Sunday, April 19, 2015

Celebrating Arbor Day

The state forestry folks celebrated the day, and Earth Day, with a giveaway of native tree whips. right at the local library. Crowds of excited people, many with kids, to show them how a big tree starts and all that.

So I carried home a wild cherry, which will grow ready to take over from the aged one, what's left of her after many years of service. She provided shade for dear HP when he was out on the patio, food for birds and other critters all year long, between fruit and the little thorns which birds and squirrels are mad for, and a wonderful place for bees in early spring,as well as shade for my houseplants all summer.  

The forestry folks  pressed two more trees on me, too, a black walnut and a chestnut oak.  These will either go to a friend or be a subject of a bit of stealth gardening on  my part.  Quite a while since I did any, but it's not very stealthy to go about with a big spade.  Looks a bit suspicious, in fact.

Anyway, the Dollivers, since they are All Green, sent out a team of hardy foresters to run the event once I got home with the trees.  

They came with little leaflets of explanation, I love the forestry guys, and here they are, reading left to right, well, I forget...I do know the cherry well, though, since it has that lenticular form on the branches even at this age.  And the identity of the others not so important, since they won't be fitting onto my patio.  

Anyway, I bet if Quinn our total blogista expert on all things tree, can tear herself away from her new goat twins for long enough, she'll set me right. And in case you wondered why the black walnut does not have a spot on my patio, here's a view, over the roofs, of mature black walnuts and friends, and you see the size these fellers can get.  The framing branch you see is what's left of the old cherry.

Black walnuts are not friendly to some other plants and shrubs, so it's better they're over there on their own turf.  But they're wonderful for harvesting to make black walnut ink, a la van Gogh.  We lost a lot of trees from Sandy so that might be a destination for the two spares.

Here's the future home of the little (well, it will eventually be big) cherry.  And here are the laborers posing for Dolliver Gothic and ready for action.

And here's New Cherry in place, bravely standing up and taking notice.

The  laboring Dollivers explained that they needed to sit down and take care of the other trees, which involved resting after the heavy job of forking out a ton of pachysandra,  and digging a big enough hole, and setting up the tree, and patting down and all that is required to establish it. 

And they reminded me to keep the other roots nice and damp while they rest up.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Teatime, outside, first of the year, with Barbara

Wonderful afternoon, warm and just right for afternoon tea outside, first of the year, accompanied by Barbara Pym.

Tea laid out -- gingerbread with a lemon sauce made from mayo and lemon juice, then lemon zest sprinkled on -- tea being English Breakfast with a slice of lemon.  This is from the same old batch of lemons I froze eons ago, and still going.  All very Pym!

And the reader's view.

Gingerbread footnote: it was in fact a whole lot better after a day of being kept airtight.  So there's that.

And sauce footnotes:  the corn, crab, cilantro fritters were great yesterday with the sauce I made with the cucumbers, so today I tested them with the tamarind sauce and with the plum sauce.  Tamarind okay, but the plum overwhelmed them.  So probably the creamier sauce is better for this purpose.  Just fyi from your Test Kitchen Chez Liz.

Suddenly, all Spring, all the time 6WS

Never fails to stun, the way one day it's a few green blades, and the next it's all cherry blossom and daffodils.  

These are a few of the Handsome Partner memorial daffodils, and there are others blooming again, their fourth season, on more than one continent, and several countries, thank you all who did that in his honor.

And our own local cherry blossom festival, my cherry bushes on the patio, moved from the front yard

The Russian sage returns, its first spring here, making a natural bouquet with the daffodils and the veronica, which is officially a weed, but I love it and won't pull it out

My neighbor's brand new cherry tree,  its first blossom since planted last Fall.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Yorkshire Gingerbread and an impossible dream

Yesterday, amid the blogista meeting and other events of the day, and the sheepnip excitement at home -- second installment of this took place when Duncan showed up and found the toy, and went ravening all over the furniture and floors in catnip joy --I also baked a Yorkshire Gingerbread from the Two Fat Ladies cookbook.

Tremendous fuss and bother, I think I might go back to my much simpler and perfectly nice recipe from my Simple Sort of Cookbook, but anyway, I tried it.  And after the time elapsed for an early look at it, found it looked sad in the middle, so I left it for a few more minutes, figuring it would rise like my regular recipe.  Which didn't happen, and though it tastes fine, it's not exactly handsome.

