11 April 2011

It's that time of year again

Last year, I didn't blog much about gardening despite ending up with a pretty rockin' garden. Energy that could/should/would have been spent on blogging instead went into the new puppy, dealing with the garden, dealing with the new house, etc, etc. Last summer was overwhelming.

My first priority was peas. I knew a "real" garden would take some work and planning and money and sun, but I could handle peas. (Please disregard the super-high-tech, dog-proofing twig fence; March 21, 2010):

The few that I got were pretty tasty. I didn't really "amend" the soil, and they didn't get as much sun as I'd hoped. And then Lucy (the new puppy) dug them up.

I brought a really beautiful strawberry plant home from the Union Square Greenmarket. It transplanted well into the sort-of-raised-bed (complete with amended soil) B created. But then one day I came home to this (June 25):

It was OK, though, because the rest of that garden had turned into this jungle (Lucy's in the back left. June 25):

We grew zucchini (July 7):

And purple green beans (July 7):

They turn green when cooked (Note super-duper-high-tech kitchen implement to keep half a bean out of boiling water; July 8):

An attempt was made at eggplant (July 7):

All seemed to be going well in Gardenland. Until... (July 12)

Something went wrong and bugs got into the zucchini. Not just the zucchini fruit, but into the vines themselves. I think they might have been some kind of borer. I remain the only person on earth unable to grow tons of zucchini.

Luckily, we had little hot peppers to distract us! Look at all those jalapeƱos trying to flip us off (July 12):

There was a tomato (July 12):

An ominous sky artsily framed with tomato blossoms (July 12):

And even more ominously, a wild dog with no regard for chicken-wire fences (July 12):

To be continued...

16 November 2010

A three-attachment weekend

Over the weekend, I made:
Really fucking good plain ol' white bread - subbing local honey for sugar.
Lemon bars - with Meyer lemons I brought back from my parents' yard.
Butternut squash and apple soup - with more local veggies!
Lemon, cream and pepper pasta sauce - with more of those same lemons and Hudson Valley Fresh cream.

I used all three attachments that came with my stand mixer, and the immersion blender.

That was a tasty weekend.

(I also pulled up all but three plants in my little garden - the bok choy is hardy as hell and still going. It was such a bummer to pull up the tomatoes. Maybe they'll do better next year.)

12 November 2010

Grape pie. Who knew?

At today's Greenmarket, I picked up parsnips, a rutabaga and onions from Dutchess County (it's possible I buy more local produce in the city than actually in Dutchess County); brussels sprouts, carrots and beets from some nice guys from Pennsylvania; eggs from New York (don't remember who my egg guy was today) and honey from those nice guys, near the Finger Lakes. But I made sure I didn't spend my whole twenty. Oh, no.

My last two bucks were spent on a slice of grape pie. How could I resist?

It looked a lot like a blueberry pie, and that's actually what the woman working the booth compared it to. Once I got back to work and my boss and I dug into it, I learned it was so much more. It was Concord grapes, cooked down and sugared, seeds removed but skins remained. Unfortunately (for me), it reminded me so much of Welch's grape jelly, but more pure and essentially GRAPE-y. I say "unfortunately (for me)," because apparently I hadn't had much in the way of actual Concord grapes to compare this to. I must say, I like the real thing better than the jelly.

I'd never seen this pie before today. This recipe, at Martha Stewart's site, doesn't seem too complicated to make.

Other Google recipe search results led me to this — a grape festival in Naples, New York! The last full weekend of September, next year, it's on.

27 August 2010


"Last published on April 29, 2010"

I can't believe it. I mean, I can, since the evidence is right there, but that kind of updating (in)frequency is downright embarrassing.

This summer has held so many great food experiences, and my garden (I have a kickass garden!), but... in May I got a puppy who, in the course of teething, decided to chew through the photo uploading cable. And my camera needs a silly proprietary Casio cable, not a mini-USB one like, oh, everything else. And I have been too poorlazy to order a new one. Though a quicker solution would be to buy a USB memory-card reader. Sigh.

Once I've got pictures, I'll post. Promise.

29 April 2010

Sweet treats

I am a serious sucker for sugar. Two things I've eaten this week:

A mini cheesecake from La Delice bakery, a couple blocks from work.

I blame Sam and my BFF Jenessa, because when I was antsy on Tuesday, they Facebook-peer-pressured me into dreaming about cheesecake. I had to do it. The good, kinda healthy, news is that it wasn't as tasty as I'd hoped. It was drying out. Though I probably won't get cheesecake from that bakery again, there are many more cheesecakes in the sea...

(Why yes, those are bottles of wine in the background. No, I do not drink at work. Usually.)

So then yesterday, when I found myself with a little extra time at Grand Central before my train, I wandered downstairs to the food court"dining concourse," and Magnolia Bakery. Until recently, Ciao Bella gelato was my early-evening, pre-train sugar fix. No more. I am crazy addicted to this:

Magnolia Bakery's Blueberry Jamboree.

