Monday, April 27, 2009
This is the place where I'm doing the most reading. In fact, I just finished Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, so I can now rent the movie from Netflix, because I missed it on Masterpiece Theatre. Plus, I like to read books before I see the movie so I can create my own version in my head before I'm influeced by someone else's vision. Anyway, it's a pleasant little book and I'm interested to see how it works on film.
I had to take the above photo with the flash on because it is positively dreary outside. We had absolutely horrible weather yesterday (flooding and tornadoes), but today it's just misting and moisting.* The good news is that the weather is so much cooler now. Last week, we had highs in the 80s (which I think is too hot) and today the high is only 61 (which I think is great).
Another thing I think is great is caviar, but I've had a horrible time finding it here. I happened to be at the Dillon's Marketplace in between taking loads of books to the duplex and I was perusing the import food section and found caviar on the Kosher aisle for only $5. Naturally, I was intrigued and bought it. It's really rather tasty. We had it for my birthday with Lingue di Suocera (mother-in-law's tongues) aglio olio (photo below). Paul and I ate in front of the TV while watching Netflixed Star Trek: The Next Generation. I have to say it was all quite enjoyable.
I would have more food to show, but I've had a quiche-tastrophe. In attempting to blind-bake my crust, I neglected to put the tart pan (which has a removable bottom) on a baking sheet. In the attempt to get it into the oven, it fell and I ended up with dried lima beans (my pie weights) everywhere, including down under the coils of the 400-degree oven. The whole apartment smelled like an ash tray and I haven't used the oven since. Yesterday, I was packing my baking sheets (which I keep in the drawer under the oven) and discovered that the drawer was full of lima beans. I didn't think that after I swept what felt like thousands of them off the floor that any could have escaped my notice. How did they even get in there?
I hope to have more photos of the duplex up soon and I'm also looking forward to us not running around like crazy people so I can use my new kitchen (I did make yogurt today, though).
One misty, moisty morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
All clothed in leather
All clothed in leather,
With a cap under his chin.
How do you do?
And how do you do?
And how do you do again? (from Secret Rhyme Origins)
Friday, April 10, 2009
The above photo shows pork chops (from the west-side Farmers Market) that have been sautéed and then finished in the oven and glazed with a white-wine reduction (Côtes de porc poêlées) and paired with Haricots vert au maître d'hôtel and Asparagus vinaigrette. All recipes are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The only change I made to any of the recipes was to use Dijon mustard instead of dried mustard in the vinaigrette. I used to think that I hated mustard, but it turns out that Dijon in things is good. I still don't want to eat it just spread on a sandwich or sausages or something. That's too much for me. Also, yellow mustard is still yucky. I don't want to even smell it. So there.
Next, we have a Chicken, Mushroom, and Bacon pie from Nigella Express that I have altered. (I should have taken the photo the night before because the crusts didn't collapse on me. Oh, well.) I still haven't caved and bought garlic-infused oil, so I just use olive oil and then throw in garlic a little later. Also, the recipe calls for the pies to be topped with all-butter puff pastry. I don't know where to get anything but Pepperidge Farm in Wichita and that is made with partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening. There isn't even any butter in it. So, I just made a 10-inch pâte brisée and got enough dough to top 4 pies. That's another thing. The recipe says it makes 2 individual-serving pies, but the filling is enough for four people (even enough for four Pauls!). Since there are only two of us, I have a really nifty (if I do say so myself) method for leftovers. Instead of baking the pies in ramekins, I put the filling in 2-cup Pyrex containers. It's great because the Pyrex can go in the oven and in the refrigerator or freezer. Plus, they have lids, so the extra two servings can just go into the refrigerator for next time and then I can get them out, replace the lids with pie dough and pop them in the oven. The first meal from the recipe isn't exactly express (even if you don't count making the pie crust yourself--Tyson doesn't do a very good job of cleaning up chicken thighs before they get to the customer) but the second meal is really easy.Evidently, research is currently being conducted on whether we should follow a diet similar to the traditional diets of the homelands of our ancestors. This would be terribly easy for pastry-fanatic me. Britons will put anything in a pie: apples, mincemeat, chicken, steak and kidneys, four-and-twenty blackbirds... It would definitely be more difficult to determine what Paul's ancestral diet ought to be. Spanish/German fusion cuisine, anyone?
