Friday, September 26, 2008

no, really. They ARE good.

of course, slathering anything in a bunch of butter and maple syrup AND chestnuts helps.

We had salmon last night, paired with a mess o' brussel sprouts. We freely adapted from a recipe in Field of Greens, the Greens Restaurant's second cookbook, that was recommended for holiday meals. (holiday food? In September? Well ... let's just say that sunny SB wasn't exactly conducive to a holiday mood for me, and I'm getting a bit of my own back by starting EARLY this year. Plus, brr! It's cold here and reacclimation is hard!)

We chopped a small yellow onion and sauteed it in 1 Tbl of olive oil over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until it was softened. Meanwhile, I cut the ends off of the brussel sprouts (I'm not sure how many - maybe about a pound? They came in those little net bags, premeasured - on sale for 99 cents at Whole Foods last Saturday!) and sliced them, about 3-4 slices per brussel sprout. I added these to the pan with the onions, breaking them up and sauteeing them for another 10-15 min, stirring occasionally, until parts of them were starting to brown.

While that cooked, I took 3-4 Tbl of butter and softened it a bit in the microwave, then added 2-3 Tbl of grade A maple syrup and whisked it together into a maple butter.

Once the brussel sprouts had begun to brown, I added about 3 Tbl. of chestnut puree to the pan along with the butter, turning off the burner. (My chestnut puree had vanilla and sugars added, as it it's a little early for jarred chestnuts, and this was all I could find.) With a wooden spoon, I broke up the puree and mixed it evenly throughout, and voila!

I'm sure this is not the healthy way to eat your veggies, but it sure did taste good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

playing around

more fun in the kitchen, and success! - a tart. This thing is so good, we could sell it on the street. It was really rewarding to make this this morning; I've had so much reading lately that I feel like my creative urges are just screaming for satisfaction. Even a little bit of culinary experimentation seemed to satisfy them for today.

crust is 1 1/4 c. flour, 3/4 c. cornmeal, and 3 Tbl. sugar, with 10 Tbl butter cut into it, a little salt, and ice-cold water to hold together. I put it in the shell, pricked it, weighted it, and baked at 400 for 15 min with the weights, then 8 min without.

fruit: about 12 figs (stems cut off) and a half-pint of blueberries. I sauteed 1 Tbl butter in a saute pan, threw in the fruit and about 1 Tbl. sugar and stirred it up, reduced heat to low. I added about 1/2 c. brandy and simmered it for another minute before increasing the heat to high (to keep the fruit from releasing their juices and cooking down too far). Once it had thickened and most of teh juices had congealed, I turned the heat off.

I placed the figs in the crust, then poured over a sweet potato custard. Custard was made of 1 medium sweet potato (skin removed and flesh crushed with a fork), about 1/2- 3/4 c. half n half, 1 egg, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1 Tbl Mexican vanilla (all blended together on high for a minute or two).

I used two spoons to lightly scatter the blueberries and congealed fruit juices over the top of the custard. Then back into the oven (at 350 this time) for 35 min.

Chill, eat. yum.

Friday, September 12, 2008

too late!

thank you so much, you two who commented and shared your opinions on the "to colour or not to colour" question. Unfortunately, before I heard from you, I heard from the fella, who said "colour it!" ... he later admitted that he wanted me to colour it because I hadn't employed proper and consistent line weights (!!), so he didn't like the black and white version.

This is why I got out of stage design, things like this drove me insane (that and I think lefties really ought not to draft by hand, it's such a horrible exercise in heartbreaking smudges). Darned snobby architects, holding everyone to their style and standards.

So I don't know. He likes the nubbly blending of greens. What do you think? Have I utterly ruined it, or is it alright this way?

but this one he likes. I did it while I was waiting for him to get ready to go somewhere. I think to get the celery root, actually. =) I always make little pledges to get back into drawing, and then fall by the wayside. Maybe I'll have another go at it this fall, see if I can't try and get a few quick sketches in every week. I'm thinking maybe of plants in the garden.

ps. there's another piece accompanying the anemone platter, but since I decided to gift the two pieces, I'll have to show you later. All I will say for now is that it is really difficult to draw on a concave surface - both control of the paint pen, and the necessary warping of an image so it looks right to the eye. I had no idea! I did four drafts before I finally managed something I liked and have gone through about 50 Q-tips rubbing off my mistakes. I think I'll stick to flat surfaces from now on.

experimenting with scraps

We didn't plan to do a lot of cooking this week, owing to my being sick, so we've been living mostly on boxed Trader Joe's soup, salad, juice, tea, and a few vegetables that I picked up so that there'd be some nutrients in all this.

By Wed I was getting creative, and by Thurs, I was running on scraps. Still, sometimes experimenting with the leftovers has positive results. The remoulade (foreground) was planned - no way I just keep ripe pears and celery root on hand. It's a pretty easy side dish, particularly if you're lazy about the julienning, like I am, and you get someone else to make the sauce, which is basically a flavourful, homemade mayonnaise/aioli (an egg yolk, some mustard, a splash of vinegar and a half cup of olive oil and whisk whisk whisk!).

The scraps come in with the gnocchi (and while, yes, I do sometimes make my own gnocchi, this is the pre-packaged stuff that Trader Joe's sells for $1.49). A firm believer that some slow-sauteed caramellized onions is the basis of many tasty things, I cut an onion in thin crescents, and caramellized them over low heat in olive oil. I chopped some fresh sage leaves from the garden and threw them in as the onions finished. Then I added a leftover baked garnet yam, skin removed, and flesh cut into chunks, three figs (sliced thin to spread them further) and a handful of baby spinach leaves (the last of a pre-packaged bag). I sauteed to wilt the spinach and warm the figs and yam through. Meanwhile, we cooked the gnocchi, drained it, and tossed it with a little olive oil, then added the veggies and tossed all together. I topped mine with some crumbled Mt. Vikos Manouri Manaki, a light and salty sheep-and-goat's-milk cheese. Cass went for parmesan - I'm sure either would be grand.

