Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time to get started...

Little Pea Plants (look at those tendrils!), 2008

For those of you interested in this continuing worm saga...
It's time to go shopping. Read more here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

There's a lot about me you don't know.

Napping on Hay Bales, 2008
Image: Courtesy of Knowledge Man

There's a lot about me you don't know.

I lived in the "country" for a while. I had a nice big yard. I wrote a book about worms.

It began like this...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Here I sit.

...and so it begins, 2010

Here I sit. Bra removed, blouse replaced by husband's t-shirt, feet bare. Classical music at moderate volume. Half prosciutto and fig sandwich resting happily in my belly. One small container of cornichon emptied. One cold glass of milk reduced by two thirds. What? Don't you ever eat a nontraditional breakfast? I've seen the view on the way down the hill and have marched back up. I've had coffee with Chris--our conversation touching on such an array of topics that none saw closure before our kiss goodbye in front of his office building.

I'm in no mood to make order of chaos this morning, so I'll begin with something productive from yesterday. I think I really nailed down my favorite rhubarb recipe.
Yes, I'm still talking about rhubarb. If you haven't attempted any of the suggestions in my last post, try this one first. It is, without a doubt, my favorite.

Rhubarb with Earl Grey Tea, Cardamom, and Orange Zest
6 fairly indulgent servings

3 cups (six long thin ribs/just under 1 lb) rhubarb roughly chopped into 1" pieces
3 cups (two peeled, seeded, and cored) apple (Braeburn) roughly chopped into 1" pieces
Juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure cane sugar
Inner seeds of one green cardamom pod crushed well with mortar and pestle
2 bags of Earl Grey tea steeped in 3/4 cup just-boiled water for 3 minutes and then cooled
*Zest of 2 Valencia oranges (1/2 added before cooking and 1/2 added after cooking)
*Vanilla ice cream (!)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chopped rhubarb and apple in a medium casserole dish or oven-safe pot.

Add remaining ingredients (*retaining the zest of one orange and vanilla ice cream for later) and gently toss.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir (It will smell so good). Bake an additional 15 minutes. Fruit should be tender and kitchen should smell even better than it did the first time you opened the oven door.

I let this batch cool slightly (5-10 minutes), spooned some into a bowl, and topped it with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. I ate the rhubarb as the ice cream melted on top. It reminded me of this. Chris had fallen asleep at this point, but I woke him up and gave him a bite. He liked it too. He even held his eyes open for a couple additional tastes.

Sweet cool cream on warm chunks of rhubarb and apple infused with Earl Grey tea, cardamom, and orange...mmm. It is good cold too. I just checked. It thickens as it cools and I prefer the cooled texture (and color), but I would not give up that first warm taste with the cool melting ice cream. No no no. This is a big batch, eat it both ways.

I have so much more to say (I made this great pizza with Bloomsdale spinach last night and I made Rachel's to-die-for Spaghetti with sardines, rocket, lemon, chilli and anchovy crumbs (oh, those crumbs!) a couple of nights before...I finally read Canal House Cooking Volume
N°1, I'm about to pick up Molly Steven's All About Braising from the library, and then there's my knitting and prose and poetry...) but I fear it would all come across as stream-of-consciousness rambling (too late), so I'll spare you.

Do something nice for yourself today. I'll be here, perched beside my kitchen window, writing, drinking my milk, and thinking about the other half of my sandwich.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crimson Stalks

In the Pot, 2010

The last time I purchased rhubarb there was a fellow shopper eagerly inquiring as to how I prepared my rhubarb. She explained how the stalks had always left her feeling baffled. During my prior purchase I was met by another shopper who explained how rhubarb had always intimidated her. She wanted to know what I did with mine.

I just assumed everyone knew what to do with rhubarb. I thought I was the last to embrace the crimson stalks. Not so. So this post is for all of you rhubarb virgins.

I am on a mission to spread the simplicity of fine (and simple) rhubarb preparation far and wide.

I've been especially inspired by Tara's tribute to rhubarb on Tea & Cookies, Molly's recent post on Orangette, and by Ruth, my former next door neighbor in Point Reyes Station, who spoke of her rhubarb plant so lovingly.

