Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ripple blanket

Oddly enough, I was motivated to pull out the long-dormant ripple blanket during the recent heatwave, almost entirely because I could plonk the whole thing on the table and barely touch it while I worked on it. Still liking the looks of it, still convinced it's going to be heavy enough to use as a restraining device when it's done.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I like storefront churches in general, but this one is my favorite.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wild food upstate

When I was upstate a couple of weeks ago, I took my mom out foraging one morning. I was mostly looking for milkweed florets, but we also found some ripe blackcaps in a few sunny spots, as well as enough unripe ones to keep her in berries for weeks as they ripened.
We picked close to two pounds of milkweed florets, and that was only taking one or two from each plant. Lots of milkweed near her place, is what I'm saying. Much of it was on a hillside that it shared with densely growing thistles, but that's what long pants and hiking shoes and slow, deliberate movements are for.
I was surprised and pleased to find a big elderberry bush in full flower too, so we picked a bunch for elderflower fritters and for my mom to try her hand at putting up some elderflower champagne.
I sauteed about half of the milkweed to have with dinner and left the rest for her to have later. It was nice to have enough to eat my fill, rather than just having a taste. I decided that it tastes more like asparagus than anything else. Good stuff.

The elderflower fritters were ... less uniquely delicious. I read a couple a recipes and made a simple batter of flour, egg, milk and a little lemon juice. I dipped the flower heads in the batter and fried them in canola oil until they were brown.
They just tasted like fried dough. Neither of us could distinguish any flavor at all from the flowers, so we scrapped them and ate strawberries instead.

More scenes from a commute

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Abandon hope, all ye who enter this airshaft

While I was taking this picture just down the block from my office, someone walking by told me the text on the walls was from Dante's Inferno.

This makes me want to learn origami

from here

Scenes from a commute

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The spoils of foraging

Breakfast today: granola with yogurt and freshly picked juneberries

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I have a feeling this is going to be a post about something that nobody likes but me, but I'm okay with that. It starts, as so many things do, with me reading Laura Ingalls as a kid. I remember being mildly intrigued by this line from The Long Winter:
"Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot."

Somewhere in the intervening years, I read about switchel, the "haymakers' punch" of sweetened vinegar water, and when I spied that bottle of Bragg's vinegar drink at a fancy bodega last weekend, I snatched it up. I loved it, though I think it's fair to say that Jenn was grossed out — willing to give it a try until she smelled it. The only listed ingredients were water, cider vinegar, and honey, all things I had on hand at home, so I've been playing around with it all week and finally hit on the proportions that taste good to me. I like the flavor of honey, but have been using maple syrup simply because it's easier to stir into cold water.

The ginger tea I mention here is something I make a batch of weekly-ish. I make it strong enough that I can't drink it on its own, so it's more like ginger concentrate. It's good mixed with water or seltzer or heated up with honey and lemon. Just slice a large piece of ginger fairly thinly into a saucepan, fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil, cover and let it cool to room temperature, then strain into clean bottles and store in the fridge. My current favorite cooking/drinking white wine that I can get close to home for under $10 (it's a Chilean sauvingnon blanc with a greenish label and is on the bottom shelf of the wine store; that's all I know about it) comes in screw-top bottles, which are really handy for this kind of thing.

2 T. maple syrup
4 T. Bragg's cider vinegar
very strong ginger tea
Mix the maple syrup and vinegar in a pint glass. Fill glass roughly halfway with ginger tea and the rest of the way with water. Stir.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Prospect Park foraging