Now, I have no idea why this is called a Jamboree, as I have never seen Boy Scouts nor Animatronic bears gathered around it, but last night was probably the fourth time I've bought it, and the fourth time it has knocked my socks off but the first time I have not brought any home to share with B. Doesn't hurt that it's also one of the least spendy things at Magnolia. Here's the recipe. You're welcome, in advance.


"Gardening" update

Well, we've been in the house a month this week. There are still boxes to unpack, but during the bouts of dry weather we've had, I've been able to work a little bit in the yard.

The lone length of fence that seems to get the most sunlight was overrun by maple seedlings and saplings, so it's taken some work to clear that out. As soon as I cleared one section, I mixed some potting/garden soil in with the dirt that was already there, formed the dirt into mounds about 2 inches high, and got my peas in the ground. There were frost warnings the past two nights, but 1) peas should go in the ground as soon as it's workable, and 2) because we're so close to the (temperature-moderating) river, we can usually disregard the frost warnings after April 15.

If you know me, you probably won't be surprised that *I* was surprised that "pea seeds" are nothing more than dried peas.

The week before we moved, in late March I guess, I started these little Home Depot seeds in a mini-greenhouse plastic-eggcrate-looking kind of kit. We bought one "kitchen herbs" one, with basil, chives and parsley, and one "pepper selection" (or something) one, with two hot peppers and one kind of sweet pepper. Each species got two pots. On one end of the herb container, the basil is growing and is overdue for transplanting... One chive sprouted on the other end, but has since withered. In the middle, where I thought I'd see parsley, nothing so far...

With the pepper one, two pots on the same end are doing really well and are probably ready to be transplanted. The middle pots have slightly smaller sprouts bursting through. The third set hasn't seen any activity yet. I actually have no idea which peppers are which, because although I wrote the plants' names in Sharpie above them on the lid, I rotated the lid at least a few times in the watering process... So I guess we'll see how those turn out.

I meant to start lettuce like, oh, I dunno, maybe two months ago. I still haven't done it. It's frustrating, but I hopeknow it will get done when the time is right, after I feel like I've contributed enough to getting the house in order.

Other things we've bought that need to get in the ground: asparagus shoots(?), two kinds of grapevines (this will require more clearing of the baby maples), and seeds for purple green beans (ditto), tomatoes, squash (I think?) and bell peppers. Maybe I go a little crazy with the seed-buying... but I get excited and can't help it! We've been looking at dwarf fruit trees, too. But we can't do those until the hulking, behemoth trees in the front get taken out.

In other kitchen news... Haven't been cooking nearly as much as I'd like. Especially lacking in kitchen time are new-to-me dishes, and some of the good stuff I made during my last months in SLC. (I'm lookin' at you, lentils, onions and rice. I'm lookin' at you, teriyaki chicken.) I keep saying it'll happen once we're settled in — seriously, there's no shelving below head height in the pantry — but I just need to make that happen. A few days ago, I cooked an entire meal from things we had on-hand, and it felt like a big accomplishment. How sad is that?

One of B's relatives gave us a $100 Williams-Sonoma gift card. It may take a while to get used, because I want to save it for something "good." I'm not sure what that means, really, but I just want to make sure that it's not wasted on froufy dish towels or gourmet croissants, when we could really use "x." Does that make any sense? What would you get with it?

15 April 2010

Old friends, new restaurants, and a little bit of a tangent

Emily, a girl I went to high school with, and have since become friends with, is visiting New York this week. Out-of-towners are always a good excuse to try eating at restaurants that I otherwise would probably not venture to, whether it's because they're expensive, out of the way, or time-consuming (i.e., too long for work lunch).

A summary:

In November, I went to Brasserie with another high school acquaintance, Amy, and her husband, Derek. I hadn't seen her since high school graduation and we didn't so much get along, in those days. Thanks to the modern miracles of MySpace (R.I.P.) and Facebook (and maybe some growing up on both of our parts?), we have become quite friendly over the past few years. Regardless, I still kind of wanted to show off and go somewhere impressive for lunch. Silly? Probably.

Brasserie was recommended by a couple people at work. Shiny, modern, expensive, but apparently with good food. I took the 6 train up there, and although it was great to see her (and meet him) and reconnect, I don't think any of us was impressed much by the food. For $27, I expect more something from a lobster club sandwich. Thanks, Derek, for buying!

In December, my former co-worker at Starbucks and all-around awesome chick Caroline came to NYC to see her friend do some standup comedy. In true Caroline and Catherine fashion, there were all sorts of directional miscommunications, but we ended up at a cheap bar in TriBeCa, where friends old and new and drunk and jet-lagged had burgers and beer. And we made good use of the pub's crayons to draw all over the butcher paper table covering.

Past two friend visits, totally authentic to each of the relationships. Also, now I wouldn't hesitate to go to a dive with Amy and Derek. We just had to get that out of the way. Next time, I'll buy.

