Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Simple stuff for trying times

This week has been eventful in various ways.  Bad health news from friend, protecting their privacy here, just take my word for it. And, much smaller deal, though it seemed big until I got the health news,  the washing machine at the condo finally went.  

About twenty years old, not bad, really.  But, big but, the space to fit in a new one is much smaller than the currently manufactured machines.  Such a first world problem, compared to serious health issues, which I don't have.  So I am keeping the whining down to a dull roar.

After extensive research, online, in person, on phone, in suppliers, with mfrs, all that's available to fit in the immovable space -- wall on one side, water heater on the other -- is either a flimsy looking affordable portable which doesn't plumb in to the regular fittings, and an expensive model, which does.  I may end up having to take the expensive one, about three times what I was hoping to pay.

So far so good.  Then my tenant, Handsome Son, unplugged the washer, tried to remove the hoses, and found that the shutoffs didn't. Put the hoses back on quick, and I got the plumber in to replace the shutoffs, which are ancient, well, 80s, anyway.  

And he started making calls to his suppliers, searching his truck, and broke it to me that the fittings were made specifically for this box, that they are no longer made, and that they won't accept modern shutoffs.  But, inventive guy, he figured out how to solder standard fittings into this off standard box.  It seems to work. Now we can safely take off the hoses, retire the machine, and have a water supply at the condo all at the same time.  

So I'm a couple hundred dollars in the hole before I even shop for a machine. Oh well.  But I now have shutoffs that show you  clearly when they're on or off.  Lever, not a wheel thing. Before the others were clearly off, or so they said, big alternative facts, but in fact had not caught and shut off the water.  Probably the thread was worn out.

This family of plumbers have rescued me several times from flooding emergencies at the townhouse, including a biggie where the main shutoff wouldn't.  That time the older guy took a huge hammer and hit the shutoff, which settled its hash.  And made the old joke about knowing where to hit. And there was the time the dishwasher flooded.  Later I replaced it, and the new one, after a few months, went on fire.  After that I got sliding shelves put in place of the dishwasher, and wash by hand, safer, and not too labor intensive compared to the excitement of dealing with flood and fire..drain the dishes on the shelves, works a treat. 

About that time a friend told me a chipmunk got into the house, made for the dishwasher as it was running, chewed through the live wire, which exploded the dw, causing fire and a flood at once, fire department on the scene, dousing and vacuuming.  Poor chipmunk was pretty much cremated.

So one thing and another, simple comfort food was the order of the day.  A batch of Martha Stewart sugar cookies, half of the dough saved and frozen as you see in the ziploc bag, to make the other half of the batch when I need them. There's lemon juice and zest in the recipe, interesting flavor.  The shape is kind of freeform, but they taste fine

And the pasta you see in the top pic in the small end jar, is now cooked, dressed with carrot pesto, and adorned with a hot Italian sausage. 

The other half of that is up for tomorrow.  Carrot pesto is an interesting addition to pasta.  You just grate or chunk carrot in the blender along with the usual ingredients for pasta.  It's a lovely color and an interesting taste.

So that's where we are. Send up good health thoughts for my friend, please.  And stay away from home appliances.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Succulent family reunion, Morningside Heights

Just noticed on a channel I follow on YouTube, a new entry about starting succulents faster, in water.  So I'm giving it a try.

These leaves, now in shallow water, glass pebbles keeping them in place

fell off this parent plant

when it was being transplanted from next door to come in here for the winter.  I found them in the pot, and noticed they were already scabbed up, and now see one of them has roots.  So they can be started right away.

Here are the older siblings of the new leaves, also sporting beads, semi precious, mainly because the fiber kept on rising up and burying the plants when I watered. The beads keep their heads above ground

And the children of the parent plant now all have a family reunion going on.  I'm surprised that the parent, I think an echeveria, but I could be wrong, has thrown blossoms.  Didn't expect that.

