Monday, April 30, 2007

Pork chops

pan-fried, with sauteed turnip greens and apples; also turnips (cooked in palm oil!) and brown rice. The palm oil is nice; bland flavor, heats well, turns everything bright yellow (hello beta carotene).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shell Tank

Diligent readers of this blog will remember the six inches or so of this sweater I posted months ago. Voila! the finished object. I am pleased. It owes its excellent fit entirely to Anna, whose blog can be found to your right under "Anna's Flying Needles." In a move typical of knit-blogger generosity, she wrote out complete directions, down to the stitch, for re-sizing the pattern (which had as its smallest size a size that was too big). A shout out to Anna, herewith. For interested parties: I used Addi turbos in 6 and 8, and four balls of Rowan Calmer, in Drift. The pattern is by Nora Gaughan, in Knitting Nature.

Tuna Casserole

The cooking gods are fickle. Last week I shopped and planned for a mediocre oyster stew; tonight I threw together everything I had on hand for a casserole, and it was sublime. Husband agreed, this one was much more than the sum of its parts, which are as follows:

1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta (I don't know the name of the shape; imagine slender penne twisted into cork screws) boiled and drained
1 C ricotta cheese, 1 egg, zest of 1 lemon, 1 T kosher salt, all mixed up
2 heads of chopped mei quing cabbage, sauteed with scallions
1 can tuna, drained (packed in oil. It's almost impossible to find tuna in oil these days, but I think it's much better.)
Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) for the top.

I mixed everything up, sprinkled the panko, and popped it in the oven until it was browned. Oh my goodness, you won't believe how good it was.

Life is fine when "what I have on hand" includes snapping fresh mei quing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lamb Chops

with brown rice and garden turnips.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Variation on a Theme

Same egg noodles, same egg, pesto instead of bagna cauda. Truly, this was great. Was it the plethora of fats, animal and vegetable? Whatever it was, it worked.

I had a pesto epiphany last year. I'd spent my adulthood thinking I could only make pesto when I had enough basil to make tons of it; as a result, I rarely made it. Then it struck me: I could make enough only for one meal if I felt like it! I could even pick a few leaves, make an ersatz pesto with some nuts, cheese, and garlic and call it a relish! This may be obvious to others, but was a revelation to me, and has given pesto a whole new role in my cooking.

It occurs to me that I haven't yet mentioned my fetishistic relationship to eggs. I love them. Duck eggs, quail eggs, goose eggs--I'd eat them all if I could. Since all I can get are chicken eggs, I focus on getting extremely good ones. For the last few months we've been getting them, several dozen at a time, from the children of some friends of ours--they raise chickens on their parents' horse ranch, and those eggs, sometimes laid while one watches, can't be beat.


Nice wild King salmon, for only about, oooh, a squillion dollars a pound. *So* delicious. We had it with brown rice and roasted butternut squash, kohlrabi, and garlic. Butternut squash: the vegetable of kings. You know how you look at one of them, and it seems so big and resistant and you think, "screw it, I'm steaming broccoli tonight"? It is so worth just cutting the sucker up into little pieces, dousing them with olive oil and salt, and sticking them into a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or until it's all browned on the bottom. Eat the leftovers cold the next day, or put them in an omelette with ricotta cheese. It's the dish that just won't quit being outrageously good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


with swiss chard, red onion, and ricotta cheese. A real winner.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oyster Curry

Sometimes the mojo isn't there. Last week, when I read the recipe in the NYT magazine for oyster curry, prefaced by the author's note that substituting butter for coconut oil was ok, I thought: there is no one in town more ready for this recipe than I. Then events transpired and it wasn't until tonight that I actually made it, with all the authentic coconut in my formidable arsenal, and it was...ok. Nothing special. Nothing I'd make again any time soon. I'm sure the recipe is not to blame; I just can't seem to get anything right in the kitchen recently. We had it with rice and sauteed roof lettuce.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fried Chicken

(this was on Wednesday) with brown rice and roof lettuce. A word on what I mean by "fried chicken": I take chicken thighs (from chickens humanely raised, if nonetheless callously killed), brine them for half an hour in a quart of water with a cup of kosher salt dissolved in it, and pat them dry. Then I put them, skin-down, in a pan of very hot fat and leave them until they have a brown, glassily-crisp crust; then I turn them and cook until they're done. This is, obviously, not fancy and wouldn't qualify among the true chicken-fryers of the world, but man, is it good. Need I say that I usually use coconut oil to do the frying? Actually, I need, because as of Wednesday, I have a new fat! I'll update you as I explore the world of organic virgin expeller-pressed (or something) palm oil.

