When it comes to vacation reading, I have overpacked.
I have been squirreling away magazines as they arrive. I have flipped through and read a few choice bits, but kept the bulk of the reading for vacation. Lucky Peach is very different from traditional cooking magazines and I love it! Food & Wine, a classic. The latest New Yorker. It is possible a newer issue will arrive tomorrow to give me even more reading pleasure. Lastly, Imbibe. I have read most of this issue, but Husband has not.
New books: True Believers by Kurt Andersen. I have begun reading and am enjoying the story and the good writing. Get Jiro, is one of those fun vacation books. I imagine it will be passed around and read by many of the inhabitants of our swanky rental house.
Not so new books: The Art of Feilding. Am I the last person on the planet to have not read this book? The Night Circus is actually for Oldest Daughter, but I am looking forward to taking a turn once she has finished.
The book that really pushes my pile over the top? Yes, Chef was delivered to my iPad last night. This is going to be the best vacation ever!
Whenever a vacation comes along, whether it is a long weekend, or two weeks away, I immediately plan what to bring to knit and read. What to read will be another post, today is for knitting.
Now y'all know I have not been knitting with the same furor as in years past, but I still like to have a project going. Especially something small that does not require too much concentration.
Enter the Blooming Twill Mittens Knitkit from Morehouse Farms. A few years back I knit their Dragon Scarf, I actually knit two of them. The first scarf was one of their kits, a nice dragony green for Youngest Son. The second scarf was for Oldest Daughter. I used the pattern from the kit and my own deep red yarn.
I just love kits. Maybe that is part of why I enjoy yarn clubs so much.
This kit comes with enough yarn to make the mittens, felt squares to make the flowers, beads for the centers, the pattern, and a template for the flowers. These flowers are going to be MUCH easier to make than the last ones.
I added some needles to the bag and the whole thing is ready to be tossed in my suitcase. The beads are plastic pony beads that I will probably replace. Maybe with beads found while on vacation?
In the past I probably would have brought three projects to keep me entertained for ten days, Now, one nice pair of mittens seems about right.
Let's start with the aesthetics of the book. Measuring 51/2 x 7, it is a great size to be slipped into a knitting bag, and it has one of those nifty spiral bindings that allow the book to open flat on a table, or your lap.
What is between the covers? A lot! I think most knitters have a few favorite cast ons and bind offs. We are aware there are others out there, but tracking down information about how or why to work them takes away from time spent knitting. The front of the book shows cast ons, the rear, bind offs. There is a staggering amount of options, stuff I did not know was possible.
The picot cast on.
How cute is this!?! I am itching to begin a pair of socks just to use this cast on.
Each technique is broken down with step by step directions, both photos and written, because we all learn differently. In addition to to the directions, Leslie lists the characteristics of the technique, such as decorative or stretchy. She also lists ideas for where the cast on/bind off is appropriate. If there is a corresponding cast on/bind off, it will be noted.
In case you are wondering,
there is a corresponding bind off for the ultra cute picot cast on.
A cast on I have been wanting to learn for ages is the elusive Norwegian Cast On. One evening I turned to YouTube for help, but came away discouraged. There are a lot of knitting videos on YouTube and I am sorry to say most of them are not very helpful. Cast On Bind Off dedicates three pages to the technique and between the pictures and the words
I did it!
The techniques are grouped by task, such as circular cast ons, stretchy cast ons, multicolor cast ons, decorative bind offs...
The table of contents includes pictures,
and the covers of the book provide a quick way to look up a specific method. Valuable information for both new and experienced knitters.
So, would you like to win a copy of the book? Leave a comment with your favorite cast on/bind off, or one you have been wanting to try, before midnight (Pacific) 7/18/12. I will do the random number thing the next morning to chose the winner, and the kind folks at Storey Publishing will whisk a book to the lucky number.
For more chances to win, or to read other people's opinion on the book follow the blog tour:
When I was learning how to cook (about ten years after I should have learned how to cook) the only thing I ever did with greens was to sauté them with a bit of garlic. A few years ago leafy greens, and their health benefits, began turning up every where, and now there is a big, glorious book devoted to the subject.
Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas begins with an Introduction to Leafy Greens. Here you will find each green listed alphabetically, with a description, the best preparation technique, and all the recipes in the book that use that particular green. The section is extensive and includes a variety I had never herd of, Tatsoi.
Chapter 1- Basic Preparations for Leafy Greens walks you through simple sautés, braises, and stir-fries, with side bars that include grilling and blanching. At this point in the book I have learned so much and can not believe I am only a third of the way through. The chapters that follow are all about the recipes. Chapter 2 - Greens with Beans, Grains, Pasta & Other Vegetables. Chapter 3 - Salads, Dressings & Dips. Chapter 4 - Greens in Soups & Stews. Chapter 5 - Green Juices & Smoothies.
The book is printed on thick, nicely textured papers with pleasing colors and sweet line drawings of various green leafys. There are just a few photos in the center of the book and I find the overall presentation charming.
The first recipe I tried was fantastic and eaten so quickly I neglected to snap a photo. The smell had people standing in the kitchen asking about dinner. Everyone in the house declared it a keeper.
Garlicky Potatoes with Greens & Olives
Lots of garlic and briny olives add spark to the harmonious pairing of potatoes and dark leafy greens.
