Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All Green Everything

A fun box from my personal CSA a few months ago. Those are the bitter melons that went into the Southeast Asian roomie soup. So pretty.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Garden Update: Parsley Loves Chilly Weather

While the tomato plants were on their last gasps and the basil plant clung on for dear life (and the swiss chard just kept doing its thing), the parsley started to go wild. My previous parsley-growing experiences were far from successful, but maybe that's because I started in the springtime. This photo was taken about a month ago; now it is pretty much a parsley bush. A friend says that parsley pesto is her favorite. I'll have to give it a shot before the parsley goes completely out of control. Wildness!

In other news, I planted about 10 "Packed for 1999" carrot seeds and at least three of them sprouted! Along with some beets and some errant tomato plants. I'll plant sunflower seeds by the end of February so that this year's tomato plants will be able to hang onto their tall stalks. Hopefully the bees do okay so I'll have fewer empty shells this time around. And my friend Claire will have a bigger home-grown sunflower seed bounty to nibble on.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mycologist Needed

Spotted these pretties growing around a patio in Downtown Los Angeles. Wonder if they're edible. 

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Five Things Learned in 2011

1. Salsa verde and chile verde are amazingly easy to make. And extremely delicious. Peeling the papery skin off of tomatillos to reveal their sticky, smooth, green skins is so satisfying. Just throw them in a pan with some pricked jalapenos, stick them under a broiler until their skins are dark brown, then throw them in a blender with some onions, garlic, chile, and salt. It's magic. Tomatillo salsa! Then brown some chunks of pork shoulder, pour off the excess fat, and add tomatillo salso to just barely cover it (add water or broth if necessary), and simmer for a couple of hours, or until tender. This is how I ate mine:
Corn tortillas, chopped red onion, chopped red cabbage, queso fresco, and Cholula (not yet applied).
2. I can make my own half-and-half. Why this did not occur to me before confounds me. I mix milk and cream in a little jam jar so that I can shake it up before adding it to my morning coffee. My home-kitchen version of homogenization? The advantage of making half-n-half instead of buying it is that I always have both cream and milk on hand. The disadvantage is that I always worry about one or the other spoiling. But since I make my own chocolate syrup, I can just guzzle hot chocolate with whipped cream in case of an emergency...

3. Toast steel cut oats in a dry pan first to make them cook a little faster and taste a lot better. Well, it tastes better if you like your oatmeal with a nuttier flavor. I sometimes soak steel cut oats in a jar overnight if I need to cook them quickly in the morning, and I found that if I don't toast them first, the finished product is too oozy and almost slimy. I just gently toast the oats (in a little butter if I'm feeling sassy) in the pan until I can smell the toasty-oaty aroma, then add water and simmer for twenty or so minutes. The other day I forgot about the pot on the stove. The edges were burnt and dry, but the 1/3 of a cup left in the middle was salvaged with some jam, almond butter, and cinnamon.

4. Dried sour cherries and dried tart cherries are very, very different. I bought sour cherries from Whole Foods and they were delicious; sticky, sour-sweet, and plump. The next time I went, there were only "tart" cherries. I snuck a taste and it didn't taste exactly right, but I got some anyway. When I got home and tried to eat a few more the next night, they were almost bitter, a bit dry, and miles from the lovely sour cherries that I'd had a week earlier. I was so disappointed in them that I actually went and returned them. Now I will wait until I see dried sour cherries in the bulk section. And I'll taste more than one. Shhhh.

5. Homemade cookies make people happy, even if they're mediocre. At least, I thought that most of my attempts were mediocre at best, but my friends and officemates seemed to enjoy them. I tried out apple cinnamon oatmeal bars, cherry chocolate chip almond oatmeal, and oatmeal chocolate chip almond. None of them had the crisp edges and chewy centers that I want in a cookie, so I guess I have to keep trying. Baking is the area in which I am least confident because I'm not very disciplined with my measurements-- except with brownies. They are forgiving. They do not intimidate me in the slightest. Brownies and I have an understanding that cookies and I have not yet reached. Maybe in 2012.