In the interest of full disclosure I will also tell you that I usually fry about six pieces of chicken; we eat maybe four of them for dinner, and then I eat the skin from whatever remains before I put the leftovers in Tupperware. Those last pieces of skin, eaten when I'm already full, tasting of pure calories, are heaven.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lamb Chops

broiled, with brown rice, and greens sauteed with garlic.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


of potatoes, pork butt, turnip greens, chives, and thyme. Accompanied by garden turnips, and very tasty.

Mottled Green Socks

Done. Great bamboo/cotton yarn. I experimented with doing everything sort of quick and dirty, including a three-needle bind-off for the toes instead of true grafting. Seems to have worked out fine.

Queen Snapper

(whatever that is), grilled, with a salsa of parsley, dill, and lemon zest, along with brown rice and home-grown turnips. Delicious and very pretty.

Friday, April 13, 2007

House Finches

This is the second year that a pair of house finches has raised its brood in a nest above our front porch light; you can see Mom in the photo, though you can't quite see the clutch of hungry beaks just below her. Last summer she raised at least two batches of little ones.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Egg Noodles

The full title is "Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio, and an Olive Oil-Fried Egg," and some of you will no doubt recognize it from this past Sunday's NYT magazine. In fact I made it from the cookbook from which the magazine took it, Nancy Silverton's A Twist of the Wrist. Did you ever eat at Campanile, in LA, when Silverton was still owner and chef? I did. As a result, the minute I read she had a new book out on 30-minute meals made from pantry ingredients, I zoomed Amazon-ward and made it mine. Silverton and I have slightly different ideas about what constitutes easy weekday cooking (lemon zest is pretty much where I usually draw the line) but we are as one on what constitutes a delicious meal. I could have eaten three bowls of this delectable dish, in which the lemon zest is totally worth the effort. To give Silverton her due, I glanced at the clock as I served the meal up and it came in at 40 minutes, not at all bad for something this screamingly good.

I followed her recipe exactly, but for using cheapo egg noodles, and substituting mustard greens (from our local CSA delivery) for the radicchio.

Green Darjeeling

Very nice. More stongly flavored than the Chinese teas I've been drinking, but lovely. The instructions say to brew it with boiling water (rather than the steaming water one usually uses for green tea) but that's crazy talk. I did it and, naturally, ended up with a bitter cup. Stick to steaming and everything is fine. Check it out here.

Ostrich Filets

marinated in soy sauce, grilled on the grill pan, with brown rice and salad of mixed lettuce and arugula. I love me some ostrich.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three Cups Fragrance

Meh. I can't make anything in particular of this tea. It has (I think) some plum flavor, which you'd think would be good. At any rate, I thought it would, though I certainly shouldn't have, since I have experience to the contrary. Years ago I was in Chinatown in SF with a friend who has actually spent considerable time in Taiwan and China. We passed a tea shop with lots of brewed samples out on a table and I said, spying one, "oooh! Plum tea! Yummy!" My friend said, "don't even try it; you're going to hate it." "Nonsense!" said I, right before gulping it down. Let me tell you, it was vile. It was unbelievably awful. How could a mere tea be that stupefyingly noxious? I don't know, but it was. Three Cups Fragrance is nowhere near that bad, but I've learned my lesson: plum is not a flavor you want in Chinese tea.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Turnip Harvest

Could our first harvest have been more beautiful? We ate every molecule of turnips and greens (as the centerpiece in a dinner of assorted leftovers that was, overall, pretty sublime.)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Pork Butt III

I don't even know where to start. Pork butt continues to follow me; this morning my spouse announced that he wanted to spend the afternoon watching the Master's on a TV he rigged up in the backyard while slow-cooking a big piece of meat on the grill. My stepson points out that it was the most redneck afternoon ever passed in this household, not that any of us minded that. When the spouse further announced that the meat in question would be pork butt, I was outwardly supportive but inwardly aloof. Two butts in two months later, what did I really have left to learn about this meat?

What didn't I? The intense, crisp, deeply caramelized exterior, hiding the rosy pink halo of a properly smoked piece of meat; the toothsome, juicy lean meat with its untertone of mellow sweetness; the luscious fat, like the most delicate, yet mouth-filling, bacon you've ever tasted. I mean it: this meat was perfect. There is not one way it could have been better, and nothing that could have been simpler in the prepartion. A little salt rub to start, then four hours in a covered outdoor grill along with a wet log to smoke the place up.

