicious, sweet, piquant and yummy, but it is the oil that remains that is the real prize.

Garlic & Rosemary Focaccia

As the bread was baking, we used the garlic oil to dress a salad with a dash of sherry vinegar and a drizzle of lemon juice. Holy moley is that good! I only wish the oil had still been a little warm. It would make an excellent stand in for bacon grease in a warm spinach salad. Yep, it’s that good. It rivals bacon.

And the bread? Amazing! I don’t think the stand mixer (she really needs a name) has paid for herself yet, but if everything I make with it comes out this well, she will soon. The focaccia was laced with giant, fragrant bubbles amidst the pockets of garlic and spiky, toasted splinters of rosemary. I wish I could eat it for breakfast every morning.

Garlic & Rosemary Focaccia

I’d stink, but I’d be very, very happy.

No recipe for the focaccia as it’s not mine, but head below the jump for instructions for making Garlic Confit.

Garlic Confit

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 30 or so cloves of Garlic, peeled
  • Olive Oil, about 1 cup

Place the peeled cloves of garlic in a small pot. Pour enough oil over to cover all the cloves. Turn the burner to low and bring the oil to a simmer. Turn the burner down as low as it will go and partially cover. Allow the cloves to cook this way, shaking every now and then to ensure they’re doing alright, until the cloves being to pull away from their clear, papery exterior and become golden. Turn off the heat, remove the cloves with a slotted spoon to a plate to cool and allow the oil to cool.

Use the cloves in focaccia, pasta, or anywhere roasted garlic is called for. Use the oil for salad dressings, pasta sauces, for dressing vegetables, as a dipping sauce or perfume, just be sure to use them quickly.

Garlic is very low in acids and can therefore be a good home for the boulinium toxin.  Use the garlic confit right away, and make sure to refrigerate the oil and use within a week or two!


Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levey Beranbaum.


29 Responses to “Right Aid”

  1. mary April 16, 2008 at 7:18 am #

    Your first kitchen aid! Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll absolutely love, love, love it.

  2. Julie April 16, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    A new KitchenAid stand mixer! Yes! Congratulations.

    Mine was a Christmas present many years back and it was the best gift I ever received as an adult, and was only slightly less exciting than the puppy which was the best gift of my childhood.

    The focaccia looks like a delicious way to inaugurate your mixer. Laced with garlic? Oh, yeah. Wonderful.

  3. Ann April 16, 2008 at 8:08 am #

    Congrats! I was so happy when I got mine (whoa… it was 12 years ago!). Think of the butter cream you can make!

    Your focaccia is gorgeous, by the way.

  4. Amanda April 16, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    I have yet to get my first KitchenAid but I’m anxiously waiting for my savings account to grow so I can purchase one. I’m sure you’ll put yours to good use. I love how the men were cheerleaders for the kitchenaid!

  5. Katie April 16, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    Beautiful Bread!! Congrats on your KitchenAid!

    I got mine as a wedding gift 10 years ago and many many cakes, cookies, breads and sausages later, it’s still running strong!

  6. Jennifer Hess April 16, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Congratulations on the new addition! I can’t wait to finally put ours to use when we settle in to our new place next week.

  7. Lucy V April 16, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    Pere Noel brought my Kitchen Aid a few months ago and I also have been doing lots of baking, more than I ever did before. I loved your shopping story and also the focaccia. It looks delicious. I’m tempted to pop out and get a block of yeast from the corner store and break out a cookbook myself, since I have to work at home in the morning. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Christine April 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    What a lovely new gift for yourself and gorgeous focaccia.

    Quick question on the confit…about how long do you estimate it took from partially covering the pot to the cloves being cooked and taking it off the heat to cool? Thanks!

  9. Robin April 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    Hey.. if you ate that for breakfast every day then it really would pay for itself.

    Loved the post, Ann!

  10. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 16, 2008 at 4:15 pm #

    Congratulations! I’m so glad you treated yourself to celebrate the completion of your project. You will love the Kitchenaid every time you use it. I’m as certain of that as the men in Macy’s were!

  11. michelle April 16, 2008 at 8:26 pm #

    your life will never be the same. i’m wiping a tear from my eye.

    and great-looking focaccia.

  12. ann April 17, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    Mary — Thanks :-) It’s already love!

    Julie — Better than a puppy?? Never!! ;-)

    Ann — I fear the entry of buttercream into my life… My hips are screaming, “Noooooo!”

    Amanda — Isn’t that funny? I guess it’s all that horsepower ;-)

    Katie — You mentioned the thing I’m so excited for… Sausages!! I can’t wait to try my hand at them!

    Jenn — I’m so excited for you and your new home!! I’m sad that you’ve left our beautiful Borough of Kings, but I know you and your family are going to be so happy! Good luck!

    Lucy — Oh lala! Such a beautiful gift from Papa Christmas! He forgot to bring me mine, but that’s okay, I like buying my gifts for myself. I’m glad to be an inspiration to you, your site is always such an inspiration to me!

    Christine — It was about 20-25 minutes I would say. You’ll know when they’re ready, the insides turn golden and pull away from the clear, cellphany looking covering. If you poke a clove with a toothpick it should be yielding and creamy, but not mosshie. I hope you love them if you try them.

    Robin — Thanks! I love your new picture, so cute! Yeah, you’re right, breakfast.. pay for itself… Hmmmm…. Something to ponder.

    Lydia — Thanks! I’m so excited. This weekend I’m going to try my hand at some really airy, rustic European bread. So excited!!!

