Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cleaning up the garden, Dolliver style 6WS

After a hectic kitchen day yesterday we were all ready to get outside in good weather and clean up the patio, pick the last few flowers and herbs, sweep up the cherry tree leaves, and generally render the place okay for the winter, and ready for the spring.

The Ds explained that they were happy to supervise the process, and pick flowers, but the labor of heaving pots and dead foliage around was for lesser folk such as Boud.  

Good as their word they sat in style, minding the flowers and the scissors since she loses them all the time.   Elton explained that the weather is far too cold to take his piano out of doors, so we would have to hum along any musical accompaniment.  

So the Dollivers improvised with The Flowers We Pick in the Fall, TraLa, Green Grows the Parsley O, and Autumn Leaves.

No pix from yesterday, since there was so much cooking, one way and another that there was no time to take pix.  Handsome Son is in the throes of setting up a small biz in home computer assistance, already has started with clients here in central NJ, and I've been inviting him over at the weekend for a large supportive meal.

Yesterday I was using vegetables from the farm, and experimenting with a new cake thing, as well as tripping over glackity recipe instructions, and having to stop everything and make an ingredient before I could continue.

So we had a tureen of squash, roasted bell pepper and shredded cabbage soup with thyme and sage sausage, with a full dish of new baked hot biscuits, followed by large wedges of rum raisin, apple, walnut cake.

The soup went fine, no surprises there, hot biscuits likewise, however the cake was a different issue. I waited till afternoon to embark on it, after the soup and biscuit work in the morning and a large load of laundry. Laundry not germane to cooking, just saying it was going on at the same time because of a shortage of clean clothes.

The cake, anyway, I'd seen a great looking recipe and wanted to include some of this week's farmshare apples, and finally use some of the bottle of rum I was given ages ago and have never used.  

This involved a trip to the store for golden raisins.  Then as I was assembling the ingredients, many of them, for the recipe, I realized that the amount of butter was incomprehensible.  Three WHAT?  sticks? tablespoons?  pounds?

So I went off and found a different one online that I could follow better, and many attempts did not succeed in getting it to print. 

So back to the drawing board, and I pulled out the trusty old Silver Palate, and got a nice looking recipe under way.  Failing to notice that it was appleSAUCE cake.  Halfway through the proceedings, stopped everything and rummaged in the freezer for a bag of those apples I got from that local tree.

An hour later I had some terrific applesauce, ready to use.  Never made it before, so this was new. And when I mixed the cake batter, I put in the rummed raisins anyway (soaked in the rum), and a shake of crushed walnuts, and since I was determined to use some fresh apples, chunked one up and added it into the applesauce. None of these was in the recipe, but I was undaunted.

Then found I don't have a great big cake pan of the size they mentioned.  So I used my biggest cast iron pan and put the spare batter into the smallest pan and went off to read and to let the cakes get on with it.

Result was a small cake, baked faster, taken out earlier, pretty nice, and a large one which was really really good.  And really really large.  Many slices now in the freezer.  

Dessert after today's lunch (baked squash, sigh, but with sumac and coarse sea salt and white pepper and a dot of butter), anyway, dessert was a slice of this cake, with a few frozen blackberries and a few spoonsful of plain yogurt, good honey over the top, microwaved for two minutes.  Ooooooohhhhh, that was good.  And demolished too fast for pix, sorry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Zucchini quiche and black walnut dye

Black walnut dye being food safe, and this large container being dedicated to dyeing purposes, it was okay to show you the zucchini quiche fresh from the oven right next to it.

This is a nice crustless quiche, courtesy of Diane crustless spinach quiche, except that I often replace the spinach of the original recipe with other things, such as broccoli or here grated zucchini, which I had in the freezer ready for such a use.  Note to self: remember to drain frozen zucchini, or you have to bail out the pan.  Surprising lot of water accumulates because of the ice crystals in the freezing process.

I grate zucchini as soon as I get it from the farm, and freeze it so I can use it in zucchini bread or quiche or other mixed vegetable dishes.  I find it pretty hopeless on its own, needs to be in good company.

This went down very well, and you see what a good pie pan the castiron makes. Puffs up nicely.