Which reminds me of how poetic the language is.  Sad in baking means heavy, sunken in the middle, usually not quite cooked.  Heavy as in sadiron, those massive solid iron irons you used to heat on the fire before attempting to iron with them.  But our use of sad meaning the emotion, is a wonderful metaphor though we hardly ever think of it that way.  And we talk of the opposite, light as opposed to heavy, when we think of joy, as in Duncan and the catnip toy.

Just a digression for a trot about on one of my hobbyhorses, Etymology, his name is. He's back in the paddock now. Anyway, I gave the gingerbread a bit longer, and it was still sad, but now it was a bit dry, dangit.  Should have taken it out, sad and all, earlier.

And then the Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa to be exact, instruct the cook to leave the gbread in an airtight "tin" for a couple of days before sampling.  What? lovely smelling from the oven, and you put it away for two days before you even find out if you like it? on what planet are they cooking? well, they're no longer on our planet, but she was at the time of writing the cookbook.

                          See, full disclosure, sad in the middle

So this cook took a hearty slice, to test with afternoon Vietnamese, that is not a typo for Viennese, coffee, and very nice it was.  Spicy, not too sweet. But not sure it's worth all the bother they go to.  And I'm puzzled about the sadness, since I followed their lead meticulously, right flour, right butter, right sugar, all that. All the stages of beating and mixing and folding, all that.  I even had the ingredients at room temperature for once, having set them all out before I went on my expedition. I mean, I went over and above, and it shoulda worked better.

However, in the course of this perusing of their cookbook, I finally found a way to use up that shredded cucumber in the freezer, from the surfeit of cucumbers last summer.  As in "the king died of a surfeit", Annie, how I miss you, you'd have got that reference in a flash.  Sellars and Yeatman, anyway, in case you're not Annie.

What I was saying before I interrupted myself, was that I am going to make a nice cucumber sauce with sour cream and mayo, lemon juice, and fresh chives, which I have growing away on the patio, to go with some of the corn, crab and cilantro croquettes currently in the freezer, for lunch today.  Watch this space for updates on that.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Princeton Farmer's Market last indoor one for the year

Princeton Library not being a regular destination for me, I did get in there today to meet Kris, the writer of the blog from Winterspast Farm, a lovely account of her life and times with sheep and wool and all the accompanying family and activity that goes with it. 

You can catch her here and the sheep and wool connection is her reason for taking part in the Farmers Market today, in the community room of the Princeton Public Library.  I had met her mom, who led a workshop for our embroidery chapter last Sunday, and when she mentioned that this might be a chance to meet Kris, as near as we ever get geographically, I figured I'd get in and meet her.

Here's the event, with tables like this mountain of lovely smelling greens, and spring flowers and mushrooms and all kinds of local fare

and here's Kris fixing up a toy, a Sheepnip ball, for my cats, with a great display of her yarn and felted soaps and all kinds of yarn related toys for people, too. 

What she's doing here is making sure that the hole through which catnip was inserted gets covered over with the felting.

She's wonderful!  what a warm and engaging person, and her display of yarn and felted items was a treat. 

Hearing that my cats don't play much with toys, she insisted that this one be a test toy.  So I did bring it home, happily, and left it up on the kitchen counter.

Not long before Marigold came sniffing and looking and wondering, since toys may not be high on her agenda, but catnip is and it's been a while.  So I tossed the ball for her and she made a total fool of herself, rolling and biting and throwing and generally getting all glazed over.  

 Where'd it go? can't see properly now

 I know it's around here, but can't seem to....

 Ah, got it!

Kris, I'd say this is a success! I let Mara have first play, since she gets bustled out of a lot by Duncan who's twice her size and a Big Important Male Cat, so this was a ladies' quiet afternoon party.

And it was so good to meet you, after reading you all this time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Twp Fat Ladies and this rather small one work together

Two Fat Ladies, that comic turn, combined with music hall act, and serious food historians  in the television food world, both sadly now gathered to the great Aga in the Sky, are out on DVD, and I've been watching them with great amusement.  

I borrowed their cookbook, too, though very little of what they cook would actually make an appearance in this kitchen.  It's a lot about meat and lard and butter and other such stuff. But now and then there's an item that's worth pursuing.

