Saturday, December 15, 2007

vive la revolution!


zut alors! the kitties are on the march! let them eat kibble!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

scenes from a craft fair



thanks to everyone who stopped by! i had a great time, the only drawback being that there was a little issue with the heat in the store, as in, there wasn't much of it. but the next place i'm selling is outdoors, so i figure this was just toughening me up....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007


there is a real ody:


much fuzzier in real life.

and here's his brother, pork chop, who may have a napkin of his own some day:


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

refashioning is contagious

i haven't refashioned anything for myself in a ridiculously long time—haven't bought anything new though!—but my nearest and dearest have been taking up the slack.

my mom made one shirt from a pattern and refashioned another (waiting for pics!).

sarah needed some new dresses for her trip to italy and instead of buying some, asked me to make them. we made her a dress form:

duct form

and i found her two great vintage patterns on ebay:


we didn't get any pictures before she left—the sewing went right down to the wire, sar stitched the straps on to the last dress on the plane!—but she promised me some good shots, on location on the amalfi coast.

and finally, stephen refashioned! he transformed one of his old yankees shirts from gary sheffield (no longer on the team, a big jerk) to shelley duncan (rookie just called up from the minors, young and really enthusiastic and hitting big home runs):


i am, of course, a mets fan. but i'm still impressed with his work. :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

nightgown to dress

i couldn't resist this silly nightie i found in the salvation army:


the pattern was just too great:


so i reconfigured it into this:


i think it still needs a little tweaking.... i want to put some pleats at the neckline, and i think i need to take it in at the sides a little more---i want it to be loose and comfy, but think it's still a little too much fabric. but even in the meantime, it's been a great summer dress/swimsuit coverup.

p.s. sorry about the blue underwear! i forgot to change to taupe for the photo shoot.....

p.p.s. i had a windfall: some store/company/who knows what down the street from stephen's office was throwing out a whole load of upholstery fabric, and he snagged almost all of it for me:


i think there's some ultrasuede in there!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

another old shirt rescued!

this was part of my college uniform:


not only is it ridiculously big (as all of my clothes were back then), it has developed some issues in the back....


.....and so has since been relegated to the pajama drawer (or, more accurately, one of the pajama drawers. i have a few pajama/loungewear drawers. some of my friends find this odd). but i never wore it, because i was afraid it was just going to keep ripping and fall apart. so, clearly, it was time to take it apart myself.

i started by removing the sleeves, then cutting across the back at the spot of the enourmous gaping hole, leaving me with this:


then i cut down the sides, making two pieces, and slit the part of the back that was attached to the front down the middle, comme ca:


i decided that those two pieces coming off the top of the front piece would become straps, so i trimmed them a bit to make them slimmer and hemmed the edges. i also turned the neckband under in the front and stitched it down to make a uniform hem all around.

then i put it all together: pinned the side seams and sewed them up, hemmed the top of the back piece, attached the straps to the back, and hemmed the front piece— which had ended up longer than the back—at the bottom. and this is what i got:



putting it on, i realized that the part where i had hemmed under the existing neckband stuck out....


...and i was going to fix it by turning it under one more time and re-hemming, but then i realized that i liked it the way it was.

the finished product definitely retained some of the pinholes and frayed edges of the original shirt, and i'm glad it did.

Friday, June 22, 2007

i believe i originally bought this at joyce leslie....

this was my favorite shirt in 5th grade.


hey, blame the 80s. anyway, i went at it with the scissors, pieced the pieces back together, and ended up with this:


you can't see it in this shot, but on the back panel (which is all one piece, not three pieces patched together like the front) the stripes go vertical instead of horizontal, which looks really neat at the side seams when the two come together.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

sizing down

i have about a dozen sweatshirts that i love dearly but never wore out of the house because they were all about five sizes too big, having come to me as hand-me-downs from my brother or having been thrifted because i couldn't resist the pattern/graphics even though i could have fit two of me in them. example:


so i figured it was time to them down a few notches...

this is the basic process i followed:

1) put the sweatshirt on inside out and marked the spot on either side of my bust where i thought the new armholes should start. i pinned the front and back together at those spots, so that the pins marked not only where the arm should start but also the new width that i wanted. i did the same with the band at the bottom—pinning the front and back together at the width that felt right.

2) took the sweatshirt off and laid it on a table and drew a line from the bust pins down to the bottom-band pins, and pinned it.