Did the sauteing of the onions and garlic on top of the stove, mixed the eggs with the cheeses (used cheddar and parmesan here) and various condiments, mainly kosher salt and black pepper.  Then mixed it all on top of the stove right into the pan, sprinkled with a whoosh of red pepper, and baked it for 30 minutes at 350F.  Four helpings from this one.

The walnut dye came about when I realized yesterday was a great day for collecting fallen black walnuts from the trees behind my house.  And remembered that I had a bag of same in the freezer. So I got them all going in the big pot, simmering for several hours to get the best color out of them.  I'll strain out the nuts and hulls, then strain the remaining dye liquid, then we'll see what happens next. I might just freeze it till midwinter to use it then when I can't get out and pick dye materials.  

I don't bother with a mordant for black walnut, since you can hardly stop it from dyeing, never mind encourage it.  Friend Stefi once laid down a bag of walnuts on her back step and what with one thing and ten others, forgot to retrieve it, and a few days later found it again, also found a permanently dyed back step. 

Farmshare this afternoon, almost the end of the season and as God is my witness I will never eat squash again.  Waiting to see what's up this week, and hoping for apples.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A gift of a day, walking required

Now that the winter prep is done, all set for cold weather of which we've had some, gloves and coats and all, suddenly today is a warm day, high 70s, sunshine, so winter is on hold, and a visit to the Pond was called for.

Whenever I take pix of the bridge across the pond, I think, hm, who needs Giverny?  I like to come here in all seasons, following on the advice of a naturalist, Jenny Hanson, who led a group I joined several times, of local nature walks.  

She used to say it was valuable to cover the same ground repeatedly throughout the year to observe all the changes, because it wasn't really the same ground at all.  She was quite right.

Birds flitting about, a few last crickets still chirping, and the usual flotilla of Canada geese pretending they plan to fly south, we wish, but they fly as far south as the next town, then wheel around and come home again, acting as if they've been far away.
Overhead, two turkey vultures sailed and sailed on the currents, never flapping, just making tiny wing adjustments to keep moving in wide circles.  

Home again, a pair of mourning doves rummaging in the emptied planter boxes maybe for seeds. And the last climbing rose, which I planned to pick for the house before the frost got her, vanished. Today I looked down from upstairs, and there it was, all bitten and torn up, on top of the fence.  Turns out squirrels like roses, too, who knew.

So a lot of earth critters were out and about today. Lucky us.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A don't miss documentary, on Dorothy Hartley,on YouTube

Here's the link to why I'm all excited about this doc:

Then go to YouTube and find the documentary itself.  It's riveting, and funny, and so worth watching, if you love history, or food, or cooking, or eccentric brilliant ladies, or all three!  I just found it on YouTube and had to pass on the good word.  

It's about Hartley's life and her magnum opus on Food of England.  And the illustrations are her own, done as she observed and wrote, a true researcher and social historian.  She lived when many old ways of living in England and Wales were falling into disuse and preserved the knowledge for folks like us and serious researchers, too, to value, as well as studying the history of things and people and customs.  She thought nothing of bicycling all over, sleeping under hedges, wherever she could, on her quest for information.

And if you're from the north of England, or have relatives in Wales, you'll recognize a lot of the expressions.  Long time since I heard anyone say "come day, go day" meaning someone who doesn't worry about when things get done.  The rest of the saying is "God send Sunday!" The man saying it said that Dorothy was not at all like that!

The documentary has some wonderful characters in it, including an artist named Mary (couldn't catch last name, sorry) who is a law unto herself.  I loved the way that despite Lucy Worsley, (the doc person)'s pronouncing medieval as medeeval, Mary quietly pronounced it correctly when she used the word, yay. 

And when Worsley asked her, as an artist in her own right, what she thought of Hartley as an artist.  She replied that Hartley wasn't an artist, she was an illustrator, at which I shouted YES!!! world of difference between the two.  She did appreciate Hartley as an illustrator, though, admiring her detail and accuracy.  

And she used Hartley's food in England book to guide her own adventure in learning to live in an ancient house in the country, with two children, after her husband deserted them, and with no experience of cooking over fire and other early country skills.  She's worth a documentary of her own.

I'm currently reading Hartley's Lost Country Life (library didn't have the Food in England book) and it's so packed with interesting fact and description of early life -- I'm in the medieval period -- that I have to keep putting it down to rest my mind for a minute!  but I had to stop and tell you about this.  Amazing that she created at least two such huge and excellent books, as well as all the illustrations in them, and some lovely old photographs, too.

