Friday, November 16, 2018

Gumbo Revisited

Chef Paul Prudhomme's chicken and sausage gumbo is one of my favorite dishes. A recent casual Sunday dinner was a truncated version very simple to produce. Meats from the Market formed a base for various vegetables that were on hand. Since green pepper is the Delicious apple of its species, I substitute poblano or whatever and gain a substantial boost in flavor. A couple of celeries were creeping up on their pull date so I processed them fast, whacking off the root ends, shucking the coarse stalks, and cross-cutting the tender inner ones. Prudhomme's note to add vegetables to the roux process in stages to gain interest from the differing degree of doneness encouraged me to cut the celery and onion with little finesse. I cooked in a wide, heavy enameled cast iron pan that is none too deep. The format allowed rapid release of excess moisture from the saute' and an easy reduction of the contents of the box of chicken stock I used.

For a major meal, I make Prudhomme's pecan sweet potato pie. This was not a major meal, but I was long on sweet potatoes. I microwaved one in a series of two and three minute bursts over the course of an hour, as I happened to cruise past the appliance. The tuber was done to a soft turn, so I simply scooped the pulp out of the skin, mashed it with a fork, and mixed it with a well-beaten egg, a couple of tablespoons of turbinado sugar, a slug of vanilla, and a large pinch of sweet baking spice.Then I turned the experiment into a shallow glass baking dish and set it in a medium oven to coast after I had pulled out the corn bread skillet. The dry pudding was delicious as a spread on commercial Swedish gingersnaps, aka pepperkaaker. A dollop of whipped cream would have been a good topping, with minced candied ginger a glorious excess for a special occasion -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Nature's Course

Fundamental changes in both the landscape and solar exposure of the lot provoked a rethink about lawn management, such as it was. Cheerful volunteers have allowed me to concentrate on interior chores, so the other day I ventured onto the autumn turf for the first time in several years. I was toting organic lime to tilt the forces of growth favor of grass rather than buttercup.

The naturally acid soils of Puget Sound produce bountiful crops of moss, and that's fine by me. I decided to lime areas that are sunny even in the depths of the cool season. By depths, I mean shaded all day by new five-story apartment buildings. Conditions now resemble the bitter winter I spent living on a north-facing beach at the foot of a steep bluff to the south, when I didn't see the sun from October to March. 

We made a first pass with lime last year, and the turf formerly under an orchard of dwarf apple trees is recovering bit by bit. My goal is to give overlooking neighbors a small and flawless green carpet of fine-bladed old-fashioned grass to contemplate, although a traditional European garden might substitute an elaborate knot-shaped bed of ornamental plants for overhead viewing. I'll pester buttercup by any organic means necessary and leave the grass and moss to contest deep shade-30-
More after the jump.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Smart Parents

Long-time neighbors who lived in the apartment building across the alley announced that their daughter had entered college, so they were moving onto their sailboat to save money. After she was graduated, they bought waterfront property across the bay -30-
More after the jump.

Chopping the Sofa

Deft is on a brief hiatus. Here's one for Tuesday and one for Wednesday.

A friend replaced her sofa and offered me the one she had been using. It was clean, friendly, and in good condition, so I cheerfully accepted it, although I would never have chosen it in the first place. Once I got it home, I took a good look at the floral upholstery, extravagant dust ruffle, and detached synthetic pillows. Then I got to work.

The pillows went to a thrift, because synthetic filling offers no comfort to my cranky neck. I peeled off the dust ruffle and was delighted to find the straightforward lines of a classic tuxedo form, the one with back and arms at the same level. This form is comforting and versatile. It's not unrealistic to set a plywood worktop on it. 

Turning the sofa over, I found serpentine steel springs in excellent condition. It was a small matter to pry off the fabric-covered panels that fronted the arms and hot glue a couple of vintage blankets to the sturdy existing covering. I used the dangerously hot melt glue that requires a set of water-gel burn dressings at hand in case of accident. Two twin wool blankets sufficed to cover the six-foot piece. A luxury self-inflating hiking mattress with a memory foam layer pads the seat, and an additional Oregon Round-up blanket covers the seat and flips over a napper. 

Black shoe polish refreshed the legs, and Magical Sliding Castors protect the floor and act almost like wheels -30-
More after the jump.

Old and New Again

A morning's tour of my grandmother's 1931-1946 edition of the Joy of Cooking paid off as handsomely as always. Whenever I find myself contemplating a meal but feeling unwilling to mush out to the store, Rombauer comes through. Her personal history spans Victorian through mid-century American kitchen technology and is grounded on the farm.

Distribution systems that pre-date electricity and the personal automobile were aimed at stocking a low-tech pantry with staples  meant to be supplemented by a kitchen garden and fresh deliveries. The miraculous restoration of my original central city neighborhood in Seattle means that the supply system for this 1890 house has been restored as well.

I can put a four-course Sunday dinner together with a quick trip to the patch of greens that are growing themselves in the compost border, a dive into the chilled leftovers in the fridge, and a step into the dry stores. Old school country cooking produces gentle, nutritious cuisine that can be prepared at leisure and served when the moment suggests.

I heartily recommend early twentieth century cookbooks. A brief look at the Joy's introductory canape' and sandwich chapter revealed many prototypes of industrial convenience food that are a snap to cobble together out of stores. Those early cooks had many a trick up their sleeves to make a good lot of something out of apparent nothing -30-

More after the jump.