3) cut the arms off at the seams, then drew a line from the bust pins up to the shoulder seams at an angle, essentially creating a raglan sleeve opening. cut next to that line, leaving a decent (3/8") seam allowance.

4) laid the top openings of the cut-off sleeves on the new sleeve openings i had marked on the body, so that they were aligned at the shoulder seams. then marked and pinned the openings of the sleeves at the spot that met up with the bottom of the sleeve openings. then drew a line from that spot down to the cuff of each sleeve, and pinned it.

5) sewed all of my new seams: both sides of the torso, both new sleeve seams. (i then used my serger to finish all of the seams; if you don't have a serger, just trim the excess. obviously.)

6) pinned the sleeves into the new sleeve holes, positioning so that the seams fall on the insides of the arms, and sewed them in. this scared the bejeesus out of me, as i'd never done a sleeve before, but it was totally painless!

et, voila!


sorry it's not the greatest photo (i know it looks like the pocket kinda bends around to my right , but really it doesn't, i'm just standing crooked). but i'm so amped about the way it turned out. the sleeves became 3/4-ish length, which i love. and the kangaroo pocket in front stretches from seam to seam, which i think looks great. and most importantly, for my long torso-ed self, i have a sweatshirt that is slim enough and long enough. woohoo! after the sweatshirts, i'm moving on to all of the huge t-shirts i've saved from my college years when i wore everything five sizes too big on purpose....

i also made a shirt for the young man, from this very large men's polo that i picked up at my favorite thrift shop, the goodwill in port st. lucie florida (home to the spring training facility of the n.y. mets and, just as importantly, my mom):


i traced one of wile's existing tops on top of it and ended up with this:


the neck and bottom seams are a little wonky because wile (age 2 & 3/4) wanted to "help", and i wanted to make sure that he didn't get his fingers anywhere near the needle of the sewing machine. but, still a successful project, i think. i wish i could have gotten a pic of him in it, but he refused to model. i'm still not sure what i'm going to do with the (abundant) excess material. maybe a tube top for me, with the stripe at the top....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - pork chops

i am currently the kind of tired where my eye sockets are burning. wile was up at 5 this morning, carrying on, and we ended up downstairs making toast at 5:30. he, with that wise toddler intuition, asked to watch bob the builder after he ate his toast, so i got some sleep on the couch for a couple of hours (two bob episodes, one firetruck dvd, and some playing with his wooden food that i only know about because i woke up with wooden carrots and bread and apple slices strewn about my head), but it wasn't the good kind of sleep, it was the kind of sleep where i woke up feeling more exhausted than when i started. and now wile is napping, and i should be too, but i can't fall alseep. so, let's talk about food.

my favorite meal this week was the one i made on sunday night. yes, i made dinner on mother's day. the horror! except not, because 1) i like to cook, 2) stephen took wile into the yard to play baseball so i got to cook alone, which is a rare and beautiful thing these days, 3) stephen did the dishes, 4) i knew what i wanted and if stephen had insisted on making it just because "it's mother's day and mothers don't cook on mother's day" or some such nonsense, he would have had to ask me questions and checked in with me a bunch of times and it would have been not at all the "break" for me that it would seem, and 5) we had gone out to a great dinner the night before.

i made pork chops and a salad, which sounds pretty boring, no? except. i've discovered, thanks to cook's illustrated, the perfect way to cook pork chops. it's a little wacky, but you really honestly do end up with the juiciest pork chops ever. here's the deal:

take your pork chops (bone-in or bone-out, but bone-in is better; either way, try to get them at least 1" thick) and rub them all over with some vegetable oil, then salt and pepper them. on one side, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. if there's a lot of fat on one edge, make a couple of cuts into it, just down to the meat, so that the chop doesn't curl up in the pan. then grab a non-stick pan and put it onto a cold burner. yes, cold. take the chops and put them in the pan sugar-side down, pressing them into the pan. (i've used two kinds of pans for this technique, a calphalon and a cast iron pan. with the calphalon, i found that i needed to put a little bit of oil into the pan, in addition to the oil that i rubbed on the chops, to keep then from sticking totally. with the cast iron pan, not so much. so, see how it goes with your pan.) turn the heat on under the pan to medium high, and don't go far away. the chops should start sizzling within 2 minutes; if they don't, turn the heat up. let them cook for somewhere between 2-1/2 and 7 minutes, until they're browned on the one side (that's why you put the sugar on, to help with the browning). then turn them over, turn the heat down to low, cover the pan, and find your meat thermometer. i usually start checking them after about 3 minutes, 2 minutes if they're on the thinner side—you want them to come up to 140˚ in the center. this could take up to 10 minutes, depending on your pan, what "low" means on your stove, the meat itself, etc etc. when they've reached temp, take them out and throw them on a plate, tented with aluminum foil.

