Monday, April 26, 2010

Meyer lemon curd: best thing ever

Meyer lemon curd
via Epicurious

3 to 4 Meyer lemons (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces


So, I'd gotten a good ways into my twentyten cardigan over the weekend and laid it out on the table to check my progress. I folded it over to see how tidily the button band was slanting across the front when I noticed something odd:
The case of the vanishing pocket!

Yeah, I'd put the pocket in the wrong place. The directions call for putting markers at the points that will be the dividing points for the fronts and back, which I did, and each of the button bands, which I didn't do because I find slipping markers to be an unnecessary aggravation and I can count to seven, which is the number of stitches in the band. So when the directions called for starting the pocket "after the second marker," I didn't use the right second marker as the placement point. And it bit me in the ass.

I spent a few minutes trying to convince myself that a pocket on the back of the cardigan was fun! It's cheeky! And modern! But that was all just a crock of ridiculous nonsense and I ripped back to where I went wrong and am back on track now.

Monday flower report

I have a feeling this is going to be a regular thing around here, this posting of photos on Monday of what I saw at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden over the weekend. I went Saturday morning hoping for lilacs and was not disappointed.
Screw Disneyworld. This is the happiest place on Earth.

But I hadn't realized the peonies, which I adored, would be blooming too.

Nor that the tulip garden had such a varied and stunning range of blooms (and fans).

I crossed a part of the lawn I hadn't been on before and saw this set-up from a distance. The part of my subconscious mind that believes in magic was all, 'oh, that must be the mailbox for whoever lives in that tree,' before my rational mind caught up and was like, 'DUH, brain. They would just leave the mail at the front gate.'
(The actual purpose that little stump-on-a-post serves is so prosaic and antithetical to anything approaching magic that I can't even bring myself to type it out.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Casting on

I never thought I would become a devotee of short-sleeved woolens, but considering how much I adore my raglan wrap and the fact that I recently cast on for the very charming twentyten cardigan, I think I might be. I think they're particularly suited for transitional weather, like an infinitely chicer down vest.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lowly wurm

In my (possibly unblogged) effort to knit winter accessories out of season so I'm READY when it cools down again, I knit a Wurm. I'm not entirely sure that the slouchiness really suits me, but I like the color and tidy hem, it's comfortable, and seems like it'll be warm.
It looks fine from the front...

...but decidedly odd laid out flat.
If I knit another of these at some point, I want to add another decrease round or two before fastening off. I think there are too many stitches cinched up at the end, making the top of the hat both more ruffly and — apologies — sphincter-evoking than it would be if I had my druthers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rhubarb upside-down cake

I made this last weekend, took this photo on my phone, devoured the cake with a friend (the same night we ate the mushroom tarts, as a matter of fact), and completely forgot about it until right now, though I'm not sure how that happened. It's really good. I used this recipe as a jumping-off point, which has a great, roughly 1:1 fruit:cake ratio, and tweaked it a bit to my taste. I like almond with tart fruit, so added some almond extract and switched out ground almonds for some of the flour, used lemon instead of orange, and cardamom instead of mace.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Recipezaar

2 T. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
juice of one lemon
4 stalks rhubarb, chopped

3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. ground almonds
1/2 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 t. cardamom
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
zest of one lemon
1 t. almond extract
2/3 c. plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the base ingredients in an 8" square pan, making sure all of the rhubarb pieces are coated, and set aside.
Combine dry ingredients.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, beat in egg, almond extract, and rind.
Mix in the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, making three additions of each.
Spoon batter over rhubarb, spreading right to the edge of the pan, and bake for 35–40 minutes, until top springs back when lightly pressed.
Let cool for 15 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edge to loosen and invert onto a plate or platter.

