Category Archives: Food

Seventy Eight Degrees…

…feel like heaven when napping on a bed next to a wide open window.  But oh the humidity!  Do anything other than sit still and you are reminded you are enveloped by water logged air.  The water in the air mixes with sweat on your skin and you quickly look like you just finished playing in a sprinkler.  

Yesterday a present arrived for the Bridgestone RB-2.  I wasn’t surprised because it was from me, but I hope the RB-2 was.  New tires!  Panaracer Pasela TourGuard 700 x 28s.  The RB-2 came with new tires, but I have strong opinions about tires.  They must inspire confidence.  The tires on the RB-2 did not inspire confidence.  Panaracers do.  I also like the look of tan sidewalls.  That’s a mark of my age.  All this really tells my dear readers is that I had $70 more dollars than I needed to live.  The world is silly and I am not helping.  

I hate putting on tires.  I pinch as many tubes as I install successfully.  Yesterday I installed both new tires without ruining a single tube.  I couldn’t do a victory dance because the modest exertion required to install two tires used up all remaining energy.  I couldn’t even take the bike for a test ride.  Until today.

I pedaled a mile to my friends house, then straight home (because he wasn’t in).  The 28mm tires pretty much fill up the available space on the RB-2.  Notice the lack of space between the rear brake and the tire in the photo above.  More space in front (click on the sec on preceding photo to examine the tolerances more closely), but if you want to run symmetrical tires, the smaller gap determines max tires size.

With 95 psi of air they ride like high pressure tires.  Fast and uncomfortable.  I  could fill them to 75 psi and enjoy a smoother ride straight away, but then I’d have to pump them up sooner.  So they go to 95 and then I let them drop over a month or so to maybe 55 before I notice pumping is required.  Repeat until bike is passed on.

I pedaled to the garden today and harvested produce for donation to Squash Hunger.  I pulled out eight turnips and filled big bags of collards and mustard.  Another gardener threw in a zucchini.  I pedaled the lot to the co-op, and then home.  Growing too much always makes me feel bad.  My frugal side wants to hoard it all and then I eat the oldest stuff first and then the new tender stuff becomes old and yucky before I get to it.  Produce isn’t wine.  Better to enjoy it young (or let someone else enjoy it).  I hope to pick nice stuff weekly for donation.  That way, whenever I get through the gallon of greens in the fridge, the garden will have only nice new produce to enjoy.  Everyone wins.

On the way home I stopped at a garage sale.  I got an unglazed clay vessel from Germany that in which I will bake bread.  I have two now.  Both from garage sales.  I also got a Ouija board.  

Lacey and I sat with our hands touching the indicator for five minutes and it didn’t move.  We’ll try again later (maybe drinks help).  I also got a ball cap from the 1993 Clinton Gore inauguration.  Swank.  Oh–and a carrier for downhill skis and poles, a  jade plant, a Scrabble Sentence Word Game and another ball cap from a Troy bar.  Wowza!  Best $7 I have ever spent.

Last night was Mahar’s.  I had a cask Wandering Star Thunderbolt.  The makers call it an American IPA.  Good.  Hoppy.  Amber?  Maybe that’s the American part of it?  Just used to lighter IPAs.  Who cares, really, but I just wouldn’t have guessed it was an IPA until I went to their site.  Lacey had her ushe–a Belhaven Twisted Thistle.  We needed those two pints.  Apparently Lacey more than I.  For the first time ever Lacey beat me to the bottom of the pint!  Wonders of wonders.  Curry House worked their magic on a dish of chana masala.  Best I’ve ever tasted.  Then home to watch a French film about the plight of Gypsies during WWII.  Korkoro.  Overall it was tough to watch (sad), but  there were some beautiful moments here and there.  Give it a shot.

That’s enough of the story.  Hope you are well.

