Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tidbit of decadence

Decadence via food comes infrequently these days. I mainly experience it through the use of spice. But once in a while? Once in awhile, there's something like this.

Tidbit of decadence

The Orange Blossom Pot de Crème, rhubarb, and semolina cookies from Little Bird.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

More adventures in pruning

First there was the butt bush, now there's the paddle prune. Saw this last weekend while walking and had to take a photo.
Pruning like paddles. Shelves. Something.
I find it both amazing and nightmarish at the same time. Is it a spaceship from Star Wars? Is it a salute to the sun? Is it a living curio cabinet, just waiting for you to arrange your china upon its shelves? Or shoes? Whatever it is, this takes commitment, and rock on your own bad self to commit to this creation. Gardeners are awesome people.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Queen of Salads: How to Make Homemade Dressings

Salad from the garden
And so it is, I've become the Queen of Salads. And mine, at the heart of all of them, are vegetables. I feel bad for many salads, forced to be made with limp lifeless lettuce and bottled dressing chock full of preservatives and other names you can't pronounce. My salads are nothing like that. Because, again, I'm Queen of Salads.

the new cabbage salad: don't say coleslaw

Salads offer gads of room for creativity. Mixing of greens–spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale—you can take your pick of greens. Add in whatever is fresh and in season, perhaps green onions, cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus, sweet peppers, shredded carrots. If you want some protein, garbanzo beans or roasted chicken, for example. Think about flavor profiles, like greek: greens, cucumbers, red onion, olives, parsley, feta; or mexican: greens (cabbage), tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, pickled onions, black beans, jalapeno-stuffed olives (my favorite!). The options are endless. But then you make the dressing.....

Mexican salad dressing:
Mix salsa with plain greek yogurt.

Herbal creamy salad dressing:
Take a handful of herbs (cilantro or basil or parsley), and in a food processor, process with 1-2 cloves of garlic. Add in 1-2 cups of plain greek yogurt. Combine. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until it becomes a consistency you can work with. I like it pretty thick (less oil), season with plenty of salt and pepper. You can also add some freshly squeezed lime or lemon if you'd like a little tang to it. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for several days, and serve as great dip for fresh veggies or on more salads.

My balsamic go-to salad dressing:
In a small bowl, combine one crushed garlic clove, a pinch of good salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 Tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Whisk together. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil (about 1/4-1/2 cup), combining all ingredients well. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Chopped fresh basil can also be added to this dressing for added deliciousness.

Flavored vinegars (champagne vinegar is a favorite) and oils (blood orange infused olive oil is also a favorite) are fun to play with. It's almost strawberry season and that means strawberry vinegar in our household.

As for the Queen of Salads? I'm looking forward to the glut of spring and summer produce, and the ability to eat so much of it raw and in salads this year. As this is my year of intention, I've been following through on my commitments to myself, and that has meant embracing the salad and dropping the baggage. Meaning, dropping weight. Oh I've dropped it all right. A lot of it:

The first rose from the garden this year

And while salads are but one bit of that bigger picture, using my creativity in the kitchen for super fresh and healthy, simple approaches has been key.

Now go make yourself some salad dressing. It's about 100 times better than that crap that comes in a bottle.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pruning gone wrong

The rare texas butt bush
Yes, I wrote a column about pruning gone awry, thanks in part to the great butt bush photo sent by my parents. And yes, I actually did quote a Kenny Rogers song. Yes indeedy. You can read my latest gardening column for Just Out here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A cocktail to salute to the sun

Saluting the sun while sipping
I worked from my summer office yesterday. Also known as the back patio. Oh how I've missed my summer office. The water fountain flowed, the sun shone on my shoulders and all was right with the world. I'm convinced that living in a place like Portland, Oregon, where we have so much rain, grey sky and cool weather, makes me love the warmth so much more when we get it. Gratefulness. It's a theme of my life these days.

Wink was nearby, sleeping in the warm sunshine, and the beautiful yellow birds that have been visiting the garden lately kept me company.
Yellow bird in the garden

The workday ended with a kick-off to the season, and cocktails with people I adore.

Aah, hunting the summer cocktail. Here is a delightful one for the season, featuring drinking vinegars from the local farmer's market. (You can also find drinking vinegars at your local large asian supermarket. And yes, you know I'll be homecrafting some this summer when berry season hits.) Tangy and fruity at the same time, drinking vinegars are refreshing but can be tricky. A little goes a long way. I think of them like a syrup.

Sun Salutation Cocktail

Sun Salutation Cocktail
  • Fill your glass with ice
  • Add a splash and a half of cherry drinking vinegar
  • Add one shot of vodka, though whiskey would be delicious here as well
  • Fill rest of glass with sparkling water
  • Garnish with a few canned cherries and their juice/syrup (I love the jars of Moreno cherries from Trader Joes for this if you don't have your own)
  • Most important of directions: sip in the sun and bask in the season. Be grateful!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Rediscovering a hidden talent

Wooden escalator gonna eat your toes
There's a talent I learned at a young age, and finely tuned and practiced as I grew. I practiced it with my mom, but my dad is pretty good at it too. I hadn't honed my talent as much in the past few years, but it's all coming back as of late, and that is the talent of shopping.

Being in NYC, a mecca for shoppers, meant raising the bar and doing some real shopping. Oh and we did, my friends, we did. In fact one evening, we closed down Bloomingdales (they close at 10pm in case you're wondering). I'm glad to know they still keep their brown bag branding: fantastic.

But the flagship Macy's? In the words of my traveling companion, Macy's won. I tried. Seven floors of goods, as far as the eye could see. But on a Sunday afternoon, it was packed, sales were in high gear, and the escalator was intimidating.

Yes, the escalator. I'm not escalator phobic. But this had to be the original escalator. I had never seen anything like it. I rode it all the way to the top floor, and all the way to the bottom floor. I took photos on it. I made a movie on it. It was loud, and it was made of wood. Clickity clack clickity clack clickity clack. If you had heels on, you'd be in real trouble on this thing. And the metal prongs facing your feet as you exit? Step quickly and get the hell off. See for yourself...

I didn't try on one thing nor buy one thing in Macy's. Too much too much. I've been thinking about it a bit. It was about the experience of being in this historic store, and in the end? The massive amount of options was overkill, over consuming and too much. There's something to be said for curation, taste, and specificity. And experience of place. I've attempted, on several occassions, to walk into H&M, both in Portland and in NYC. I don't get it. The hype and excitement for what they have? Horrific. Okay, maybe not horrific, but the cheap clothes and throw away stuff isn't my thing either. And the music should really be turned up higher (insert sarcasm).

I'm finetuning my craft here people. And while Macy's may have won this last round, my fabulous teal toenails in those red sandals will always trump any escalator, wooden or not.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Spring in NYC

Blooming in central park
I escaped.
I fled. I flew.
Away from the grey cold rain of the Pacific Northwest and through the comfort of a middle seat on a red-eye flight, awoke to a city abloom and awake in springtime bliss.

NYC was ripe for the taking, and perfect for a mix of business (visiting clients) and pleasure (traveling with a friend for a cultural infusion).

I haven't fully processed the trip, but am getting there.

Until more comes to mind to share, I give you some images of spring in the big apple. Delightfully dripping with blooms and sunshine warm enough to play in the park and sit on the steps to take in the Vitamin D.

Tiny people in Union Square

Blooms overhead in Manhattan

Lilacs by the bucket

Wisteria in Greenwich village

Evening in central park

Busy day in Central Park