I awoke this morning to the kind of spring day that begs you to be outside in it: sunlight dappling through the scattered white clouds, bright green leaves unfurling on recently-bare branches, children laughing as they ran through the doors of the school across the street before the bell rang. I vowed to finish my work as early as possible so that I could, if not go outside and play, at least throw open the back door and cook dinner with a breeze on my neck.
I skipped breakfast. Settling in with my laptop and a cup of tea, I began opening the reports I needed for today and—rattatatattattatttt. I looked out the window. Down the block roadwork had been going on for weeks now, at seemingly random hours and times. Today they had decided to break up asphalt. At 9 in the morning. When I was trying to work.
I put on my headphones and cranked up Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Aguas de marco. Bouncy bossa nova drowned out the jackhammer but also seemed to be deadening my brain, because wasn’t this formula supposed to be calculating like this instead…. And I realized there was a bug in my spreadsheet and I had to start over.
It went like that for a couple hours. Thwarted at every turn, my shoulders tensing another degree with each blast of construction equipment, words disappearing from the tip of my tongue, almost every idea negated by an increasingly stressed-out voice in the back of my head. I still hadn’t eaten breakfast. And I was out of tea.
I stomped downstairs, ostensibly for A’s help, and ended up snapping at him. He looked at me for a moment and said “I think you need a break. Why don’t we go for a walk?”
I knew he was right, and that blue sky was still beckoning, so I gladly shut my laptop and joined him on a walk to the library. On our way there we passed by a friend’s house, a friend who had once assured me that I could snip sprigs off his rosemary bush whenever I wanted—and that’s when the best idea of my day came forward with effortless ease. I had a recipe somewhere for rosemary Parmesan madeleines. What a good idea.
The library book I picked up today was Tender: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. It is a heavy, lovely book with typography quirks throwing the classic design just a little endearingly off-balance. In the introduction, he writes: “Chopping, slicing, stirring, tasting, seasoning all become acts of contentment rather than chores to be hurried through.”
As I chopped the rosemary, grated the Parmesan, and scooped the dough into the delicate scallops of my madeleine pan, I knew what he meant. And when I bit into the first sharp, rich madeleine, I knew that when I sat back down to work this afternoon, my shoulders would be loose, the room quiet and calming, and everything would go smoothly. And it did.
These savory madeleines are a bit of a revelation. I can imagine them pairing nicely with an arugula salad or a pickle plate, something palate-cleansing that will cut through the richness.
Rosemary Parmesan Madeleines
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
1 C flour
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 t salt
¼ t fresh ground black pepper
2 T sugar
¼ t cream of tartar
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 T and 6 T butter, melted and measured out in separate bowls
Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until creamy, a couple minutes. Add the sugar and cream of tartar and continue beating until smooth and frothy, a couple more minutes. Carefully fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula and mix well. Fold in the Parmesan and mix well. Mix in the 6 T of butter.
Using a pastry brush, brush remaining butter into the wells of a madeleine pan. Scoop a couple tablespoons of batter into each well, filling them to the rim. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms are golden and the top springs back when pressed. Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Makes 16-18 madeleines.