And, another character in the ever evolving drama of plant life around here,  is the staghorn fern. She lives in the spare bedroom, the Nook, where I play music and do my workouts, with an attentive audience of plants. a big Boston fern over her head, a ponytail palm beside her

She was a scrawny little guy when my neighbor brought her over, saying, here can you fix this?  I don't have a place for her, she has now, in a few months, doubled in size, shed the original crinkly antlers and developed lovely new healthy ones.  

My researches revealed that they, like a lot of succulents, though this is more of a fern, like to be drowned then quickly drained and left alone till drier.  This one I submerge in the sink, when the pot feels light, quickly lift out and drain, and she seems quite happy.  I expect it replicates natural rainfall followed by dry periods.  I don't know whether she's mine or if I just have custody, no problem either way.

Meanwhile, on the reading front, a lot of books, but the current top of the pile is Morningside Heights, by Cheryl Mendelson, who wrote Home Comforts.  

That was an encylopedic examination of the history, art and craft of homemaking, interesting while being amazing that anyone maintained an interest long enough to do all the research and writing.  One of those books that you're glad someone wrote.

MH is a novel, set in Morningside Heights, several couples, stories intertwined, very thinking sorts of people, analyzing themselves and each other.  It's an interesting read for me, because it is a way of exploring why in the world anyone wants to live in Manhattan, sees any other location as just not possible.  Since it would be one of the lower depths of hell to me, aside from brief forays for art purposes, this is revelatory.  

All the people are very educated, speak in complete paragraphs, and actually let each other finish their thoughts, which is not typical of rl New Yorkers I number among my friends, who are more likely to interrupt loudly and tell you what you should be saying, but oh well.  Recommended, though, as an engrossing book, worth your time.

While I'm at it, I want to give a shout to Asha Francis, who has revived her blog, The Perfect Fit, and is writing daily posts for the month of November, different, thoughtful subjects each day.  Go here

Asha is a talented and way too modest person, and I'm wearing one of her artworks as I type.  Asha, it's that lovely woven scarf, several compliments on it lately, and I credit you duly!  Anyway, go to Asha's blog and enjoy. Put her on your feed, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Speaking of resistance, there's the RBG Workout

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, aka the Notorious RBG, a tshirt she wears in the gym, is old, tiny, brilliant, and as strong as wire.

So, since her personal workout is in a small book form now, written by her trainer, very wittily, I think she helped with that, and with a foreword from her endorsing it, I thought it was worth a try.

I now do my RBG workout twice a week. It's on the calendar, to make it more likely I keep it up.

I've been doing weight training at home since I turned 60 and gave myself a birthday present of Strong Women Stay Young and a complete set of weights.  They've been in use ever since.  

I have a feeling that resistance is my middle name, what with one thing and another.  I use all the exercises from Strong Women, and add in a few things from RBG.  Next year will be the twentieth year I've been doing this.  I still remember my excitement when I first did overhead lifts with three, then five, then eight, then......ten pound weights!  I am Woman, I am Invincible!

RBG has a lengthier workout than I usually do, and it adds in a series of stretches, incorporating yoga and other traditions, so they are well worth doing.  I adapted it to my own current strength, and since I don't do gyms, I use my free weights rather than machines.

I originally started because I was doing collaborative art with another artist and when we worked on big pieces, I had to rest my arms much more than she did.  She's younger, but I still thought I should work on that.  Needed more strength.  And now I can paint my house, the biggest thing I paint, only stopping when I get bored, not because my arms are too tired to go on. 

The box of weights -- pairs of 10,8, 5, and I think 3(given away years ago, too light) pound dumbbells, and leg weights with pockets each of which takes a one pound weight, 20 lbs each leg, you do the math. Anyway, I lived up a flight then, and the woman from UPS delivered this payload in ONE large box, trotting up the stairs and kindly putting it inside my front door.  Slender young woman, not big beefy man. That convinced me I'd better do some weight training.  I had to empty the box in order to move the weights to where I wanted them, bit by bit.