then make a sauce in the pan. my favorite thing to do is saute some shallots in the residual pork fat, then throw in some brandy, let it cook down, and finish it with a tablespoon or so of butter. i've also made a good one with just a 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and a couple of teaspoons of mustard, boiled down a little bit. last night i wanted the brandy sauce but we were out of brandy and shallots, so i used some slices of garlic and medium-dry sherry instead, and it was delicious. when the sauce is made, turn off the heat and throw the chops back in the pan for a second the coat with the sauce and warm them up, and serve.

and for our salad, we had some baby swiss chard that i got from the crazy hydroponic organic people at the farmer's market. it was really tender but a little bit bitter, so i made a honey vinaigrette (1t honey, 1t mustard, 1t white vinegar, 1/3 cup walnut oil) to go with it. it was a great salad, much more interesting than any lettuce, but the best thing about it, and the reason that this was my favorite meal of last week, was that wile ate 7 helpings of it. he went to bed 45 minutes late becaue he kept asking for more salad, and there was no way in hell i was going to say no.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

crunch crunch

it's been a long and troubled road for me and the green thing. i tried to join the environmental club in college, but it didn't take. it seemed to me that to really belong with the other members i should like things like camping and hiking and mountain biking, which, no. not going to happen. also, everybody was getting all psyched about discovering seitan and tofu and whole wheat pasta and i was like, dude, whatever, the moosewood cookbook was my stepmom's bible. i took organic puffed-rice-and-rice-syrup "krispies" in my lunch in 7th grade. sorry, but i can't share in your wide-eyed tempeh evangelism. plus, the enviro-kids were just so....earnest. i was much more into cynical and ironic.

also, in my youth (or childhood) i was much more prone, as most teenagers and college-age-type people can be, to absolutism. black and white. right and wrong. more specifically, i'm right, and if you don't agree with me, you're wrong. and it just pissed me off so much that so many people could be so wrong!! i mean, what's the point of doing anything to help the environment if so many other (stupid f-ing) people weren't going to do anything! it's all hopeless. screw it. and i also applied this to myself, as in: why bother being a vegetarian if i'm not going to go whole hog and be vegan and stop wearing leather? wouldn't that just be hypocritical? and why bother making an effort to conserve energy if i don't want to go live totally off the grid with, like, some goats?

so that whole attitude eventually (mostly) wore off somewhere in my mid-twenties, but i still didn't jump into any big eco-activity. i don't know why. i mean, i am certainly on the hippie end of the spectrum, with my cloth diapers and herbal remedies and so on. but as far as doing more, i think mainly i didn't know where to start—and i still, subconsciously, felt like making a difference meant doing something on a grand scale, or doing things like going to rallies and marches and such, which didn't really appeal. but in the past couple of years—and more so even in the past few months—i've found ways to connect to the whole green thing on a personal, small scale that really make sense to me, and that reinforce ideas i've already had. and since i've started making these changes, i can honestly say, with no snark or sarcasm, that i feel more peaceful. and that's not a natural state for me. so i thought, at the risk of sounding preachy, that i'd write about what i've been doing. if this isn't your thing, you can just stop reading now. you know, if you hate the earth and don't care about our children!! ahem. sorry. the old teenage rage bubbles up now and again. on with the show!

in general terms, i've been trying to be much more conscious of: how much stuff we put in the garbage, how much energy we use, and what we're putting down the drains and therefore back into the dirt and water.