This past weekend, I took a fantastic foraging tour of Prospect Park with Leda Meredith. She shares information in a very low-key, effective manner that's more like taking a walk with a very knowledgeable friend than the spectacle of shtick that another (also knowledgeable, harder to take) local foraging educator puts on. Plus, in a move I was extremely charmed by, she brought a snack for everyone to share at the end of the tour that used some of the plants we'd just talked about, a dip with daylilies and peppergrass. I'd highly recommend one of her future tours if you can make it, or either of her books.
Here she is, showing off some wood sorrel. This is a plant I have a soft spot for, since I used to pull it out of our lawn to munch on when I was a kid. (How I knew to do this, I have genuinely no idea.)
I have several pages of notes in the back of my Moleskine of the dozens of plants we found and talked about, but the highlights for me were:
  • Goutweed, the leaves of which have an appealing herbal-celery scent and flavor. I can see myself throwing a handful in the pot when I make stock.
  • Sassafrass, the roots of which I've used to experiment with making homemade root beer (medium success; the flavor was right, but I didn't brew it strong enough). I didn't realize that the leaves, dried and blitzed in a coffee grinder, make filĂ© powder, the traditional thickener for gumbo. I've never made gumbo, but that's not to say I never will.
  • Elderflower blossoms. I have a real fondness for St. Germain and most elderflower-scented and -flavored things, so being able to identify and collect it for myself is splendid. I started a batch of Leda's elderflower champagne that night and want to make a few bottles of elderflower-infused simple syrup for using in summer cocktails.
  • Mugwort, which can be used as a seasoning or tea. Or, since it has muscle relaxing properties, steeped into a bath. I made a cup of mugwort tea Saturday night that was ... vaguely palatable, especially once I added some honey. I like the way the raw plant smells, but once it sat in the hot water for a few minutes, it had a hint of a slimy-greens-left-too-long-in-the-crisper scent that I find off-putting. It's an invasive weed and Leda said that the roots exude a substance that discourages other plants from growing nearby, which is fascinating from an evolutionary standpoint, but kind of terrifying, especially since once I knew to look for it, I saw it freaking everywhere in the park.
  • Juneberries, which were one of my favorite discoveries of the day. They're delicious, like slightly milder blueberries, and have seeds that taste like almonds. And holy! crap! I just googled "juneberry cyanide" to see if that's where the flavor comes from (it is, but not enough to be an issue) and learned that juneberries are the same as saskatoon berries, which I've read about as being a great delicacy in, um, places closer to Saskatoon than I currently am and had filed them away on the list of Things I Must Eat Someday But Which I Cannot Get in New York, Like Mangosteens.And here they are, literally right in what might as well be my backyard. Color me gobsmacked.
  • Chokecherries, which are awfully pretty, all glossy and blue-black. I really like the flavor too, sort of a cross between cherry and grapefruit, though you might need an affinity for sour things to eat more than one out of hand.
I do have an affinity for sour things, but I wanted to play with them a little more. I made a syrup with these by boiling a cup of the fruit with a cup of water and 3 T sugar for probably longer than I should have — kept waiting for them to burst like cranberries, but they never did — then pushing as much liquid as possible through a fine sieve. It was a fair bit of effort for not much syrup, but it was tasty mixed into some seltzer and drizzled over a bit of ice cream. Very similar in flavor and consistency to pomegranate molasses, which I love. I also happen to have a large bottle of it in my kitchen already, but this would make a handy locavore substitution, if one was looking for that.

I think the most amazing thing for me though (up until a few minutes ago — high five saskatoon berries!) was learning that many parts of the milkweed plant are edible. I grew up with milkweed plants everywhere. We made Christmas ornaments out of the dried-out pods in elementary school. I remember trying to make glue out of the sticky sap. When I learned to spin, I embarked on an ultimately unsuccessful milkweed-floss-spinning endeavor (I have enough experience at this point to know that the problem was that I was trying to spin it on the wheel like wool; treating it like cotton might work, especially with an ultralight spindle). Learning that I could have been eating it all along blew. my. mind. There weren't very many of them that hadn't flowered yet, at least in the part of the park where I was, and I didn't want to take more than one bud cluster from each, so I just brought a few home with me to test out.
Leda had said to treat them like broccoli, so I browned them in a little butter and sprinkled them with salt and enjoyed every bite. I described them to a friend earlier today as a bit muskier tasting than broccoli, almost like a cross between broccoli and an artichoke.
Seriously delicious. And by happy coincidence, I'm heading upstate this weekend, far enough north that they're a little behind Brooklyn in the growing cycle. There's a fair bit of marshy wetland near where my mom lives and I have a sneaking suspicion that she'll get as much of a kick out of eating milkweed as I did.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Caramelized onion and kale pizza

Since it's finally cooled down enough for me to be willing to turn on the oven and I had a friend coming over for dinner last night, I made a stuff-in-the-fridge-that-needs-to-be-used pizza that, happily, turned out really, really well.

I started with some really good whole wheat dough that they're carrying at the Coop. I've made my own dough in the past, but have never been happy with it — usually it's been a pain to stretch out, always wanting to slither back into a safe little ball, which results in a thicker crust than I like. This stuff was really easy to work with and delicious. I caramelized two onions that I had halved and then sliced as thinly as possible and spread them over the dough to serve as the sauce-ish (and saucy!) component. If I'd been thinking, I would have sprinkled some crushed red pepper flakes over them.
After I'd taken the onions out of the pan, I filled it with some of the cleaned, chopped kale and mustard greens I had ready to go. Not sure of the quantity, maybe four or five cups uncooked? There was enough oil left in the pan from the onions that I just gave them a quick drizzle and moved them around with tongs until they were, um, not cooked exactly, but flexible. I piled them on top of the onions.
Then I dotted the greens with some gorgonzola that needed to be eaten soon. I could have skipped it though or should have used more since I couldn't really taste it.
Then I sliced up about half of a small ball of fresh mozzarella and distributed that as evenly as I could.
450F for about 20 minutes and done.
To go with it, I cut up a medium-sized jicama and a bunch of carrots and some extremely pretty radishes, filled a cereal bowl with each and put everything on the table to pick at while we caught up over a bottle of wine. I really like this kind of flatbread/pizza preparation. I have a feeling I'll be making a lot more of them in the next couple of weeks. Fingers crossed that the heat holds off for long enough for me to get sick of them...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I was walking home last night when something caught my eye:
This is the back of a billboard that faces out onto Flatbush Avenue, which for some reason is covered with an illustration of what I'm pretty sure is New York Harbor in what I'm randomly guess-stabbing is the 18th century. I would love to see it more clearly, but since it's on the back of a billboard that can only be seen from part of the block of Park Place between 6th and 7th Avenues, I'm not sure I'll be able to get a better look.

