Simple Pickled Onions

May 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

Pickled onions: sliced red onion, a cup or so of red wine vinegar, a few teaspoons of honey, smashed gloves of garlic, and two bay leaves (chili flakes, whole pepper corns, whole cloves, if you want them) that you let sit for several hours or a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.  I love them and they’re my current favorite thing to put in everything.  Eggs, salads, rice dishes, bean dishes, meat dishes, tacos, mixtures of salads and grains (like this yummy concoction I ate, sans sausage, for lunch and will probably eat for dinner), on toasts with cheese, eating them straight out of the jar, what have you.  I told you I loved them.

I know all the onion haters out there are crinkling their lips and noses, but seriously, these are not the onions you are thinking of when you say “I hate onions”.  They are briny, fruity, a little sweet.  Perfect for a dish that tastes just a little flat.  You know what I mean: like it could stand some tartness and color punctuating the mix.  Try these.

Keeping pickled onions on hand was one of the many great things I picked up from An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler (yes, I’ve talked about this book so much, you may come back next time to find that this blog’s new title is “I love Tamar Adler”. Just kidding).  What I really enjoy about her is the sanity that she brings to the table when talking about cooking (see this TED talk she did).  She tells you to use what you have, what’s readily available, what you can afford, and to use it all to the fullest.  Beans can become transcendent, bread is not something to avoid but something with a million possibilities, eggs are a wonder, and pickled onions a powerful force in the life of a meal.  I can’t recommend her book, her articles, or videos enough if you are at all intimidated in the kitchen or feel like you can’t afford to eat well (something I have definitely felt before).

Moving on to unrelated, but fun things:

::This lemon cream is another delicious egg user (we are calling it “lemon pudding” and “filling”, sandwiched between two butter cookies, but I feel a lemon tart coming on).

::Just remembered how much I like Cowboy Junkies (a blast from the past)

::about to start this book (thanks to Autumn and Michelle for recommending it)

::Still plugging away at the Daisy Chain Sampler and loving how it makes me slow down.

::Thinking of going here with the kids this weekend (I’ve never been!)

::AND I got a special, surprise delivery of liquid gold from my friend Kathy! Excitement!

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My First Giveaway!

May 18, 2012 § 37 Comments

Photo: Elizabeth Morrison

Hello reader! Guess what? I’m about to do something new, something I’m so excited about trying: No, it’s not another crazy, eight-day, 27 step recipe! Nope.  It’s a GIVEAWAY! Yes, you heard that right. A giveaway. I’ve even partnered with a friend to give away not one, but two great prizes. I can’t wait!

Before I tell you what you can win, let me tell you about my friend Autumn and This Old Thing?:  When I think about Autumn, all I can think of is the term “joie de vivre”. I don’t even say things like that. Ever.  But, truly, she embodies the joy of living.  She’s adorable, always with a smile, smart as a whip, well read, well-traveled, interested in everything, wife to one,  and mother of three.  Go, ahead.  Take a look at this page from her site and see if you can resist her charm.  Her business, This Old Thing?  (isn’t that a great name?) is an online boutique of vintage, eclectic, and stylish provisions for the home.  Recently, she’s added a new department to her store called French Philosophie that stocks wonderful, “everyday life, French imports”.  Seriously, have a look.

So, what are we giving away?  This Old Thing? is giving away a lovely J’aime ma ville” organic t-shirt to one person (who we will assume loves their town) who visits TOT’s Facebook page and give it a “like”.  Then come back here and leave a comment here to be eligible to win.

Moving on to number two:  I’m going to give one person a copy of one of my favorite cookbooks, the book that actually got me started on this little blog, Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  It’s a massive book, full of great recipes (like the Nutella Chocolate GanacheTart pictured at the top), tips, and insights into french cooking and eating.  You (you lucky person, you) will love having your own copy.  Just leave me a comment right here (you don’t have to go to Facebook for this one) and you will be eligible to win.  Don’t be shy.  You know it would be fun to win!

Around My French Table

I’m going to leave the comments open until Monday night at midnight and will announce the winners on Tuesday.  So, have a great weekend and the best of luck to everyone!