more specifically, that breaks down like this:

cleaning (the house): when wile started crawling around and touching everything and then shoving his hands in his (and my) mouth, i started thinking about all of the nasty cleaning products we use and how i really didn't want them in my mouth, thanks. so i threw out our fantastic and bleach and scrubbing bubbles and replacing them with stuff that doesn't come with a poison control number on the side of the bottle. partially this has meant switching to method products, which are totally non-toxic and smell lovely. but as i'm diving deeper into this green thing, i'm moving away from even that into using things that are even less toxic and have less packaging. like baking soda. now i use it as a gentle abrasive, for scrubbing the stovetop, the pots, the tub, the shower, the countertops if they need it. and i'm going to replace my grapefruit all-pupose cleaner with a reusable spray bottle filled with diluted(1 teaspoon : 3/4 cup water) dr.bronner's , which comes in nice big recyclable gallon jugs and is super non-toxic, organic, fair-trade, and comes in a just-as-good-as-grapefruit lavender scent. for the floors, i'll continue to use apple cider vinegar, which also comes in nice big recyclable jugs. vinegar actually has tons of uses, which i'm going to start to try out. i also just ordered some laundry detergent from charlie's soap, which is all eco-excellent and recommended for wile's diapers and a small company. supposedly you can use it in the dishwasher too. we shall see.... and i'm amassing a collection of cloth rags (from old clothes, towels, etc) in a quest to never use another paper towel.

cleaning (me): again, i came to the realization that i didn't want to put anything on my body that i wouldn't put in my mouth.... plus, my history with beauty products is an unhappy one.

i've fought a long fight with shampoo/conditioner. the day i washed my hair, no matter how well i conditioned, my hair looked and felt like crap. it would be okay the next day, good the next, perfect the next, then all of the sudden super greasy and gross the next, and i'd start the dance all over again. so i figured i had nothing to lose by trying this natural method i read about: you wash/massage your scalp with a baking soda paste, and then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar. yes, i'm cleaning my hair with the same stuff i use to clean my stove and my floor. not kidding. and i l-o-v-e the end result. this is a good description of the whole process. it did take a little perserverance, i'm not going to lie—everything i read about it warned that you'd have "yucky" hair for the first couple of weeks of using the baking soda/vinegar method, because your scalp would continue to overproduce oil, as it had been doing to compensate for all the oils that the shampoo stripped away. i could never get a more precise description than "yucky", but now that i've lived through it i can give you one: my hair felt like it was coated in a mixture of wax and motor oil. by day 13, i was getting a little cranky, and tired of bandanas. but then like magic, on day 14, my hair was perfect and soft and glossy. no joke. i'm still getting my proportions down—like, today i used too much baking soda and my hair's a little dry. but i just threw a yodi tiny bit of rosemary oil on it and it's fine. and no, i don't smell like a big pickle.

my (combination) skin has always been tempermental and blotchy and responded exactly the same whether i used some shmancy wash from keihl's, or some organic wash from weleda, or cetaphil from the drugstore, or just water. so for a long time i went with just water, especially after i read some article about milla jovovitch (katinka!) that talked about how she only used warm water to wash her face because that's what her skin/beauty guru person told her. sold! but as i'm getting on in years and seeing more wrinkles, and since my beloved city doesn't have the most pristine air quality, and since i don't like the idea of the sunscreen that i use on my face in the summer hanging around on my skin any longer than it has to, i figured it was time i found a wash/moisturizer that i liked and that was chemical-free. so i did: olive oil. again, not kidding. i'm not going to type out the whole process, as it has already been done so well here. and here. my skin looks good and feels awesome. i still get zits every now and then, but that's hormonal. but the flaky dryness with the oily spots next to the red blotches? gone. amazing. i've also been using the almighty baking soda to exfoliate—make a very watery paste of it in your hand and then use it like you'd use any scrub.

recycling my own clothes: a couple months back i was reading casey's blog and discovered wardrobe refashion. yes!! ecology via clothing! now that truly, like nothing else, spoke to me. i've always preferred vintage/thrifted clothes. and i've always hated getting rid of clothes. so i'm signing on for the next round, and i'm psyched. i've got big plans for my favorite shirt from 5th grade. oh and i crocheted a hat that i thought was for me but ended up being for wile. you'll see all of this and more once i take my refashioning pledge....

screwing con-ed: most simply, doing what my parents told me to do a million times and turning off the lights as i leave a room.... but also trying not to turn on the lights at all during the day, and just opening the window shades when it's dim, which is double-good because it saves energy plus natural light is good for your mental health. next, i'm going to replace all of our lightbulbs with florescents.