I'm infinitely pleased with my results so far and will continue to experiment. I hope you will be experimenting too. Don't be shy, rhubarb is very forgiving (and oh-so-tasty).
Star Anise Rhubarb
4 humble servings

1 1/2 cups (three long thin ribs/just under 1/2 lb) rhubarb roughly chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups (one peeled, seeded, and cored) apple roughly chopped into 1" pieces
Juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
Add enough water to lemon juice to = 1/2 cup liquid
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean split
1 whole star anise pod

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place rhubarb and apple in a small casserole dish or oven-safe pot.

Add remaining ingredients and gently toss.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir (It will smell so good). Bake an additional 15 minutes. Fruit should be tender and kitchen should smell even better than it did the first time you opened the oven door.

And...that is it. You are done. Can you believe it's that easy?
I tasted this rhubarb warm and spooned straight from the pot--it was exquisite. I chilled the rest and served some over cottage cheese and, yum. I'm sure it would also be wonderful beside some fresh ricotta, served over oatmeal with a bit of cream, topping a bowl of Greek yogurt, or with shortcake and lightly sweetened whipped cream. So many possibilities. Let me know how you decide to serve yours.

Although I found my
Star Anise Rhubarb to be quite delicious, I decided to create another version with a few changes. I wanted to decrease the sweetness and fairly strong taste of vanilla, so I doubled the quantity of rhubarb and subtracted the vanilla bean. While I was at it, I decided to replace the star anise with a few juniper berries (3, gently smashed). Dark brown sugar was substituted for white. Everything else remained the same. Let's call this version Rhubarb with Juniper Berries. So far, I've tasted this batch warm and spooned straight from the pot (of course) and over pancakes. I sprinkled the rhubarb topped pancakes with powdered sugar and a bit of lemon zest. Chris and I like tart, so we thoroughly enjoyed the Rhubarb with Juniper Berries. If you aren't a lover of the pucker, you might want to stick with the Star Anise Rhubarb recipe. The flavor imparted by both the star anise and the juniper berries was very subtle. I might try using a little bit more next time.

I'd also like to create a recipe replacing the lemon and water with Earl Grey Tea and adding a little orange zest, but that is for another day...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Judging Books By Their Covers

Return to Joen, 2010

There is little that compares to the indulgence of walking into a bookstore or library and leisurely browsing. Contrary to what we've all been told, I've had tremendous luck judging books by their covers (front & back). Sometimes I even judge by size.

I recently spent some time in a chain bookstore, one I typically pass with an upturned nose. They had such wonderful displays of books throughout the store. These displays went far beyond what was new, best selling, or on sale. There were collections of Short Stories, a display of Books You've Always Meant to Read, and a selection prepared specifically for National Poetry Month. I wish I could share some of the other fabulous displays they created, but I was more focused on jotting down book names than display names. Sorry about that.

After just completing a short story limited to 600 words, I was particularly intrigued by works described as written in deceptively simple language, bare-bones prose style, and exquisitely distilled. Descriptions such as toppling the myth of the moral superiority of small-town life, genuinely tragic and beautiful, and a feminist landmark, this big, ambitious novel... also caught my attention.

I was introduced to The Lottery several years ago and have been meaning to read more Shirley Jackson for quite some time now. Thomas Ott's cover helped me recall this desire. Although I've read several scathing reviews of Dorothy Parker's Complete Stories, I still find myself strangely drawn to the book. It looks entertaining.

I didn't walk out of this specific chain with any books under my arm, but I did write down a list of books I'd like to read in the near future.

Anything you'd like to add (or subtract)?

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Thomas Ott (Illustrator)

The Lottery and Other Stories also by Shirley Jackson

The Drinker by Hans Fallada

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
Picador; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
by Raymond Carver

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
Penguin Classics (December 31, 2002)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Latvian Easter Eggs

1. Locate some nice fresh eggs.

2. Find some seeds, green things, maybe a tiny edible flower.

3. Gather up a pile of yellow onion skins. Wet eggs and gently press seeds and green things onto eggs. Wrap eggs with cheesecloth and kitchen string. Place it all in a pot. Cover with water and proceed as if hard boiling eggs (use a gentle simmer versus a rolling boil). Turn off stove & let cooked eggs sit in colored water for about an hour.

4. Drain eggs in colander. Remove string, cheesecloth, etc.

5. Admire your Latvian Easter Eggs.