Sunday, June 22, 2008

a good stopping place

quiet (unfinished). pencil and oilbar on recycled (hence the rough gesso job) canvas. 18X24

one thing I really appreciate about my mother's childrearing beliefs is that, even though we were taught to be repectful and obedient, she in turn respected us, our needs, our opinions. I can still remember being awakened as a small child and saying on some (ok, probably MANY) days, "I just need to wake up slow." This request always granted one another 5 to 10 minutes. In fact, I think Mom cleverly woke us up early just to allow these last few minutes of lingering dreams.

Likewise, she always encouraged and allowed us to "come to a stopping point" in games, books, projects, etc. when it was time to shift gears and clean up or start dinner, etc. So, here I am, following Mom's advice (always a good policy): this is my stopping place.

I worked on this yesterday. When I picked it up today, expecting to be able to lay colour over yesterday's work (it's so hot, surely it would have dried enough, yes?), I was surprised when I realized I was mixing the colours, not layering. Uf! That, and my limited quantity of turpenoid (cleaner - the new bottle is packed) forced a decision: come to a stopping point, so that this unfinished project doesn't eat at me for the next few weeks, then let it dry for a week, pack it, and finish in Seattle.

So. There's still work to be done, certainly, but I'm satisfied with how it's coming along.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

it's that time again!

Ah, the Midsommar smorgasbord. Sorry I haven't been around - I finished grading my students' papers and immediately had to get started on this. I've been baking and pickling for days to get everything done (the beets needed 48 hours, the gravlax 42, the terrine 12+, the herring 4, etc...) so how rewarding that Matt (who lived for a time in Sweden) and Mandy came this year and gave us props for authenticity. Nice!

the spread, from top:

crockpot contains yellow pea soup with mustard, tumeric, and white wine

to the left (clear glass bowl and white dish) = herring in mustard sauce and pickled beets

coming down (glass jar and white plate) = mustard dill sauce and gravlax

moving right (cake stand, white serving dish, teal-edged plate) = swedish rye and dill havarti, sausage and slice cucumbers, port salut cheese

further down, center and left (rippled glass tray and metal bowl) = goat cheese and tomato terrine with roasted garlic, arugula, basil and the chopped salad which accompanies it

left (white serving dish) = steamed asparagus (also enjoyed with the dill mustard sauce)

and finally: swedish meatballs, turnip and potato mash, milk gravy, lingonberries

black licorice tucked into a corner, but the salmiakki and akvavit didn't get pictured.

also not seen: dessert! A giant bowl of fresh sliced strawberries, lightly sugared, whipped cream with a touch of our mexican vanilla (Nam-hun's suggestion, and a good one), and Anna's ginger thins.

We ate, we drank, some of us got to play a viking game that's kind of like lawn bowling. At the end of the evening, we gave away bunches of fresh rosemary from our garden tied with linen twine. Its seemed doubly appropriate, both for its culinary attributes and its folkloric associations - which, if you don't remember your Hamlet, allow me to quote for you, as Shakespeare references this language of plants in Ophelia's famous mad speech: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember." It seemed a fitting favour for two epicures' going-away party.

here's to you, friends. I will miss you, deeply.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

is it summer?

It must be - it's a regular strawberry-o-rama around here. This is a Lemon-Curd Strawberry Tart, a recipe I've been making since high school. I made a few errors here. I doubled the lemon curd and used sliced strawberries, rather than cutting the stems off and standing the whole strawberries up on the base of the tart shell. As a result, once cut into, this oozed everywhere. Though well received at our picnic/bbq (we resorted to dipping extra strawberries someone had brought in the pooling lemon curd, I'd do it differently next time.

Why did I make these errors? Normally I make tartlets, in which case the extra lemon curd and sliced strawberries are entirely recommended, in my opinion.

The tart shell is the recipe in Marcus Samuelsson's Akvavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine. I made the sweet version, but forgot to include the sugar, so it wasn't exactly sweet. I did add a good dose of dried lavender buds (which were crushed into flecks in the food processor) and the tiniest dusting of cinnamon to play up the spicey notes in the lavender. That choice, at least, was a good one, and a way for me to play on/allude to my favorite lemon-lavendar sugar cookies in a dessert that was not about lemon lavender sugar cookies.