Before I do that, though I wonder if you noticed the 88 on Jennifer's motorbike registration number?  did you know, I didn't until just now, that in Bingo 88 is called Two Fat Ladies! just a little footnote to the panoply of Western history here.

Anyway, I decided to make a brave attempt at using up even more of the corn in the freezer before the new farmshare year starts, and made their Corn, Crab and Cilantro Fritters.  

 Left Clarissa, right Jennifer the owner of the motorbike and sidecar in which they tootled all over the UK cooking and having adventures.

Great fun to make, and not sure they were quite worth it.  Next time I might go easier on the cilantro and jolt the crab a bit with Old Bay Seasoning, if there's a next time. Canned crab, nothing else available.  

Anyway, I now have several meals' worth of them in the freezer as well as the lunch I had today. They don't look as pretty as in the magazines, because my food stylist once again failed to show up, but they are definitely very edible.

What Boud Did, aka My Life and Hard Times

Another in the long chapter of self inflicted foolishness happened this morning.  At the PO, with my sportsac, needed to rummage in it for various items, as I posted off a little parcel and bought stamps. Then as I gathered up my wallet and keys and receipts, there it wasn't.

 The culprit.

Oh, panic, my purse gone...asked the staff if anyone had seen it, checked the counters, ran out checked my car, came back and asked again if it had been seen.  Whereupon the patient lady behind the counter who has her own personal opinion of my cognitive abilities, pointed to my shoulder and said, what's that, then?  
Yes, it was the sportsac, now very light because the parcel was gone, and which I'd evidently hooked onto my shoulder and forgotten.  Sigh. So I burst out laughing and thought oh well, comic relief for the glum people waiting in line, and left quickly.

Got home, check email and find an article from a friend in the medical field, all about how making art and making craft and getting out and being connected and using computers and all that might possibly stave off dementia and incapacity.

To which I say, oh, based on my track record with cellphones and glasses and now shoulder bags, I greatly doubt that.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

First daffodils, broken but rising above it

So the earliest daffodils came into bloom and were promptly knocked flat by wind yesterday, so I rescued them from the groundcover and installed them in the house.  I usually prefer to leave flowers in place, but they needed a rescue.  I did leave all the foliage, so as to feed next year's flowers.  The witch hazel in the same vase only appeared yesterday, so I picked a branch right away.

 Tiny doll, permanently installed on her crystal bench, is clearly happy to have company.  Her hair is silk roving, only the best around here..

Witch hazel is usually a January phenomenon here, and is often a great lift to pick and bring home, actual flowers in winter, complete with scent. This year who knows, they were probably encased in ice until this week.  But late or not, good to see them again.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vital Kitchen Tools with Reference to Cezanne

I do like to read about what cookbook authors think is vital in the kitchen.  Especially when I notice what they leave out.  Such as a small tack hammer for those occasions when you can't get the knife started in the melon. Or the saw for opening the pumpkin. Or, as in my own kitchen, the handy slipjoint pliers.

These have now permanently left their friends the tools, and come to live in the kitchen drawer along with the winecork puller outer.

The reason for this goes back in history, to when the vintners cleverly got away from corks made of, well, cork. They then adopted these new corkoid plastic devices, which grip the corkscrew in a death grip, get the cork out okay, but then it's the cook's own job (old joke of my Mom, God sends food, the divil sends cooks) where was I, oh yes, the job of getting the cork back off the corkscrew.  

Why they don't just get with it and go to screwcap tops, which everyone in the industry knows would work as well, we might ask. Before we realize the screwcaps might just have that aura of likker in a brown paper bag, and not command the price of a bottle you really have to work to get into, well, it's marketing, that's why.

So we home sommeliers, who don't even have that little cup thing hanging on a chain proclaiming our status, well we resort to the slipjoint pliers, when they're not helping tighten drawer pulls and getting needles out of tricky situations, and they do a nice job of tackling that industrial grip the cork has on the opener.

The pic is what Cezanne might have set up if he'd had to do this. But in his day, even if he could afford wine, they had real corks which are not so hard to deal with.  He would have had a problem with the design of the still life setup, well, so do I, but this isn't art, this is an industrial demo pic.  I rest my case. And my pliers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

White Flower Farms comes through as promised

My Golden Showers climbing rose arrived today!  with an apologetic little note from the growers explaining that, conditions in New England being a bit chilly this winter, growth is slow, but it will in fact happen in a couple of weeks.  