and i'm trying to ignore the fact that we have a dryer. we put up a clothesline in the backyard when wile was born to hang his diapers on, since they last longer that way, and the sunlight bleaches out the poop stains. and at the end of last summer, i found myself hanging more and more non-diaper items on the line. so even though it's been too cold for the line, i've been trying to hang more things to dry on my indoor racks. and now that spring (knock on wood) seems to be here, finally, and the line can go back into use, i'm going to hang everything. no dryer. and i'm going to buy some more racks and keep it up even when it gets cold again.

and speaking of coned, they now allow you to get your power from a windmills and stuff. i'm looking into it....

eating: as i've documented here, i'm in love with our farmer's market. and at this point, i'd say we do about 80% of our food shopping there. cheese, butter, milk, fish, vegetables, honey, poultry, beef, pork, smoked trout, jam, eggs, bread, turkey sausage, pickles—really, there's not much more we need. and i like eating only what's there—i like waiting till the peaches are in season to have a peach. and i'm even liking finding creative things to do with the slim pickings of the winter. most out-of-season fruit tastes like it's been shipped from halfway across the planet. of course, there are some fruits i won't give up, even though they're never going to grow on a farm within driving distance of my farmer's market in any season: lemons, limes, grapefruit, pomegranates. and some things—oils, vinegars, beans, rice, pasta—that they just don't sell there. so for those things that i do go to the store for, i've been buying organic, and shopping at the little health food store, when i can.

also: i'm not a vegetarian, nor am i going to be. obviously. i asked for beef-cheek ravioli for my birthday. and stephen is planning a pig roast in our backyard for sometime this summer. but there's no need to eat as much meat as we had been. i know it would be better to not eat meat at all; we've all heard about how land being used for animals to graze could be about 20x more productive if it were used for growing soybeans or grains, and how the waste from factory farms is polluting everything, and about the scary hormones they're giving the animals, etc. but i'm not ready to completely step away from the meats. so, as i said, we're buying all our meat from the farmer's market, from a small organic family farm. and i'm trying to make a few non-meat meals every week, which, as i mentioned, i have a lot of experience with....

trash: another cool thing about our farmer's market is that they have compost bins at the entrance. i would always watch people dumping their compostable trash into the bins and think "wow, that's great that people do that." it only took, oh, i don't know, about a year for that thought to progress to "wow, it would be great if i did that." i'm a little slow. but finally i took the plunge. we put all of our food scraps into a variety of old chinese delivery tupperware and haul them off to the market every saturday. and if we need to do a mid-week dump, there's a compst heap....right in the back of the playground i take wile to. so convenient. it took a little getting used to at home, but now i don't even think about it.

i'm also trying to exorcise plastic bags. they're inevitable sometimes—and useful to have around for things like toting home wile's dirty diapers from a day out of the house—but they're like gremlins, they just seem to multiply, and all of the sudden there's 50 of them under the sink. so i'm trying trying trying to remember to bring a tote bag with me whenever i go shopping for anything. and to ignore the looks of amusement/confusion/annoyance from some of the baggers at our local supermarkets.

so, that's my story. it's not perfect; i could definitely do more, and maybe next year i will. hey, i haven't even seen an inconvenient truth yet! who knows what i'll do then!

some other good links, if you're so inclined:
no-impact man

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - short ribs

as you already know if you live on the east coast, it rained on sunday. no, i'm sorry, that's wrong—it motherf-ing rained on sunday. as stephen said, "i've seen it rain harder, and i've seen it rain longer, but i've never seen it rain this hard for this long." pouring, pounding rain for at least 12 hours straight. so i decided that it was the perfect day to cook up the short ribs that i bought at the farmer's market a couple of weeks ago and that had been lingering in the freezer ever since.

i'd never cooked short ribs before, but i was prety sure i should just braise them. i looked on the interweb, and got confirmation of my hunch, plus some hot tips. so here's what i did:

1) browned the ribs. which is absolutely necessary when braising any kind of meat, but a pain in the ass, what with the spattering oil and the entire house ending up smelling like fried. but i found a new method, from james beard, via jeremiah tower, by way of regina shrambling. throw them in the broiler! so much freakin easier! just brush or spray the meat with some olive oil, salt + pepper it, put it in the broiler, and turn it turn it turn it so that each side gets some flame. granted, i had to clean the greasy broiler pan, but i think if i had used heavy duty foil i wouldn't have even had to do that. so. much. better.

