Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fireworks tonight, meanwhile flowers today

Fireworks tonight, weather permitting, but flowers today anyway


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life is Sweet, yes!

Just as the card says, Life is Sweet!  yes, when there are friends like Asha in it!  What a lovely surprise package arrived today, and thank you so much!

Two vintage cross stitch mags, one new embroidery hoop just right for the smaller motifs I'm getting into, and a lovely handknit cowl in delicious colors and the softest of yarn.  My neck always feels drafty, so this will be wonderful when the cooler days come, and it will get a lot of mileage with me!  

Thank you, Asha, always such a deft touch with what will be just the ticket. You did it again! There's always a jolt of excitement when I see your writing on a parcel.  My postie laughed when she saw me light up as she handed it to me!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

After the rain and other developments

After a massive night of driving rain and wind and of sudden allergic reaction brought on by them, I suppose, up most of the night attempting to soothe the maddening itching and swelling and blurring of eyes, sure sign molds are swirling around, anyway, the weather and I calmed down this morning a bit, and I was able to get out and see what nature had wrought.

Not a lot as far as the plants were concerned, just everyone draped in diamonds in the sunshine.

 Click to see us all better

Heather, back there you will see a copper bird feeder. Since the HOA banned bird feeding, because of the appearance of an innocent little country rat or two after the corn in the nearby fields was chopped, and the subsequent hysteria of city folks now living here who are convinced that all rats are from the subways and carry nameless disease (!), anyway, the feeder is now resting among the plants and lending a lot of tone to the landscape out there.  Copper against the foliage looks great in all weathers.

And indoors, remember the little cranberry scoop?  the two little dolls migrated from upstairs where they found the bears a bit too quiet for their taste, and took up their station on top of the bookcase.  

Then they spotted the scoop and found it was a perfect antique settle just for them.  So it's now mounted on the wall, and they can survey the whole place, as nosy as cats, with no fear of being swiped off there accidentally.  

They prefer to be separate from the doll polloi, since as they say, WE have cashmere sweaters and silk hair and handmade tatted blouses.  And they might lose them in a hurry if the DOTUS sees them.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ah, six words won't do it! 6WS

This has been one of those weeks where huge events of all kinds have been crashing in on top of one another.  

Terrible assault on the congregation at prayer in a black church, then three huge legal victories at the Supreme level, in housing, directly affecting minorities, and health care, affecting everyone too young for Medicare, and marriage equality, affecting another marginalized group.  

The President addressing the joy of the LGBT population and immediately leaving the White House  to give a eulogy for the pastor of the attacked church.  The Confederate flag finally being consigned to the museums.   Hardly time for anyone in the nation to catch a breath between tragedy and triumph.

Then Midsummer's Day, the earth turning on its axis toward a new season, and today Handsome Partner's birthday.  Handsome Son and I celebrate him on this day, since he died on HS birthday in August, so we keep that day for HS.  I think it's better to remember people on their birthdays rather than when they left us.

Friday, June 26, 2015

But lunch still has to happen, even in stirring times!

Chop wood, carry water, cook beets!  Still getting my breath back from a couple of stunningly right SCOTUS decisions this week, I came down to earth with Deborah Madison and a beet recipe.  

Full disclosure: I don't like beets, but since they were in my farmshare I felt obliged to at least try a recipe.  

And found to my surprise that I like them very much done this way, with pesto, and red onions and crushed walnuts scattered on, or atop, as recipe writers love to say. The steamed greens form a bed for the roots and the onions. This is really a side dish, but I made part of it my lunch.  And I subbed as usual, walnuts for pine nuts, and rosemary pesto for the marjoram she uses but I don't have any of.

And since the steaming water and the skins were bright red I thought I'd see if they could make a good fabric dye.  I know you can use beets but usually I think you cook them much longer and you use the parts I ate!  

See Art the Beautiful for more on

Marriage Equality is here at last

Today's decision by SCOTUS brings one more step to equal protection and civil rights to the US.  At last. Cheers to blogistas who have worked and hoped for this day, even though it seemed very far off a few years ago.  And cheers to all of us who think we should all be protected no matter who we are or who we love.  More freedom for one group is more for us all.

What a week in the US!  Legal triumphs on three fronts: civil rights, housing protection and healthcare all handed down in a couple of days.

Please bear with me if you took the pic I used here. I couldn't find a maker's name but I will credit you promptly if you let me know.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Deborah Madison and the farmshare

Before we get to lunch and Deborah Madison and her farmer's market book of recipes today, just a nod to the SCOTUS for a wise decision this morning on the ACA.  And for poor old Scalia in such a rage that, in his dissent, he entered the expression SCOTUS for the first time in history into the proceedings of the Supreme Court!  

