Monthly Archives: August 2011

Groovin’ With Grains

I’m not the crunchy granola type, but I’ve found decent whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, and (maybe because my ancestors were Scots) I love barley. Bring on the bulgar! Smooches for spelt! Tonight, thanks to Lidia Bastianich, I’m fooling around with farro. It’s a kind of whole wheat barley, so packed with nutrients that it alone, with a few lentils, will keep you alive forever. And hot and lean forever.

Two nights ago we made Lidia’s “Farro With Pork Stew Potenza Style.” Well, the pork stew was ridiculously good and easy, but Dio Mio, we had to slum it with (white) rice. I was intrigued by farro, so yesterday we headed out to the local Whole Foods, and yes they had it — five bucks for a pound bag. Whoa, I was unworthy.

I hate to type, but I figure you’d like to read the whole label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Montebello is an Italian classic. A monestary built in 1388 where authentic artisan famers use long forgotten Old World techniques to create premium 100% Italian foods full of distinctive flavors and aromas…And not far from the summit, overlooking the Adriatic, grow acres and acres of organic Farro and , that sustained the Roman legions centuries ago.”

The package said I should soak it for eight hours, then simmer for thirty minutes. I soaked it for an hour and cooked it for forty-five minutes, with a bay leaf and some fresh thyme , rosemary and oregano from my garden, A small blast of lemon juice and some parm — tastes fab, It has that creamy graininess with a teeny bit of bite that a well-made rissoto flaunts. But, amici: buy a cardboard cylinder of Uncle Ben’s Barley, cook it the same way and you’ll have the same end product. Not organic, sure, and not blessed by 14th century monks, but cheaper and with comparable food value.

Here it is plated up with the pork stew and a tomato/scallion/basil/ricotta salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that half slice of buttered bread at the top of the plate? I decided to go all responsible tonight and made  the Light Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. I should have fussed more about the crust, but I didn’t. The flavor and grain is good, but I’m eating it warm so I can’t make a judgement on it’s quality until tomorrow, when it’s cool. All I ask for is a few decent slices for toast and a tuna salad sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got to say, whole grains make you feel full, which is why they’re so valuable, globally, as a food source. On the other hand, they’re making me wonder why I don’t own Birkenstocks and sport temp henna tatoos. But, it was all good and I won’t need a late night snack tonight.

 

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Books, Food, Home

Apron(s) of the Day: “Indochine” and “Game Night”

Loulander’s having a “little work” done at an undisclosed clinic. It’ll be a couple of days until my supermodel’s stitches heal, so I recruited Charlene and Big Dale to strut the red carpet for me. I mean green carpet — I snapped them in their garden. I’d say Lou has some serious competition.

This number’s called Game Night. For some serious Scrabbling:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those are some great gams, Dale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bingo anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the reverse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re off to the mysterious East with the lovely Charlene. (Why is her complexion exactly as smooth as glowing now as it was almost thirty years ago? Bottle it, Char!) I’ve named this numero “Indochine” You know I have a thing for Asian prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see the gazillion tomatoes ripening? I’m so jealous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ve owned this fabric for five years. I love it so much that I couldn’t cut into it until yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Char, you look mahvellous:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m working towards the opening of my etsy shop, be assured that if you want to buy either (or both) aprons, shoot me an email. I’m the Simpson’s agent, by the way — if you want them for print or tv work, go through me. (I’ll skim off a mere 10% Char and Dale!)

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Reversible Aprons, Sewing, Worth it anyway

Making Bread: Cheap Cheerful and Guilty

I might have posted on this subject before — forgive my failing memory — but I’m gonna do it again. The eternal question: why don’t we get our act together and make our own bread ? Every other day?

It’s not as if we live in Paris or Montreal or Saigon, where a bodacious baguette lolls around every corner. We live in the Land of Bad Bread, unless you’re willing to spring five bucks for a spurious loaf of La Brea.

In the last couple of weeks I made this loaf of white sandwich bread, straight off the back of the King Arthur Dried Baker’s Milk bag:

Tall, wide grained, and kneaded in the KitchenAid: approx five minutes hands on work. So why don’t I have a few loaves in the freezer? I guess I’m a lazy slut.

Glom your eyes at the rye loaf cooling on the countertop. Lou made it with zero drama — so why not twice a week? (In fact, half the dough’s resting in the fridge for rye rolls later in the week.)

I mean, before the Cuiz and the KitchenAid I was perfectly capable of kneading my own dough with my own two mitts, following the recipe from “Joy,” With my beloved machines, I should be able to crank out a loaf every other day, but I don’t.