2) put them in a deep ovenproof pot/pan/dutch oven along with a quart or so of beef stock (enough to cover them almost entirely), a sliced-up onion, some fresh herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary), and a couple of splashes of sherry vinegar. then i stuck it in a 300˚ oven for about 3 hours.

3) made a sauce. i took the meat and bones (which the meat had fallen off, yum) out of the pot and set them aside. then i de-greased the stock, which could have been a much easier process if we owned a dang baster and i could have just sucked the layer of grease off the top. as it was, i had to pour the stock through a strainer (to weed out the onions and branches of herbs) into a gravy separator, then pour it back out into a different pot (because i had to do it in batches, since there was about 4 cups of stock and the gravy separator holds about a cup and a half). which was a whole lot of effort, and a whole lot of implements that needed to be washed. don't let this happen to you! go forth, procure a baster! also, tie up your herbs with twine or wrap them in cheesecloth so that you can just pluck them out in one fell swoop.

anyway, once it was all de-greased, i threw it back in the original pot, threw the bones back in, and put it on the stove on high heat to reduce. i also splashed in a litle more sherry vinegar, like the internet had told me to do. which, when i tasted the sauce a little later, i thought was a big mistake; it was really vinegary. but once it went on the meat, it was perfect. the meat is so rich, it really needs a sauce with bite to balance it out. then i made a quick faux-roux, by melting a couple of tablespoons of butter in the microwave and whisking in a couple of tablespoons of flour, which i whisked in to the stock when it was just about reduced as far as i wanted it. it's right when it will coat a spoon like cough medicine. then i took out the bones, turned off the heat, and put the meat back in for a couple of minutes to warm back up.

all done! it was warm and delicious and just the right thing for a rainy, gross day.

oh, and i made some swiss chard to go with it, which was delicious. i used to go through a totally annoying blanch-then-saute song and dance with greens like swiss card and spinach, becuase somewhere along the way some cookbook or food show or something told me that you couldn't just saute the greens without blanching them first or they would get too oily by the time they were done. or too soggy. or something. i don't even remember anymore. anyway, when i was down in sunny port st. lucie, my mom just threw her spinach in the pan with a little olive oil, sauteed it for a couple of minutes, and it was perfect. huh. so i did that with the chard, sprinkling in a little water and salt too, and it was the best chard i've ever cooked or eaten.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - charoset

even before i got a jewish best friend and a jewish husband, i had been to my fair share of passover seders. when i was little, my stepmom's friend judy kesselman would throw these enormous seders every year and we'd go and eat all the good food and ignore all the god talk (not that there was much; these were, after all, my stepmom's hippie jewish friends). so since my youth, i've loved me a good seder. and the best part of seder is the charoset (alternately spelled haroset, charoses, charoseth, haroses, and probably a dozen other ways).

i love it so much that in the last few years i have volunteered to make it for our seders with stephen's family so that a) i can make extra to hoard all to myself, and b) i can guarantee that it's going to be good.

so what the hell is (c)haroset(h)(ses)? ritual-wise, it's supposed to represent the mortar that the enslaved jews used to make the bricks that they built the pyramids with back when they were enslaved by the pharoah in egypt, before moses came and did his thing with the plagues and the parting of the sea and all that jazz. culinary-wise, it's a pitch-perfect mixture of grated apples, nuts, honey, wine, lemon juice, and cinnamon.

you can tweak the proportions to your taste, but the formula i follow is: about 6 cups grated apples, 1-1/2 cups finely chopped nuts, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup wine, juice of two lemons, 1/2 t cinnamon. i use granny smith apples or a mix of grannies and another tart red apple like a winesap. for the wine, you want a light red, a little spicy is nice. this year i used a tinto roble. for the love of all that is holy do not use manischewitz.

i used to grate the apples by hand, but went for the food processor this year because i was making a double batch, and, well....i prefer the texture that you get when it's grated by hand, but if you're making a lot—and are looking for a way to involve a 2-yr. old—the f.p. does just fine. and if you've already got the f.p. in use, you can chop the nuts in it. then just throw all the ingredients together, and mix it all up with your hands. microwave the honey for a minute on low before mixing it in, makes it easier to disperse. then throw it in the fridge and wait.... it's better the next day, and will keep for a good long time (2 weeks? who knows. it doesn't last long in my fridge).