What a person might be remembered for.  Meanwhile, all the people scared to death their health insurance might be gutted or their subsidy vanish, pushing their premiums to the stratosphere, are now exhaling all over the US. And they won't care if it's called the ACA or SCOTUSCARE.

Anyway, here goes with the current LOTUS (lunch of the United States, that is, and the Dollivers are now campaigning to be known as  DOTUS) 

This is called Elixir of Green Pea Soup or something.  Well, that told me right off it was pretty complex.  And in the end calls for a dab of truffle oil!  well, not having any truffle oil about me at the moment I skipped that bit, but did use my current crop of farmshare shell peas as well as the edible pod peas, to create this. 

Very delicate and lovely flavor, in fact worth the trouble. Especially since peas have a short season.  Enough for two large bowls.

Then on to using the first of the summer squash, just fried to golden, then served with a lovely handful of freshpicked herbs, basil, parsley.  You can't really go wrong with summer squash, and the color is so lovely, perfect summer pastel!  summer squash doesn't need a recipe, really, like a lot of farmfresh produce. Just the simplest way of cooking is fine.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Midsummer's Day or First Day of Summer, which is it?

I ask because I wonder which traditions are in collision here.  I'd much rather think of it as the first day of summer, rather than the middle, with summer half over before I've even got into it yet, but I have no doubt knowledgeable blogistas will be able to explain it all. Probably something about having two seasons long ago.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, very local eating yesterday now that the Ottolenghi frenzy has abated, with a nice two egg asparagus omelette, eggs from Griggs Farm Market, asparagus from farmshare, a handful of herbs picked from the patio, involving tarragon, parsley, oregano, peppermint and lemon balm.  

Then a little salad of lettuce from a container on the patio, part of farmshare a few weeks back, with the last of the cherry harvest, and a spritz of champagne vinegar. Total locavore smugness reigns.

Kitty Marigold threw me into a scare yesterday, refusing to eat for two days, just looking at the food then sort of turning her head. She's probably in early kidney failure, old cat now, and her coat is starting to fail, she's peeing and drinking a lot more, and I was very dismayed when she wouldn't eat, a first for her in her life.  Up to now she's been playing and wrestling with Duncan, and eating fine, which are my criteria for a happy cat, no matter what her actual health situation.

But the not eating, and looking as if everything tastes bad was the beginning of the end for dear Boud, my late lovely kitty who gave me my screen nameSo I started making sad little plans, and mentally writing her life tribute, and deciding how long to wait.

Then this morning Marigold suddenly decided she was hungry after all, scoffed her breakfast down before Duncan could get it, and I feel much better.  The plans are still in place, but they're on hold for the moment.  I wonder if she read my mind and thought, hey, not so fast.

Marigold savaging a toy, more usual activity.

Likewise Rosie Golden, my golden showers rose which totally failed to thrive, looked like dead sticks, was replaced by the growers, replacement totally ftt, too, looked like ds, too, they sent me a refund many weeks ago, and I was about to dig it out and toss it, when suddenly two days ago she put out leaves! 

 I think the threat of being tossed woke her up and she's now set to work to grow.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Life's a --saucer of cherry jam! 6WS

So the second big cherry harvest came in, and I had enough to fill a saucer, which I made into a very tart, perfectly wonderful, jam.  Just sugar, almond essence and the cherries. I think they must have their own pectin, because it jelled up fine.

And this is today's breakfast: homemade homegrown cherry jam on hot biscuit made with wholewheat, lentil and almond flours.  Which made a surprisingly terrific combo.  I wonder if it was the almond flour and the essence in the jam, echoing, though you couldn't really detect either of them.

Anyway, it struck me as a great metaphor for life, and for art, come to that -- a short but intensely wonderful and colorful experience.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finishing off the last of the puff pastry

I had just a bit of puff pastry left in the freezer from the broccoli gorgonzola pie caper, and today was the day to make a little something.  

Chicken and mozzarella spicy sausage from Griggs' Farm at the WW Farmers' Market in the freezer, too, so this made a great combo.  These are probably made from the chickens who gave us the eggs at the market recently. Or their relatives, I suppose. I doubt if I'd buy sausage from anywhere else, since these guys are from scratch makers (chicken pun there..).  Sausage rolls.

I will probably never again buy puff pastry, but this really was a treat.  Two meals' worth.  I just skinned the sausage, and put a spoonful on each strip of pastry, rolled, sealed and that was it. Two ingredients.  Nice grainy mustard to go with.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Bite Club's last stab at Ottolenghi

Last night's meeting was a great feast of dishes, all adventurous, all good, and we all applauded one another's work!  my contribution was marinated mushrooms with walnuts and tahini sauce, from Plenty.  