-Monica

Kid’s Clothes Week

April 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m participating in something called “Kids Clothes Week” put on by the super-talented Meg from the blog Elsie Marley.  It’s basically another way to get myself moving on some sewing I’ve been meaning to do, but, you know, just don’t.  It’s amazing how calling something “Kids Clothes Week” and setting up a Flickr group can spur people to action.  Maybe I need to name next week “Organize Your Filthy, Overflowing Closets Week”, set up a Flickr group and see if that works just as well!

These little shorts are the simple, flat front pants pattern you can find at Dana Made It  (a great resource), and I added the little pockets.  They are a small version of the deep pockets on this skirt.   These are the perfect egg collecting shorts.  The chickens are laying a lot these days and the youngest kid is all about pilfering their eggs. Now, she can now carry up to six eggs into the house in one trip!!  No basket required.  Tripping and falling could get ugly, though.

I also put a little, sun hat together from this  Martha Stewart pattern.  It was a bit of a bear to put together b/c the pattern was sort of incomplete or just really confusing.  I couldn’t tell which.  I barreled through, though and it will accomplish the task of keeping the sun off of her fair head.  She has some crazy moles and a dad that had melanoma at age 35, so I’m gonna be as careful as I can manage.   She looks excited about it, doesn’t she?  I experimented with the running stitches around the side panel, so, it was fun for me, at least!

In other news:

This article has me glad to be dealing with a funny smelling, disheveled back yard full of chickens.  No question. It’s worth it.

Love these patterns.  Not sure I can afford them.

Finished this book.  Recommended by Kathy (thanks, K!) Corruption, greed, but some hope, too.

About to start this book.  Anyone read it?

Goings On

March 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

Hello reader! It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Well, it has been for me.  I dropped my computer on the floor a few weeks ago, killing it instantly, and silencing me for a while.  If you’ve been paying attention you know this is the SECOND time I’ve done this. My husband is losing his patience.   I may just need to stay away from computers altogether, but for now, here is a quick update on things around here:

:::I made my first loaf of naturally leavened bread!!  I started it from my own starter and everything! Was I this proud of myself on the days I gave birth? I’m not sure.  I used a recipe from Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Bakingbut there are lots of recipes out there.  Try here and here, for instance.

:::I took an old turtleneck from one of my kids drawers and turned it into a dress with the help of some elastic and material I had lingering in my stack.  I was really winging it here and it shows a bit, but all in all, I think it will be a great summer dress for girl number 2.  You can get the real instructions here.

:::And the chickens are back in full force for the spring! We are swimming in eggs and it’s glorious.  I thought this page was a good place to start.

:::I’ve been reading Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen, and it’s amazingly entertaining and fastidiously detailed at the same time.  I feel very studious when I read it, too.

:::I’m wanting to try something like this.  I think they are so simple and beautiful.

:::And finally, I tried to make goat milk ricotta twice to no (or very little) avail.  I used the directions found here.  It sounds so good, doesn’t it? And it would go so well with my new baby, I mean, bread! Does anyone out there know if my ultra pasteurized version of the milk is to blame?

 

Living Well

March 9, 2012 § 6 Comments

I know, I’m writing about beans, again. But last week I wrote about how whenever we are in a money crunch the two things that make frequent appearances in our diet are bread and beans.  There was talk about  my current bread of choice and promise of a nice way with beans. So, see, I promised.  And,  I love beans and want everyone to know how good they can be.  So, here we are, at beans, again.  I should say at the beginning that almost every idea I have about making beans is from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (a treasure trove of thoughts on food). Before I read her excellent chapter on beans, called “How to Live Well”, I had one bean recipe. One. It’s a good recipe, but when your finances dictate inexpensive food (and you don’t want to eat ramen or boxed mac n cheese), you need ideas for beans and lots of ’em.

