Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So, I finally finished it. I think there are a few things I would have done differently, if I hadn't run out of patience.

I would definitely have added a vent at the lower back so it would hang more smoothly, and I would have done the cuffs some other way. More like a normal jacket, even though the french-cuff thing looks ok.

Also, it is a little narrow across the front of the shoulders, which is an odd sort of thing to have happen for me, and lastly, I should have gone ahead and put on epaulettes. They would have been spiffy.

More pictures here of various views, plus other stuff on my photostream.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hey, lookit these beets!!

Aren't they cool? Last year I had a salad that had baby yellow beets and lavender in it, and it made such a powerful impression on me that I vowed to make it myself. Of course, I am totally unable to stick to a plan, so what I came up with was this:

Yellow Beets with Purple Basil & Sage Blossoms

Pretty much what the title says. You need the beets, (I steamed mine), you need the purple basil, and sage flowers, and the salad greens. I put a vinaigrette on it. A salad is a salad, pretty much, but I did do a little thinking about this one.

One, I could have roasted the beets, but the resulting caramelization while it would be tasty, would probably affect the color, and I wanted the salad to look neato as well as be yummy.

Two, I chose purple basil, because what else am I gonna use it for? There is no earthly reason to grow it except that it looks so pretty. It tastes fine, but the leaves are tougher and slightly more bitter than the green kind. I thought the purple and yellow combination was pretty smashing next to the lettuce greens.

Three, sage blooms taste an awful lot like lavender. And they have a drop of nectar at the base which makes them sugary. It helps that my plant has these pinky-purpley flowers on it. Damn I love summer here.

...you know, when I was working at the unnamed deli, we got a heap pf purple basil in for something, and I had this one kid convinced that the color was because they grew it in ink, like that science experiment where you dye a celery stick, right...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

International House of Chicks Fruit Salad

By popular request, the fruit salad.

Here's whats in it:

Equal amounts of cherries & blueberries
Fresh lemon basil, about 3-6 leaves, minced
Fresh mango, tossed in a dab of lemon juice.

It should be noted that the first iteration of this salad had slices of navel orange in it. I didn't have that, so I swapped in the mango & lemon, and honestly I think I like this better.

The most important thing about this recipe is the lemon basil. That's what gives it that magic ooo! summer! flavor. After that, I will say that there's no point in making it at all unless the fruit is very ripe and fresh, and that if you use the mango rather than oranges, the lemon juice is also very important. Because all of these fruits (especially mangoes) are very sweet when fully ripe, you do need the acidity from the lemon or the flavor will be very flat and one-dimensional.

Whats with the title... uh, for those of you who may not know:

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away (dun-dun DUN)
Three chinkabilly sisters lived together in a house on Hamilton Place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Now that's more like it.

Round two of the pesto pancakes. Much better, right?

Maybe I just need to cook by the seat of my pants- I woke up and realized that I had no bread. Thank heaven I had pancake mix, or I would have been a very grumpy woman.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yay Plants!

It's hard to describe the reasons for my giddy enjoyment of my plants.
Here's my strawberry. You can't see them, but there are real strawberries on it! Growing! Holy kamoley.

I actually have a whole ecosystem on my balcony right now, it thrills my nerdy nerd-bomber self.

Here's my potato plant- it looks super exotic. Purple flowers, whooda thunk? Not me, that's fer sure. I'm already planning ahead for next year. I want beans, and maybe I'll grow an okra. I hear they have really bizzaro-looking blooms too.

This little thing is the bloom of my ground cherry.
I have no idea what they taste like, I hope I like them, because they are supposed to be quite prolific.

It's pretty fantastic to be able to look at these things every day, and well, they do something new every time I see them. And all I have to do is put some water on them sometimes. Wow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Simple Spinach Lentil Sludge

There was some kinda indian name for this recipe when I first read it online, I no longer remember where. The original recipe was awfully fiddly, calling for fresh spinach, boiling, draining, squeezing, mincing, toasting and grinding herbs, spices, peppers... plah. This is pretty much a two-step soup.