I used that supply of mushrooms I splurged on at the recent Farmer's Market,  a bag of mixed ones, including oysters which I'd never had.  The little dish on the left is fresh picked herbs, oregano and parsley, and the dish on the right is the sauce.  You put your helping of the mushroom/bean/walnut mix on your plate, sauce on top, pinch of herbs on top of that.

I did sub out tahini, which I don't like, from the sauce, and used half and half almond butter and peanut butter, but other than that, I was pretty good, even to shelling all the beans, what a long time it took, very meditative.  And it went over quite well.

After eating solidly for the entire club meeting, about ten different dishes to sample, all good, I came home with a little bag of sumac, from a generous cook, since I had not been able to find it.  And we're moving on next month to Deborah Madison, of whom I'd never heard, well, I've hardly heard of anyone in the food world, so this will be fun to discover.

But Ottolenghi will definitely be a big part of my menus from now on.

Then this morning it was Harvest Time for the Cherries.  

This puts things in perspective wrt my agricultural exploits, when you see this entire harvest from the bushes on the patio. About two dozen. You know you have a small output when you can count it by units. There are more ripening, though.  At least a dozen more! They're ripe but sour, so I think I'll see if I can make a little preserve with them. Toy jam!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Parva Carta and Bloomsday

Today being the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, Great Charter, where King John was pretty much forced at swordpoint to allow as how he was not all that, the Dollivers took note.  And they made unkind comparisons to Boud and how she's not all that, either, and demanded their own Magna Carta, bill of rights.

Which became in the course of heated discussion, the Parva Carta, since as Boud pointed out, the Ds are small, though she tactfully omitted any reference to their egos, so their charter ought to be The Small One, too.  And, with any luck, their demands, too.

Nothing daunted, they whipped out their first demand, and said there will be more:  here they want this Japanese style room to move into, except big enough for all the Ds and the Tinies and Elton.  

Notwithstanding my protest that this is a priceless art treasure, from the Thorne Collection in the Chicago Art Institute, which I recommend highly if you're in Chicago any time, anyway, they insisted that they Need It.  They bet any money the Charter included nice housing for all.  And jewelry for them, too, even if they aren't barons.  Also expeditions, very few of them lately.

And sticking to the housing situation, once delivery is made, they will need, immediately,  new outfits to wear in it for many  photo ops.  I compromised with one photo op of all of them plus the picture of the room of their dreams, and vague plans about putting the other requests into action. 

Which is largely what happened to parts of the Magna Carta, come to think of it, considering how much of it became law in many countries eventually, and how many of the laws are daily disregarded by people who know better.

Oh well.  And tomorrow's Bloomsday, too. For some blogistas, it's already here.  If you can tolerate hearing about this yet again, go here

And just think what Joyce would have made of this conjunction today into tomorrow, Bloom meandering about and musing on it and bringing in all kinds of literary references and indecipherable puns..he'd have to start now to get all his thinking done in time.

Elton was a bit baffled by the history and literature flying around this morning, so he played us out with In Dublin's Fair City, which was a pretty good stab at Ulysses, when you think of it.

But he couldn't think of a Runnymede song, so he played Drink, Drink, Drink from the Student Prince, near enough, he thought.  A joycean pun on  runny mead, he explained.  This dog is getting too smart for his sweater.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Homing Instinct -- where was mine? 6WS

A recent comment from a very interesting and perceptive friend I haven't been around for a while, reminded me of this : we aren't all born on the part of the planet where we belong. She commented, in a slightly different context, on how she and her husband have different comfort levels in different states, and I remembered feeling alien in some places, totally at home in others.

In the  UK, well, to a supposed Northerner,  even most of the north is alien to me, except for a small part of the Yorkshire dales.  I never in all my growing up there ever felt I belonged.  Partly it was social -- wrong class, wrong religion, wrong region, wrong gender, very good student coming from a background which didn't seem to promise that.  Though my entire family was a bunch of high achievers, huge props to our parents who left school at 12, people did in those days in that section of society, in that religion, in that region.  

And partly it was the climate which was killing me, seriously.  I was a research subject when I was an undergraduate for a bunch of newly minted doctors doing a residency at a research hospital in the city. One of them, he was very young, not used to the impact of a doctor's comments to a patient, which were better made to his colleagues, said, well you're of special interest since you're unlikely to live beyond 30 in this climate!  I guess he thought he'd better write fast.

But I found I felt more at home in France where I went to work as an au pair as a teen,  than I ever did in the UK.  And not at home at all for one minute in Canada where I spent a summer with family.  And at home totally and forever in the US, where we knew nobody and started totally from scratch.  Go figure!  But it's not perhaps so surprising since some of my family did the same thing, landing in New York in the 1850s and similarly, as far as I knew, never looking back. So perhaps they felt this way, too!

Home, home on the Pond...