Eighty Degrees…

…feel wonderful when sitting in the shade.  Not bad, either, when pedaling at a moderate effort.  I woke up at 5:00 and pedaled to the garden to water.  Just seventy then and it felt like winter on my skin (I scandalously expose six inches of leg (between long shorts and tube socks), arms below my tee shirt sleeves and the whole of my face and neck–oh my!).  I am loving these early morning sessions.  A little watering.  A little weeding.  Some hunting for cucumbers.  I ate the first ripe cherry tomato today.  I felt bad for a moment–like I should have brought it home and cut it in half to share with Lacey.  I got over my guilt as I made it disappear in the middle of my garden in a quiet park watching the sun rise with the miraculous  tomatoey flavor whispering sincere forgiveness.  Soon there will be dozens to eat.  So many we will come to loathe them.  Hard to believe as I savored the first, but it happens every year.

I am not always so lucky.  I saved all the cucumbers I picked for the crock without tasting one.  In they went and they are half way to sour.  The crock smells so good.  Not as strong as kimchi–it doesn’t greet me at the door–but I am reminded that pickles are at work when I come into the kitchen.  Lactobacilli thrive in eighty degree water.  

Turnips!  Just a short row and still more than I care to bring home.  I need to pull them out and get them to the co-op for delivery to food shelters.  Sorry to the food shelters that I didn’t grow extra heirloom tomatoes, or sweet melons or even crisp peas.  Just so many greens, so many roots and the cucumbers that I hoard.  Beans later this year.  They are climbing up the cages now.

I saved the gallon of bitter greens.  I blanched the lot of it for about five minutes and then added some new broth.  I surely lost some vitamins but it is better than laboring through the gallon or, worse, tossing it.  I’ve eaten big bowls for lunch two days in a row.  Ten more lunches to go.

I did all that I could for work, so I pedaled to the home improvement store for a new hose splitter for the community garden.  Looks like the proper moniker is “brass 4-port manifold” (I’ll use “B4PM” as a shorthand).  I had donated a B4PM so that we could have hoses for each quadrant of the garden.  Each tap has its own on off valve.  One of the four valves was stuck in the half open position.  The control lever still moved, but it no longer changed the position of the ball that controls water flow.  It looks like a fellow gardener attempted a repair–the plastic control lever was either pounded with a stone or gnawed upon.  Their repairs didn’t take.  

When I got home I disassembled the valve.  Its a ball valve, so a control lever turns a stem with a blade on the end.  The blade mates with a channel in a ball that controls water flow.  This valve’s demise probably started with calcification of the ball.  The mineral build up made the ball difficult to turn.  The users at the garden, myself included, turned the lever harder until the plastic channel in the ball became deformed.  

When the channel was sufficiently deformed, the blade turns freely in the enlarged channel without changing the position of the ball.  I suspect this valve would have lasted longer if the manufacturer had specified a harder material for the ball.  Chromed steel, for instance.  The 4BPM would have cost a couple of bucks more, but could last years instead of one.  How long will people accept throw away products in the interest of saving a buck?  What can we do to turn the tide?

Global thinking aside, I needed a new ball.  After 22 minutes on hold with the maker’s Utah office, I learn they can’t send me a bag of balls.  They only have complete B4PMs and control levers.  Why stock control levers?  They are plastic covered metal and withstand stoning and chewing.  Does anyone ever require a replacement lever?  Stock replacements for your cheap plastic balls instead!  Apparently they weren’t going to call China to have balls shipped to me.  They offered to send a new B4PM, which is nice, but I don’t want a third so I declined.  I guess I should have accepted it and used it for parts.  I dunno.  Seemed silly.  Sillier still?  I could get military grade balls made of exotic metals from these folks, but I suspect the price would exceed my charitable budget.  Anyway, I’ve already bought a replacement B4PM and can reassemble the old B4PM with the bad valve in the closed position and use it as a B3PM.

Random idea.  Maybe not so random.  Probably too much thinking about plumbing and/or one too many episodes of Mad Men.  Here goes.  A tagline for some super butch industry.  Maybe a truck maker.  We put the man in manufacturing.  Stupid sexist, sure, but it makes me laugh that I thought of it and it isn’t on Google yet (the quintessential test of originality).  Whoever wants it can have it for free.  Maybe just send me a trucker cap with the tag line on it.  The other side of the coin?  Is it possible I just came up with the phrase womanufacturing?  Google says no.   Back to it.

