By Christie Vanover | Published March 2, 2011 | Last Updated August 17, 2013
My thoughts are surrounded by food. As I drive to my civilian Army job, I see vacant store fronts and imagine selling gourmet grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the high school kids nearby and elegant take-away meals for working families. I imagine the design of the restaurant, the bakery counter, the simple dishes that whisk people’s minds back to their childhoods…but then I show up to my real job, which I am equally as passionate about and reality sets in.
Although I dream that someday I will own a corner, neighborhood bistro, learning and practicing are so satisfying. Every morning on my drive into work, I listen to Morning Living on Martha Stewart satellite radio. They feature chefs a few times a week and this week Joanne Chang was a guest. She owns a bakery in Boston. The way she described her techniques were so inspiring that I immediately ordered her book “flour.” It arrived in the mail today, and was superb. The most important thing that she shares in her book is the importance of measuring ingredients when baking…not with an American measuring cup, but with a good old-fashioned metric scale. I am so excited to try some of her recipes this weekend.
After reading the forward and a few recipes, Top Chef (my favorite show) came on. This week they mixed genealogy (my other hobby) with cooking. It got me thinking…I’m Irish-Polish-Czechoslovakian. If I was faced with that challenge, I would have no idea what to make. In all of my travels, I never ventured to any of those destinations. Sounds like we need another Army assignment in Europe.
While reading Joanne’s cookbook and watching Top Chef reminded me that I still have so much to learn and experience, Chef Tiffany Derry reminded me that the basics are truly the foundation to good food. And for some strange reason, it brought me back to So Long Saloon, a restaurant near Fort Riley, Kansas. They served the most amazing grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of onion rings. After we moved, I created my own version.
Slather two pieces of bread with peanut butter and jelly (or if you’re adventurous, use raspberry chipotle sauce in place of the jelly). Smash the bread together. Spray both sides with Pam and squash it in your George Foreman. The crunchy bread, the salty peanut butter and the sweet jelly that oozes out the sides creates a simple, elegant dish that you will crave over and over. Bon appétit!