The first time I came to New York, it even smelled right!  the sounds were right, the atmosphere a bit too high strung for this introvert, but nonetheless.  Then we were in Wisconsin for a couple of years, career related for Handsome Partner, and was that ever alien corn.

Living, finally, on the eastern seaboard with the ocean on the correct side of the land, and within an hour of my house, not unlike growing up in the northeast of another country a bus ride from the sea (that was the part I liked), I felt finally I'd arrived where I was supposed to be all along.  Never looked back.   

Even though I had to learn all new birds and flowers and how to grow stuff, amazing that I could grow things like tomatoes and corn and pumpkins right outside in the weather! to this northern clime person that continues to be a major miracle. But it feels so right, too.

I've explored quite a bit of the US, largely in the course of business travel where I would tack on a day or two to a trip just to mosey about.  California can never overcome its unfortunate drawback, having the ocean on the wrong side of the land, how can that be?  it's flying in the face of nature!  and I couldn't seem to breathe in Wisconsin, way too far inland, beautiful and clean air, what a treat, but still too much land all around. No edges.

What about you, blogistas?  did you have to move to land in the right place?  are you still looking for your right place? were you born in the right place anyway? are you a wilderness type? a countryside type? city type? mountain type? eclectic I can live anywhere happily type? Please chime in, not necessarily in six words!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mejadra is the latest adventure in the kitchen

The more I cook from the Ottolenghi books, the more I realize that the dishes are well worth the effort since the recipes are big enough for about six meals!  so one big mise en scene, the larger stage into which you do the mis en place, gives me a week's dinners. See what happens when I send away for ze French lentilles, zey come wiz ze language prompts. And, to get back to English,  includes enough to share with friends.

 Mejadra has a number of different English versions of the spelling depending on what language you're coming from, but is definitely a widely known Middle Eastern dish, and I can see why.

It's a wild mixture of basmati rice, green lentils (I actually sent away for these, no green ones available here, from France, just bragging) yellow onions and tons of spices, and all takes place in one pot.  You boil the lentils first and have them wait in the wings, while you fry the onions in three batches, there's a lot.

You spend ages doing the onions (this is where a lot of those onions I got the other day for the yellow skins for dyeing, went)  to crispish, then wipe the pan and do the cooked lentils and raw rice and various spices and water, then lid it and simmer for a while, then unlid, cover it with dishtowel (yes, he does say a clean one, what did he THINK we were going to use, but I digress) then lid it again over the towel, and leave it alone for a while before serving.

In my case, in the big dish a friend gave me because his family never uses it.  Chef O. has made me use it about twice a week!

Anyway, here it is, and very filling and all that, interesting crisp and chewy and spicy, but  not very.  Some people might add a dash of salt, I'm light on salt. It's funny to eat, because the first forkful is okay, not very exciting, then as you continue your mouth gets filled with the flavors and you realize you're going to have trouble stopping!

Not much cleanup, either, all done in the 15 minutes of waiting for the rice to finish.  This is a feature chefs never seem to put in the recipe: how many pots, pans, knives, spoons, ladles, wrenches, forks and mops the cook might need before she's done.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Farmshare, or are they dyestuffs?

Farmshare day brought a massive curly lettuce, strawberries and new season's peas. So Spring is officially here.  And I must admit that I wondered if the lettuce could make a good dye material, what with all the dyeing going on over at Art the Beautiful.  But the strawberries are definitely going to be food.

I think the best thing to do with fresh strawberries is just eat them. Little sprinkle of sugar, maybe, but they're way too good to fool about cooking them.  Likewise the lettuce, just torn up and tossed with a few shreds of blue cheese, enough cooking for them, too.

Completely unrelated to this, but you know about earworms? no, I'm not going to be cruel enough to suggest any to you. But I noticed today that I have a parallel thing: mnemonic worms. You know those little things you use to help you remember totally useless stuff which will be of no use once the exam's over?  

I have a few of them.  Like SUNWACD.  Which I'm sure you immediately spotted as the way to remember the tributaries of the River Ouse. That's a river in North Yorkshire.  The tribs are: Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Don. Now aren't you glad you know that?

This came up from Meanqueen's recent couple of entries about a trip to Yorkshire, where she mentions one of them and set me off.  Then there's ROYGBIV, which I expect you really do know, is the colors of the rainbow in order.

Do you have any to inflict on us? Medical personnel among us no doubt know On Old Olympus' Torrid Tops, etc.  I bet they even know what they all stand for and why.  And the xrated version, too.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Better day! and food ahoy

Energy starting to flow back, and coughing much better, and general spirits rising once again, thanks in part to the encouragement I got in here, and via email, thank you all! anyway, cooking happened.  Also a lot of studio work, for which go here

I made the Lemon Basmati Rice from Plenty More, as usual, very labor intensive, but really worth it.  One thing about this book, you have to really inspect the instructions to see all the sneaky time lapses they fit in. 