After hooking up the new B4PM at the community garden, I was off to the co-op for groceries.  You know I bought another bag of cherries.  Cold from the fridge, they cool me from the inside out as I eat five too many every time.

Abrupt subject change here.  When did reading poetry become optional?  We are forced to go to school.  We have to pay taxes.  We are scoffed at if we don’t wear helmets.  Take a decade away from poetry, though, and no one raises a finger.  That should change.  Start here.  SFW since it is poetry for goodness sake.

Oh yes!  It’s Friday!  I am pleased beyond measure.  Just a few hours left of work, but that will pass.  The groceries are bought and the heat has all but stopped the grass from growing, so we’ll have time to listen to cicadas pulling long notes on their tinny one string 1/64th sized violins.  I’m thinking of trying out a recipe for mojitos with basil and oranges.  Join us, please, but know you’ll be forced to eat pickles and take home a jar of kimchi.  Sorry–that’s non-negotiable.

p.s.  Dill pickles on burritos are gross.

A Crock

It is hot as all get out here.  We slept in the basement, the three of us sharing a 3/4 sized mattress (an out of general production size that is between a twin and a full).  I woke up at 4:30 and pedaled to the garden to water.  The sunrise was beautiful.  I brought home five more cucumbers to add to the small stash in the fridge and came up with two and a  half pounds.  Too few for a full gallon of pickles, but I will add to the crock the few that present themselves tomorrow and Saturday.  

I love fermenting pickles.  Few ingredients and they are all beautiful.  The yellow liquid is pickle juice from last year.  I was going to add some to the crock but didn’t in the end.  Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in this bed?  

We still have two gallons of pickles from last year.  An embarrassment of riches.  We must eat more pickles!  Each year I put fewer plants in the ground, but I need to further limit planting.

We went to bed at sunset and the basement is quiet so the fireworks didn’t bother Frida.  It can be such a stressful day for dogs.  Our neighborhood was mostly quiet during the day, too.  We sat out on the drive with a drink at 5:00 p.m.  and didn’t hear so much as a lady finger.  I was a big fan of fireworks as a kid.  Inch and a halfers and bottle rockets were my favorites.  I didn’t have a dog at the time.  A big sorry to all the dogs I stressed out with my noise.

Lacey’s alarm just went off, so I should work on breakfast.  Much law work today, but I don’t need to start for a couple of hours.  It has been quite a morning already!  I hope yours was nice, too.

The Other Side

The heat has broken!  Having sat in mid 90s heat for two days, 82 degrees feels dreamy.  We slept in the basement last night.  That was a huge improvement.  Its 76 degrees down there just now.  Which is why I hope my next house is underground.

This morning a neighbor gardener gave me three volunteer tomatillo plants that sprouted in her plot from last years fruit.  When I saw them, I realized the main weed I had been pulling from my plot this year was in fact so many volunteer tomatillos!  Those things produce!

The kimchi is bubbling nicely now.  I check it a dozen times a day just to watch the dancing bubbles.  I taste the broth nearly as many times.  Three days in and the sourness is just starting to arrive.  Even with the open windows, it is perfuming our kitchen.  The smell seems to travel, too, as flies congregate on the outside of the screen covering the window nearest the crock.  I’ve noticed this before.  Flies love fermenting produce.  Glad we have good screens!  I also cover the crock with a pillowcase.  No fruit flies inside yet, but a few show up every year.

I am starting to get on top of the work wave.  I still need to hover by the computer waiting for emails.  If I leave it for even a few minutes, they start piling up.

Really happy Friday is here.  You?

Again

I did too much yesterday and I am off to a bad start again.  The idea is to get up early and take care of the gardens before it gets hot and then rest (work as a lawyer at the computer) during the day.  So I pedaled to the garden to give young things a water life preserver on which I hope they float out the day.  Everything looks great there.  I pulled out three turnips. 

The roots will hold up in the fridge just fine, but aging greens is a favor to no one.    While I got breakfast ready, I cooked up the turnip greens.

I added some beet greens, too.  Half of the result will be dinner tonight.

I moved the kimchi downstairs.  It was bubbling up a storm upstairs.  Seems quiet down in the basement.  No bubbles around the edge.  I will move it back upstairs after the heat breaks tonight.  The broth coming up over the white plate is beautiful.  