Baking bread is the furthest thing from rocket science — peeps have been doing it for thousands of years, fomenting their own yeast from the air instead of ordering it for the King Arthur catalogue. (Fermipan!) I’m going to spend a few more minutes of rising time to flagellate myself for my laziness, then I’m going to build a big ham and swiss on Lou’s gorgeous rye

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Filed under Food, Home, Les than 99 cents

Around the Ville: Trains, Bikes and Atom Smashers

I’ve been tooling around the ‘Ville on my bepetalled cruiser, congratulating myself that I had the brains to insist on a bike with no gears to shift, a coaster break, and a saddle and handlebars that allow me to keep my seat on the seat . At last I can check out the landscape instead of the white line on the road, and, anyway,  I’ve never cared for skin-tight spandex on a hot day.

One of my favorite short rides — about five miles round trip — meanders along Batavia Road in the ‘Ville, then onto the Fermilab bike path for a short stretch of its considerable length. Today I remembered my camera, so come with me on my virtual bicycle built for two. I’ll let you squeeze the air horn if you remember to bring a bottle of water.

I want to show you a couple of charming gardens;both of them come right up to the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old rattan and petunias.

The next three pictures show you the “public garden” created by garden writer (and my colleague at The Village Chronicles) Shawna Coronado. It extends the length of three houses, along the easement between their back fences and the sidewalk. For tired bicyclists and walkers she provides two full-size park benches. This is about half way down the garden path.

A sweet little detail:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another view — I love the lone ten foot tall sunflower at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And another:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedaling right along we come to the level crossing for the old EJ&E tracks, now the CN tracks. For thirty years I’ve been hearing trains in the night, and when I’m staying somewhere else I miss that low slow rumble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross those tracks and you’re breathing the same air and biking the same path as a few hundred of smartest people on earth:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the gates. While the property is still open to runners and bicyclists, it’s been closed to non-authorized cars since 9/11. It’s enormous acreage, most of it pure prairie. It houses its own herd of bison (you can smell it downwind) and provides a sort of federal wilderness preserve and wetlands.

When the superconducting supercollider came to town, the locals redubbed it The Atom Smasher, not as alliterative, but more descriptive. And shorter.

Welcome to the home of the Top Quark.

 

 

 

 

Bring your bait and tackle — this is literally the first time I haven’t seen kids and grandpas fishing here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A path-side sculpture. Or something. Any atomic scientists in the house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the pristine spell of the place, but beautiful and powerful in their own way are the miles and miles of enormous power towers. You need mucho megawatts to smash atoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s where I turned around tonight , a big white clapboard building, “Aspen East.” It’s a community center for employees, backed by tennis courts, volleyball courts, and picnic tables. I wonder if they hold keggers in there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was hot and muggy, and I’d forgotten my water bottle so I headed home. What I’ve shown you is a fraction of the Fermilab bike path — I was hoping to bring on the bison, the wild apple trees and Fermilab itself. Now that the collider in CERN is #1 Atom Smasher, Fermilab has lost some funding. It will be around for basic research, they say. Oh God, I hope so.

I biked back after about half an hour, only to wait as one of the longest freight trains in memory chugged by.

My street is unremarkable: lots of flags, driveway basketball hoops and nice people. I’ve shown you a tiny snapshot of Warrenville, close up, from behind my handlebars. When I get a lock and chain for my bike, I’ll take you to the library! Be still your hearts.

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Filed under Body, Free, Growing things, History, Home, The 'Ville, The Great Outdoors

Apron(s) Of the Day

The weather has cooled, and it’s as if degrees in the 80s are my favorite high 60s. I get up earlier, I have more energy, I think  about accomplishing  stuff like cleaning bathrooms and weeding, which were beyond me during the heat wave in July.

I went back to my roots and sewed a version of my “Farmhouse Lady” apron. I love the scalloped hem (not too visible because of my poor photography) and I’m mad about the farmhouse prints. I have a soft spot in my heart for this apron because it’s the first I ever made, in prints rooted from my stash.

Attention, Uncle Lloyd: Supermodel Willow showed up tonight, if only to show her ass as she scratches topsoil over shit.

Man, do I love these prints:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verso:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the apron, which I’m mad about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reverse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a brand new apron, fun to make, practical, tied together at the sides, and featuring a full back as well as the front. It’s tied at the sides with twill tape, for much sizing adaptability. Amazing feature: it’s open at the bottom, so it can be used as a laundry bag or a receptacle for gathering beets or tomatoes from the garden.  I’m going to call it “Kitchen and Garden.” It’s tabard style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bright print. Verso: A pretty, subdued, Chinese print:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to wear, has deep pockets for garden trowels and random radishes, and I love twill tape ties:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I should have pulled the fabric down and straightened the apron. I’m not only a bad photographer, but a bad stylist. Note Willow burying, well, something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a better idea of the swell properties of the apron. Clean, useful, plain.