Such as saying add the basmati rice, and you're about to do that, when you read on: which you have soaked in water for 25 minutes, then rinsed, then allowed to drain.  That sort of thing lengthens your work time quite a bit. I think he forgets we don't have prep cooks and sous chefs at hand. And that we're old and cranky and when all else fails, read the directions.

Anyway, it also uses quite a few curry leaves, which is good because I have a backlog of them.  And the liquid is a lovely mixture of spices and herbs, in which you bake the rice, with a covering of parchment paper then foil.  I didn't have cinnamon sticks since I'd ground them all up, but ground cinnamon is fine anyway.

What happens when you remove the coverings at the end of the process is accidental art: this is how the parchment paper looked, no assist from me.

And after the rice had its butter and lemon added, and was fluffed up, I served it to me with slices of lovely free range farm chicken sausage, which I'd roasted along with the rice, same oven, same heat, worked nicely.

This has made about six main meals, some of which I'll feed to other people.  And it's a wonderful step up from ordinary old rice.
Also if I need to keep resting now and then I have some great food in the freezer, easy to heat and eat. 

Going to lie down a bit now. Maybe I'll find a nice Royal scandal movie on Youtube..secret vice.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Report From Blogger Under The Weather 6WS

I rarely talk about health matters in this blog, because even when I'm physically in a bit of a struggle, mentally I'm still ticking over nicely, so I keep on blogging if I can be upright!  this week I've had a time just moving and keeping awake and climbing stairs.  

Might be a virus, I think, or maybe a late onslaught of allergy.  Whatever it is, it's doing a job on my energy.  Will be cancelling attendance at a couple of things just in the next day or two, I think, since I finally realized I don't have to force myself to do everything all the time.  Or as HP used to say, very annoying because true, "you're never happy till you've overdone it!"  And when I have to sit and get up my energy just to take a shower, I know things isn't quite right.And I went next door to attend to all the houseplants on absent neighbor's patio still in robe and pajamas, in case I didn't feel up to getting dressed, very unusual around here.

Okay, end of whine alert.  And I want to show you today's lunch, which I finally got to after ages of deciding to get up and move into the kitchen.  Once there I made a nice little omelette with chunks of cooked asparagus (cooked then frozen for uses such as this), pepper and kosher salt, and a little pinch of baharat, that spice mixture from Ottolenghi, plus several capers.  I separated the eggs, added the seasonings in to the yolks, because I just learned that they work best for seasonings, then added in the beaten whites.  Worked nicely.

And the odd looking beverage beside the plate is not carpet shampoo, nor yet algae scooped up from a pond, it's a surprisingly good tasting smoothie.  This is a handful of  kale, farmshare has started kale this year, torn up small, blended with lemon juice, some water, sliced banana and diced Granny Smith apple.  The glass shows you half the amount it makes.  And it's so good that I might be making a lot more smoothies using leafy vegs when I run out of ways of cooking them.  Kale is a bit bitter for salad purposes for my taste but in this mix it's very good.  And will maybe restore my energy. And cure my sore throat.  And cough.  Oh dear, poor me...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Turns out chimps could cook....

Some cool experiments with chimps in the feature news, including some, done years ago by Jane Goodall, whom I trust not to be mean to animals, show that chimps like cooked food more than raw if they can get it, and undergo processes that they see as cooking.  

Experimenters give them slices of raw potato, show them to put them in a fake oven, researchers then replaced them with cooked slices, the chimps retrieved the slices now, they think, cooked, and liked them to the point of trying to get them cooked all the time.

So they could cook if: they had access to fire, had opposable thumbs, had good cookbooks, and had the vocabulary to express themselves suitably when the recipe doesn't work as promised...

However I have a lot of respect for chimp intelligence and I suspect that as long as the researchers are willing to do the cooking, the chimps will be willing to let them.

Not unrelated to this is the flying series of texts and calls and visits I had yesterday, related to what was in fact a simple operation of borrowing and lending a neighbor's key to a trusted third party.  Every solution another friend and I offered turned out to be too simple, and now we have a situation where Neighbor A, who is away, arranged for Friend B to stay in the house with the dogs while Relative C has to get back to work after watching them very faithfully, while beloved Relative D gave birth to Neighbor A's granddaughter, far away, proud grandparents in attendance. Oh, and I have a pic of the newborn, beautiful girl.