We paired it with the remoulade, some leftover salad greens tossed with leftover homemade vinagrette, and a glass of syrah. Not too shabby for scraps - even Cass, who was very dubious about all this, especially when he saw me putting the figs in, said it was tasty. We might even make it again, on purpose this time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

all the cool kids are doin' it!

Have you signed up for Sal's Shoe Swap 2008 yet? Why not? C'mon, it's a social and sartorial experiment! You only have 'til Friday - chop chop!

a tutorial, of sorts

I kind of have a thing for hats, did you know? But when we moved into our new, smaller apartment, I needed to find a place to put them. No room for hatboxes here!

I decided to go with a wall-mounted hatrack, but to buy one with nice round supports (instead of hooks, which can poke a weird shape into your hat) cost more than I wanted to pay. So I rigged up my own. Here's how:

Regular old run-of-the mill cast iron garden hooks, yep, for hanging planters. I picked up five of these at a summer clearance for a couple bucks each. I hung them over my dresser, in a spot where my hats would be protected from exposure to direct sunlight and from the dry heat from the vent.

I traced around a latte bowl to create five circles of fabric. I measured five rectangles by wrapping my fabric around the bowl, marking where the ends met, and adding about an inch for seams. These sewed up in just a few minutes - no need to finish the bottom hems, just tuck them under about 1/2 - 1" in the next step. (fabric from IKEA)

This is a good use for leftover polyfill! Be sure and pack these suckers tight, or they won't keep their shape, and then what's the point?

I used embroidery thread to cinch the bottom - just a quick running stitch all around, with long ends left hanging. This will hold that folded edge under, giving you a nice finished edge on your hat rack.

Work that sucker over your hook, so that it's not going to shift, and then cinch tight and tie a knot with the long ends of the thread. It might be helpful to have another set of hands for this part.

Trim your long thread ends, and voila! A nice cushioned hatrack, to support your collection without damaging it, without breaking the bank!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

spreading the b'love

better late than never, eh?

The fabulous Sal over at Already Pretty showed me some blove about two weeks ago, and I had been meaning and meaning to do my part and pass it on, but you know - back pain and now a cold/fluish something-er-other have really cramped my style of late. However, a recent visit from an old friend prompted the pop quiz, "five blogs you check every day, go!" and I answered without hesitation, fully conscious that I was, at that moment, composing this post.

I've linked Sal above, as a sneaky way to get an extra blog in there. I'll avoid redundancy here, but trust me, she makes the short list. If you haven't checked her out, you should.

and now to share s'more b'love (too many apostrophes?) The rules state that I have to pass this gold card of joy along to 5 blogging buddies, including one new one. Here are my picks, with some rhapsodizing, because these women are just so cool!:

Posie Gets Cozy - this is a no-brainer. Alicia Paulson is magic. She got me hooked on blogs, actually. Two years ago, I had a sinus infection and was bed-ridden for days with a high fever, feeling miserable for myself. That is, until I stumbled upon Posie somehow. It was wintertime and Posie was all candy-coloured Christmas. I spent hours alternately sleeping and poring through her archives. It was delightful, and oh-so-comforting. Alicia's voice is always warm, human, immediate, connected. She'll make you laugh and cry. She's loads of talent, and a healthy dose of reality, and it's no wonder she's hundreds of loyal readers. She's my daily dose of cheer, and on those hard days that we all have, I sometimes ration my Posie reading, saving it 'til lunchtime of afternoon, where it's that boost that puts a smile back on my face and carries me through the rest of the day.

Inside a Black Apple - I'm afraid these will all be of the "no-brainer" category. The charming Emily Martin is an incredibly talented and popular artist who runs an Etsy shop of the same title. She posts almost every day with new art, new crafts, new images of her beautiful home, and I absolutely love her aesthetic. She's currently working on a new series, called "Ordinary Forest."

Wiksten - Jenny Gordy's that effortlessly chic and cool girl that I always (still!) wanted to be. In addition to being a striking beauty herself (she was kind enough to let me paint her this summer from one of her self-portraits), her blog reveals a deeply sensitive and thoughtful nature that is disarmingly sweet. Her aesthetic is clean, but beautiful - very Scandinavian, to my eyes. She's busy cranking out her breathtaking collections (*sigh* unfortunately, a few years from affordable for my grad-student-budget), so she's not a daily poster, but I always check - just in case.

{frolic!} - Chelsea's blog is one of two I frequent for a treasure trove of inspiration. She generates a wealth of enchanting articles, photos, and ideas every week. I always tell myself I have to ration, only look at one a day, but I can't help it. When her new round of posts are up, I gorge myself on delight and then am left waiting until next time. Everything is light, and beautiful, and wonderful here - her blog is aptly titled. I particularly love all her links to Cookie Magazine's incredible ideas for (stunningly photographed) children's birthday parties. Late-20s, Schmate-20s, I want one of those fairy birthday parties, dang it.

and finally, a newbie: I was jonesin' for some more blog-reading while coughing and miserable on Friday, so I was surfing other people's blogrolls (is there an etiquette on this?). I went from wiksten to A History of Architecture (another favorite. I almost put Erica in as my "newbie" but I knew that would be cheating, because I've been reading her blog and drooling enviously over her wardrobe for months), and from there to Copycat. Fashion inspiration abounds, and the minute I publish this (oh, okay, and notify everyone that I've nominated them), I'm going back to her page to read about this darling braided hairstyle. I have a very Heidi-esque dress that is screaming for some braids like that. =)