We had it with sauteed red cabbage, onions, and apples, brown rice, and corn on the cob.

The picture does the meal no justice, but is the best I have.

Buckwheat Pancakes

I make these every weekend, and believe that I have finally perfected the recipe. It's possible to simply buy a box of Hodgson Mills buckwheat and follow the directions on the box, which will give you a nice pancake. Or you can follow my recipe (honed over many months):

3C buckwheat flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
4tbsp sugar
2C milk
2 eggs
several tbsp. melted coconut oil (or butter)

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then stir in the wet (which you have whisked together in a separate bowl). Cook in a large non-stick pan. Do you know how to test a pan for pancakes? Preheat the pan, empty (though not near birds, if you have any, since apparently the fumes can kill them. Don't think about what that implies for your own health.) When you think it might be hot enough, sprinkle some water on the pan. Does it evaporate immediately? Too hot. Does it sit there and boil? Not hot enough. Do the drops dance and skip about like lambs in spring? There you go!

Make all the pancakes. When you have eaten all you want, let the rest cool, then freeze them (stacked with pieces of waxed paper in between them) in bags in the freezer. During the week, before work, pop them into the toaster oven for a minute or so, and they will emerge as fresh as the day they were born.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Banana Rocks

Does everyone experience stress about overripe bananas? I watch them decline, day by day, filled with the conviction that I ought to be using them, yet unable to think of a way to do it. I know--banana bread. But my mom raised me on the perfect banana bread, which I've never been able to duplicate, and in any case, the problem is deeper and weirder: I am always convinced, despite a lifetime of evidence to the contrary, that I'm not going to like banana-based baked goods. The fact that I love them, every time, does nothing to diminish this feeling. I was pushed over the edge today by the combination of six (!) ovveripe bananas in my kitchen, and the fact that the only "rock" cookie of Maida Haetter's that I hadn't yet tried was the Banana Rocks. Of course they're wonderful, and promise to be much more so in the days to come.

A side note: I have changed from someone who loathed raisins in cookies to someone who can't do without them; these are loaded. I used whole wheat flour and halved the sugar. Curious about what fat I used? Check any other cookie post.

Kale Soup

Reason enough to join a CSA, just to have some nice, new kale to use in this soup. Simplicity itself: sausage (I used chorizo, andouille works, so does kielbasa, so does anything else), onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chicken stock, and kale. Brown the sausage and aromatics, add the tomatoes (one big can, chopped) and stock (one of those squishy boxes-full) and let simmer for, I don't know, maybe an hour, then add the kale and simmer for another fifteen minutes or so. Lose the ginger and add a can of red beans and you have my aunt's signature Portuguese soup; add leftover rice to a few cups the next day and you have lunch. We had it with a tian of butternut squash, little turnips, and whole garlic cloves.

Mottled Green Sock

The first of an eventual pair. This was a joy to knit, as I'm working with an elasticized cotton-bamboo blend. On the one hand, it's just an objectively cool (as in temperature), silky-feeling yarn; on the other, I'm crazy about fibers made from unexpected things (my next project: socks from a wool/seaweed blend). The actual knitting is more error-filled and shortcut-laced than would be believed by any respectable knitter, but I've decided that they're socks, so not likely to come under close scrutiny. (It goes without saying that the color is nicer in real life.)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Ate Out

two nights running. Stay tuned for knitting pictures, though.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Little Lamb Chops

broiled, with purple barley, and salad from our first CSA delivery. Spouse described eating the barley as "like chewing on little rubber balls," but he actually meant that in a good way.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Oatmeal Cookies

I make these so often that I now play even faster and looser than usual with the recipe (the Crunchy Oatmeal Cookie in King Arthur). Sometimes I get lucky, and this (improbably, as you'll see) was one such time. I cut the recommended 3/4 C white sugar and 3/4 C brown to a single cup of brown. I substituted whole wheat flour (locally raised and ground by a guy with whom my husband went to college) for regular, added raisins and walnuts, and made the cookies twice as big as I usually do (too lazy to scoop little ones). Let me tell you, the results, nasty and health-food-ish as they may sound, are sublime: a truly great, flavorful, chewy, rich oatmeal cookie.


Sockeye salmon, deep red, broiled, with brown rice, sauteed kale, and sauteed shitake mushrooms. Part of my haul from a trip to Whole Foods (and a very good thing it is that we don't have a WF in town--I'd bankrupt us on whole organic purple barley, etc.)