Anyway,  all clear so far?  so Friend B texted multiply and called me, leaving pretty much involved messages involving Neighbor E's spare key to Neighbor A's house.  Part of the confusion arose from the fact that Handsome Son and Neighbor E have same first name...rising above that, Neighbor E, falling down laughing, came across the street yesterday and handed Neighbor L, I mean me, his spare key to the other neighbor's house, to hold until Friend B comes to collect it later in the week.  He said he too had had a spate of texts and calls over this, and had unraveled the request.

We both agreed that just having Friend B pick it up from its unlocked permanent hiding place would have worked, too, without involving any other parties at all, but we concluded it was not people-intensive enough for her.  I also happen to have the numeric code you can use instead of a key, which I could have told her, but that would also be too easy!!  
However, I'm fine, since it means I'll get to see Friend B, and I enjoy that anyway. But I think a troop of chimps would have settled this faster by making a researcher do it.

But it did give me the chance to ask Neighbor E while he was at my house, what sort of wood that decorative cranberry scoop is, and he opined, my wood expert this, that it's pine, it is indeed old and it's probably been hung on a wall for many years.  All of which fits with what we knew before but he didn't.  And I learned about ten things about old pine in the process.

And  I gave him a sample of the dipping sauce I made for the Ottolenghi leek fritters -- he's a great cook -- to give us his thoughts on what it might go with, since neither Handsome Son nor I thought it was a good match with the leek fritters it was designed for by Ottolenghi. So he's off to experiment and test it on his noncooking but appreciative wife, Neighbor F, I guess, if we're coding everyone.

Little postscript wrt the fritters: as I worked on the complicated sauce I wondered if Handsome Son would test it then request ketchup.  After dinner, I asked him about the sauce and he said, well, it would be better with maybe fish, but with the fritters I'd have liked ketchup but didn't like to ask, after all the trouble you I assured him that in this house if he wants ketchup, he shall have it!  But I did appreciate the tact.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Stop me before I cook again...

Today I found myself more or less by accident, cooking and baking up a storm. All set to make the Ottolenghi Broccoli and Gorgonzola pie, I also noticed I didn't have a nice little something for afternoon tea.  

So I made a carrot bread while I was thinking about the pie.  I'd noticed the grated carrots in the freezer while I was finding the broccoli and leeks for the pie, and remembered I meant to use it for bread.

So, more cooking than intended took place. The carrot bread was fine, not too difficult, from my old Amish cookbook, simple reliable stuff.

And the Ottolenghi pie was as anticipated, very labor intensive, involving gorgonzola (I subbed another blue cheese, just as good) and frozen puff pastry, which I never used before, having not had much interest in premade crusts.  But I thought oh well, I'll try it.

And since I had to bake it blind first, I scrambled to find something to take the place of dried beans which I didn't have any of, and used lentils, which worked fine, on top of the parchment paper. 

In case this para is a mystery to you: when you bake a pie shell empty, i.e. blind, you have to weigh it down a bit so it doesn't balloon up and all over making it impossible to fill.  So something that won't cook but will just sit there is the ticket. Often that means dried beans, but I didn't have any.  Then it's fun trying to remove the beans and parchment paper after the blind baking is done and the pastry has done its best to puff out over the paper trapping it..

Meanwhile, back at the stove, or cooker. as brit cooks charmingly put it, do they call a cup a drinker, I wonder, but I digress,  the broccoli is boiled and cooled, the leeks are sauteed in butter, but I did half and half olive oil and butter.  

Then you're in a whirl of making the sauce involving various herbs, which I had to run out and cut, and the cheese, and a beaten egg, and a mixture of cream, I subbed plain yogurt, and some water and other things, it's a blur now.  No pix of the process, too many implements and surfaces and materials flying about!

The shell was actually quite fun to roll out, and then had to be in the freezer for a while, before being baked blind, then cooled, then it was filled with the leeks, the sauce, and the broccoli being sort of added on top. Then the pie lid, fitted on, and pressed around the edges to make it filling proof, was brushed with the egg to glaze it, and it went in to bake.

And came out looking amazingly like the picture in the book. Except they have a nicer dish.

 It's browner than it looks in my pic, and is amazingly filling. This will be about a week's food!  maybe a helping will cross the street to friends, who already got a nice couple of slices of the carrot bread.

And Handsome Son is coming over this evening briefly, so maybe he'll bear off a helping, too.  

Me, I needed a little rest after that activity.   I threw myself into the recliner with a slice of carrot bread, little spoonful of sour cream spread on top, and a strong cup of English breakfast tea. Beats me how cooks put on weight, considering the mileage I put in for this pie.  It's an aerobic activity. 

Then later for supper,  a serving of pie with a nice merlot.  Filling isn't in it!  this stuff could hold off an army.  As usual, I wonder if it freezes..

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Art muscled its way into the kitchen today

So if you're interested in the intersection, or collision, of Art and Food, go here

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Eggcorn! new-to-me perfect word 6WS

 Me? I'm the original Cross Eyed Bear that you sing about in the hymn...