Book club salad

My book club met at place last night and earlier this week, it had occurred to me that I needed to come up with something to feed those bitc— I mean, the ladies. Somehow or other, I landed on this recipe, which sounded springy and delicious, especially since I already had most of the more obscure ingredients — Meyer lemons, Trader Joe's Harvest Grain blend, walnut oil — in the house. I tweaked it a bit, mostly by adding things, and I fully admit that there are a lot of components that need to be dealt with separately and then mixed together, but it's worth it. This was really, really good. I was planning to hew more closely to the recipe, but I didn't realize that it called for 8 oz. of the Harvest Grains blend but that the bag is 16 oz. until I'd already cooked it all. The asparagus was a little lost in all that grainage, so I rounded it out with some baby spinach and tofu.

I've written the recipe as though you were doing it all at once, but for this batch the process was made slightly less onerous by putting it together over a couple of evenings: cooking the grains, tofu and asparagus and making the dressing the first night, then toasting the almonds, chopping the spinach and adding the cheese right before I served it. (Speaking of the cheese, the Hungarian feta that they've started carrying at Sahadi's is pretty much the best thing ever, super creamy and really strong and sheepy and salty AND under $4/lb. ) Originally I was annoyed that I hadn't added the spinach while the grains were warm, so that it would wilt some, but I really like it as is, crunchy and lively and more salad-y.

Book Club Salad
adapted from The Kitchn

1 c. barley
16 oz. Trader Joe's Harvest Grains blend OR 12 oz. Israeli couscous (or, as my friend Katherine calls it, "big couscous") and 4 oz. quinoa
1 c. sliced almonds
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1–2" lengths
1 pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1" cubes
1 T or so soy sauce
5 oz. baby spinach, roughly chiffonaded
2 Meyer (or regular) lemons, zested and juiced
1 T walnut oil
olive oil
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled

Cook barley in salted water until al dente, drain and add to large mixing bowl. Cook other grains according to package directions (for the TJ's blend, I always have to add more water and cook longer). Add to barley in bowl and mix together, adding a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant. Add to grains. Heat a bit of olive oil in the same pan and cook asparagus until crisp-tender, just a minute or two. Add to the grains. Add more oil to the pan if necessary and brown the tofu cubes, adding the soy sauce at the end. When it's been absorbed, add it to the grains mixture.
Add the lemon zest to the salad. Mix the juice with the walnut oil, drizzling olive oil into the mixture and whisking, tasting occasionally, until it tastes balanced to you. Add the dressing to the salad and mix well. Stir in the feta.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is what lunch at my desk looks like.

I'm trying to get myself in the habit of eating salads, mainly because the CSA I joined is going to have mesclun greens all summer and I don't necessarily want to give it ALL away, but until I saw this post from the inimitable Pink of Perfection, I wasn't really sure how I was going to go about it. It turns out that as a plain accompaniment to a filling, flavorful, not-loaded-with-icky-mayonnaise curried leftover-foot-chicken salad, lettuce wins. For now.

Curried Chicken Salad
adapted from Pink of Perfection

1 c. plain yogurt
2 T. mayonnaise
1 T. garam masala
2 T. curry powder
1 apple, chopped finely
half an onion, minced
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
leftover chopped/shredded chicken

Mix the yogurt, mayo, and spices in a bowl, then add the apple, onion, and walnuts. Finally, fold in the chicken.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Button, button, who's got the button?

I finally got around to poking through my vintage button supply and sewing some on my raglan wrap (rav link), finished just before Thanksgiving and previously blogged about here and here. I didn't have enough of the ones I liked best, but I'm perfectly happy with the plastic sunburst ones I ended up using. I still didn't have quite enough of those either, to be honest, but snuck in a plain one at the top where it's hidden by the collar.

The only problem was that the shanks on a couple of them were worn through.

Two coats of superglue gel over the break left them as good as new though.

And I love, love, love the finished product, with the front worn either open...

or closed. I wore it to work three days this week over long-sleeve t-shirts and would have been perfectly happy to wear it every single day.