Since I live only about a hundred miles south of White Flower Farms, I wasn't surprised, and in fact glad they didn't send this earlier anyway, since I couldn't have planted it.

Tomorrow we have a milder day forecast, and the ground is already nice and damp, so Digging will Happen.  Yay!  watch this space for interminably dull discussions of how Rosie Golden is doing, and how she's feeling, and if she likes her new surroundings, and if the fence is to her liking and so on.  No, I never personify my plants, no.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Return to the Labyrinth

Finally, after months of delay from storms, kneedeep snow and ice on the labyrinth,it's all cleared up, and today I was able to keep a number of labyrinth promises, for two departed people and their families, and for various other intentions.  

This included the life of Oliver Sacks, who wrote recently that he was nearing the end of his life.  I had the joy of being part of a book he wrote a while back, after we had an email correspondence, and felt that this world famous thinker and neurologist and totally gentle man, was himself still so open to learning that it was a joy to cross paths with him even briefly.  So, wherever he is on his journey, I walked for him, too.

Always at some point on the slow pilgrimage around the labyrinth, there's some tiny object waiting for me to pick it up and see its significance and add it to the center of the circle.  

Today it was a little ring of blue plastic stuff, very narrow, which fitted on my finger, and was so emblematic of the various points in life of the people in my intentions, and the unbroken whole of us all, that it was the center of thinking today.

This is it, lying on that rock in the foreground.  Never fails. Always find an inspirational object, always get answers to my own puzzles, while the birds sing unconcernedly and there's street noise, all part of the day.

Over the winter the storms and the squirrels have made inroads into the Tibetan prayer flags, but they're still there, more or less.As are we all, in one way or another.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Friends home from India with good news and not so good

Shabnam from next door arrived back today, well, early this morning after a 17 hour flight, then straight to work, battling jetlag. I had sort of kept an eye on things while she was away a couple of weeks, and she brought me back my downfall -- box of Indian sweets, oh dear.  No idea what's in them, but some are covered in edible silver, a lot of them have various nuts and spices, and all of them suit me just fine.

You see inroads in the foreground, with edible silver bitten into...and the fruit on the left is my first try at a fresh guava, hand brought for me.  I've had them canned only, so this was a great idea to offer me.  Another food adventure.  I'll open and explore it tomorrow.

It's become a joke with Indian friends who keep feeding me special treats to let them know if I don't like any of them. Up to now, they haven't hit on anything I don't like..

She also brought the news that the relative the other friend went to see at his last, died very shortly after she got there, with some family in attendance.  Sad journey home.  I'll walk the labyrinth for the departed father tomorrow, and for the family.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter, or Spring, or Passover!

And a comparative day of rest.  Yesterday too busy even to blog, which will tell you something.  So this is a kind of six word Sunday instead.  With good wishes to all, whatever the significance of the day and the season.

Much happening yesterday, involving buying another gallon of paint since the free paint, as expected, was two walls short of a studio.  The studio having a kind of entryway, the place has six walls, and I've done four of them. This involved moving furniture and art materials yet again, but the nice thing about painting is that you can see what you accomplished, unlike other domestic labors.

And here's an incredibly transformed window area, after genius handyman Mike, heretofore referred to as GH, replaced the entire sill which had been flooded years ago in a dramatic spill in the course of making art despite cats, and rounded off the front edge, very nice detail, he's good at this.  

It looked too desperate to picture before, too depressing, I hate before pictures, so here's the lovely result.  The paint looks pinker in pix than in life where it's a softer shade, but still very nice as you see, as a backdrop to the art and ideas that get put up on it.  

Here's a handmade paper piece and a wire and found metal drawing.

And there were numerous other vital errands, such as getting the prosecco to celebrate Easter with HS today, kitty litter and new boxes for the cats, they're thrilled to have new bathrooms, DVDs for our viewing pleasure, the humans that is, the cats don't care as long as they can sleep on top of me while I watch, and various other items that kept on occurring to me as I was out.