There is a lot of debate on whether you need to pre-soak dried beans or not (see an interesting thread on the topic here).  After reading about it pretty extensively, and being utterly confused by so much contradicting information, I’ve decided to just do what works best for me and hope for the best.  So, I pre-soak.  There is a quick soak method (bring beans and water to a boil for a few minutes, then take off the heat, letting beans sit in hot water for an hour) that works in a pinch, but I prefer the low-key nature of just plopping them in a bowl of water the night before.   Don’t let the idea of “soaking beans” send you into a “this is too much hassle” state of mind.  There are really only three actions involved: pouring the beans into a bowl, adding enough water in the bowl to cover them by a few inches, and placing them in an out-of-the-way place in your kitchen. And you’re done with soaking.  You can start a set of beans soaking without even having a detailed plan for them.  You don’t have to cook them in 8 hours or even 12.  You can soak beans for 24 hours (some people say even more) before you cook them, so you’ve got tons of time to figure this out. (It’s actually supposed to be great for easing digestion and absorbing nutrients if you do give them an extra-long soak.)

After soaking, I put all the beans in a large pot and cover them by 2 inches of fresh water (a little more if I know I’m turning it into soup).  I bring them up to a boil, but only just to the start of the boil, and then decrease the heat to what produces a light simmer in the water.  While the beans are coming to a boil, I chop up an onion (onion skin can do, too), a few carrots, some celery,  and 6 or 7 cloves of garlic (because I love garlic).  I take the skin off a lemon with a vegetable peeler or paring knife (no pith), and I get out a bay leaf, a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme, and my salt. Once I’ve lowered the heat on the beans, I dump all of the vegetables, the lemon, herbs, and about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of salt (some people say not to salt until the end, but I’ve had better tasting beans doing it this way).  I usually then remember that the best beans (and soups) I have ever made have been simmered with a cheese rind (the hard end of your block of parmesan, pecorino, etc.  don’t throw them away; keep them in your freezer for such an occasion as cooking beans), so I throw one of those in, too.  I add about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, cover, and walk away, letting the beans bathe in all that goodness for about 30-60 minutes (the older the bean, the longer they need to cook). You’ll know they are done when you can peel the skin off the bean by lightly blowing on it (this is a technique from food writer Clementine Paddleford found in AEM and I love it in theory and in practice).  They should be creamy through the middle, not crunchy in the slightest.  Remove the bay leaf, whole herb stems, the lemon peel, and the cheese rind if you can find it.

You now have a pot of flavorful, hearty beans (and some vegetables) and all the delicious liquid in which they cooked.  What should you do now? Here are some places to start (almost all straight out of Adler’s book):

~If I want soup, I add diced potato and some chopped greens (my favorite is kale), and maybe a can of tomatoes, with the juice, to the pot and let it all simmer until the potato is cooked through.  After checking the seasoning,  I ladle it into bowl and serve with a small dollop of basil pesto if I have it, or olive oil and parmesan if I don’t.  Croutons made from yesterday’s bread are good here, too.

~If we are wanting meat and I have some sausage, I brown a few in a pan, ladle the cooked beans and vegetables into a baking dish, and nestle the sausages in so they are cozy.  Then I add a little of the bean broth and put the dish into a low oven (325 degrees F or so).  When the sausage is cooked through I serve them with some herbs and garlicky bread crumbs if available, or just serve it as is.

~Or, you can do my favorite meal that I could eat happily every day (I use pinto beans, but you could use any you like): Saute some chopped kale (or green of your choice) in olive oil. Season it with salt.  Take your cooked beans and veggies and a little of the broth and warm it all over medium heat.  Add the greens to the pan and stir.  Crack as many eggs as people to feed into the beans.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper, scatter some fresh thyme over everything, and cover.  Let cook until the eggs have turned opaque and then take off the heat. Squeeze some lemon juice over the pan.  Put an egg and beans into each bowl, add a some feta cheese or, even better, a bit of olive pesto. You might want to eat it everyday, too (and please invite me over).

Whenever I eat and serve beans in these ways I’m awed by how well we can do with very little money and a little care.  I’ll end with a quote from “How to Live Well” because she says what I mean so beautifully:

“We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our more foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar.  And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.”

Don’t you agree?

