Saturday, October 27

Google Reader

I've signed up for Google Reader, an rss feed reader. I've been planning to do this for a long time, and now I finally have. This way I can subscribe to the myriad blogs and online publications I read, group them into folders, and read them in chronological order on the same page.

Meanwhile there's a link, on the mid-righthand side of this page, to my latest saved posts under "favorite blogs & feeds". As I read through everything, I can save it to this page for your perusal. At the moment it's a bit random, it's partly meant to simply tell you who and what I'm reading generally. It'll grow more specific to the individual posts with time.

Tuesday, October 23

Projectless

Oh, agony! I don't have anything to think about.

I'm nearing the end of the coif... I had to lengthen the pattern considerably. What person has such a tiny head that they only have six inches from one ear-tip to the next? Anyway, I have twelve inches. I know my head is big, but it's not that big.

I had a rip-roaring good time the other day working on our finances and adding data into Quicken. Yes, I'm not kidding. However, data entry is just not that exciting every single time. Oh, I could certainly enjoy it, but it's not the same.

I made the chicken with shallots and the eggplant caviar. The caviar was a bit, eh. The chicken was good, fairly delicious even, but more tedious to make than the recipe looked. Although it was still an exciting, magnificent meal... we managed a salad, and Gordan toasted a leftover half of a "multigrain" baguette in the oven, which we then doused in extra virgin olive oil and shallot sauce... mmmm.

Tonight I greatly enjoyed looking over pumpkin carving pictures at, ahem, the Martha Stewart website.

Last night I learned a great deal while exploring the bowels of the Cook's Illustrated website.

And yet... and yet...

Friday, October 19

Perfect Hair Days

It turns out that the secret to perfect hair for me is to henna my hair every few months, oil it once a week, and tie a handkerchief or scarf over my hair as it's drying. This keeps the top smooth and shiny and well behaved, while below my ears the hair turns into big, subtle corkscrew curls.

What's left to discover is how to wash the oil out of my hair all at once. Baking soda doesn't do it, shampoo and diluted shampoo both seem to take two washes.

Thursday, October 18

Calling Inspiration

It's three in the morning, and I don't know what to cook next week.

The reason I care at all is because the grocery order has to be in by 9, and I'd certainly rather do it now... and since I am not overall a spontaneous cook, if I don't plan something yummy for next week we'll just end up with pre-made or restaurant food.

Tomorrow night I plan to make a combination of chicken breast with shallots and a version of eggplant caviar. Saturday we'll have Bosnian beans with bread, dandelion greens (sauteed I think), and maybe roasted beets. On Monday I'm planning to make lentils in butter with little spicy sausages, zucchini with onion garlic and mint, and rice. (There would be some yogurt in there as well.) However, the lentils after the beans might be a bit much?

And then for the rest of the week I ran out of ideas. I have sketched in "spaghettini with garlic" and later "something delicious with squash." None of the cookbooks are doing it for me. There's a squash and chickpeas with tahini dish I'm sort of hankering for but I don't quite trust it to be as good as it sounds. I'm wanting a moist sort of squash, some green leafy vegetables, and a good solid protein--I'd be happy with more beans but Gordan might be tired of them.

All right, white bean soup with winter vegetables it is!

Oops, was I thinking out loud?

Sunday, October 14

New Knitting Project: Green Coif

I'm starting a new knitting project. It's a pattern from knitty.com, the coif. I'll be doubling the yarn I got, to get the right gauge.

I really have to keep up a knitting project all the time, so that I continually learn new things--and remember them!

I was thinking of adding a fuzzy strand of some special yarn, but I decided to make a simple coif first. This should be a relatively quick pattern to knit. For my second one I'll get more experimental.

Exotic Veggie Soup

Exotic Veggie Soup
Serve with red wine and bread.

I believe this recipe is based on a basic veggie soup recipe from Madhur Jaffrey, but it's been some time and I no longer remember. In any case, basic veggie soups are no mystery. The exotic taste here comes primarily from the unrefined coconut oil, chile, pesto, and spices. Refined coconut oil will not do. The vegetables are variable, although it helps if they are mild.

Ingredients:
water or stock
salt
1 onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 potato, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 bay leaf
olive oil
coconut oil, unrefined
1 dry red pepper, cut in half lengthwise
spices (cumin, italian mix, black pepper)
2 zucchini, halved & sliced
2 tomatoes, diced (either fresh or whole canned)
1 teaspoon pesto

Bring water to a boil. Add bay leaf and salt. Add onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes. Simmer and cover. Cook for awhile.