I like very much the very limber feeling you get after working out with resistance weights.  No, it's not exhausting.  And no, I'm not stiff and achy the next day.  I use the max weight for the legs, women have strong legs, no problem there.  And I mix the 8 and 5 for the lifting. I may reintroduce the 10s, used to use them regularly, but I like to be sure I don't compress my spine in my enthusiasm, so I retired them a few years ago when my life was already strenuous. I don't do all the reps that RBG does, but I do at least one set, 12 reps, of everything.  Suits me.  Takes maybe a steady 35 to 40 minutes.

Found I can no longer do pushups, a couple of years ago I could, so I'm working back to them, from easiest at the moment, off a wall. 

The clunky shoes you see in the pic are useful for leg weights, since they keep the weights from pressing on my footbones, not a good idea.

Anyway, this is what keeps me feeling resistant, and generally up for anything. It also improves your energy level quite a bit, always a Good Thing.  And when you have a wildly successful resistance evening on the political front, like last evening, well, resistance works, is all I can say.

And I'd say this is a nice favor to do for yourself.  You stay capable a lot longer if you have strength to get up and around, and you just feel better more of the time.

Now that I've bored you to a frazzle, I'll leave you!  This is a firmly held belief, that the weights are a great part of my life, that and walking daily outside, in all weathers except ice.  Okay, I'm stopping now.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

From the humble toaster oven, come words to live by

Made pumpkin soup this morning, farm pumpkin, steamed till tender, then scooped out.  Seeds went out for deliriously happy squirrels, then the pumpkin meat went into the pot.  Olive oil, whole garlic cloves, sumac, turmeric, curry powder, kosher salt, then the pumpkin, with carrot pesto water, chicken liquid from earlier roasting, defatted, chunks of frozen tofu.  Dash of lemon juice.  Chicken bones, pieces of parmigian rind.

Anyway, while this was all gently simmering, ready to be blended, I noticed the toaster oven bringing me a message.  

Words to live by.  Wonder if this is the current MO in the Washington investigations?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Man in Apron, National Treasure

Today, this little treasure arrived, finally, after many false starts, an old book from the Larry series of Man in Apron, beloved 50s cartoons.  All wordless, and some you have to study before you get the joke, but all wonderful.

This one hit home to this home cook always rushing to take pix of her latest hit

Notice the cover shows Man in the kitchen while everything on the stove is boiling over, peacefully reading Man in Apron! This was a nice bonus, the original jacket still in place.

There were other books, too,  compendia of cartoons that had appeared in magazines and newspapers, all hilariously funny. If you can get your hands on any of the Larry books, do so.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lunch when you're in a bit of a rush, and dinner when you're not

Lunch was a sort of scratch affair today, and I ended up having a sort of invented thing

Two eggs, mixed thoroughly with a broken up wholewheat hot biscuit, swoosh of baharat, seasalt, torn up bits of ham, done in a castiron pan in a little swipe of olive oil.

Dinner was a bit more leisurely, four chicken thighs, enough for several meals, pounded in a bag with flour, curry powder, Bill Veach's no. 2 powder, to be exact, salt, then roasted at 400 for 45 minutes with a few halved Roma plum tomatoes.  Parmigian rind piece on top of each chicken thigh. 

I spooned out a lot of juice at about 30 minutes, then put it back in to brown up a bit more.

The cheese rinds can be reused in soup, ad infinitum. Their work here is done.  The juice is in the fridge, and I'll skim off the fat and use any good flavored liquid left for soup.

This will make a couple of meals, one of them with pasta and carrot pesto, which I made yesterday. Also saved the pesto water for soup.

Now for a nice glass of red wine and some of that chicken and tomato.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Breakfast for one, you're worth it

I usually wake hungry, but not at all eager to start cooking, shuffling about remembering what day it is, tripping on cats demanding their rights, and breakfast is simple.

But it's always cooked, since I just like to start the day that way. Even in my busiest years, working all the hours, family, all that, I still did.