1 cup lentils. I recommend the tiny little red ones without the hulls, but a mix is ok. This time I was short on lentils and used 1/2 c red and 1/2 c green french.

1 1-lb bag frozen chopped spinach

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed or minced
1 inch cube fresh grated ginger- note that you can sub dry for both of these in this recipe, you just have to adjust the amounts.

1 generous tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander- although this is one I do grind the seeds myself. There's this kinda lemony flavor in the whole seeds that evaporates off if it's stored ground. If you grind it yourself, use a scant teaspoon of whole seeds.

1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ground chai spices- if you don't have this, I use a combination of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, powdered ginger, nutmeg and anise. Go easy on the anise, it's got a lot of punch.

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil

Rinse the lentils really well. Bring them to a boil in 2-3 cups of water. The amount isn't really critical. If you're using the red kind of lentil, they'll start to disintegrate almost instantly, and you can add the spinach and stir it up. Otherwise, wait about 5 minutes until they soften a good bit, then throw in the spinach.

Meanwhile, put all the other things in a little saucepan on medium heat, and simmer them together for about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings to the soup and simmer with a lid on until the lentils are totally disintegrated, or have reached a texture you're happy with. It does take 15 or 20 minutes for the flavors to blend well though. About 10 minutes before serving, add some salt. It takes a fair amount, lentils are powerfully bland, and you need to balance out the sweet spices. The finished texture is largely a matter of preference. If you want it soupy, add a little water. If you want it more like a pottage, leave the lid off to cook out more water.

This is really good to poach an egg in for breakfast. Or, if you don't have any paneer, a couple chunks of fresh mozz work well too, but they do get stringy.

You should have some tea, too.

Pancakes for dinner? Seriously?

I had been thinking about pesto on pancakes ever since I moved out of Pete and Cynthia's house. Lazy me misses Pete's cooking. Anyway, I really need his pancake recipe, because while trader joe's pancake mix is fine, it isn't what I originally wanted. The thing is, P & C actually keep milk in their fridge and I believe he puts some in his pancakes. Since I don't drink real milk, it's something I never think to buy, and if I did, chances are it would spoil before I used it. Unless I'm making yogurt, and then there wouldn't be any left over for other stuff.

At any rate, here's the picture, it turned out really pretty.

So: pancakes with 2 kinds of pesto, tomatoes, ham, and fresh mozzarella.

I had to cut back my basil plants before they bloomed and went to seed. I made regular and lemon-basil & walnut pestos. The lemon-basil version is fine, but once the leaves are all chopped up, the lemon scent is rather muted. Also, I think I should have stuck with my original inspiration, which was breakfast, and had poached eggs with it.

But it was a really quick dinner, (except the part where I spent 20 minutes taking pictures of it) and I bet a glass of 2 buck chuck wouldn't have hurt either.

Also, I really want one of those little kitchen blowtorches. I wanted the cheese to get brown crunchy spots, but the pancakes started to get too crispy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why a pastry cloth?

Hmmmm. Well, you know how, when you want to make a pie crust, you have to roll out the dough, and it sticks to the countertop, and it shreds up into a zillion pieces when you go to flip it over or, my god, actually put it into a pie tin? It's really irritating. It is why I have not made many pies. Which is a pity, because I am very fond of pie, and tarts, and quiche, and other things that need rolled pastrycrust.

I needed a pastry cloth. The funny thing is, I knew quite well that it would make my life easier, but I never bothered to get one. I kept thinking "seriously, how often am I gonna want to make pie crust?" Well, lots oftener, now that I have my pastry cloth. I think I was just waiting for the right incentive. I made up all the ingredients for my Farmer's Market Pie, and realized that I could not face the hassle of rolling out a crust on a naked countertop, because I had run out of waxed paper to roll it between.