All in all, I was in three towns shopping yesterday.  I went specially to a hardware store that is not the hated big box type place which shall remain nameless, but a real one, complete with people who know what they're selling and actually talk with the customers. And give advice, and know how to match paint from a little board I'd painted to show them, and how to figure out an equivalency since their paint is not the original brand I had, and how to advise me on the most economical way of doing all this.

In the space of less than five minutes I was complimented three times on the hat and scarf I was wearing, each time to say that the color was very good on me -- these are paint specialists, very tuned in to color -- which cheered me up no end.  

One of the wonderful features of having your hair turn silver and grey is that you can wear different colors.  This color didn't look half as good on me with very dark hair.  I pointed out, too, that the scarf was a mix of string from the hardware store and yarn, and they were amazed to find that they sell art materials.  

I dyed the string after all the knitting was done, and was happy with the result  It's surprisingly warm on those nippy spring days where the wind is not your friend.  Recognize this, Mare? it's like the one I made for you.  Just right for crisp Bay Area days, too.

It's knitted on big needles to create the openwork effect, with tapering ends. No idea where I got that idea.  I can't remember what pattern I used for the hat either, but it's somewhere in my Big Book of Saved Patterns I've Knitted.  The yarn was a gift of Stefi, so all in all, this set doesn't owe me much!

And now the table's laid, the scalloped potatoes just need to finish cooking, the ham ready to slice, Danish canned, since I think their farming practices are somewhat better than ours, politics gets in everywhere..the corn and peas and carrots to gently cook, separately, that is, with a chunk of thyme pesto, lovely springtime flavor. The mustard and the plum sauce and the tamarind sauce all set out. Tea tray is set up. Handsome Son will bring the cheese and crackers and the Easter chocolate and jellybeans for dessert.

All set to enjoy a lovely afternoon, sunshine today, maybe a walk  later, always a good feature of time together.

The Easter setup all ready, too, despite spirited attempts by Duncan to play hockey with the painted eggs.  And Dollivers dolled up to wish you a good day, too, before squabbling over who gets which egg.  Greensleeves, a model resident, never fusses about new dresses, perfectly satisfied with her outfit, what a contrast. Bunniver, having brought all the eggs, looks on wisely and lets the Dollivers argue.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Just maybe Spring is arriving.

To wit: a sudden urge, after painting another wall of the studio and moving all the furniture ready to do the next wall tomorrow, then a long walk in a newly opened park with a walking trail, just to explore, then home to riddle out the condensation outlet pipe for the air conditioning system.  One of those days where you wonder where the energy came from.

The last, mysterious riddling rite, is a spring thing that you have to do to make sure that the pipe which for reasons best known to themselves and their yacht builders, the home builders installed several inches below ground, where was I, oh yes, and which is what gets the condensation in the summer outside and not pouring through your living room ceilinganyway, that pipe, needs to be relieved of its winter's buildup of leaves and debris.  

This means finding it, and digging enough around it and removing debris so that the condensation won't just try to travel right back along the pipe again, and then back up eventually into the pipe above the living room ceiling, given that gravity is being defied by their design. Neighbors have found this out the hard way, when they've sat in that nice sunny corner and found they were getting a surprise shower. Of water and of ceiling bits.

And it's vital to do the cleanup, but only when the season changes does the urge come over me to
1. find the *(*(* thing,now buried partly by wind and weather and partly by the *(*(* landscapers blowing leaves and debris onto the patio as fast as I can sweep it off, and straight into the pipe.
2. find the little weed cutting thing that works a treat to pull out debris and you always hope not small dead animals  

3. move all the items that got put on top of that area in the course of moving containers about in the fall, and then 
4. actually get down, find the pipe, dig around it and then clean it.  Working several inches below ground level is not advisable for your back, but it's only once a year.

But today there was an instant springtime reward for this virtuous labor -- a couple of the pots in the way of the digging had new green growth.  I tasted, I swooned.  Chives, sharp as only the first spring ones are, now some of them snipped and ready to eat this evening.

Like this:  snipping of chives 

over helping of homemade soft cheese (dead easy, boil milk, sour it with lemon, collect the curds, drain in cheesecloth, put in bowl, save whey in freezer for soup) 

and this is the stuffing for a nice baked potato for dinner.  