Today it's homebaked wholewheat bread, broken up into sizzling olive oil in a little castiron pan, a farm egg broken over, short cooking, then turn the whole contraption over.  

At that point the heat is turned off, since cast iron goes on cooking while you look for the teapot and the cup, and get some milk organized for the other morning requirement.  Modom's tray.

And there it is.  Maybe five minutes tops, add in a minute for the kettle to boil. The best tea requires a wildly boiling, screaming kettle, to brew right.

Nice start to the day.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Two lunches at once, fish and roast potatoes

Today was the day for flounder.  I knew there was some in the freezer somewhere, buried under all the farm produce.  And so it came to pass that lunch today was flounder, spread with plain yogurt, sliced fresh lemon on top, on a bed of panko, sprinkled with Old Bay Seasoning, and those great parmesan potatoes.  

A few too many potatoes for the one dish, so they migrated to the fish dish, where they worked fine.
This time the cheese mix included Old Bay Seasoning and minced fresh garlic, and I recommend the mix.  It went particularly well with the fish.  And the fresh lemon was just a lovely note, as posh cooks say.  It lightened up what could be a rather heavy plateful.

So, today's lunch demolished, I took a pic of the leftovers, which look pretty good to me.  That's for tomorrow.  I can reheat in the same dish, and the potatoes won't be quite as crisp, but still will work just fine. And the fish will hold up as good old flounder always does.

And it's always good to feel that you have a meal in hand, no matter what other stuff needs doing tomorrow.  Years ago I adopted the habit of having the main meal at noon, much lighter in the evening.  The only time I don't is when I feed HS a large and lovely dinner.  But usually it works out better for me this way.  Just a thought.

This was after many years of work of the kind that completely ruled out a full midday meal, on account of meetings, traveling, pressure on time and so on.  Then it was a sandwich shoved in my pocket on the way out the door.  It's a great luxury now to be able to sit at a table midday and enjoy a homecooked full meal.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Soup of the evening, cauliflower

Handsome Son to dinner this evening, so the menu is all set.  Cauliflower soup, then ham slices, parmesan potatoes, dessert Biblical cake.  Nice blended red wine. A lot of everything.

The soup needed roasted vegetables, since cauliflower is a bit bland, and the extra added attraction is always good.

On the baking sheet, raw cauliflower, olive oil, kosher salt, turmeric, baharat, head of garlic busted up and peeled, sections scattered artistically about.

Then the makings, after the roasting is done, 425F about 25 minutes.   Bunch of scallions in the pot, chicken bouillon, to add.  I also dropped in a few bits of parmesan rind, always a nice addition to soup.  A lot of seasoning went into the roasting, so I only added some salt here to the pot.  After adding in four cups of bouillon, I added in another cup of water.

 Cooked to tender, then it gets blended

and you get this, lovely thick texture. It's golden because of the turmeric and the chicken bouillon.  Probably will add a bit of plain nonfat yogurt before I serve it, just sort of swirl it in a bit. 

This provides plenty of soup for tonight's dinner, plus three containers now in the freezer for my next few lunches. If I were cooking this for one, it would be about a week's worth of meals.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A sight to gladden a person's eye, Man at Work!

Here's my trusty friend, artist and contractor, at work on my deck.  I asked him to take a look at the rotting bits and do something about them.  

He checked them out, went away, cut pieces to fit perfectly into the bad bits once he'd removed them, went around replacing screws here and there as he tested the deck, and now I have a pretty much renewed deck.  You see the new bits just beyond the bench. They went in like birds, perfect fit.

It's nearly 30 years old, so it's not doing too badly. The wear and tear was on the narrow part in front of the gate, where workmen come in, bang down equipment and generators and so on, and it got a bit beat up over the reno.

But now, all is well.  Since Mike lives across the street, he likes to measure, decide, shop for wood, parts, etc. do most of the work at home then come over with just what he needs to install.  He put in new grab bars in my bathtub bathroom, this week, and that has made life more confident for me.