6 to 7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
10 to 12 ounces chard or kale (any variety of either), or collard greens
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives, such as kalamata
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried basil or tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Microwave the potatoes until just barely tender, starting with 1 minute per potato and adding a small amount of additional time as needed. Or prebake the potatoes, if the oven is already on. Plunge the potatoes into cold water. When they're cool enough to handle, cut them into think slices.
If you are using chard, cut the leaves away from the stems and chop them coarsely or cut them into ribbons, if you plan to use the stems from the chard, trim an inch or so away from the bottoms, then thinly slice the stem. If you are using kale or collard greens, strip the leaves form the stems and cut them into narrow ribbons or small bite sized pieces.
Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the garlic and sauté it over low heat for a minute or so, just until is loses its raw quality.
Add the potatoes and greens. Add about 1/4 cup water, turn the heat up to medium high and cook the mixture for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the potatoes are touched with light brown here and there, and the greens are tender but still nice and green. It's fine if the potatoes break apart.
Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in the olives, and add lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle with the basil or tarragon, and season with salt (you won't need much) and pepper. Serve at once.
This recipe works nicely with mustard greens and escarole as well. Chop them coarsely or cut them into ribbons. Add the greens 2 or 3 minutes after you add the potatoes, since you don't want them to cook too long.
The dish was GOOD! I do not like the texture of microwaved potatoes, so I boiled the potatoes whole, cooled, and then sliced.
I look forward to making many of the recipes in this book, but the mot immediate thing that has happened since the first reading is that I am putting greens in all of my usual dishes. Whether it is soup or quinoa salad, I snip a few leaves from the garden, prepare using basic techniques, and add towards the end of cooking. Not only would it not have occurred to me to do this before, but now that I have basic preparation techniques for all the greens it makes it easy to improvise.
Sunday evening I received a message from a friend letting me know she had a bag of elderberry flowers for me. Yippee!
Tuesday morning I stripped the flowers from the stems while heating the simple syrup.
The flowers are steeped with lemon juice and zest in simple syrup overnight. The smell is wonderful. A taste of the liquid after a couple of hours of steeping was on the bland side, but after a full day of mingling, the flavors really pop. I was worried the strong lemon would overpower the delicate elderflowers, but the two mingle perfectly. Not exactly like St. Germain, but darn close.
25 elderflower heads
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid, if canning
In a medium pot, heat water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly.
Remove the flowers from the stems by gently shaking or pulling and place in a large non-reactive bowl.
Zest and juice three lemons and add to flowers.
Cool the liquid enough so that it is no longer steaming and pour over flowers and lemons. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit overnight. The mixture can happily hang out in the kitchen up to two days. Anything longer and there is a risk of mold forming.
The next day, strain the liquid through a fine sieve. There may still be some small debris in the syrup, you can strain it again, or fish the bits out with a spoon.
Pour the syrup into a medium pot and bring to a boil. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for two weeks, in the freezer for six months, or water bath canned.
To can using a water bath, add 1 teaspoon citric acid to the syrup before boiling. Pour hot syrup into jars, leaving 1/2 headspace, and process for 20 minutes.
The menu for July 4th has been set and I am super excited to eat this meal. 4th of July is my favorite holiday, and in years past we have celebrated with a house full of people and a party that begins in the early afternoon and goes well into the night. This year is different for a number of reasons. The first one being that the 4th falls on a Wednesday, so no late night cavorting. Also, Husband decided to go to work that day and then take off Friday for a three day weekend, so no party starting at 2:00pm. It also looks like most of the kids will be gone. It will be just the three of us and a late dinner, I kept it simple.
Sliders, with caramelized onions and fresh tomatoes
Walking amongst us are people with talents that we never know. Yes, you expect the rocks star chef with the fancy restaurant to be talented in the ways of food, but that talent is no better than the quiet person who stands in her kitchen making dishes that bring joy and amazement to the people they love. Grace Massa Langlois is such a person, and she is lucky enough to have a couple of great kids that pushed her to share her passion first with a blog, and then with this book. Grace turned to cooking after the sudden death of her husband and found that it brought a measure of happiness to both herself and her children. The book that followed is a treat.
The book is is softcover and includes tons of photos, because "how do you know if you want to make something if you do not know what it looks like". This little gem was uttered by Youngest Daughter last weekend. While the instructions may span several pages, they are set up in a logical sequence with every detail spelled out. It is the next best thing to having Grace in your kitchen, holding your hand.
Just what's can you expect? The classics like Tiramisù and Cannoli, and so much more!
Cicerchiata-Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls)
Pies he Dolci (Italian Peach Cookies)
Mini Torte Mousse al Limone con Gelatina I'd Limone al Limoncello (Mini Lemon Mousse Cakes with Limoncello-Lemon Jelly)
And the recipe I plan to make the next cool and dry day,
Torrance di Mandorle Nocciole (Almond and Hazelnut Nougat)
Youngest Daughter saw the book sitting on my desk, began to thumb through it, and immediately began ticking off things she wants to make.
If you love authentic cooking, are not afraid to search out new ingredients or learn new techniques, you will be rewarded with deserts that will wow your family and friends.
***I was sent this book by the publisher or their PR firm with the hope that I would write a review for the blog. No money changed hands and my opinions are my own