I was impressed when some of Cassidy's coworkers, who've had the lemon lavendar cookies before, got the allusion. I think each cook has his or her own flavour vocabulary, don't you? Just as writers have certain turns of phrase and actors certain cadences they use - it's a voice, that's what it is, a palette. I think there's something particularly intimate about learning another individual's cooking/eating palette, don't you? It takes time and careful consideration, and I don't think that we're necessarily a culture of flavour signatures, so it's a special effort.

alright, now I'm just rambling. Try the tart. Or at least make up the curd and put it on pound cake, fresh crumpets, shortcake, over berries - anything, really. It's not terribly good for you, but it is terribly good.

Monday, June 9, 2008

bad blogger.

as I went through my camera's cache of photos tonight, I realized that there are SO MANY things I meant to post here that I haven't ... yet. I think I have enough food items to share to start posting daily again ... at least for a little while. So tonight's a two-fer. It's a good time for it - finally, FINALLY, the fog has returned (at least for today). I've missed this, this cool evening thing of the fog working it's way right up our valley, settling between the hills, washing everything silver as the sun sets gently into the mists. Perhaps, I mused, if SB hadn't been so darned sunny this winter, I wouldn't have been so eager to leave!

So to start, I have this shirt, now a sort of cardi that can be tied or pinned to itself. The shirt itself is sheer, a purply-grey with gold flecks in it that I got online at urban outfitters last summer. It was a surplice, but those just look silly on me even when the waist isn't too high for my tall frame. So I actually took out the stitching and cut it apart and then edged the whole neckline/placket/hem with red bias tape that I'd tea-dyed to darken a bit. It's still a little brighter than I'd like, but I think I like it. It pops nicely.

and now a treat for you: I made a batch of my favorite lowfat strawberry yogurt scones on Saturday evening. By Sunday afternoon, only these two were left:

I tweaked the recipe a bit to include more whole grains and more fruit and I quite like it, so I'll share it here with you. They're ridiculously simple, but incredibly good, a dynamite combination, as far as I'm concerned.

Strawberry Yogurt Scones

1 1/2 c. white flour (plus another 1/2 to 1 cup for kneading)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. wheat bran
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

one pint of strawberries, rinsed and sliced (you can also use frozen, thawed berries - not quite as good, but a viable substitute in winter!)
one 6-oz cup of nonfat strawberry yogurt (less 1 Tbl - a treat for the cook!)
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
3 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together wet ingredients and fruit.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead to combine. I find that this dough is very wet, and I end up adding 1/2 to 1 c. flour to it as I knead. The dough will still be fairly sticky/tacky when you shape it - don't add too much flour or the scones will be dry and tasteless.

After kneading, shape the dough into two balls. Pat into rounds about 5" in diameter, and slightly thicker in the center than at the edges. With a sharp knife, cut each round into four wedges. Space as far apart as possible on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 20 min until just starting to brown.

(Mine were still dusted with a bit of flour (as you see) so they wouldn't stick to my hands and the counter.)


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

oh, you...

dear anthropologie -

Just when I thought it might be over between us, you go and release your June catalogue with a theatre story, with rich hues and even a nod to the old-fashioned limelight. I misjudged you, I was wrong. Here's to you, for making summer more interesting than beaches and bikinis.

your girl always,

Monday, June 2, 2008

in the details

I've been experimenting with one of my favorite summer snacks: melon and prosciutto. This time I drizzled it with honey and sprinkled it with lavender buds that I'd lightly crushed between my fingers. I think I'll have it this way again. Soon.

I attempted to get some sewing done this weekend. It was a bit of a fiasco. I've decided that until my head is a little clearer and I have a definite idea of what I want to make and how I'll go about it, I'll focus on packing up the house, cleaning, and putting things in order. Tidy space = tidy mind = not wasting more silk charmeuse (seriously, d'oh!)