So I can get out of the tub, and nobody's going to fall through my deck any time soon.  It's only a few inches off the ground, but you can get a meanly twisted ankle if you go through it.  And I don't want the meter reader hobbling away.

He, Mike, not the meter reader, always visits a while, checks out what art is happening, loved the artist books I showed him.  Altogether a Good Thing. Not just a job to him.  He also does the cooking in his house. His wife is on velvet, or so it looks from across the street!  She has a very demanding job, so they have a great balance.  And he and I swop recipes and tasting of various kitchen experiments.

He is one of the people who keep my life on track. I notice how often people in the building trades also have an eye for art, and a good bit of adeptness at it, too. Mike loves to make origami, and he collects prints, especially woodblock prints.

To see what I was doing while all this was happening, go to Beautiful Metaphor.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Parmesan potatoes, Messy book, Puerto Rico update, just a sampling of the day

So today was another day in the neighborhood.  

Did a bit of desultory gardening, clipping off spent Montauk daisy heads, noticing yet another yellow rose, when I thought they were over, trimming back dead bits of both rose plants.


Needed to pick up a thing or two at the grocery, vaguely wondering what for dinner, already had wine and cheese on the list, vital supplies.  And bumped into Yukon Gold potatoes. Usually outside of my budget, but I thought to myself, self, if not for you, for whom, if not this evening, when?  And I bought a few.

Because I had noticed a great recipe for Parmesan Crisp Potatoes.  I love roast vegetables, especially roast potatoes, and this seemed like a good thing.  Several great cook friends tried it and approved. I added in grated Parmesan to the list, and made it out of there.

Once home, neighbor stops in to see if I have any drinking straws, emergency.  His little granddaughter is there the weekend, mouth sore, can't drink, unhappy baby.  So I went up and found the supply in the studio (no, perfectly unused), and went to deliver them. 

And found our mutual friend, Jackie, a current refugee from Puerto Rico, got in last night, was there, and I hugged her, and told her how good it was she was safe, etc.  She indicated that it was an ongoing nightmare.  She'll go back if and when they get power, because she loves it.  And hates our winters. 

Meanwhile, she has a place to stay next door.  I bet the cooking improves dramatically while she's there!  she was food shopping this afternoon.  She's a plant expert, so I reminded Gary that she's his first port of call with plant queries.  Didn't stop him from bringing a sad looking croton over to see what's what.

I have a large plant arrangement that I've been caring for for years for her.  It was part of her son's funeral offerings from friends, and she couldn't take it to PR, so it ended up with me.  She plans to come visit it.  Gary has sent pix now and then to keep her updated. It's about ten times the size it was originally, and looking okay.

On more cheerful topics, I found a great book, here

which vindicates all my lifelong beliefs in when in doubt, do everything!  everything you do feeds the next thing you do.  Don't do one thing at a time, have a lot going on.  I've had jobs where I was running up to 25 projects at once, and loved it.  

And in art I move from form to form as needed.  More about that in Beautiful Metaphor, probably.  Anyway, he's a lot of fun to read, and makes tons of sense.   And is a great defense against those people who say why don't you pick on something and do just that?  because that's not how some of us are built, that's why!

Accompanying this reading was a nice tea on the patio, warm weather still, we are now officially Zone 7 according to the USDA, climate change.  Anyway, tea with slices of the Biblical cake, which went down a treat.  Seemed so appropriate on a Sunday, too.

After that it was time to fire up the stove for the potatoes.  The recipe is here 

I had to sub a bit as usual. Didn't have garlic powder, so used other interesting flavors, Italian seasoning, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, mixed with the shredded cheese. You're supposed to use cheese grated to sand-like consistency, but I didn't have that, either.  No harm done. I actually did this a few hours ahead, thinking probably the mixture would blend if given time.

And here's the doings, awaiting their turn

And here's the final product, which, if I may say so, is well worth the prep, and totally worth getting Yukon Golds for.  Note to self: next year's container potatoes might as well be these

This was enough for two meals for me.  Next time HS is over, I think this will be on the menu. In the directions, they tell you to use a spatula to separate the potatoes, but I found my trusty pizza wheel did a better job. And the tip to use a glass pan was spot on.  Easy to lift the cheesy crust off without losing half of it.