It turns out, and I expect a lot of blogistas knew this already, that the slips people make when they hit the wrong word, such as wheelbarrel for wheelbarrow, have a name!  Coined by a linguist feller who was studying the word eggcorn spoken in mistake for acorn, it seemed like the perfect word for the phenomenon.

The thing is that eggcorns aren't just wrong hearing, and they're not intended to be funny, they're a genuine miss, but in some ways they are perfectly right, too.  

Take eggcorn:  an acorn does look like an egg in a cup.  Or my dear friend who went to Paris and was charmed by the residents there, whom she called the Parishioners -- cities do act parochially, like a lot of villages with their own center of activity and shopping and social life, so it was so wrong it was right.

And there's human cry, for hue and cry, which is deadly accurate for a different sort of concept, the suffering behind the hue and cry. Old Timers' Disease for Alzheimer's Disease.  And old wise tale, for old wives' tale, because it's probably true!

But they're not intended to be puns or jokes. We are not including the cat who ate the cheese then crouched by the mousehole with baited breath.  However, full disclosure: when I typed mousehole, it first came out as mousehold, which is a great eggcorn right there..

Dear Readers:  please chime in with your own favorite eggcorns.  Extra credit for brilliant folks who can do it in six words!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Plenty. Leek Fritters from the book, that is.

Last night large storms made going out a bit hazardous so I bagged the meeting I had planned on and stayed home to cook today's lunch ahead of time. Just as well, as it turned out.  These Leek Fritters, while, very very good, are also very very labor intensive. 

 I enjoyed spending the evening beating eggwhite, making batter, slicing and cooking leek and shallots, crushing garlic, making a complicated sauce, sorting spices and using up every measuring device in the house.  But it's not the sort of thing you sling together in a rush, unlike my usual fritters.

 Here are two test fritters (makings of quite a few more in the fridge, to be tested on Handsome Son, what do you bet he tries the sauce then puts ketchup on..tomorrow, as well as lunch for me today). 

Slightly browner than I meant, being a new recipe which browned faster than I realized it would. And there's the dressing sauce in the background.  I did take a picture of the fritters with sauce on, but though very good to taste, it didn't look appetizing in a picture.  Maybe that's why he didn't show a pic of the sauce in action, either.

Here's Ottolenghi's pic of his fritters, and the sauce.  To the right of the book is my sauce. He used a food processor, I used my blender and it worked just fine.
I had no yogurt, the Asian store not having received its delivery, so I subbed soft tofu. A bit different, but I think it worked okay.  I had everything else, including my home grown parsley, and all the spices, yay, happy day.  And those chile peppers I froze the other day, some of that came into play. And the cilantro I had shredded and frozen, that, too, from some other Ottolenghi adventure. And my trusty castiron pan served again.

You'll notice that I have refrained heroically from quoting that unfortunate radio broadcasting cook of long ago, explaining on a women's home program about a leek recipe, who started with: Ladies, first take a leek....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

East meets West on my table

Perfect early summer supper.  

Asparagus, growing in the field this morning, steamed and on my plate this evening.  Dipping sauce made from a mixture of plain yogurt, sour cream, using up what's left actually, and a spoonful of mayonnaise.  And after I tasted, I decided it needed a little something, and added a pinch of baharat, that wonderful spice mixture I made recently.  I really recommend this one.  Just lovely.  Nice glass of wine with, of course.

I think I might share pinches of baharat with my Bite Club next month. Aside from anything I might cook.

True confessions: despite my very modest income and froogle ways, there are times when you just need to buy something.  And when I found I'd used up all my collection of bookmarks marking items in Jerusalem and now Plenty, same authors, I decided I needed to own these two books. So they're on their way. Then I can write in them.  Even scanning and printing was going to mean many pages, silly really, better just buy the book and let them have their royalty.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Morning

At this time of year the birds are awake so early, busy nesting a bit late this year, and the songs were deafening so I was up early, serenaded by Carolina wrens, mourning doves, cardinals, and mockingbirds plus a pair of catbirds, all shouting this is MY place, no this is MY place..

So, it was clearly time to make a little something.  The bag of hot chili peppers was still awaiting prep, after I'd used just a couple in the earlier cooking.  

They were so beautiful that I had to take pix, before

 and in process.  In fact I think the picture of the whole peppers should maybe be in Art the Beautiful blog.  The seeds are saved for use over spaghetti sauce, and the main peppers are now cut into strips and the whole lot is in the freezer.

Yesterday I realized how blunt my good knives are and I hate to sharpen, it's the noise I don't like, but I steeled myself, pun intended and did the sharpening, what a contrast with the bluntness before. 