The kimchi itself is super, too.  Not sour yet, but a week from now it will be ready.

We still have five pints from last year.  The year old kimchi is really sour.   Storing it in the fridge after the countertop fermentation slows the souring considerably, but it isn’t arrested.  Fun to track the slow evolution.  We are getting better about eating it with almost anything.  A current favorite is to use it as a relish on fake sausage on a roll.  When I bring a jar to a cookout, it sometimes flies out of the jar.  Other times no one touches it (except Lacey and I).  Kind of depends on whether I make a sales pitch.  A few comments go a long way.  Without a backstory, it may look kind of boring or even spooky to some.  We also put blops on salads and of course eat some with rice.  Wonderful to have a jar in the fridge waiting to spice up any meal.

To the desk, then.

Be well!

Wrong Day

I picked the wrong day to pedal to the garden and pull out all the bok choi and an arm load of mustard and collard greens.  The temp climbed to 93 and I could feel the threat of it as soon as I woke up.  Nice that I made that first trip at 6:00 am, but the harvest set in motion a bunch of work that is best done right away.  So I did the work right away.  Too much to do to stop and make photographs, so I can only share the words.

First I washed the produce in a plastic bin outside.  Earwigs love bok choi and I have no desire to bring them into my kitchen. They float to the surface and I skim them up and toss them on the yard.  I enjoyed working with cool water.  A second wash in the kitchen, and then to the cookbooks.  I had bought everything I needed on Saturday, but nowhere near enough.  There was so much bok choi!  Back on the bike, then, to the grocery for more ginger, onions, daikon and peppers.  Having procured those, the rest was easy, if a little boring.  Peeling some garlic is fine, but peeling 30 cloves is tiresome.  Grating some ginger is fun, but a cup and a quarter is work.  I made ten pints of kimchi and four pints of sarson ki collards.  The kimchi is bubbling on the counter now (I should move it downstairs–93 degrees will speed things along a bit too quickly).  The sarson ki collards are in the freezer, but for the pint we’ll eat tonight.

My dad is headed into surgery right now.  They need to open up his leg to clean the knee they put in there a couple of years ago.  That’s where the infection that put him in the hospital two nights ago is located.  Apparently infections can compromise the juncture between my dad’s bone and the artificial knee.  If it gets bad enough, they could have to remove the new knee and put in another.  Yikes.  I should know more tomorrow.

I spent most of my work day redoing work.  Transactions start with a proposed schedule and as often as not, the schedule gets delayed.  With each delay, I have to carefully poke through all I have done and try to make it right.  Not hard, but when I am doing it for the eighth time on a single deal, I start to get grouchy.  I used to be so easy going, but age has eroded my patience and good nature (for this anyway).  I get paid very well so I shouldn’t complain, but shouldn’t doesn’t stop the irritation.

The heat!  We don’t have air conditioning so as soon as the heat shows up, I am in it.  Tumblers of ice water all day.  A fan.  Move a little slower.  Eat a little less.  Then night comes, the sun goes and sleep seems like it might just be possible.

That’s all.  A bit too much.  Maybe less tomorrow.

Be well!

My Lunch is Better than Yours

I don’t mean to be a snob.  I may not even be right.  I am just hugely thankful for this lunch.  Thankful, too, that my employer and clients trust me to do good work from home.  Thankful, especially, that my clients have excused me from attending preclosings this month while we are massively busy.  All of this together sets me up to have this lunch.

I made the sarson ki saag (mustard and spinach) two days ago with mustard greens from the garden.  I’ve been making various versions of saags for years, but this is the first time I used mustard, too.  A big positive difference.  Much more complex.  I made the chole curry last night from The Indian Vegan kitchen (look for quick chickpea curry).  I made the spiced rice just now.  Not from a recipe (but from quizzing indian cooks), so I am happy to share the collabo directions.  I caramelized a small onion for 15 minutes in an open pressure cooker, then tossed in 1 tsp cumin and two bay leaves and fried for a few seconds, then tossed in 2 cups soaked brown rice, cardamom seeds from four pods, a half of a cinnamon stick and six cloves and tossed it well.  Then I added 2.75 cups of water and a quarter cup each of frozen peas and corn.  Pressure cooked for 20 minutes, then added 1 tsp garam masala and 1/2 tsp salt just before eating.  I have seen recipes that add a bit of turmeric and some black pepper corns.  Sounds good.  Maybe next time.

