Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Duster

A favorite clothing vendor is offering beautifully cut lightweight knee-length linen coats this spring. I bought one in indigo to wear as a cover-up for shop projects. It is so apt for my purposes, I wheezed and bought another one in black for working with ink and for riding the bus.

A canny driver commented to a friend one summer day that one needs a protective layer when out and about in the city. That slight amount of formality is all it takes to transform a practical, comfortable outfit into something street legal in a lively, developing area like Seattle -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Muffuleta, Sort of

Inspired by New Orlean's great sandwich, I collaborated with the cook to take best advantage of a local mild Italian sausage, the sweet pretzel rolls that are so delicious and so much in demand that I hesitate to mention them, and a simple mixed saute of cippolina onion, minced garlic, poblano pepper, sliced mushrooms, and broccolini.

Cut the onion into smallish dice. Halve, seed and clean the pepper. Cut quarter-inch strings across its length. The strings hold the mix together in the sandwich. Cut the broccolini into bite-sized pieces, then boil and blanch it until just tender. Be careful and watchful about the timing.

Heat a heavy enameled cast-iron frying pan on low, covered, for fifteen minutes or so. Pre-heating establishes a thermal reservoir that allows a lively saute when the room temperature ingredients hit the pan. My pan is large enough to use as a grill for a small dish: the cook sauteed the mushrooms first, wiped the pan clean and then sauteed onion and pepper in separate piles using olive oil, mixed everything but the mushrooms in a bowl, and then gentled the garlic over heat and mixed it in.

The rolls were burger-shaped and pre-heated. I double-butterflied the pre-cooked sausage, cutting one nearly through the long way on one side, then flipping it over and doing the same on the other. 

A pile of sauteed vegetables topped the sausage, and it was wolfing good. Would have been even better with pepperoncini and, as the cook mentioned, with mushrooms. He held out the mushrooms to have some to use in other dishes later on. A little pile of good potato chips heated to crispness in a slow oven would have brought perfection -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cooking Components

I'm no fan of leftovers, but it is convenient to work with prepared components that hold well in the refrigerator. Plain beans, sauteed onions, a sauteed mix of pepper, mushroom, and onion (each separately cooked) are all easy to use in improvised preparations that take advantage of the meat du jour.

Old school staples like cole slaw and fruit salad fill out the menu. Hard-smoked salmon and cream cheese retain their virtues over time and are ever-ready to use with a cracker or freshly acquired bagel -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Not Quite Spring

It's an interesting time of year in the garden. When the sun is out, it's promising. In the shade, on a breezy slope, or when it's overcast,  things feel grim. The grim days check the enthusiasm of newly growing plants, protecting them from overgrowth that might fall to wind or late frost.

It's time to cruise the landscape with pruning shears judiciously editing the dead stems I left in place last fall. Those stems break the wind, protecting tender new leaves. Once the new growth is a little tougher, I'll trim the stems to just a bit higher than the new leaves, to protect them from passing gardeners. A little effort this time of year saves days later on.

Some of last year's coles appear to be making a bid for eternal life: the long bare stalks that toppled in a freeze are sprouting new leaves. I shoveled a trench in the compost border and buried the lower sections. Something may take root.

A deeply shaded north border with little traffic has evolved into an elegant, simple woodland. A neighbor's pine tree dropped needles and cones over the winter, mulching out the fragile lawn and establishing a clearly defined area of duff that contrasts with the fine old grass that grows where the sun falls nearby. It is so beautiful and so unexpected in this dense neighborhood that I will go out of my way to protect it from wheels and rough projects. There's much to be said for letting the garden tell me what it wants to do. The minor amount of stoop labor it will take to keep the space looking cared-for is far less than mowing used to require -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Every Blossom Counts

A friend whose family has a long tradition of growing fruit trees brought her three-year-old to visit my home orchard. The dwarf trees were in bloom, and Anita carefully instructed her rambunctious toddler to handle a flower with caution. It took only one rep for the child to get the message -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Noble Bean

A bean is not a bean is not a bean. They're delicate critters that are worth the trouble it takes to cook them carefully. I'm not above opening a can, but the recent demise of the electronic pressure cooker left me considering the wisdom of an overnight soak and a carefully attended simmering pot.

Beans seem to have been bred for faster cooking than the edible pebbles I recall from the Sixties. The quick soak method described on packages is easy to achieve in a rice cooker. Pick over the dry beans to check for rocks, no kidding!, and remove broken beans. Wash in cold water and remove the beans that float.

Cover with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil hard for a few minutes and turn off the heat. In an hour or two, drain and rinse the beans (to control their gassy potential) and proceed with your intended recipe. Keep a careful eye on the doneness: a good bean deserves attention. It is done when the skin peels back if you blow on one. Cook it to a perfect texture or cook it to a creole fare-thee-well over long slow heat -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


A cheap one-inch disposable bristle paint brush is surprisingly useful in the kitchen. I use mine mainly to clean the many crevices in the filter basket in an automatic coffee maker -30-
More after the jump.