Just check into YouTube, for Amazing Documentaries, with Lucy Worsley, for Food in England, the Lost World of Dorothy Hartley.  you won't regret it!  about an hour long documentary.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bite Club brings me back to my roots..

This month's cook is Nigella Lawson, and the book I've been into is Nigella's Kitchen.  Since Handsome Son is expected for dinner this evening, he will be my official taster. First course: Sunshine Soup, using red bell peppers and corn from the farm

Seen here at right, her poshed up picture at left.  But it's very good even if mine isn't quite as sunny as hers.  I had a red pepper, she used both red and yellow.  But I also had lovely whey in the freezer from yogurt cheese making, great in this sort of soup, and a chicken broth. So I have hopes of this one.

Then roasted vegetables (not Nigella, just general principles) with roasted salt potatoes (thank you Deborah Madison) and winter squash, plum tomatoes, shredded cabbage, all from the farm, and chicken sausage from Aldi, one of which we now have.

Then a nice seedcake (this is what I'll take in to Bite Club next Wed, since it will keep, if there's any left, that is).  I notice, cattily, that mine didn't sink in the middle as hers did...

The seedcake amused me because I'd never had it in my life, but saw references to it in Miss Marple, where she was at Bertram's Hotel, and it was supposed to be a big deal afternoon tea item.  And there's Jane Eyre, to whom it was evidently a huge treat, not that that's saying much when you think of her life at Lowood, but moving right along.

Anyway, I thought I should honor my roots and do a seedcake, if only to amuse my fellow Club members who think I'm a bit dotty anyway. 

So there's tonight's menu.  HS rarely looks at my blog, so he won't get the surprise spoiled.  Also a glass of merlot if required, and homemade lemonade if not, HS being a rather abstemious man.

English Breakfast pot of tea afterwards when we move to the sitting room. That's the other side of the room from the dining room.  But not the stitching area, which is the far corner of the same room. Or the conservatory, which is the part behind the sofa in the sitting room.  Just so you don't get lost in here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Field and Fen is in the kitchen again

This week's farmshare was blessedly free of potatoes, but had a plethora of winter squash.  So I looked around for a different way of using them.

I steamed and boiled (half a huge squash in the water, half in the steaming basket above, too big to put in whole) a squash for about 30 minutes.  It would have gone faster if I'd remembered to turn on the gas as well as the timer, so I had to redo the 30 minutes. This is what happens when your mind is on art and stitching.  

However, moving right along, I peeled the steamed/boiled halves,  and chunked them up.  If I were a tv cook, they would have had to redo this part of the program.  Except that if I were a tv cook, there would be assistants ready to turn on the gas and do the timer.  And a food stylist to make the results look amazingly, and unreally, good.  Back to my solo kitchen now, dreaming done.

One of the halves is in the freezer labeled ready for soup.  The other half I used in a noodle recipe.  Egg noodles, mixed with the cooked squash which had been tossed in an array of spices, which worked really well.  

The picture shows the chorus line of condiments, the big container being kosher salt, the unlabeled one baharat spice mix from the Jerusalem book, and you can see the others.  White pepper there, with sumac and nutmeg.  The baharat mix already had nutmeg, so I knew this would go okay, and it should have had sumac which I didn't have at the time, so I knew that was okay to add, too.

Little knob of butter stirred in to the hot mixture. 

And four dinners resulted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Recycling meets diy meets textile rescue

So here's the reveal of the latest home improvement feature, my new shabby chic portiere:

A fellow artist is moving, getting rid of a lot of items, and had beautiful linens she will never use, came to her through her family, probably old, and this piece came to me.  

It's actually a banquet style table cloth, linen, much heavy openwork and stitching and drawn threadwork, and was stained.  A bath in Synthropol took care of most of the stains, so I decided not to dye it with coffee, my first thought, but leave it alone.  I may take closeup pix for Art the Beautiful Metaphor and see if anyone can help identify the style of work and techniques, but tonight I just wanted to gloat a bit.
Then the decision on the  place for it to rest.  Too narrow for the window I originally had in mind, but very nice as a gathered full portiere in the bedroom, just slung over a tension rod.  No damage done to textile, and now it can hang a while, until I get up the gumption to starch and press it.  No harm in letting it hang for a bit, to release some of the creases.  And it hides various unlovely items like file boxes and vacuum cleaners and out of season decorative items.