Had a driveway party on Saturday.  Brought the tiki bar into the garage, added a cooler with half gallons of Steadfast’s Sorghum Pale Ale and Firestone’s Union Jack IPA, and had on hand handles of Tito’s Vodka, Tanqueray Gin and Dewer’s Scotch.  We put the hurt on the growlers and the Dewer’s (I’ve been on a scotch and soda jag lately and brought my friends along for the ride).  I also put out a quart of corn nuts (yes haw!).  About 20 people showed up.  We sat in lawn chairs on the driveway from five to nine, closed the garage door for an hour long garage session and then ended up in the house for the last hour.  It was so much fun.  About half our guests showed up on bicycles.  Two babies were present (and blankets were spread on the drive for a play area).  Frida wandered from guest to guest trying to shake loose bits of Little Anthony’s pizza and subs from softies.  Thanks to everyone for making our evening so enjoyable.

Sunday we drove to Long Island for a funeral service for Lacey’s great uncle, Abe.  Abe was a pistol.  No other way to say it.  A pistol we loved.  Florence, Abe’s wife, was a miracle of composure all through our visit.  How did she do that?  Strength.    All the family came together and shared love.  The service and reception were in Abe and Florence’s home.  I was glad to be able to see it.  I had heard so much about it.  It is lovely.  The highlights are the brick drive and patio (Abe was a brick man, as in that was his career) and a sun room.  Word is the family came together to assemble  the drive and patio and that Abe and his brother built the sunroom together.  A labor of love and it showed.  Sighs.

Just pedaled downtown to pick up Big Harp’s White Hat LP from Fuzz Records.  Loving on that.  Also bought LPs form The Mountain Goats, the Mynabirds and Neutral Milk Hotel.  Looks like Saddle Creek has started slipping CDs into their LPs.  Good move.  Loved the downloads, but CDs are so much better.  So much new music to enjoy!  Is the weekend here yet?

Still with the working.  So much working.  I should go.

Take care.

How Helicopters Work

Maple tree seeds, that is.  I thought they needed to touch soil or even be buried in it to do their thing, but I was wrong.  They can sprout while suspended over the soil and send a root down to the ground.  Like a metal helicopter lowering a life line, but here the lifeline is saving the helicopter.  Wow.  See Frida’s tail by my finger?  If there was a tree that dropped big fuzzy dog tail seeds, I’d plant one in a heartbeat.

Badminton net is up and volleying happened.  A still life of repose.

BBQ lunch (ribz and potato salad thanks to Vegan Diner).  

Lacey and Frida abused the dignity of digital photography.

Our sister in law brought us a personalized totem pole made by my brother in law.   Talented fellow!  I don’t know why Lacey is holding two chickens–artistic license or premonition?  I want a brown shirt with big gold polka dots and green pants.  This is something that might need to be sewn rather than bought.

Last evening Mahar’s bestowed upon us two nice beers from Olde Burnside Brewing (East Hartford, Connecticut).  A Ten Penny Ale (five penny ale was herstorically the standard brew, so ten penny ale was the special stuff) and a Dirty Penny Ale (their Ten Penny Ale mixed with some of their stout–a black and tan).  Both delightfully low in alcohol and delicious.  The brewer started as a seller of ice.  They are sitting over an aquifer with delicious water.  They even sell the water to folks.  The proprietors asked customers buying large quantities of water what they were doing with it.  Their reply was “brewing beer!”  The proprietors got in on the act, and I am glad they did.