    Michelle — Awh, don’t cry! ;-) Thanks!

  13. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench April 17, 2008 at 8:31 am #

    I am a garlic ADDICT, so I am definitely going to have to try this garlic confit – maybe even on top of a foccacia? ;)

  14. French Laundry At Home April 17, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    Oh, honey. That bread looks divine. Better than divine. I want to roll around in its deliciousness.

    Once you go KA, you never go back.

  15. Mary Coleman April 18, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    It’s comforting to see it sitting on the countertop, isn’t it!
    I want that foccacia NOW!!!looks so so good with the garlic.

  16. Christiane April 19, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Yay – you’re first KitchenAid. I picked mine up, barely used, at a garage sale for $25. I almost passed straight out when I saw it since I NEVER stop for yard sales.

    But it’s true – once you use it, you can’t live without it.

  17. Christina April 19, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    HOORAY! I’ve been rooting for you to get one, and now you have one. Yes, you’ll use it to death for bread, but I think you’ll find you use it for a lot more too. Don’t get me wrong, hand mixers have their place, but sometimes the KitchenAid is just so much faster and efficient. Oh, I’m so excited for you.

    Thanks again for all your Italy tips. It definitely informed my vacation there. Your pictures and stories from your visit are stunning.

  18. Lina April 19, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    wow! what beautiful photos!

  19. Stacy April 19, 2008 at 7:01 pm #

    I’m jealous of your KitchenAid! I’ve been wanting one for a while, but I just don’t have the space in my little kitchen.

    Great looking bread, too.

  20. kickpleat April 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    enjoy the mixer! i haven’t made bread yet, but maybe i’ll try my mixer out with some foccacia too! but the real reason for writing…that garlic confit! i’m definitely trying it out and it will be the perfectly delicious way to kill my cold. yum!

  21. Helen April 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    I can’t believe it! I am smack in the middle of a HUGE project that I feel will never end and I am also in the market for a kitchenaid or a magimix (I can’t decide!). I’m going to treat myself in exactly the same way as you have done. Enjoy your new toy!

  22. Ulla April 20, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    I am loving the photos!
    And the bread, goodness it looks yummy!

  23. Jess April 21, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    Have been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first comment. Thanks for such a great post- your description of the shoe department at Saks was fantastic!

    The bread looks absolutely divine by the way.

  24. ann April 21, 2008 at 6:15 am #

    Ellie — This is a must for any garlic addict, but I forgot to mention something very important. Garlic is very low in acids and can therefore be a good home for the boulinium toxin. Use the garlic confit right away, and make sure to refrigerate the oil and use within a week or two!

    Carol — It was soft and pillowy and delicious. Perfect for rolling around in ;-)

    Mary — It is. It’s so shiny and sparkly. It’s like countertop bling!

    Christiane — $25!!!! Holy cow! That’s the best garage sale ever!

    Lina — Many thanks.

    Stacy — Oh, I hear you on the small kitchen. I had one for many years. But we decided that the sacrifice of a less cool neighborhood was worth it. It’s the price a foodie sometimes has to pay I guess.

    Kickpleat — I hope it helps with your cold!! Fell better.

    Helen — I hear those magimixes are, well, magical! Plus, what a great name. I have a cuisinart too that I never use, so I’m rooting for the standmixer! Good luck with your project.

    Ulla — Thanks!

    Jess — Hi! Thanks for commenting! You’re too kind :-)

    Christina — Hehe, I knew you’d be happy. I’m so glad you guys had so much fun in Italy!

  25. Anne April 21, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    What a lovely way to buy your first KitchenAid-with excited comments from strangers. Lucky duck. It’s the first thing I’m putting on my gift list once we move to bigger digs in Brooklyn. See? I’m not even an only child but I have a running gift list.

    Great looking bread!

  26. Luisa April 21, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    Hooray! Congratulations. I love the enthusiasm from those two guys! That’s one good shopping experience. (I think I am the only person on the planet still without one, by the way.)

  27. erin April 21, 2008 at 8:11 pm #

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but my word that bread looks divine. As soon as finals are over I need to haul my kitchen aid down from the top of my cupboards and put ‘er to work!!

  28. Will B April 21, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

    Enjoy your new mixer! Your worrying about it paying for itself hit home – I remember the first dinner we cooked on our brandy-new Viking range – my wife wasn’t ready for the commercial BTUs – talk about well done! Needless to say, that grilled cheese sandwich (it was a long day!) cost plenty – and it was worth every penny! I look forward to more tales of your new machine…

  29. ann April 22, 2008 at 5:31 am #

    Anne — Ooooooh! I’m so glad to know other people have gift lists!! Sadly, I usually end up buying them for myself. No one I know ever seems to believe me when I say, ” You know what I’d really like for…” Except Isaac, he’s good like that :-) If you need me to be your KitchenAid enforcer, I’d do that for you. I’ve been lifting weights lately, I could really put the hurt on someone ;-)

    Luisa — Don’t worry, you’re not alone, Anne’s right there with you! Hehe. Just kidding. Man, I can’t imagine the creamy evil you could whip up if you had one! It would be dangerous. Perhaps the world’s a safer place without you owning one.

    Erin — Thanks!! Good luck on your finals. I can’t imagine how stressful that is! Treat yourself when you’re done.

    WillB — Thanks! That’s funny about the grilled cheese! They’re harder than you’d expect to get right :-)

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