The country style chair was a dumpster find years ago.  So you could say the textile is slumming a bit.

It definitely lends a shabby chic air to the place.  Color is ecru cutwork and drawn threadwork on white linen, and I see this doorway from my bed, so it's a good place to enjoy the piece.  I'll see it every day, and honor it and all the stitching work in it. It's hung a few inches up off the ground, so that marauding kitties don't get caught up in the openwork.


Lovely October days, in and out

Amazing, in our close to 80 degree weather, to know that our Canajun colleagues have already celebrated Thanksgiving, and I hope it was a happy one for all of you.  Ours is nearer our actual harvest -- farmshare doesn't end till mid November -- but a bit too near Christmas and New Year.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd celebrate Indigenous People's Day yesterday with a stroll out on the Preserve, this having been Lenni Lenape territory long ago, to honor them.

And found milkweed, which, after this pic

I blew at and scattered the seeds far and wide, in hopes of feeding future monarch butterflies, which have been very scarce this year.  Most butterflies have been scarce -- a couple of monarchs, a few tiger swallowtails and dusky swallowtails, more Red Admirals, the usual little whites and blues and sulfurs and browns.

But I was blessed yesterday, with a sight of two American Ladies, a first for me, on the field in the Preserve, near where I used to see buckeyes a lot.  At first I thought this pair were Red Admirals, but too fancy a design for that.  Then I wondered Painted Ladies, but not the right pattern for that either.  

And my good old Golden Book of Butterflies explained my confusion, after it identified them as American Ladies.  They are all three in the Vanessa species, and there's another on the west coast, so that's why I was uncertain, many points of resemblance.  Beautiful but impossible for pix, very very flighty and arguing amongst themselves.  But that flourish of orange color on the upper wing is pretty identifiable. So if you want a pic, since my link didn't work, google on American Lady Butterfly.

Then this morning, this is what I saw on waking, among the houseplants in the bedroom, the duncanus domesticus

lurking and gazing steadily in the hopes of waking me early to give him breakfast.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Visitation from a Late Welcome Guest

I found the guest in question when I went out to cut parsley for pasta e fagiole, right there on the pot of parsley, tucking in.  Very late in the season for him, so I hope he makes it.  I left some parsley in place for him anyway.

This is not a pest!  this is a lovely dusky swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.  They are specific feeders, usually parsley being their food of choice.  

Many years ago when I had a large house and an even larger garden and a very large vegetable garden, I noticed that my entire row of parsley, about 25 feet of it, was nibbled down to the ground and covered in these black and green critters.  But, since no other crops were touched, I concluded that these little guys were not doing me much harm, and what's a bit of parsley between friends, after all.

Ages later I found out that they were my favorite butterfly's caterpillar, so I was even happier that I'd left them in peace.  I've had the current little pot of parsley all season, with no guests at all, so I guess they gave me a good run at it before deciding it was theirs.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Backsplash! This or Any Stage! 6WS

The Backsplash Caper is Done.  Handsome Son and I installed one in his kitchen, which pleased him a lot, and we are now officially out of the backsplash business.  It looks really good, and he benefited from all the learning I did on mine.  

 Finishing touches in process.

Took about three hours. As always, it was the final fittings and tweaks and curses that took the longest.  Now I have two sheets to return for a refund, yay.  Took four sheets total to do both kitchens.  And HS has all the leftover bits to make art with.

And on the high tech front, I have installed and almost got the hang of Skype, or perhaps it's got the hang of me.  Anyway, I know to look into the camera now, and not mutter dementedly at the keyboard when I'm looking for the commands.. 

My entire directory at this point is Handsome Son, because even though we live close, recent winters have cut us off from one another, what with snow, high winds, downed trees and other efforts of Ma Nature. I wanted to be able to have near to a real conversation if we can't get to each other's home.  Also as the landlady, I need to know if anything happens for which I need to call in help.

Meanwhile, the stories of Joaquin ravaging our fair state were greatly exaggerated, just a whole lot of rain which we needed, no winds at all, really cold temps -- cats glued one to either side of me whenever I stop moving -- and no drama at all.