Just a normal Sunday around here, really.  Other things happened too, but this is enough to stuff into this post for now.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

To think it is to do it, lifelong hardwiring, Biblical Scripture Cake

So, having been given the recipe for a Biblical cake, complete with scriptural references, and having visited a Biblical garden with the herb group this week, I figured I would get cracking, literally, it takes six eggs, and try this at home.  It was served at our symposium lunch, but by dessert I was not up to one more bite, lovely as it looked. So I had to make it to try it.

So today, having got in the extra eggs, I set to work.  And realized after a bit that this is the functional equivalent of making the Christmas cake, except I didn't have to blanch the almonds.  That was my job as a little kid, failsafe task for a youngster, no knives, no heat involved.  No citron nor angelica, here, though, nor cherries.

It did involve separating eggs, grating nutmeg, grinding cinnamon, measuring many other ingredients, many bowls involved.  Cutting up figs and dates, too, sticky. A lot of fun in fact, and amazingly, no neighbor came barging in to chat while I was busy doing it, even though it's Saturday.

As usual, it featured substitutions, this being me, no tube pan, so I used a regular ten inch cake pan, parchment in bottom, buttered sides.  Worked just fine.

And I hadn't enough raisins, couldn't track them down in the store, so I added in dates.  The total inclusions, almonds, raisins, figs, came to four cups, so that was an easy sub, just made it up to the right volume using dates. 

It did feel biblical, measuring milk and honey, and all those spices.  I thought two tablespoons of cinnamon was a bit much, but went ahead, and in fact it's just right.  Don't cut that back.  This makes a lot of cake.

At this point, after I sampled a hearty wedge with a glass of milk, and pronounced it good, the rest of it is sliced, wrapped in parchment paper and in the freezer.  Many afternoon teas and visits from HS will be catered from this supply. 

The oven is set at 300F, so that told me that a center rack was probably the best place, to get it baked but not scorched, and that proved to be a good idea.  Not mentioned in recipe, but I would suggest it. Long slow baking. 

Maybe I'd better put in the recipe here, again, too


This is probably a good cake to make on a snow day when there's no hurry to go anywhere. And you will have a slice of cake with your afternoon tea.  I have so much in the freezer that there might be some left by the first snow day, come to think of it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Update on the buckeye slip

After the recent blogpost on the herb symposium, I got a lovely email from a former member, now far away, identifying my butterflies better.  He pointed out that I had labeled a painted lady as a buckeye, which is true.  Uploading problems, and I deleted the wrong pic, ended up with the painted lady instead of what I spozed to put.  So here's the actual image you were supposed to get

and a nice Golden Books entry about it

and I'm glad to have the slip pointed out.  It got right by me in the annoyance of all kinds of computer shenanigans. There were several of them flying about, butterflies, not shenanigans, along with painted ladies, a couple of red admirals, a sulfur or two, and various skippers.  Very popular flowerbed.  And bees and other insects galore.

He also identified the mystery butterfly/moth, as a form of skipper, kind of halfway between butterfly and moth kingdoms.  This is terrific.  I love informative readers.  And this was an expert taking the time to write. Thank you, Don.

So I can end Friday on a virtuous note! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Field and Fen out and about with the herb gardeners

Today was the herb workshop, at Windrows, of the Delaware Valley Unit of the Herb Society of America.  It's a national organization of friendly people interested in growing and studying herbs, and if you want to know more, go here

Meanwhile, this group had a wonderful day, with lectures on Salt, history and use with herbs, and Liqueurs, how to make and enjoy them.  Both lecturers shared generously, and we came away with recipes, samples, and a lot more more knowledge than we started with!

Here you see them setting up

and after a morning's learning and sampling, we had a great lunch which featured not only herbs mentioned in the morning's doings, but a special dessert, recipe from the organizer's mother, from long ago, which the chef obligingly made for us!  

