Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Diary of a Foodie

I don't eat pizza very often but over the past week two factors came together to make me want some. First, I found an extremely affordable local mozzarella (yay!) and second, the weather turned cool and rainy (making turning the oven on seem like a pleasure instead of a torture device). For the crust we used the Friday Night Pizza recipe from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. It makes enough dough for two large pizzas. We made one mid-week and refrigerated the rest of the dough until the weekend when we made two smaller pizzas.

Pizza 1: Pesto made from the garden last fall and frozen, local (made in the state) mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula from the garden.

Pizza 2: Balsamic tomato sauce, local mozzarella, capers, hot peppers and anchovies. One of the pizza recipes from Jamie Oliver's Italian cookbook. (Had a little trouble transferring this one from cutting board to pizza stone, thus the unevenly distributed toppings).

Pizza 3: Balsamic tomato sauce, goat cheese, local feta, basil from garden, and organic figs (from Trader Joe's-- my fig farm is still in it's infancy here and production was minimal).

Meanwhile in the garden we've continued to get some good corn, the tomatillos are stepping it up, and the cucumbers have reached the point where my mom is taking giant bags of them to work with her to give away on a daily basis.

Also, today I realized that the PBS show Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie (only season one so far) is on Hulu. This made me happy, as I've always wanted to watch it but am never home when it airs. You can also download all three seasons from itunes for free.

And I FINALLY received my September Vogue in the mail. The bad thing about reading blogs is that you discover that your postal carrier is freakin' annoying and holds magazines way longer than he's supposed to because everyone else has had their copies for at least a week and a half. Ugh! I was convinced that someone stole it from my mailbox. I get a little uptight about my Vogue since its the only magazine that I religiously read cover to cover. I like to read magazines in the morning with my breakfast, so I haven't cracked it open yet, but the smell of perfume samples that wafted out when I removed the plastic wrap made me happy.

Now I'm off to make some dinner that involves cucumbers and to watch some netflix-- either Season 2 of Rome or 5 Films of About Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I wonder which goes better with cucumbers?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Furniture acquisition

Oh my god, why don't I live in LA? Most of the time I'm perfectly happy not to, but this is the second Modernica sale this summer that I've died with envy for those who are close enough to attend. Why? Because I want this bed but currently can't afford it (queen size, walnut please).

Meanwhile I just bought a rug on ebay and am stalking another one. I really want the second one, but the auction doesn't end until tomorrow and the price may rise above my limits before then.
Detail of new rug.

Little by little.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New-fangled technology

I've never really understood why people love twitter until today when I was privy to the first official announcement of some big news where I'm working. Having to text a bunch of my friends made me realize how much faster and more efficient it would have been for my entire circle to get the news with just one sentence typed by me. Still not ready to sign up for twitter though-- that level of news very rarely happens in my life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekend (Pickle) Edition

I started out the weekend by making raspberry ginger tea cakes, based on this recipe from Design*Sponge. I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made these, and it was delicious with apricots and almond flour, however this time I didn't have either ingredient, so I improvised. I used a cup of regular flour and added powdered ginger (instead of lemon zest) to flavor the batter. I substituted several still frozen raspberries as the fruit. I also made them a bit smaller, using muffin tins instead of small tart pans. The larger size was a bit more cake than I wanted with afternoon tea the last time. I have a winter version in mind using orange zest and dollops of marmalade. Yum. Might have to go eat the last one while I write the rest of this.

Saturday was spent gathering supplies for our first canning project of the year-- bread and butter pickles, and taking a scenic drive south through the farms that stretch down the Rio Grande through Isleta, Peralta, Tome, and Belen. Very verdant, but I didn't take any photos, so I can not share.

On Sunday I stopped by to see the extensive home renovation being done by two of my friends from architecture school. They bought a little shotgun house in Barelas a couple years ago, and it was promptly damaged by severe flooding during a series of torrential rain storms. It was in need of serious work before the flooding, but afterward they had to rip out all the wood floors, stabilize the adobe, and re-grade the yard in addition to building an addition and upgrading the old structure. I think the project is about a year and a half over-schedule now. They've accomplished a ton of work, but still have a lot to do. It made me feel a bit better about my own house to see others who have even bigger and more extensive projects on tap.

Then it was back to the house for pickles! My maternal grandmother always used to make bread & butter pickles, but neither my mom nor I had made them before. For those that don't know, bread & butter pickles are sliced sweet pickles that are generally put on sandwiches or served as a condiment with dinner. (My eastern-european-heritage-mid-western-raised grandma ALWAYS put pickles out on the table with dinner, no matter what was being served. Often more than one variety).

We spent a few days looking through grandma's old recipe cards and cookbooks for her exact recipe, but couldn't find one-- turns out they all looked fairly similar though, so we just choose the version in my mom's old Joy of Cooking. We had about three gallons of cucumbers, but failed to factor in enough red pepper or onions, so our version is a little shy of that. We also added a little hot pepper for a bit of spice. Initial tastings proved it to be a successful venture. The whole process was pretty easy, but totally time-consuming and hot! Once we find a pickling crock we'll probably try some dill pickles.

Pickling used up a lot of the cucumbers we had in the refrigerator, but they just keep coming, as evidenced by the seven I picked this morning. Also picked some beets, thai basil, arugula, and garlic chives and one tiny carrot, which was just to see how big they had actually grown. I plan to dice and roast the beets along with a sweet potato, and throw together a salad tonight using them plus the arugula and herbs. Might add a hard boiled egg too.

Meanwhile for lunch I made my favorite cucumber salad.