That was the other thing: I had figured out that rolling the pastry between layers of waxed paper worked just fine, for the most part. But I was out of paper, I had a nice piece of clean cotton sheeting, and I was in a bind. I tore out a generous rectangle of cloth, put a neat hem around it with my trusty treadle sewing machine-hooray, my two favorite hobbies all at once!- and dun-dun-DUN! It was a revelation.

The idea is the same as using waxed paper: you lightly flour the cloth, fold it in half with the pastry between the layers, and roll away. When you want to turn it over, you pick up the whole business and flip the cloth and pastry together, no sticking to the counter. But the best part is that the cloth does not stick to the pastry! Unlike waxed paper, which, after all that rolling and squishing can be a tad reluctant to give up the dough, the cloth whisks away without a hint of resistance. Also unlike paper, which is stiff, and can buckle into pointy shapes which stab holes in your beautiful crust, a nice supple pastry cloth will gracefully yield your pie crust intact.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Baby Carrots!!

I grew them. They took forever. And this is the best picture I could get, because my camera is acting up.

I didn't make anything with them, but they are delicious. They are earthier, and more tender than carrots you buy at the store, but not as sweet. Now I'm glad I put in another set a while back.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sewing patterns & their discontents

I am always convinced that using a commercial pattern to make a garment will save me time. In other circumstances, this is true: when I worked at Fantasy Attic, I made a jillion things from bought patterns, and they all looked lovely.

But none of them fit me.

I got this Folkwear pattern many years ago, when I was a teenager, I think.

I am very glad I did not attempt to make it then, because the first mock-up I tried, I followed the pattern precisely and it was the most boxy, ill fitting, oversized mess you ever saw.

The accompanying photo of the thing made up and worn by a model was a complete lie. The damn thing simply was not shaped like a female. Now if I had been a boy, I think I would have been very pleased indeed, but such is not the case, nor am I even much shaped like a boy any longer. Had I tried to make this in highschool, I think I would have been eternally demoralized.

Bietola, damnnit! Bietola!

Is that what the stuff is called? Yes I think so, this time. It inspired this meal:

1 bunch bietola. Or chard, they're similar.
1 clove garlic
1 unit broth concentrate
olive oil

1 fennel bulb
1 or 2 onions
salt, pepper, olive oil

2 chicken tenderloins, marinated in:
salt, pepper, olive oil
fresh rosemary, parsley and thyme
sprinkle of roasted garlic chips

These amounts make enough for one meal for me, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

Roasted walnuts and fresh goat cheese to serve with.

Up to 3 days in advance, mince the fresh herbs to go on the chicken, toss the tenderloins in with the rest of the marinade ingredients and cover. I recommend 2 things- first, remove the tendons from the meat. They're stringy. Second, allow at least overnight to marinate the meat. I started with frozen and left them for 3 days in the fridge.

On the day you want to eat, allow about an hour and a half. That's enough time not to get frazzled doing this, if you're having company.

Start with the fennel and onions. Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the fennel and onions in 1/3 inch slices, toss with plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil, and bake for about an hour. The fennel and onions should be tender and shriveled, and some of the small pieces should be dark brown and caramelized. Turn the oven off and leave them in there til the rest of the stuff is done, crack the door if you're worried about overcooking.

The greens take around 1/2 hour. Cut them up and put them in a heavy bottomed pot with a little olive oil over medium heat. Toss them up, add a little pepper and cover. When they're about half wilted, crush in the garlic clove and add the broth concentrate. Keep them mostly covered until they are very tender. They should steam down in their own juice. A little browning is fine, but you don't want a lot. Stir sometimes.

When the greens are about done, heat a skillet with a little oil to medium and put in the chicken. Brown on both sides, it only takes a couple minutes per side. At this point, if the greens are watery, let them cook uncovered while you do the chicken. Check the greens for salt, while you're at it.