According to Foodtimeline.org, sugar cookies originated in Arab cuisine and were introduced to Spain by the Moors. They were then introduced to the rest of Europe. Evidently what we think of as a sugar cookie is most closely related to the English "Jumble," appearing in print as early as 1615. I guess if we ate like our ancestors, both Paul and I would get to eat sugar cookies. Happy thought, indeed! The sugar cookie pictured below is from How to Be a Domestic Goddess and it is shaped like a fleur-de-lis because that is the only cookie cutter I have.
Unfortunately, in the making of the sugar cookies, I broke my bottle of vanilla extract. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, to be exact. Oh, the agony! Thankfully it was only the $10 bottle, not the $19 bottle, and it was in its box (yes, I kept it in its original box) when I dropped it, so glass didn't go everywhere. While it was hemorrhaging its life force on my tile, I was in absolute agony. "No No No NO NOOOO!!!" I wailed. These may be the last baked goods for a while, at least until Paul lifts his embargo on a new bottle and stops insisting I use the cheap stuff instead.
Among other tragedies, WGN is no longer showing Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tuesday nights (they've moved it to midnight and I am not staying up for it), so our TV watching has been diminished even further. We're now watching episodes of the original series on the internet in front of Paul's computer. We're canceling our cable because all we watch together is Castle and Lie to Me and I watch Masterpiece Theatre and Gossip Girl (don't judge me) by myself. Get this: everything we watch on TV we can watch for free on the internet. Plus, we have Netflix and the public library has a pretty respectable movie collection, so I don't think we'll even miss broadcast television, especially since we get our news from the BBC and The New York Times, anyway. Yippee for saving $12 per month!
Friday, April 3, 2009
I've been practicing my self-sufficiency muscles today. Since I've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, Real Food, and Taste, I have been interested in eating a "traditional" diet: basically nothing that couldn't have been produced before the industrial revolution. It also includes eating grass-fed beef and pastured hens and local, organic produce. Naturally, I don't find it the easiest thing in the world to always follow these principles, but I'm trying and I'll share the ways I've found that make it easier to follow a traditional diet.
I think the easiest way to procure local, organic produce is to grow it myself. I'm a little limited, though, because we rent. Nevertheless, Paul and I have just finished planting strawberries, herbs, and lettuce--all in containers. Thanks to Sheherazade Goldsmith's A Slice of Organic Life, I found out that strawberries can grow in a hanging basket (below) and the book also walked me through planting lettuce in a window box. We'll see how it goes!
In other realms of self-sufficiency, I also made chicken stock. It's really easy and makes stock that is soooo much better than the broth that comes in a box from the grocery store. It's also very close to free to make.
1. Save chicken scraps/bones in a gallon-size bag in the freezer. When it's full, you're ready to make stock. Be sure to save the gallon-size bag, though. You'll need it when you're done.
2. Peel a carrot and chop it in 3 or 4 large pieces.
3. Clean a celery stalk and cut off the leaves. Chop stalk into 3 or 4 pieces.
4. Peel a medium-sized white or yellow onion.
5. Get out your largest stock pot and put in the chicken pieces, carrot, celery, and onion. Fill with water to cover by approximately 2 inches.
6. Throw in a handful of peppercorns, a sprinkling of dried thyme or a couple stalks of fresh, and a couple of bay leaves.
7. Bring the stock almost up to a boil and then back the heat off to a slow simmer for 4 hours. All you have to do now is stir every once in a while and check on the heat.
8. Strain the stock into a mixing bowl (throw the solid parts of the stock into the gallon-size bag and discard). Cover and cool overnight. In the morning, you can skim off the fat (which will now have solidified) and store the stock in the refrigerator. There is generally between 4 and 6 cups of stock after it has been skimmed. I use quart-sized Mason jars for storage.
If you've never used your chicken scraps to make stock before, it's really worth it just for the taste. It's really not as daunting as it seems, I promise!
This is the work I've done on the sweater I mentioned last post. This will eventually be the back of the sweater. The bottom portion is a 1x1 rib and now I'm working on the stitch pattern for the top part of the sweater. It's just a stockinette variation that gives a neat tweed-like effect that I think is pretty cool. It's going to be a while before I finish, but I'll keep you updated. I wish I could knit faster! There are so many projects I want to start!