I have a high end sharpening appliance, which I gave to Handsome Partner many years ago, and eventually inherited, since I don't have the steel skills required to do it the manual way.  Nor do I have the back step my mom used to sharpen her knife on, with a few expert swipes back and forth.  I noticed a knife sharpening booth at the farmer's market yesterday, which reminded me it was high time.

Banana bread was also on the to do list, since the bunches were big this week and I wanted to use them a bit faster.  And homemade cheese, paneer, with an experiment of chives.

I found that the flowers are indeed edible, as I thought, and picked a few for the cheese, and snipped their stems, too.  I found that each part of the flower is like a bell.  In fact the structure looks very much like bluebells.  Taste like onion, of course.  Here's the lemon juice waiting for the milk in the foreground to almost boil before I add it to curdle the milk and make the cheese.

So while the banana bread, crushed walnuts added, was baking, I made the cream cheese,  and added the chives on top to the finished cheese, aka paneer.  

 Here it is, with the banana bread cooling in the foreground.

 The paneer is almost too pretty to eat, but I'll force myself. You can put salt, if you like, and some people like to sweeten it as a dessert, but I think onion is good, too.  If you use whole milk you get a lot more cheese, since it's the curds that create the cheese, and duh, whole milk has more.  The whey is now in the freezer ready for soup.

Later on I'll have a snack of figs stuffed with this cheese, left from the great Roasted Sweet Potato caper.  Beside a slice of banana bread. Nice contrasts of sweet and savory. Outside, if the weather decides to warm up that much. I find that soaking the figs in boiling water is pretty good, not as good as ripe figs in season but they aren't in season right now.

I left a helping of the Sweet Potato and Figs dish across the street for my friends to come home to, and they were mad for it.  In fact she came over yesterday and took pix of the Jerusalem book and the recipe, to try out for herself.  While bringing me a little dessert she'd made, pineapple slice with homemade cream cheese on.  That's what reminded me I had the milk for the cheese in the house.

So at this point, the Bite Club has extended its reach to Ontario and the Indian community in this region! who knew..

And she came bearing two huge bags of clothing for freecycling, by previous arrangement, having forced her husband and daughter to start offloading some of their collection of never worn clothes. 

I do the freecycling because it's easier for me and I know the routine. There's one wrap that's going to be mine in there...also by arrangement.  In the summer I usually take a wrap or something with me to other people's houses and buildings, because they're kept so much colder than my own. So I have a little collection.

Meanwhile, the weekend is a good time to offer freecycle items, when people are free to pick up.

And it's still only midmorning where I am.  I think I'll sit down for a minute.  This afternoon, since my group plein air was cancelled, I'm off to do some plein drawing on my own account, once I decide where.  Beautiful bright weather, not too hot for sitting out and drawing, maybe a bit of caran d'ache,  too, I'll see how I feel.

Then a bit of stitching to come later, and a few more Dorset buttons are in the wings waiting to be made, after Ginny H., great stitcher friend, gave me from her late mother AND grandmother's stashes!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Farmer's Market Open! happy campers everywhere 6WS

So today was an expedition to the West Windsor, i.e. local, Farmer's Market, which takes place right next to the train station every Saturday morning till Fall.  

Small but wonderful, with everything from yak meat to farm fresh eggs to NJ wines, mushrooms (well, those are from Kennet Square, PA, famous mushroom region) quails, all kinds of plants and edible greens, fresh baked bread and pastries.  And loud music, alas, why do they think this fits, but it did amuse a few kids.  

I went in search of good eggs, figuring since I'm frugal in so many ways, why on earth not buy really good eggs, instead of cheapies, and give the chickens a break, too, by getting them from a farm where I know they run outdoors and peck and do what hens do.

Anyway, here's a brief guided tour:

Dog waiting patiently till his humans get their fresh squeezed juice.

If you collect NJ pottery, you'll be familiar with the Fulper name, very old one around these parts


Foreign mushrooms!  all the way from Kennett Square, must be all of an hour away


Here are handwoven alpaca rugs, along with yak meat, and all kinds of alpaca yarns


And here's my haul:  lovely fresh eggs from the Quail Farm, along with their own chicken sausage made with Italian spices and broccoli rabe, and info on the wine people and other farms local to here. i can get good fresh chickens from Quail Farm, too, I find, as well as quail, which are not on my menu! Everything is within maybe a half hour's run.

I know the Quail Farm well, since one of my beloved petcare clients, Sweetheart, the giant black Great Dane, big even for a Dane, retired showdog and mother of many champions, lived in one of the properties.  I used to stay up there with her when the owners were traveling, they being in the advertising biz, and on the move. 

There's nothing as safe as the feeling of walking out alone at night in the country, under the stars and under the protection of a dog who's twice as big as you are, and devotedly protective.