But then... Last month, my BFF from junior high came out to NY with a friend. I think I'd seen N once or twice since 8th-grade graduation, but she looked pretty much the same. Just thinner. Very thin. I am always a little suspicious when planning lunch with a thin person whom I don't know very well. Our trip to Les Halles proved why. This place, just up the street from work, is the former home of the gonzo chef Anthony Bourdain. It garnered rave reviews from my coworkers about the reasonably priced, pretty damn good, unpretentious, bistro food.

How bad is it that I have to think really hard to remember what I got? I was dressed pretty business-casually. Something about the visitors screamed "tourists!" — the shopping bags? the heels? They just seemed less than enthused to be there, and I wasn't the only one picking up on it. The dining room was not packed, but service was pretty inattentive (for a fairly popular place that has at least as many regulars/locals as it does tourists, I am used to more here in the city). My old friend ordered — wait for it — a salad. Her friend got, I think, a croque monsieur, but mostly ate the fries. After reviewing the online menu, I am remembering the "Merguez, Frites, and Salade" I ordered. Everything seemed fine, and the table bread was good.

* * * time out * * *

I'm reminded as I write this that there is a fundamental disconnect between me, someone who loves food and enjoys savoring and sharing flavors, and gets excited about little things like the seasoning in the (quite tasty) Merguez sausages, and people who eat only because they have to survive somehow, and grazing on grass simply isn't efficient. My boyfriend once made that observation about his brother. Funny thing: My boyfriend is the former; my ex-husband, the latter. I know that I shouldn't judge, it's not their fault we speak different languages, but maybe for those people I should stick to coffee dates? (But I get just as worked up about coffee. Sigh.)

* * * time in * * *

So the girls just picked. In my perfect little "let's get together for lunch," we would have ordered wine, and an appetizer (I sensed this would not be a good first time to order escargots), and compelling lunches that we couldn't have found many other places, and certainly not at these prices. Then our tipsy selves would pass around the plates and try everything. And then, of course, dessert. There's always room for dessert at "I-haven't-seen-you-in-15-years" meetups. At least in my little made-up world. It's possible the service would have been just as meh, but at least we the diners would have had more fun.

And then, the visitors were bad tippers. Oh well. Then they were scared of the subway. Oh well, again. (I know that there are people with fears and anxieties over so many things, but this was just, I dunno, exceptional. Too much for me to just go with.) We didn't hang out again while they were here. I guess it's nice to get together anyway, and see how the 8th-grade BFF-ness still aligns...

So then yesterday Emily hops on the subway (her answer to my query on her comfort level with subways: I've done a bagilliion subway systems so just tell me which line and I'll be there! Nothing could be harder than Tokyo..partly because theirs is in Japanese.). I'd been thinking about hitting a cheap Indian buffet in the neighborhood, but then we passed Bagel & Schmear, home of the best tacos in New York. We each snagged a trio of those, as well as a black and white cookie, then sat in the sun at Madison Square Park and caught up.

The last time I saw Emily, she was visiting Salt Lake for work two years ago, and our dinner turned all romantical when a car hit a pole a couple blocks from the restaurant. The power went out, and the whole place was candle-lit and, well, romantical. We hadn't seen each other since high school, and we weren't even friends then, but we had a freaking blast! So maybe that's why this time was easy-peasy, too.

So, taco-lunching with me must not have been too bad, because when I got out of work and got out of the post office much more quickly than expected, we met up again at Union Square and headed for a dessert place (at lunch, she'd mentioned some fancy-schmancy dessert place with a gargantuan menu, and I started Yelping "dessert bar" when I got back to the office).

Dessert fans, meet The Spot. On a funky street in the East Village, a sign proclaiming a sweet retreat will call out to you, like an angel's voice in the wilderness (or something). (I tried to post pictures, but that didn't work, so other people's photos are linked instead.) At any rate, I had the Yuzu Eskimo ("oreo, strawberry, raspberry foam"). The menu neglected to mention the edible glitter! But there it was. Apparently, I'm not the only one to have been captivated by it. Really, I thought I was having a blonde moment... The dessert was unlike anything I've had before, and I'd have to say that that is probably this Spot's greatest strength. They're unique, just like every other dessert tapas bar in the East Village — except that I haven't yet tried any of the other ones. :)

Emily got the Chocolate Banana Pudding ("caramel, cocoa soil, vanilla chantilly"). It was good, just maybe not as experimental as we'd hoped? Regardless, we dipped into each other's dainty little plates freely. (The Spot was, unfortunately, out of the Ovaltine and Kabocha Roll we were both intrigued by.) They have a ton of different selections, including a half-dozen cupcake flavors, ice cream and sorbets, weird and right-up-my-alley toppings such as palm and basil seeds, and my if-I-were-on-death-row-this-would-be-my-final-meal, the $48 omakase dessert tasting menu.

My cousin Jamie is visiting next month, and I am going nuts trying to figure out where we will eat while she's here. She is definitely in the former, food-lovin', passionate-eatin', group. There are so many places and concepts we could try while she's here! Aaaaackkk!

Once we've been out and about, and proper pictures have been taken, you'll read about it right here. But now that this is ridiculously long, I pledge to break restaurant visits into their own posts from now on.