And I enclose the recipe, in the spirit of sharing.  It's complete with Biblical references, too.  The lunches at Windrows events are legendary, and I'm always sorry I don't have a bigger appetite..desserts included a lemon cake, cannoli, petit fours, fresh fruit, as well as the Biblical cake.

After lunch we repaired, since it was a wonderful sunny day, to the community garden, to see both the medicinal herb garden, and the Biblical herb garden. 

 Helen, the lady whose mother made the cake, organized and got people to help design and plant this garden, with herbs mentioned in the Bible, labeled, and flourishing.  She's posed by popular demand, in the middle of the Biblical garden, her chef d'oeuvre.

The medicinals are an ancient use of herbs, good to see them growing dramatically.  

The gardening residents at Windrows, some of whom are in the herb society, count retired botanists and professional plantsmen in their numbers, so these gardens are in good hands. You'll notice the high fence, since this is deer country, and there would not be a lot to look at if the gate were left open.  And the greenhouse is for the winter use of residents with pot plants which can't survive the winter out of doors.

This was the group I presented the drawing workshop to last year, so it was a reunion, too, great fun to see them again.

Then home, instant nap, and afterwards a walk to balance the lunch, and I saw crowds of butterflies out.  

Buckeyes, which I usually have to go to the Preserve to see, right there on the street.  

And this mysterious double winged one, maybe moth, maybe butterfly, if anyone can identify, please do.  I have not been able to.

Speaking of identification, the herb enthusiasts are great at sharing mystery pictures and getting them id'd.  At my lunch table was one of the young professionals from the rose garden at a famous local park, who knows a lot more than roses, though she was interesting on that point.  She identified a mystery flower another member had on her phone and has been carrying around to find out more.  

She's from Minneapolis, where she sadly left her garden, but since her job is keeping her so busy, she's not missing it too much yet. Good day, with old friends, new friends.  Kindred spirits!

Home with the information, recipes, interesting materials from the day.  

And my name tag had a live little herb flower on it!  this sums up the herb group so well.  Love of herbs, attention to detail, nothing overlooked.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Friday dinner with Handsome Son, before inroads

Last evening was dinner with HS, and the first soup of the season.  Pumpkin with yellow split peas.  And I cooked it with chicken bones, from the freezer, for a couple of hours, removed the bones before serving.

This is really hearty, as they say in the fancy recipes, and with the addition of water from carrot pesto and yogurt whey, was a Good Thing.  The reason for carrot as opposed to any of my herbal pestos, is that it's a good color for this soup.  Appetizing.  Likewise choosing the yellow split peas instead of green.

You know when you make pesto in the blender, there's always some that won't come out, around the blades?  I add back a couple of cups of water, run the blender, which cleans the blades and saves the precious pesto, which after all has your best olive oil in it, and freeze the water.  It's great in soup.  And the yogurt whey is the liquid part from making yogurt cheese, very tangy and good in soup, too.

I have two freezers, the small one on top of the fridge, where I keep bits of sauces and condiments also my grains and pestos and whole herbs, and the chest one where I keep, aside from art materials, ahem, cooked food ready to haul out, and raw chicken and fish. And bread, soup, etc. This slightly loopy way of organizing things makes it easier to find those bits you kept and can't find if they're in a chest freezer, while the food in the big freezer is big enough to see. 

So we had roast chicken breasts, which I'd had a lovely time hitting with a mallet, then rolled in flour, baharat and seasalt, and left for a few hours in the fridge, then put in a 400F oven for about 25 minutes.  With brown jasmine rice, cooked with turmeric, golden raisins and sunflower seeds.  The chicken and rice are both bland on their own, but will take any amount of seasoning, and be interesting.  Plum sauce to go with, in fact plum and ginger, ginger powder added in, with a little bit of sugar, and some lemon juice.  It's tart enough to be really good with this meal.  Nice Italian red wine.