Today we pedaled to the Olde English Pub for pints.  We have a friend whose wife told us he hates the English (his ancestors were Irish).  I am glad I don’t have a group of people I hate.  If there was such a group, a member of it would open a really wonderful pub and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.  Not to make light of other people’s feelings, but instead to celebrate an open heart (and mug).  But wait.  While I don’t hate the people who open and work at restaurants that serve animals (as food), I am increasingly unwilling to patronize places offering next to nothing for compassionate diners.  French fries and whisky used to be enough, but more recently I register a mild offense when places don’t offer a variety of critter free entrees.  Salads and sides don’t count.  Pastas maybe count if they are super awesome (but they so rarely are–being designed to derive most of their flavor from cheese).  The world knows we exist.  To make a menu that doesn’t offer us much or anything is just unwelcoming.  Harrumph.

Where was I?  We each had Middle Age’s Old Marcus and shared our first and last bag of Walker’s Tomato Ketchup chips.  Golly these chips are good.  Why did they need to add whey?

I think we’ve done enough for one day.  I hope Lacey agrees.  I am ready to sit still.

Later!

Baked Donuts!

Meet Your Treat has me in the mood to make baked donuts, but I don’t want to buy the nonstick donut pans that are currently available.  I wrote to Lodge and asked them to make a cast iron donut pan.  Do me a solid and write to them as well.  They need to know there will be be hundreds of buyers.  If every one of my 30 or so subscribers writes, we’ll only have hundreds to go.  Do it!  [Update:  Maybe don't!  Nearly a week and they haven't replied.  Always surprising, but I will live.]

The caretaker at the park said a storm was coming.  He described it as a “real pisser.”  He’s old.  He’s local.  He works outdoors.  I took his warning seriously.  I cleaned my gutters, put on new gutter extensions and mowed the lawn.  The storm isn’t here yet and it doesn’t look like it is coming.  Oh well.  I was able to pedal to the garden and see all the tiny seedlings poking up through to the soil.  That’s always a treat.  The ride there and back was magical.  Perfect temps.  Not much wind.  Little traffic.  Slow rolling.  I felt like a kid on summer vacation (if only for a moment).  Sigh!

Hope you are having a great day.

Comforting

Did I say I was going to be quiet for  awhile?  Oops.  Although my work is picking up, I am waiting for others to do their work before I can start mine.  I need to fill in the blanks in my day, and cooking is as good an activity as any.  I recently picked up Vegan Diner, a cookbook by Julie Hasson published in 2011.  It is filled with fun and comforting recipes.

I just finished making my first recipe–a batch of Ms. Hasson’s Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze.  I haven’t tasted the final product (it is in the fridge setting up now), but the tastes I snuck while cooking and cleaning up were fantastic.  Even before time in the fridge it is very thick.  The last minute or so of whisking over heat was a pretty good work out (or maybe my pathetic lawyering wrists need some beefing up).

Ms. Hasson says her Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze  can be sliced or spread, so I am thinking it will be pretty close to  Wayfare Foods We Can’t Say It’s Cheese spreads.  Love those spreads, but they are pricey so I rarely buy them.  Ms. Hasson also says her Cheeze makes a great grilled cheese.  Sounds right and good.  That’s something I would never do with the Wayfare Foods spread–it would probably take a single $5 tub to make 2 sandwiches!  A batch of the Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze recipe costs around $5 and would easily make six grilled cheese sandwiches, if not more.

I am excited to make some fake sausages from the Vegan Diner, too.  That’s another thing I enjoy only rarely because of the high cost of packaged versions from the co-op.  Cheese and sausages?  Because of the theme of the cookbook, there are a fair number of analogs, but they appear to be done well and without many funky ingredients.  The number of recipes won’t disappoint–the recipe list is as long as a typical diner menu.  Breakfast recipes include muffins, biscuits, sweet rolls, breads, donuts, waffles, pancakes and scrambles.  There is a section on savory breads with ten varied offerings.  Recipes for sides include soups, salads, slaws, potato salads, onion rings and fries.  Hot sandwich offerings are many, with recipes for reubens, sloppy joes, sliders and burgers.  Main dishes include jambalaya, bbq ribz and various seitan roasts.   Desserts offerings are as broad as the other categories, with recipes for cookies, puddings, pies, cakes, ice creams and malts.  The cookbook appears to be a strong addition to my ever growing collection.  I am sure I will be going back to it again and again.

I must be hungry–it is all sounding a little too good.  I should go eat something.