i've already bought more apples to make another batch....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - queen's edition

so, the inevitable has come to pass: the previa, she is no more. sometime last week, the alternator stopped....alternating? see, i almost sounded like i knew what i was talking about for a second there, and then the truth came shining through. anyway, the car done wouldn't start. every time stephen had to move it for alternate side parking, he had to use my dad's christmas gift. oh, and the inspection was about to be up. so when the weekend rolled around, i let any hope of getting some non-wile time go, and focused instead on finding an activity that would get us out of the house. we hit on this plan: wile and i would go to the queens zoo (pumas!) while stephen tried to find somewhere to try to answer the question: will a car that won't start independently pass inspection? and possibly test-drive some cars.

we were the only people at the zoo, since it was f-ing freezing out, but wile loved it. on the way there he kept saying he wanted to see "lions and hoshies", and i kept trying to prepare him for a letdown. but as we pulled up to the zoo, there were some big old hoshies, out in the paddock. hot damn. the hoshies were in the "farm" end of the zoo, along with really amazing hairy steer:

and the biggest white mutant rabbits i've ever seen. they might have had big fangs, i didn't get close enough to see.

over on the non-farm side of the zoo, there were a buttload of birds, hibernating bears (aka fuzzy rocks), an m.i.a. lynx, coyotes howling at a passing firetruck, and pumas who wanted to eat wile. i swear. we went down to their area and checked them out, they were walking around, everything was cool, wile liked them. then as we were walking away, i sensed a movement behind me, turned around, and saw that one of the pumas had come right up to the glass and had a bead on wile. she was watching him like he was a tenderloin with legs. the look on her face was kinda like the one on the puma on the left in this pic:

in.tent. her head followed wile's every move. i hustled us over to the aviary to see the nice birdies.

stephen returned from his errands (answer to the question: no, a car that needs outside help to start will not pass inspection, and so must be taken off the street and put out to pasture in stephen's parents' driveway....), saw a few animals with us, and we jump-started our way back on to the road. on the way in to the zoo, we had passed a couple of empanada places—one was more crowded, but looked less interesting. so we went to the less-crowded one, empanandas del parque, which i just had a feeling about.

apparently my radar was working. the menu was nothing but empanadas, your choice of corn, organic whole grain, or flour shell. corn seemed to be the right choice. i put together a meat sampler: beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, fish.

the shrimp was my favorite, with little rock shrimp that popped like caviar in the potato filling. the pork was a close second runner-up, the beef was good but too salty. the fish was the weakest, bland. they came with this fantastic housemade hot sauce that wasn't too hot, all garlic and scallions and cilantro and vinegar. delicious. and they cater with mini empanadas, hello wile's 3rd birthday party menu! i also see a sack of empanadas picked up on the way to shea in my future sometime this summer....

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - panade

yes, it's been a long...oh my god! i didn't realize it had been that long. wow. okay. let's not waste anymore time, then.

so, but, oddly, if you read that last btietw that i just linked to there, you'll notice that i end it by asking about squash. and if you didn't read it and are too lazy to even just click on the link and skip to the last sentence, i'll tell you what i asked: how can i cook the squash so that i'll eat it? and enjoy it?

why is that odd, you ask? because the best thing i ate this week was: squash! ooo, creepy....

so apparently last week i was having the same thoughts that i was having 15 months ago when i wrote that post, which was that i need to be eating more vegetables but that the selection, in the winter months, if you're trying to eat relatively locally and therefore seasonally, is rather slim. so i just bit the bullet and got a kabocha squash and figured i'd find a way to make it palatable.

this is a kabocha squash:

it's about the size of a volleyball. (not that i ever played volleyball. well, i thought about playing volleyball, in 8th grade, when i was finally allowed to play contact sports after being sidelined for most of my childhood due to an enlarged spleen, which had finally been excavated from my abdomen the summer before 8th grade. but i went to the first volleyball meeting and asked the gym teacher/coach/drill seargent if there was going to be practice every day, since i had ballet class on thursdays, and her way of answering me was to turn to the assembled crowd of volleyball hopefuls and bark "i have just been asked if there will be practice every day and the answer is yes there will be practice every day and it will last all afternoon if you want to play volleyball for me i will need your full commitment there is no being late there is no missing practice there are no excuses!" so i walked out and never looked back, which was really the best decision, since i discovered in gym class later that semester that i am possibly the worst volleyball player in the history of the universe. i don't think wrists my size were meant to make contact with a hard leather ball.)

