Just minding my own beeswax - chatting cooking, kids, knitting, travel, and life in general

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Official - Gruyere is the Big Cheese!

The Swiss cheese, Gruyere, was named the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin.  Congrats to the Gruyere.  Best known as a component in the classic fondue, the hard, nutty-flavored cheese is excellent shaved over steamed vegetables or roast potatoes.

Tonight, I will be enjoying a wedge from Andrew's Cheese shop with a crispy sparkling wine, like the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadou from Domaine Carneros.  Pinot Noir is the dominant grape, which stands up nicely to the sharp bite of the Gruyere.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Song of the Day

The official song of today: Volvo Driving Soccer Mom
Wanna make something of it?  I am a Volvo driving latte-drinking soccer/basketball/band/marching band mom, or I was.  Time to downsize.  I finally figured out that if a drive something very small, no one will ask me to do carpool....why didn't I think of this sooner? 

Friday, March 12, 2010

The official song of today:  Sea Of Love

A great cover by Cat Power.  I believe in love and I believe in the power of cats.  I love the zither on this on this song!


you can't fight the power of The Stare

“I am a part of all that I have seen."

Tennyson wrote "I am a part of all that I have seen", it suits me to a tee.  And what I have seen is all a part of me.  Whether it's enjoying a stop at a cafe in France, whisking across Alaska by train, ferrying to an island in the Mediterranean, or staring out the back of the family station wagon watching cacti wave good bye -- travel is one of my greatest pleasures. 

One look at this picture:  I am warm, I can taste the citron pressé,  and it's July in France all over again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Song of the Day

The Official Song of the Day:  Kids by MGMT

It's the perfect soundtrack for tree sweaters and for the trees swaying in the wind outside my window acting like they are haunted. 
Control yourself
Take only what you need from it
A family of trees wanted to be haunted

It doesn't have to make sense, it's almost spring!

Tree Sweaters & Gloves With No Fingers

I stumbled onto this blog through the always fun to read Postcards from Oblivion, following a posting about the mystery "Midnight Knitter of New Jersey".  It seems someone is dressing the trees and poles of Cape May, New Jersey, with sweaters.  I'm a sucker for guerrilla art and an even bigger sucker for tiny sweaters.  It seems to be the project of Salty Knits - "knitters that got sick of knitting kitten mittens", ok then. 

The tree sweaters actually look more like fingerless gloves, which I also found on Knit & Kidoodles, the cutest fingerless gloves and thought they would be perfect for fall and winter Farmer's Market shopping.  If I get started now in the Spring they should be ready by October.....maybe.

It's a Knitty.com pattern and will be really yummy in a cashmere/merino wool blend.  They say you can buy the yarn on Friday and wear them on Monday......for me:  Friday in March, Monday in October!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Song of the Day

Song of the Day:  Sick of Goodbyes
The big goodbye to Mark Linkous.  Please rest in peace.  I'll miss your guitar and your words.

In Praise of Parsons, Polenta & Prosecco

I have a huge crush on Russ Parsons, Food Editor of the LA Times.  I think he’s just dreamy!  Not in the creepy, ‘Kathy Bates in Misery I’m your Number-1 Fan’ way but a healthy admiration of his encyclopedic knowledge of food and his joy in sharing his knowledge.  Listen to him on KCRW’s Good Food talking about making a Ragu  it can make vegetarians drool.  He’s never let me down on Thanksgiving turkeys, vegetables or abalone.  He’s a smart, informative writer and his joy and genuine love of food is clearly evident in his writing and in interviews.

The February 18, 2010, LA Times Food Section had a great article by Russ and his love of polenta.  Me too, who doesn’t love polenta!  My love affair with polenta started about long ago….

Years ago we spent a wonderful weekend in a hillside village in the lower Italian Alps way north of Bergamo.  Polenta is a way of life in the villages, a staple that’s eaten every day.  It’s not chic and interesting, it’s peasant food meant to fill bellies on cold nights.  People eat so much polenta that they used to develop goiters (it has to do with corn’s blocking of niacin and iodine absorption) – so much so that the Commedia delle Arte puppet that represents the area is Gioppino a good natured peasant, a lover of good food and wine with three goiters.

One afternoon I was staring out the second floor window watching the rain fall on the roofs of the houses dotting down the hillside.  The door to the house across the road opened and an umbrella popped open, a man stepped out holding the umbrella away from himself over the door, then a woman rushed out with a large wooden plank topped with a steaming golden dome of polenta.  Off they rushed down the street, the polenta under the umbrella and the couple getting soaked.  I went downstairs and asked our hostess what it was that I had seen – and she introduced me to polenta.  I asked so many questions (was it grits, cornmeal pudding, how do you eat it and what to you eat with it?) that she changed the evening’s menu and set about to show me how to make polenta.  I learned to make polenta in almost the same way it had been made for hundreds of years (except over a gas stove and not over a fire).  That was it – I was hooked. 