If either apron strikes a chord and you want to buy it, shoot me a message.

 

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Needlework

Wartime Chocolate Cake: Cheap, Cheerful, and God Help Me, Vegan

I’m lucky: publishers send me review copies of food related books, and I bless my not-zactly prodigious position in the food writing world that the mailbox serves up a delicious surprise once a month.

A couple of days ago I groaned when I tore open the envelope: I mean The 30-Day Vegan Challenge?” Oh Please. The author, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is not simply writing a vegan cookbook, she’s challenging us to eliminate all animal based foods from our diets and improve our karma with the animal universe. You can hear my molars grinding from here to Santiago, right?

Let me give you some of her speil:

“By choosing to look at what happens to other animals — human and non-human — on my behalf, for my convenience, I’m saying yes to my values of justice and service to theirs.

By standing up for what I believe in and speaking for those who have no voice [Ed. Note: chickens?] I’m saying yes to my values of justice and service to others.

By choosing to eat life-giving rather than life-taking foods I’m saying yes to my values of peace, kindness, compassion, health and simplicity.”

OK, come  get me and drag me to the Hague for crimes against bacon. I mean if I had to, I might be able to give up red meat, but only if I could pig out on fish, eggs and dairy. Between her rants, Patrick-Goudreau inserts recipes, and perhaps a third look edible — they’re in fact the soups and sides I make anyway! The rest of them , all that tofu and tempeh and condescension, make me want to buy shares in a slaughterhouse.

I tried her Chocolate Cake recipe tonight, not because I wanted to spare the life-taking foods of butter and eggs, but because it reminded me of chocolate cakes of my fifties youth. Mothers were still cooking from the Depression/Wartime culinary codices; a recipe didn’t omit butter and eggs because  they were “life taking.” They were omitted because you had six mouths to fill and a ration card.

I remember this same Chocolate Cake recipe from my childhood, the vinegar and oil, the sponge cake texture, the way the cake improved over a few days held in a cookie tin. I baked it tonight and it gets the Cheap and Cheerful Seal of Approval. Here’s the recipe, a kind of no-fail wonder that can be mixed up in three minutes with no more equipment than a big kitchen spoon. My advive: bump up the cocoa from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup; like most vegan dessert recipes, it’s much too sweet.

I added dribbles of a simple icing sugar/milk glaze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about the recipe, it would be a super Kid’s First Cake. It doesn’t take a lot of technique and it would be a baking primer about measuring.

Chocolate Cake

(From The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, Ballentine.)

1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. canola oil

1 T. distilled white vinegar

1 c. cold water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a bundt pan, 9=inch springform pan or muffin tins.

Combine the flour, sugar,salt, baking soda and cocoa powder in a bowl until thoroughly combined, Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the vanilla, oil, vinegar and water. Mix until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for thirty minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If making cupcakes, check for doneness after 15 minutes”

(The thirty minute timing was dead-on for me. )

If you’re a vegan friend (Er, do I have any?) you might want to check out the book. If you eat “life-taking” food, as I do, I’ve given you the best recipe in the book, and you can serve it up after a roast chicken or meat loaf.

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Books, Food

World’s Cutest: Doughnuts

I’m Facebook friends with the pastry chef, cookbook author, and busy food and travel blogger David Leibovitz, whose The Perfect Scoop is still, to me, the revealed wisdom of all things ice cream, sorbet and granita. Today David posted a link to the Serious Eats website, which proposes that the World’s Cutest Doughnuts  come from Japan. Like, surprise, surprise!

All photos: [Photograph: floresta_mama on Twitpic]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I got to choose my doughnut, I’d ask for the bewildered calico kitty front left.

 

They’re made by a chain called Floresta Nature Donuts. Here’s the 411 from Time Out Tokyo website:

“Floresta, which also goes under the tag name of ‘Nature Doughnuts’, is a growing contender on a national scale, with shops now in locations as far flung as Kyushu and Hokkaido. With its main shop in Nara, the owners are a husband and wife team who wanted to make guilt-free donuts that they could feel good about giving to children, so the flour, eggs, salt and sugar used are all organic and domestically produced. Floresta avoids the large batch production that many other outlets use, and only makes donuts as needed, meaning that they may well be sold out if you don’t get there early.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like organic and domestic, but if theses had the ingredient list of, say, Little Debbies, I doubt that your kid would hesitate a minute before he wrapped his grubby little hands around one of those bunnies.

Here are some “guilt free” frogs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four of each, please! And if they give baker’s dozens in Japan, I think I’d like an extra frog.

Here’s the link:http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/08/photo-of-the-day-cute-japanese-cat-doughnuts.html


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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Food, Incredible Edible Egg