Dessert was the rest of the plum torte, notice a theme here..and a big pot of English breakfast tea.  Son texted this am to say nice evening, tx for food!  and I must say it went over well enough that I have barely enough for one meal to go at.  But I did freeze quite a bit of soup,before HS arrived, leaving plenty for us last night. HS always has at least two bowls of soup, very gratifying for the cook.

I love to have soup in the freezer for when I get home and just don't feel like cooking right now, thanks.  Especially if it's cold and wet. 

Now that plums are in, I must look out for damson plums at the Asian market. They get them at great prices, and I can stock up.   

Next week I'm at an all day herb workshop, about herbal liqueurs or something, so no doubt I'll learn a lot to add to my repertoire of alcohol, which is pretty small.  And it includes a chef prepared lunch involving a lot of the herbs mentioned in the workshops. I will definitely report back on this. Nothing like having a menu created by a real expert.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Baharat, plum toms and tarts

Rainy cool weather is great for messing about in the kitchen, catching up on making things.

I mentioned that it was time to make more baharat, the Middle Eastern spice mix, from Ottolenghi.  I think baharat probably only means mixture, like masala, and there are millions of recipes for it.  But the one I use is Ottolenghi's, from his Jerusalem book, and it's great.  As is the book, an adventure in cultures and history as well as food.  Go here for the recipe and a bit of the book

I helps that I have all the spices in the list in the kitchen anyway. And here you see most of the cast of characters, the black peppercorns not having been unearthed at this point, but they did show up for the performance. 

You'll notice that I use the real cinnamon, which is not the stuff you get in the supermarket. That's not the actual plant, but it is related to it.  The real stuff is much more delicate in scent and in handling -- you can break a stick in your hands, so you have the amount you want. It's also a lot more expensive, but you're worth it.

This really is a great entertainment.  You sniff at each spice as you dole it out into the bowl, and it's a sensory trip.  Then into the coffee grinder, which I use to grind spices and flours, but actually not coffee.

Then once ground, another trip as you spoon it into the jar.  I keep it in a tightly lidded glass jar inside a cabinet as far from the stove as you can get in this kitchen. You'll see the recipe doesn't make a lot.  That way you always have fresh flavor. You can always make more when you run out.

It will come into play in a lot of recipes, since the combo is lovely for many sorts of dishes, chicken, fish, fruit, green vegetables, very varied in itself, so it adapts.

Then onward to the Roma plum tomatoes, a bunch from the farmstand, washed, cut into about thirds, these were quite big ones, and then frozen exactly like that. 

I will use them later in tomato sauce or any place I want tomatoes with not much juice.

Keeping with the plum motif, there were the first black plums in the  store so I got a couple of pounds, washed, halved and pitted them, and made a Plum Tart, according to Marian Burros, which I think is really a torte, but it's very good anyway. I have the cook's privilege of sucking on the pits, to get all of the fruit. No picture of that process.

To get the original recipe, where it's called a torte, see I toldya, go here

She talks about using a dozen halved plums, but I never have room for that many. I just stud it with as many as fit, and save the rest for a sauce next time I do chicken or fish.

And here, in my trusty castiron pan, is the lovely result.  You're supposed to use a springform pan, but until they invent a castiron one, I'm going with this pan.

The topping is lemon juice, a sprinkling of sugar, and cinnamon, but I was a bit heavy on this last, hand sort of slipped.  Still tastes fine, though.  The plums were wonderful, must be a good year.

Had one warm slice with tea, managing to burn the side of my hand on the pan, forgot it was still hot, quick application of aloe juice, from kitchen plant, fixed that, then I froze the rest of the tart or torte for future use.  If I just refrigerate, I'll feel I have to finish the slices faster before they go stale, and that would never do.. 

Next time Handsome Son comes calling, I think he's in for pumpkin soup, roast chicken, probably seasoned with baharat,  with plum sauce and brown jasmine rice, and plum tart. All the best establishments have echoes in their food.. at least that'll be my story.