It’s an incredibly simple food:  The key is cooking slowly and evenly and stirring.  You can make enough for one person or an entire army if you know the ratio:  4:1.  Four parts of water (or stock) to one part of polenta,  A little butter, salt and parmesan cheese and you have the perfect canvas for any of your favorite braised meats/vegetables.

I always make way more than we can eat at one sitting – so what to do with the leftovers?  That’s when polenta really shines!  Here’s my recipe for an appetizer perfect with a glass of Prosecco before a leisurely Sunday lunch:  Torta di Polenta

4 cups Water
1 cup polenta
2 Tbl unsalted butter
3 heaping Tbl finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
-       OR:  3 cups of leftover polenta

1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
1/4 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Black pepper to taste

Prepare your polenta:  bring the water to boil in a heavy saucepan and stir in the polenta slowly.  Lower the heat and stir while cooking for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the butter and parmesan and cook another couple of minutes stirring frequently. 
From leftover polenta:  to ‘reconstitute’ polenta put it in a heavy saucepan with 1 Tablespoon of water for every cup of polenta, turn heat to medium low and stir until polenta is warmed and smooth.

Into polenta (still in the saucepan on the stove) stir remaining ingredients and cook another five to ten minutes stirring slowly.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. 

Pour mixture into cake or springform pan and chill for an hour.  Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple of days.  Unmold torta to serving plate, cut into individual serving wedges.  Place slices on cookie sheet and warm in oven (350 degrees for about 10 minutes).  Serve on individual plates with Sage & Tomato Sauce, garnished with a crumble of gorgonzola.

Sage & Tomato Sauce
1 Tbl olive oil
1 shallot, slivered
3 sage leaves, slivered
1 cup Perfect Simple Tomato Sauce

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Song of the Day

The official song of the day: Bumble Bee
It's a raw rockin' rockabilly cover of an old Lavern Baker tune by the band Heavy Trash. 
Drop what you're doing and twist with me!

Needles Down - Closing Ceremonies of the Knitting Olympics

I did it -- I set myself a goal to actually finish knitting a big project and I did!  Even though I was wonderfully distracted by the US/Canada Hockey Game, I finished the last square with Neil Young singing at the Closing Ceremonies.  Digression:  who else could have filled that stage with just a guitar, harmonica and himself -- Neil Young: long may he run.
All 12-inch squares are completed for the afghan.....
 amatuer photography at it's worst
It feels great to have completed this goal!  The patterns in the Leisure Arts pattern book for this afghan were very clear and I gained some skill in several new stitches.  What I couldn't get from the book, I got from Youtube.  Dontcha just love the youtubes?  I used two videos to learn to cable -- being left-handed it's easier for me to learn from watching a screen -- one a professionally done tutorial from Leisure Arts.  Well-lit, camera on a tripod, easy to see and hear.  The other is from Kate McFaul, it's completely DIY.  The camera work made me a little seasick, the lighting isn't great and her kid is yammering in the background, it's a hoot and she gets right to it and has great practical tips.

Now I just have to get the squares all crocheted together by August....no problem, right?  Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rotten Tomatoes - Say it Taint So!

Bribery and collusion and the sale of tainted tomatoes?  I'm shocked, shocked to find such hijinks going on in agri-business!  No, not really.  The arrest of rotten tomato, Frederick Scott Salyer, owner of SK Foods for racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice earlier this month isn't really shocking.  Neither is that he allegedly bribed companies to buy his mold-tainted products.  One more reason to make your own tomato sauce and tomato paste.

If you can sleep, you can make tomato paste....it's that easy. 

Dreamy Tomato Paste

6 lbs. of Roma or plum tomatoes
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Peel tomatoes - cut an X in the bottom of the tomato and drop the tomato into boiling water (don't do more than two or three at time) for the length of time it takes you to sing The Tomato Song (about one minute).  Remove from the water, set aside until they are cool to the touch.  Tomatoes should slip out of their skin when you peel back the X.
Quarter the peeled tomatoes and run them through the fine sieve of a food mill to remove the seeds.  Salt lightly and pour tomato puree into a large shallow roasting pan or onto several baking sheets (with sides).
Place in the warm oven for 2 hours, stir and turn off the oven, leaving the tomatoes in the warm oven overnight.  In the morning, remove from the oven, stir again and let cool completely.  You will have about 2 cups of gorgeous deep ruby red tomato paste.

Song of the Day

The official song of today: Generals And Majors
 An oldie but goodie by XTC.  On my way today, I pulled up to a bus stop and could hear what I thought was someone crying out in pain.  Being incapable of minding my own beeswax, I rolled down the window to see what was going on and realized it was the guy at the bus stop singing along with his ipod.  Some people were not made for acapella, and he gave ME a dirty look.