Favorite Cucumber Salad:
1 large or 2-3 small cucumbers
1-2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup finely sliced onion (red or vidalia are nice)
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Peel, seed and slice cucumbers. (If small enough I usually skip the peeling and seeding). Toss in the blue cheese, pine nuts, and herbs and toss with the vinegar and oil. (You can adjust the dressing as necessary depending on how big your cucumbers are). I've tried other vinegars but with the blue cheese the mild acidity of the rice wine is the best, its sweetness just works. Apple cider would be fine, but not as good. Balsamic was not good. Dill is also good in place of, or in addition to the mint, and dried works almost as well as fresh. I substituted a bunch of garlic chives for the onions in the picture above because I had used up all the onions for the pickles this weekend and haven't been back to the store to replenish.

And now a couple of random photos from the last week:

Corn from the garden. The ears are small, but the kernels are mature and we've had to pick en-masse because worms are eating them. We are adamantly organic, but really lazy about buying organic pest controls. Last year we swore we'd get the BT powder for our corn, but voila here it is mid-August and we still haven't bothered. For certain next year we will have it on hand.

And finally, the artichoke I picked last week that had gone too far towards blooming is now doing so in my mom's kitchen window. Soo beautiful.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Rained all night and although it has stopped for now the forecast calls for more rain throughout the day. There are two huge (easily 60 feet tall) western cedars near my front porch and when it rains the earth around them and the trees themselves make it smell like my house has been transported up into the mountains. Fantastic.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fashion Break

After seeing the new Kate Spade looks lauded on several blogs, I decided to click over there and take a look. Most of the bloggers I had read were loving the colored tights, but for me that look is just too young to pull off. Cute? Yes, but I've tried to wear colored tights, and it just doesn't work for me. I preferred these:

I can't explain why the combination of striped sock with sequined heels in the second image doesn't seem too young for me while the green, red and yellow tights do... certainly striped socks and sequins is very young girl playing dress up. I really like the dark jeans with striped socks. Those shoes are to die for. I think I'd want to wear them constantly, even if it meant just to vacuum the house and walk out to check the mail.

I also love each of these looks because of the models dark hair and pale skin popping out against the red and coral accents. Very nice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the Garden

When I refer to my garden I'm almost always referring to the vegetable garden. There are currently two vegetable gardens on the property, this fenced area in the back, and an area near the houses where we've begun a raised bed garden, to be referred to as the Kitchen Garden. I find the garden very hard to photograph in its entirety. Details are much easier. The play of light and shadow seems to confuse everything when I try to take an overall photo. And I "save for the web" in photoshop in order to keep the file sizes down, which lessens the saturation of the photos a bit. Nonetheless, here are a few from this morning. Compared to previous years we're having a pretty productive year.

This is the garden gate. It's functional, not pretty. The plot is fenced to keep the dogs out. Also, I am aware that part of the problem with being able to get a good photo is the completely out of control weeds. We need to start mulching to keep them down, but last year we tried, and the straw turned out to be full of seeds, so this year we have weeds from last year's mulch. Pecan shells would do well, but be kind of expensive, and wood chips can foster bacterial problems that I think we already have in some of the soils. So what's left? This year it was just no mulch.

The (weedy) rows. Tomatoes and tomatillos and peppers in the foreground, corn, beans and squash in the background.

Purple de Milpa tomatillos and marigolds. We have three tomatillos, and all have grown to be large plants, but only this one is producing a lot of fruit so far. Hopefully the others will step up, because I love tomatillo salsa, and I'd love to try canning some this year.

Pollination in progress in one of the zucchini flowers.

Morning glories mean summer to me. Love them. They can be invasive in the garden, but I don't care, anything that blooms that beautifully is welcome to steal a little water from the other plants.

Garlic chives in bloom. A very tasty addition to any salad, plus a natural pest control.

The artichokes and pickling cukes that I picked today. We're stockpiling the cukes for this weekend, when we intend to try my Grandma's bread and butter pickle recipe.

We've grown our black beans right up the corn stalks for the second year in a row. Its an ancient technique, and we like the way it looks and saves space.

Our watermelons just started to form fruit. Hopefully its not to late for them to reach maturity.

Artichokes are so cool, not to mention tasty. We've had more than enough to eat this year, especially since last month it was so hot that we couldn't bring ourselves to heat up the house by actually boiling them. We have a bit of an artichoke backlog in the frig now.

Looks like we left this one too long and its about to bloom.

Zinnias. I'm a big proponent of flowers mixed into the vegetable garden. Its a good place for those that you intend to cut and bring inside. We've been expanding the garden year by year, and next year I'd like to have a whole plot dedicated to flowers for cutting. Old fashioned flowers like gladiolas, dahlias, zinnias, and cosmos. We almost always have cosmos, but for some reason this year we didn't. I think its just because we started everything from seed, and just didn't have any cosmos on hand. We'll definitely have to remedy that next year.

The entire days harvest-- artichokes, Armenian cucumbers, zucchini, basil, tomatillos, and pickling cucumbers. There was also plenty of swiss chard, kale (its still going strong despite the heat), and some beets, tomatoes, and chiles-- but generally we don't pick those until we are ready to eat them.

For lunch I made one of my favorite snacks-- cucumber slices with dill, chunks of smoked cheese, and nuts. Its a great snack to serve with a chilled white wine-- though I skipped that today. I prefer it with walnuts, but all I had in the frig were these pine nuts, so they had to do.

One last photo as a bonus. I'm rather addicted to taking dark sky photos, and I took this one last week because the remaining hint of sunset against the dark trees was too pretty not to document.