Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Musings

As it threatens to storm here (thunder!), I give you the following things that have entertained me online this week.

Leave it to Spain to bring opera to the flash mob.

Rent control combined with two professional incomes can make for some mighty nice apartment dwelling. (via door sixteen).

One of my New Year's resolutions was to learn how to make croissants.  My first attempt was this morning, and while they tasted good and had the required buttery layers, they looked ugly as all get out.  This guy makes shaping them look so simple.  Can't be to hard on myself, since it wouldn't have been a resolution if I thought it was going to be easy.  Also on my cooking challenges for the year-- pie crust and english muffins.  Ever made any of those?

And finally, in order to get the acequia water from one side of the property to the other, I wish I could have a channel like this built.  That's the L'Occitane garden, so you just know it smells deliciously like lavender too.  Maybe L'Occitane can just ship me the materials when they break down the garden.  The Chelsea Flower Show doesn't last that long does it?  (via Fennel & Fern).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Edition: Unscheduled Hiatus

Last week the power receptacle on my computer decided to stop working altogether, which caused the battery to power down completely, and it had to make a little visit to the genius bar at the Apple store.  I was without it for four days because they had to order the part that was needed.  It was a bit shocking since I'm used to jumping on the internet whenever the mood strikes me.  By the third day however, I was seeing that it was a blessing in disguise.  I got so much done around the house!  So much that I'm thinking that I might have to declare a few days a week as off-line only.  Or alternately ditching the internet at home altogether and relying on wi-fi hotspots for daily online access.  We shall see.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Preserved Lemon Couscous

Last night's dinner was so delicious that I thought I should share the recipes. I'm an intuitive cook and generally just make up recipes based on what I find in the refrigerator and cupboard.  Sometimes I'll consult several recipes and combine the elements that I like, but it's rare that I follow a recipe exactly, even the first time I make it.  This method of cooking works well for me.  I taste as I go, of course, and am generally happy with the outcome.  The downside is that I often can't recreate it later because I don't write down the recipe.  When something is really good I'm trying to get better at documenting it.  So, here goes.

The meal was centered around a jar of preserved lemons that my friend Deirdre made and gave me for my birthday back in March.  There are a lot of recipes for Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons, but I wasn't in the mood for lemony chicken.  Instead I wanted the side dishes to focus on the lemon.  If you want to make your own preserved lemons there are recipes all over the web, like this one.  If you don't want to bother, just substitute plain lemon rind and add a bit of salt to substitute.  It won't be quite the same, but it'll still be tasty.

Balsamic glazed roast chicken:

one 3 to 4 lb. whole chicken
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 large garlic cloves crushed
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brine from jar of preserved lemons (optional, add plain lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried 
1/2 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 375º F.  Rinse you chicken with cold water and pat dry.  Place breast side up in a small roasting pan.  Make sure to check the cavity of the chicken for giblets, and remove.  Blend the rest of the ingredients together and rub over the surface of the chicken.  Gently separate the skin from the breasts with your fingers and spoon some of the mixture between the meat and skin.  Truss up the legs and wings with twine to keep them close to the body of the chicken.  Cook for an hour to an hour and a half until skin is brown and crispy and chicken is done.  When  there is about an hour left to cook add the vegetables to the pan, check for moisture.  If it looks a little dry you can drizzle a little more balsamic vinegar on top of the chicken or add a tiny bit of water to the bottom of the pan.

Lemony roasted carrots:

1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped preserved lemon rind, rinsed and pulp removed
1 tsp. black pepper
3 large carrots, cut into sticks

Toss the carrots with the olive oil, lemon and pepper and add to the roasting pan surrounding the chicken for the last hour of its roasting time.

Couscous with preserved lemon, pistachios and raisins:

1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling water
small handful of roasted shelled pistachios (can sub pine nuts if preferred), chopped
small handful of raisins, I used a mix of dark and light, chopped
1 Tbsp. of finely chopped preserved lemon rind (rinsed to remove some of the salt)
4-5 garlic chives, finely chopped
handful of arugula leaves, finely chopped

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix couscous, nuts, raisins and lemon rind together and then pour boiling water over.  Cover with a plate for five minutes.  After all the water is absorbed and the couscous has swollen, fluff it up with the tines of a fork and add the chives and arugula and toss to combine.  Serve with a little bit of the pan juices from the roast chicken drizzled on top.

Having typed that all out I realize that it looks long and complicated, but it really wasn't. Total prep time for the chicken was less than five minutes, ditto for the carrots and couscous.  The rest of the time its just in the oven.  Let me know if you try it, and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interior Inspiration: Anita Calero

One of my all time favorite Domino Magazine stories was this one about photographer and stylist Anita Calero's East Hampton, NY weekend retreat from the June/July 2007 issue.  (I don't have a scanner, so I scanned these quickly at a friends and am not happy at the quality-- oh well).

This room (above) is pretty much perfect to me.  I've used this as the defining image for what my mom's house should feel like when it's finished.  Wood floors, dark beamed ceiling, leggy mid-century furniture, interesting art, and a cool house plant.  Perfect.  Also love the chunk of wood that is dividing up the stereo equipment, which completely distracts the eye from the stereo being out in plain sight.

In the February 2007 issue they featured details of her home in the Renovation Notebook section and showed these shelves, which I plan to copy asap.  The chunks of wood are a clever take on the ubiquitous cinderblock and plank shelves that used to be such a staple of dorm-room-on-the-cheap furnishings in the days before IKEA came to the U.S.   

Image credit: Anita Calero/ and Jonny Valiant via Loft Life

This last image was poached from Loft Life, where there is a post showing Calero's West Chelsea loft-- lots more great pictures there.  Seeing her aesthetic translated between an urban loft and a mid-century vacation home is really interesting.  There are lots of little details that she's used in both places, like the color palette-- pops of red, sage green, mustard yellow with lots of natural wood, the cork front refrigerator, and pieces of nature brought indoors-- shells, turtle shells, branches, etc.  There is also a great post at knitsquirrel that contrasts the Domino spread with another from Martha Stewart Living, and you can see how the space has been rearranged or re-styled between the two shoots.  

Sigh.  Must stop wishing I lived in someone else's house now, and go cook dinner.  Anyone want to share their all time favorite homes from Domino?  (I also loved Ione Sky's house, which was in one of the early issues).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Outdoor Inspiration

I like this indoor/outdoor barbeque space at the Estancia Vik José Ignacio. (Careful, site plays tango music upon loading, so mute those speakers if you are at work). Sort of a grunge/glam shed for dining and cooking over an open fire. Found via the New York Times T Magazine blog, in an article about the St. Tropez of South America-- on the Uruguayn coast.

On another note, blogger is driving me crazy with its editor!  Why is it so tedious to get bigger pictures on the blog?  I'm not a moron, I used to code websites using pure html, and I'm the first to admit that it was years ago and I'm super rusty at all things web site related, but I just can't see why this isn't more intuitive.  I think I should be able to upload several pictures at once and choose the x-large option and have it apply to all the photos.  Am I using an incompatible browser? I use Safari.  Ugh, driving me nuts.  But the larger pictures are better right?  No need to click on them to see details?