In a pan, heat olive and coconut oil. Add chilli. When chilli begins to fry, remove from the oil. Add spices and fry briefly. Add zucchini and tomatoes. Stir. Allow to fry for a few minutes.

Add oil, zucchini and tomatoes to soup. Cook for a little while longer, then let it cool. Add pesto, stir, and serve.

Tuesday, October 9

Exploring Ovens

I'm having fun and learning about new territory: baking!

The first step is to assemble the equipment, as we explorers know. However we explorers don't always know what equipment to assemble. I was hearing conflicting accounts: was the ideal surface on which to bake--the most important item--a baking sheet, or baking stone? I came across conflicting information, until I discovered this fantastic forum on breadmaking and other baking: The Fresh Loaf. They have informed me that you primarily want to bake on a baking sheet, with or without sides, and have generously given me lists of other important things to buy.

Now, I actually don't plan to leap into breadmaking quite yet. Breadmaking is a fairly vast world unto itself. I got into it years ago, in a very simple way of course, but I got a foretaste. (Also I'd like to borrow the bread cookbooks I'll use from the library, and the library is still closed due to the strike.) Right now I want to get into other things--cookies, galettes, quickbreads (and roasting). So I'm weighing what to buy now, since most of the advice is geared towards bread. What I'll probably want to do is to collect the first recipes I want to make--well perhaps including one or two bread recipes from Gail Sher's book--and pore over them, noting the equipment that I'll want to use for each. And buy that.

I've also gotten some information on local restaurant supply stores, so I'll check those before ordering anything over the internet.

I might also consider cleaning my oven, now that I think of it.

A New Comments Post

Comments, comments, comments.

Friday, October 5

Simple Food

I have a new cookbook: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. What a lovely book. First, the most fun in reading a cookbook is often in its introduction. By the way, I didn't write enough about Claudia Roden's book on Middle Eastern cooking... now there's a thrilling introduction in which history unfolds from the perspective of food.

Waters' introduction sticks to cooking. However her style is sophisticated yet simple, thus very easy to learn from, and then to put the new knowledge into practice. She covers ingredients and kitchen materials in an inspiring way--I for one am inspired to buy some baking sheets!

I was especially struck that her first chapter is on sauces. In my experience sauces are normally relegated to the back. And only four are profiled in that chapter: vinaigrette, salsa verde, aioli, and herb butter. Somehow that subtle choice is greatly significant. From the very start she puts four easy yet sophisticated tools in her readers' hands, so that you can take any simple dish to the next level of taste.

The first half of the book consists of typical chapters--sauces, salads, vegetables, poultry, etc--but they contain only three or four recipes, and one or more essays on the tastes and techniques involved. You can see that Waters is a teacher at heart. (In fact she apparently trained in Montessori before becoming a chef.) The second half of the book repeats the same chapters, but this time with more recipes and no essays. This is lovely for me because it is much easier to learn from a short chapter and a few representational recipes, and then for actual cooking to pick out something more specifically suitable from the appendix-like chapters in the back.

I haven't really delved into using this book, though I've stashed many recipes into my computer program. I'm going to add some of them to my meal plans for the next few weeks. In particular I'm excited to try new techniques which she explains very clearly, such as pie-making. (She recommends making galettes, where you fold the edge of the pie dough over the filling so that it is self-contained, and no pie dish is necessary for baking--which is great because I don't have any, and hardly have the space to store such a thing.) In any case, the subject of meal planning leads us to my next post...

Essential Oil Blends

Another lovely blend: lemon, bergamot, and lemonbalm (10% diluted). Lemon and bergamot are like the two extremes of the citrus range--one tart and alert, the other deep and gentle. (Although perhaps grapefruit is even further along than lemon.) Yet together they blend effortlessly, creating what could seem to be a new citrus fruit. So this fairly round new scent is still eminently a citrus, to which you add the citrus-like yet very different scent of lemon balm--soothing and mild with an unusual, almost smoky green quality.

I recently got some lavender essential oil from Gaia Gardens. In general their prices are a bit high for the same quality you can get elsewhere for less. However, they have the best lavender oil I have used. It is subdued, and full, and welcoming, soft and strong at the same time. The other oils I've tried have been thin and woody to varying degrees... I should specify that I mean an unappealing woody, since woody can also be delicious... here the scent seems to me to be more pure. I am back to adding lavender to a wide variety of blends.