wait, where am i? okay, right, i bought a big ugly squash. if you're wondering, like stephen was, why i chose the kabocha (besides it's awesome name: kabocha!), it's because it was the only squash that i hadn't ever had before, so it the only one that i didn't know i didn't like. acorn, butternut, spaghetti? yuck, yuck, yuck. kobacha was a blank slate.

the first night, i just roasted it. you know, just to get to know it a bit. i got to use my big cleaver to hack it to peices, which was worth the price of the squash even if i ended up hating every bite. whack! whack! anyway, per instructions from jeremiah tower, we just ate the roasted pieces witha drizzle of white truffle oil. which was, of course......i mean, i would eat cardboard with white truffle oil on it. when i was apprentice chef-ing in the insane italian restaurant, i used to take the misto of truffle oil that we kept on the pass-through and use it like chloroseptic. yum. so, yeah, it was good with the truffle oil, but it was still too....squash-y. i needed to disguise it more. though already i could tell that i'd chosen the right squash for me: it was less sweet than the others, and it wasn't at all stringy.

next i made some squash "pizzas" on a couple of little multi-grain ciabattas. they were good, but it was almost too much disguising. wile liked them, though! and getting him to eat any vegetables is even more of a challenge than getting me to eat squash.... (though last night i made chicken and mushrooms and gave him a couple pieeces of chicken that i meticulously cleaned the mushrooms off, and what did he want? of course. he ate all of the mushrooms off stephen's plate (i'd already eaten mine).)

then, i found it. the answer. a panade! obviously!

yeah, i'd never heard of a panande before either. but if alice waters says to make it, i make it. here's the recipe i (kind of) used:

5 onions, sliced thin
olive oil or duck fat (duck fat! duck fat!)
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
12 sprigs thyme
1 cup red wine
3 quarts chicken stock
2 lbs squash
1 lb chanterelle mushrooms
salt + pepper
10 slices stale country-style bread
approx. 3 oz. reggiano parmesan cheese

(those are the amounts if you're making enough for 8-10 people. since i wasn't, and since i only had what i thought was about 1 lb of squash, i cut it in half.)

preheat oven to 375.

stew the onions in 1/4 cup of duck fat (seriously, it is worth taking the time and effort of browning a serious number of duck legs to end up with a pint jar of duck fat, such as the one that used to live in our fridge until i finished it off with this recipe) over medium heat, adding the garlic and herbs once they've begun to soften. cook until onions just begin to brown, about 20-30 minutes. add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and simmer 30 minutes.

prepare the squash: if you have pre-roasted chunks, as i did, peel them and slice them up. if you have raw squash, cut it open (whack! whack!), peel it, seed it, and slice it into 1/8"-thick pieces. meanwhile, saute the musrooms (our farmer's market only had cremini and shitake, so that's what i used instead of chanerelles, and it was just fine) in some olive oil until brown. salt and pepper them, and add to the stock mixture. then throw some duck fat into the mushroom-browning pan and toast the slices of bread in it until light brown.

assembly: cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of bread. ladle in some of the stock mixture to cover (note: alice doesn't say so, but in the future i will take the thyme stalks and bay leaves out of the stock mixture at this point, rather than picking them out of my esophogus later. lazy cookbook editing....), then throw on the squash in a single layer. top with more bread, ladle on the rest of the stock mixture, then grate on the cheese. bake it for 40 minutes covered and 40 minutes uncovered (i cooked mine for less time since my squash was pre-roasted).

the recipe then says to serve it in bowls with excess broth from the casserole dish ladled around it. i was in the middle of cooking the damn thing and reading that part of the instructions for at least the fifth time when it finally dawned on me: "am i making soup here?" according to the food network, yes, i was. but i didn't want to be! so only used 3/4 as much stock as the recipe called for. the way i made it, it came out less like a stew/soup and more like a really amazing stuffing without any of the disgusting squishy raisins and celery that keep me from eating the stuffing at every thanksgiving at my in-laws' house ew ew ew gross. ahem. so, adjust the amount of broth you use according to what you're looking for, a soup or a side dish.

and this was the best thing i ate this week not only because it was totally delicious, but because it's a new preparation for me. when i can't think of a way to pull something together from what i have in loitering in the fridge, i usually fall back on a pasta-based concoction. now i can start experimenting with this panade concept. goodbye orecchiette, hello stale bread. very exciting.