Along with a glass of merlot.followed by a strong cup of Vietnamese coffee, current craze, and more viewing of Vicious this evening.  I hope they get cracking and make more seasons of it. These guys are getting up there, seize the day, fellers.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Plain 'n Fancy, Food that is

In the interests of scientific advance, I tested the tamarind sauce, as a marinade for plain old flounder.  Just spread a couple of teaspoons over, about an hour before baking, then, before putting it into a 380F oven for 15 minutes, shook homemade breadcrumbs over, at last a use for them, and a nice shake of lemon zest.

The result is well worth the doing.  Flounder is very amenable to any sort of flavoring, and this one worked so well.  With frozen peas, from Canada, too early for our locals, Canadian Doll did a little dance about this, and instant mashed potato.  That's the plain part.  The fancy part is the marinade etc.

This made two dinners, and there's plenty of the sauce left for other adventures.

Now I have to go in search of spackle to get started on painting the studio.  One wall at a time, usual procedure.  But it's getting harder and harder to start the first wall..I blame the Congress. Gridlock around the can of paint.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Enough Tamarind, for now, that is, and out to the Preserve

Since I did promise to report back on my tamarind cooking exploits, and before you all scroll on past, eyes rolling, isn't she ever going to move on from ***** tamarind, I just thought you'd like to see some results.

I made the Tamarind/Ginger/Jaggery sauce from my Indian cookbook, and had all the ingredients in the house, always a good start.  Except I didn't have fresh ginger, but I did have an excellent ginger powder which worked, too.  Jaggery? I didn't know either, but it turns out it's a mix of honey and molasses, both of which I always have.  

Clockwise from bottom left, box of remaining pods, Indian cookbook, seed debris, tiny cup of pulp and shell debris.

So I had to get half a cup of tamarind pulp, which amounted to about seven pods of it, and go from there. It's the stickiest substance in creation, but washes off the cook surprisingly easily.

And I saved the seeds, of course, and will dry and plant them months hence. I already planted the ones I was soaking, so we'll see what happens with them.

Anyway, the sauce, quite meditative, longish prep time, you have to be in the mood for this,  you make turmeric juice by soaking the t. pulp in a cup of hot water for half an hour, then straining it to remove the seeds and debris.  

Then you add in the other ingredients, then cook it down to about three quarters of a cup of the most pungent and wonderful stuff you can imagine. 

 Here it is cooking down, and on the left are the saved and cleaned seeds from this batch.

The sauce involves the three items mentioned in its name, plus cumin, and she adds raisins, but I didn't because I don't like them.  She had a touch of asafoetida too, which I didn't but I don't think I missed much.

Only a touch is needed to go with fish, or chicken, or maybe to add to a marinade.  And I cracked up when I discovered it's very much like Worcestershire sauce!  who knew.  But much better, because all freshly made.  So I'd say it's worth the effort because it will last ages, and was quite fun to work with.  I think some people might just prefer to trot out and buy Worcestershire, but that's them.

All in all, I think tamarind is a food, a hobby, a gardening sideline, and well worth the price of admission.

Then I decided that it was high time I got out and about, in field and fen, you know, and went off to the Preserve, warmly togged up in warm hat, coat, etc, with binoculars ready and camera, too. Very muddy underfoot, but my sturdy shoes don't care.

I spotted fox scat, so the red foxes are still around despite the winter, and trees where the beavers have bitten through, felled a few big ones, and one of my pix has one that's about to go, so I didn't stay long there.  And out on the lake there was a big flock of American mergansers, they're a long and beautiful duck/goose sort of bird, wonderful in flight, but too far away for my camera.  

I was hoping to see them, right time of year for them to stop by a few days on the lake. They took off several times, all flying in formation low over the water, amazing to watch.  One flight went right over my head, too fast for me to do more than admire. The males are brilliant white and black, the females browner, but with fancy fluffy hats.

Note the evidence of beaver work above, that tree in the middle ready to come down

 Ice seen from two sides of the lake.

Big ice floes on the lake, and the sound of the water lapping under the edges was musical.  Probably it will be gone by the next time I get out there, so you are treated to more than enough pix of the general scene.  First trip out there in months, and wonderful to be back. 

This is one of my favorite little places in the preserve, an elegant way of crossing a small chasm, and very Zen as you descend slowly and carefully, stop in the middle, then ascend.  Never fails to change your sense of where you are.  I think this evokes the poet in most of us.