For the list makers:

1 lb of dried beans (white, pinto, black, cranberry, etc)

onion (or onion scraps if you need the onion elsewhere)

chopped carrot (how much depends on your taste and what you have)

chopped celery (same as the carrot on the amount)

6-7 garlic cloves (or however much you like)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary or 2 sprigs of thyme

peel of 1/2 to 1 lemon

1 hard cheese rind

olive oil

salt

Sewn Gifts for Babies

February 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

I went to a dinner the other night where, out of six of us, four were pregnant (not me!).  I have two sisters-in-law that are expecting and several friends, not at the dinner, that are pregnant, too.  So, I’ve been thinking about baby gifts, obviously.  These are two cute ideas for handmades I found at The Purl Bee, one of my favorite sites for sewing ideas (it’s great for the knitter, too).   You can find directions for the Penguin (I love this little guy!) here and instructions for the simple bibs here.  Purl Bee uses (glorious) Liberty of London fabrics on the bibs, but those are pricey, so I just used what I had.  The bibs are quick and simple, the penguin takes a bit longer, but is so fun!  I’m not even a stuffed animal person, but I loved making it.  It was a great way to use up scraps, too!

Other things I’ve been liking:

*The Marriage Plot…I really liked this book until the end when it just left you hanging. I’m still glad I read it.

*The Wonder Of Boys…I’ve realized I really don’t understand my son.  I have no idea what is going on in there.  This book is helping me understand why he does some of the things he does and how he needs different things than my girls do.  Very helpful and enlightening.

*MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating…A collection of her essays.  Sometimes downright hilarious, the woman had some sass.

* This discussion about hair cuts (I’m thinking of going really short, so it’s been on the brain)

* This…The music, the faces, the outfits! It’s tough to stop laughing.

Fany Gerson’s Tomato Jam Turnovers

February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Words are failing me at the moment. It’s late and it’s been a long (but good) day.  My brain feels fried, though, so I’ll be brief with what I’ve been excited about lately: Tomato Jam Turnovers.  There. I said it. Tomato jam turnovers are from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico (a great library loaner) and have been taking up real estate in my head for a while.  Needing all the brain space I can get (for things like remembering permission slips, helping with valentines, brushing my teeth, etc) I decided to just take action and see what they were like.  I’m so glad I did.  What a treat these are from the savory/sweet tomato jam, to the flaky, cream scented dough.  We all ate them warm out of the oven, some of us (two of my  kids and myself) loving them and others eating them happily until I told them it was tomato jam in the center (I still get the victory in getting them to taste new flavors).

I should tell you up front: this is not a quick and easy recipe.  It will take you a couple of hours even if you barrel through.  But, to me, it’s worth it to take some time to make something new and have an adventure in the kitchen.  It’s like my mini vacation from real life, but with the bonus of having, at the end of the vacation, a wonderful treat  for us to eat, in real life.  Another thing: you could make these in sessions, making the jam in the first, the dough in the second (then refrigerating) and  then rolling out and assembling in the last. Don’t let the time scare you off.  Sometimes harder (or more time-consuming) is better and I think this is one of those times.

Tomato Jam Turnovers

from Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico

Jam filling

4 cups grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)

1 1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup crema or heavy cream, plus extra for topping

egg yolk and sugar for topping

Filling: Cut clean, dry tomatoes in half and put them in a small, heavy pot with the sugar and salt.  Bring it all to a boil and then adjust the heat to keep it going at a constant simmer.  Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the bottom of the pot is visible (about 50-60 minutes).  Blend in a food processor if you like a smooth texture for the filling.  Let cool before assembling turnovers.

Dough: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a food processor, with a pastry cutter, or with your fingertips, combine the cold butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.  Add the cream and mix until just combined.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, until 1/8 inch thick.  Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out 4 to 5 inch circles.  Gather the scraps and re-roll until all the dough is used.

To form turnovers:  Line up circles of dough on the floured surface and place a scant tablespoon of jam in the middle of each one.  Fold the dough in half, lightly pressing on the edges to seal (or you can use the back of a fork for this step).  Cut two small slits in the tops of the turnovers.  Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the pastries are in the refrigerator, heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and whisk an egg yolk and some cream in a small bowl.  When the 30 minutes is up, brush the turnovers with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake until golden brown (about 35 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye out as oven temperature varies).

Let cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.

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