Mushroom tarts

These were a riff on one of my favorite Deborah Madison recipes for tomato/olive/rosemary tarts. Since I had to miss an Easter brunch to which I was supposed to bring stuffed mushrooms for nine people, I had kind of a lot of mushrooms to use up. I'd always meant to play around with other fillings for this dough and I had a friend coming over for dinner last Saturday, so I put these together. I use all all-purpose flour when making the tomato variation, but thought that the strong, earthy mushroom flavors would benefit from some whole wheat flour in the crust. They were fantastic both hot out of the oven and at room temperature for lunch at work and they kept pretty well. I made them on Saturday and just ate the last one today, Thursday.
I don't really have a recipe for the filling, but what I did, more or less, was: brown an onion in butter, then saute about a pound and a half of finely chopped mushrooms with a splash of wine and some thyme, then stir in a spoonful or two of sour cream to bind it together and salt to taste. I happened to have some olives around and chopped up about 1/3 c. to put on top.

Galette dough
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
12 T cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3–1/2 c. ice water

Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix flour and salt together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, two knives, or your hands, leaving some pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the ice water over by the tablespoonful and toss until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press it into a disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll or pat into a circle roughly 8" in diameter. Spoon 1/6th of the filling into the center and spread out to about an inch from the edge. Sprinkle chopped olives on top of the mushrooms and drizzle with walnut or olive oil. Fold the edges of the dough over the mushrooms, creasing every inch or so. Bake until crust is golden, about 20–25 minutes.
I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Saturday morning, mostly because I was hoping that their lilacs would be blooming (and also because it's free admission from 10–12). They weren't, but plenty of other stuff was.

I was particularly intrigued by the variety of green flowers in bloom:

I liked that this tree looks like it's draped in cobwebs. This is the tree Miss Havisham would picnic under.

These seem to be the only cherry blossom-related photos I took. Because I'm, like, so dark.

Pretty color! And in focus!

Going out and looking at things without a particular agenda is one of my favorite things to do. It refills my creative coffers in a way that nothing else quite does; I actually figured out a way around a problem in one of my writing projects while I was walking around. And if I hadn't been there, I would have missed the way the sun was hitting these blossoms. And that would have been a pity.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rais(ing vegetables on) the roof

Yesterday, as part of a Crop Mob, I spent four hours doing some work at Eagle St. Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. It's exactly what it sounds like — a farm on the roof of a warehouse in an industrial corner of Brooklyn, right on the East River. The soil is 4–7" deep up there and they're growing pretty much everything, plus introducing chickens and bees in the next few weeks. I used to live about a block and a half away and moved just before they started getting a lot of publicity last summer. I've been paying attention in a vague kind of way since then and was pretty excited to have an opportunity to get up there and see the operation for myself.
There were a lot of volunteers, maybe 25 or so, so we split into small groups and I started off sorting through rubble at an empty lot next door to find whole bricks that they were going to use for something (planters, rumor had it). I didn't have my camera on me at that point, but it felt a bit like being in the opening scene of Law + Order, like we were about to unearth a body at any moment. No one I was working with thought that was funny.
Then we went up to the roof and planted a couple of rows of lettuce. The soil that they use on the roof is mixed with a fair bit of gravel and shale to keep it less dense and, therefore, less heavy, so we brushed the gravel off the surface and made it as level as possible before making the furrows and winnowing in the seeds. Then I went back downstairs and helped assemble trays for the beehives.
I've been having major garden envy lately, since half of the people I follow on twitter and/or whose blogs are read are in a planning/planting frenzy. I loved getting a look at the place and getting some dirt under my nails, and I left kind of in awe of Annie Novak, the farmer. She was doing a million things at once all day — herding volunteers, mixing seeds, teaching people how to do all kinds of things, checking on the people who were working with the compost, being gorgeous and warm and friendly, talking about why she had chosen the particular seeds she had and how she balances the plants that take nitrogen from the soil versus the ones that put it back in, and paying attention to and signing off on every stage of everything that happened. Completely amazing.