I cooked the meat with the lid on, like this: chicken in pan, cover. Wait a few, peek, cover, wait. Peek, flip, turn heat off, cover, ignore.

Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and nuts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cough Drops

More proof, if any were needed, that I am a hippy loon.

I have a cold. I didn't feel like walking to the store. I made cough drops.

So they're just hard candy; what did you think cough drops were, anyway? I needed something to keep my spirits up.

1/4 lemon- I keep mine frozen in little slices, I never seem to use a whole one before it shrivels up and goes green with penicillin.

About a dozen mint leaves

1/3 cup white sugar, or thereabouts

About a teaspoon of honey. Mine had a chunk of comb in it, I figured the wax would help get the sugar un-stuck from the mold at the end, but I'll never know if I was right.

Put the sugar in a small saucepan with about half a cup of water. The exact amount isn't critical, it all gets boiled off anyway. All you need is enough to suspend the sugar to start with, and create some steam at the beginning. You do need a close-fitting lid for the pan, though. Turn the heat up to medium, stir it around a bit, then put the lid on. You're waiting for it to boil.

Meanwhile, microwave your lemon, mint and honey in a small bowl until the lemon has gone all gooshy and all the juice has come out. Squeeze out & discard the rind, leave the rest alone for now.

Get a glass of ice water and set it on the counter near your sugar pot. Put a sheet of tinfoil on a cookie sheet and crimp the edges up a tad. That's your candy mold. You can run an oiled papertowel over the tinfoil if you want, but I didn't. Also, you need a longish metal or wooden spoon. NO PLASTIC! I don't care what those rubbery things say on them, I don't trust 'em. The melting point of table sugar is 365 degrees! Ouchy. Moving on.

When the sugar boils, you can see steam shooting out from under the lid at a good clip. That's important, because inside the pot, condensation is forming and running down the sides, washing any leftover sugar crystals down into the mix. There is some very good scientific explanation for why a stray sugar crystal will make your candy mix go all hard and grainy before you want it to, It has words like "supersaturation" and "seed points" but the only thing I can remember is that it means "let the candy pot steam itself for a while."

Not too long, though. A couple minutes should do it. Take a look at the mix- it should be thickening up. Here's how to check to see if it's done: dip your spoon into the candy, then into the cup of ice water. You want it to form a leathery bead of sugar on the spoon when it hits the water.

Once you get to that point, strain the honey lemon mix into the sugar and stir it up. There will be some vigorous boiling, so look out. After that, the candy will rapidly begin to brown. Do the spoon test a couple more times, this time you want the sugar to form a hard ball in the water. When it does, pour it out onto your tinfoil.

You can either wait until the candy is dead cold and break it up, or do what I did, which was to wait until it was cool enough to handle and cut it into squares with oiled kitchen scissors. I recommend packing it in tupperware on layers of wax paper pretty much the second it's completely cool. It attracts moisture, and will go sticky very fast.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"God I hope this works!" Shortcakes

So it is totally impossible for me to follow a recipe. I got a perfectly good recipe for biscuits online, because I didn't like the looks of any of the shortcake recipes, and besides, some of them called for stuff I don't have on hand.

These are my notes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 cup milk

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt; mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 8 to 10 times. Roll to 3/4-in. thickness; cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

My plan:

2 cups flour= 260g
1 cup ww flour= 125g
5 tsp b.p.
4 T sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ c butter
1 c cream
½ c yogurt

god I hope this works.

bowl + butter = 390 g

several errors in plan: used 2 T bp rather than 5 tsp. Used bread flour not ap. Sigh.

Dude, I didn't even get the oven temp right- I set it at 400. Mercy.

Yup, this is me.

I'm gonna put my recipes here, and maybe some other stuff.

Because I am a mad scientist out to conquer the world.

With cheese. Or maybe just yogurt.
Cheese could be a little ambitious, my kitchen is tiny.

Chinkypin Sez: be an omnivore.