So that was today. Oh, and I blew the Easter eggs, ready to decorate in a day or two when they are dry.  No pix yet, you know what eggs look like! and these are just empty ones which look exactly like full ones.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

When in Doubt, Go All Out 6WS

More adventures with tamarinds before I leave this subject.  I found that when you remove one from the shell, it has a kind of netting of fibers that pull off quite easily, leaving behind edible pulp, which you can pull apart into segments, each with a seed in the middle.  Eat off the pulp, very nice, and here are a few segments in the fridge, drying a little to see if that affects them

and I then wondered hm, what about the seeds.

I figured that since they are rock hard, they need help to germinate, just as big seeds like morning glory need a nick or abrasion and soaking.  So I put a couple directly into a little container of potting soil inside a baggie to act like a greenhouse

and I'm soaking another couple which I nicked, for a day or so before planting them.   

And since there are tons of seeds in the package, I have quite a few to experiment with.  Not hoping for a tree, exactly, just interested to see if I can get an interesting houseplant out of the experiment.

I did find a good recipe in my Indian cookbook for a sauce made with tamarind and ginger, which I'll try, since it looks good for a number of uses. I bet I end up with yet another little nameless container of red sauce in the freezer.

And I found a lot of total duds by googling, honestly, there ought to be a law.  Such as the dope who writes a recipe she names Tamarind Chicken Curry, no sign of any curry spices, then I notice that curry leaves are one of the ingredients.  She doesn't know it's not spicy? that curry leaves have nada to do with the spices involved in making a curry? evidently not.  You use them anywhere you'd use a bay leaf, add wonderful depth of flavor to vegetables.

Clearly not a knowledgeable cook, or perhaps her editor is at fault, but there's her recipe out there...probably a good chicken recipe, but not what you'd expect if you were all set to eat a nice chicken curry.  I blame the English language for calling these harmless little leaves by a wrong name, really.

This is why I was asking if any blogistas use tamarind in cooking, so that I'll get something that's worth trying.  If I find something good, if the sauce I found in my Indian cookbook is good, I'll let you know about it.  

There are as many dud recipes on the internet as there are quack medicines, and that's saying something.  And there are a lot of multi ingredient multi stage recipes that, as dogonart observed, aren't worth the trouble.  I like simple, and I think flavor likes simple, too. Not that I have any strong feelings on the matter, of course.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Adventures with Tamarinds

In which the intrepid shopper realizes that the Asian store is probably a likely place to find them, tamarind not being so exotic and strange to other nations, and indeed went there and did so.

These are fresh tamarinds, not processed or anything, and taste different from the little chunk our instructor gave me yesterday. I wonder if hers was dried in some way. Hers was more pungent, very delicious, but the fresh ones are gentler, still good, though.  Anyway, they're known as the date of India, and if you pinch off a bit of the flesh and taste, you'll see why.  But not as sweet as dates, and more interesting.

But that's getting ahead.  Here's the box as found in the store. The labels says to eat as snack, okay, I can manage that.  

Once open, I was a bit puzzled about what to do next. 

So I figured, oh just plunge in, famous last words, and broke one open. And this is how it looked.

The outer casing is brittle and has a fine network of lines inside. The flesh inside, in which I suppose are seeds, haven't got in there yet, is soft and easy to pinch off a bit to sample.  It all looks a bit x-rated, NSFW, but keep calm and carry on sampling.

My friend and handyman happened to stop in at that point to do some measuring, and he's also a great cook, so I made him taste, too.  Like me he'd heard of, but never eaten, tamarind.  Not sure he wants to proceed, but he did try it and said, hm, interesting.  His taste in food not quite as exotic as mine, but he's still game to taste anyway.

So I have to continue with this and see what happens.  They instruct you firmly to refrigerate them, so I will.  And I need to find out more activities than just eating as a snack, not that there's anything wrong with that..what do you do about seeds, etc.  

A couple of yesterday's group asked about tamarind paste, and the lecturer said no, not never, no, nasty, don't.  So I figured better to find the actual fruit.  If any innocent passers by among our blogistas knows any great recipes for tamarind, please say. 

I'm currently thinking of spreading with homemade soft cheese on bread.  But after that point, what next.