Needless to say, I was *delighted* by my discovery and very, very curious about the story behind it. Who? Why? When? How? Anyone know?

To which I can only say amen

My girlcrush and birthday twin Maureen Johnson posted the following manifesto on her blog today. Or possibly last night. Either way, even though she devised the manifesto in reaction to people who use the internet only for person promotion, she might as well have titled it Why Stephanie Blogs.

"The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people."

Now go here and read the whole post.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Speaking of draping...

This is fantastic.

from here

Egg, meet face

Earlier this morning, I was responding to a comment from yesterday and noticed that the 'to' field was something like noreply-comment@...

'Huh,' I thought, 'that's weird.' And as I typed, I got to wondering if the program was protecting the commenter's identity but would pass the message along or if my response — and ZOMG all of the comments EVER — were just being shunted off to the virtual equivalent of a dead-letter office. Since the commenter is a real-life friend, I gchatted her and asked her to let me know when my response showed up. And it never did.

So, since it seems possible that no one who has commented here in the past has ever gotten my responses, please accept my heartfelt apologies. I love your comments! I love responding to your comments! I never thought it was weird that no one ever responded to my responses!

I'm going to go poke around the settings and the help section and see if I can figure out a way to fix this, but in the meantime I'm terribly sorry for my inadvertently appalling blog manners. And if anyone ever *did* get a response from my on a comment here, would you let me know? Thanks!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The hard part is getting it out of my brain.

Yesterday, while I was walking home, an extraordinarily vivid and crystal-clear idea for a sweater leaped fully formed out of the murky, roiling depths of my subconscious and into the front of my brain where I could see it. There were crossed fronts and draping and pleating with a high armscye, well-fitted shoulders, and narrow sleeves to keep the whole thing from sliding into schmatte territory. But even though I could see the finished garment as clearly as if it had materialized in front of me, I couldn’t quite figure out what the pieces would have to look like to get that effect.

So when I got home, I took out some scraps of jersey fabric and cut out little sweater pieces to play with.* I never quite achieved the shining grail-shaped beacon of knitwear as it exists in my mind, but I’ll get there. Or not. Definitely one of the two.

*I have a feeling that this is the kind of thing that seems totally normal and just plain sensible to me, like making scale models of my apartment and all of my furniture whenever I move so I know that everything will fit in the new place,** but not to other people.
**I told my mom about it the first time I thought to do this, and she told me that when she first moved into the house I grew up in, she made scale models of of all of her cabinets and everything that would go in the cabinets. I assume, though I didn’t ask, that she meant dishes and her mixer and that sort of thing, not, like, cans of soup. Regardless, in both our cases, we’re talking about 2D models. 3D models would be a completely different level of The Awesome.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In lieu of knitting, a cat. Plus, ice cream.

I did a fair bit of knitting this weekend, though I've decided to keep the particulars under wraps for now, since it's something I'm designing and I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the pattern once I'm done.

HOWEVER, as a ploy to distract you from how genuinely annoying my smug secret-keeping really is—I could have just not mentioned it—here is a CAT:

And a recipe for very, very good chocolate ice cream.
Very, Very Good Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from Nigella Lawson in one of her books, possibly the domestic goddess one

2 egg yolks
1 egg
2/3 c. plus 2 T sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
2 c. milk
3 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted

Whisk the eggs and 2/3 c. of sugar in a bowl until thick and creamy. Whisk in cocoa. Bring the milk to a boil and add to the egg mixture, pouring slowly and beating all the while. Whisk the melted chocolate into the eggs and milk. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until everything is smooth and amalgamated and beginning to thicken.

Put the remaining 2 T sugar into a saucepan and turn the heat to high. Heat until it's dark brown and molten, then whisk into the chocolate custard. Cool and thoroughly chill the mixture, then freeze in an ice cream maker.