Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Daily Walk Challenge #7

Every morning when we wake up,
we have twenty-four brand new hours to live.
What a precious gift!

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Daily Walk: Collect objects on a walk everyday this week. Try to collect thirty. Create something with the objects. Document with photos and words next Monday!

Dinner Challenge #6

Delectable Dinner using

- Walnuts
- Asparagus
- Pasta
- Apples
- Olive oil
- Garlic
- Blueberries
- Yogurt

Interestingly I had just downloaded a new recipe from Orangette for roasted asparagus with a walnut crema sauce to try the day Steph's ingredient list was posted. So I felt like I was starting off ahead of the game with three of the key ingredients used. Next I did a search on Epicurious for a pasta using apples and blueberries. I found one using apples and garlic, so we went with that. Topping of the recipe search with a simple fruit salad using yogurt.

Keenan and I then headed out shopping, en route we invited the neighbors to join us for our 'challenge dinner'. We couldn't find any organic blueberries at the store, so we substituted strawberries. Otherwise we stuck with the original list. My only changes: I didn't make the chutney as we had fruit salad and I didn't add the crab meat. I also grilled the asparugus instead of roasting it.

Our neighbors Charlene and Josh come over to participate. Charlene helped in the kitchen and Josh kept Keenan entertained so I could cook. Overall we give all three recipes a thumbs up, we particularly loved the Walnut Crema.


Roasted Asparagus with Walnut Crema and Pecorino
Adapted from A16: Food + Wine

The original version of this recipe calls for Pecorino Tartufo, a sheep’s milk cheese with black truffle, but barring that, any aged pecorino works nicely. I used Pecorino Romano. The original recipe also calls for finishing the dish with some toasted walnuts, but I skipped that part. The walnut crema carried plenty of nut flavor for me, and I thought that anything more was overkill. Maybe I’m weird. Either way, I finished mine with a squeeze of lemon, and it was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the crema.

This recipe is intended to serve six, and even if you don’t need to feed that many, I would go ahead and make the full amount of crema. It will keep in the fridge for a few days, and you can roast the asparagus as needed. (One bunch is perfect for two people.) Also, Brandon has a hunch that leftover crema would make a terrific sauce for pasta, tossed with fresh garlic, lemon, and a little Italian parsley.

For walnut crema:
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups raw walnuts
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)

For asparagus:
3 bunches fat asparagus (about 30 spears, total)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 block Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Tartufo
Lemon wedges, optional

To make the walnut crema, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the walnuts, and blanch for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender in the middle. (I pulled mine out after 8 minutes, thinking that they seemed tender enough, but I should have left them for the full 10 minutes. My finished crema was slightly grainy, probably meaning that my walnuts weren’t soft enough.) Drain the walnuts, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Set aside separately.

In a small skillet, warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt, and sweat for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown and softened. Remove from the heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, the reserved cooking water, and the onion, and process until creamy. Taste for seasoning: it will probably need a decent amount of salt. With the motor running, slowly add ½ cup olive oil, processing until blended. The crema should have the consistency of a creamy hummus. If it seems too thick, add a little water. Taste again for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl or other container. Cover, and hold at room temperature. (Crema can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Snap the tough ends from the asparagus spears. Rinse them, and then dry them well. Spread them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Drizzle them lightly with olive oil, and roll them around, smearing the oil with your hands, to coat evenly. Season with kosher salt. Bake for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until blistered, slightly charred, and tender.

To serve, spoon the crema evenly across the bottom of a platter. Arrange the asparagus spears on top. Working quickly, while the asparagus is still hot, shave Pecorino generously over the platter. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon, if you like.

Yield: 6 (first-course) servings

Thai Curry Penne with Ginger-Tomato Chutney
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons fish sauce*
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste*
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk*

1/2 pound penne pasta

1/2 pound crabmeat, flaked
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Ginger-Tomato Chutney

*Available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, apple and garlic; sauté until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in curry powder. Add Marsala. Boil until liquid is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add stock, fish sauce and curry paste. Simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Return pasta to pot.

Pour sauce over pasta. Stir in crabmeat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Sprinkle with basil. Serve with chutney.

Bon Appétit
March 1999

Fruit Salad - Julie & Charlene on the fly!

1 Pint Sliced Strawberries
2 Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 C. Plain yogurt

Monday, April 20, 2009

Delectable Dining

When I mentioned this week's challenge to my sister, Laura, she indicated that she had a new pasta recipe with several of the key ingredients listed (walnuts, pasta, olive oil, garlic). So Friday night, her family came to my house and we attempted the recipe with delicious results. The recipe follows:

Fettuccine with Parsley Pesto and Walnuts and Spinach
Laura Elggren

coarse salt & ground pepper
3/4 pound fettuccine
2 cups packed fresh parsley
1/4 cup walnuts, plus more chopped for serving
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
5 ounces baby spinach

1)In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot.

2)In a food processor, puree parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons water until a paste forms. With machine running, add oil in a thin stream; process until very smooth, about 1 minute. Season pesto with salt and pepper.

3)To pasta in pot, add pesto, 1/4 cup pasta water, and spinach; toss to combine. Thin with pasta water as needed. Serve sprinkled with walnuts and Parmesan.

We added broiled chicken to the meal and steamed green and orange vegetables to make it complete. The pasta was alive with pleasure.

I didn't use the berries and yogurt in the same meal, but I ate them earlier in the day so I hope that counts. :)

Here are a few pictures of us enjoying our delectable dining experience.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Shorter is Better

Several years ago I inherited a darling skirt that was wrinkle free and easy to care for. Unfortunately, it went nearly to my toes in length. Thus, I never wore it. This week I shortened the skirt about eight inches so it is now knee length. Hooray for a new functional addition to my wardrobe.

Creative Meal Composition - Challenge #6

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. – The 14th Dali Lama

This week compose a delectable meal incorporating the following key ingredients:
- Walnuts
- Asparagus
- Pasta of some sort
- Apples
- Olive oil
- Garlic
- Blueberries

Share your meal with one or more people with whom you enjoy spending time. Post pictures of your finished product(s) and the creation process if you'd like to the blog by next Monday, April 20th.

#5 - Old memories

Memories of my sister making and modeling this jacket for 'Make it Yourself with Wool' the nemesis of my youth and the genius of my sewing skill.

Memories of college working as a tailor for the department store Z.C.M.I. I loved many things about that job. The repetition of mens clothing alterations that left much time to think and the challenge of women's clothing. Figuring out how to alter each and every garment.

My biggest challenge on this update was figuring out how to embelish the jacket. My original flower design once cut out was way to large for the jacket. This idea was hatched when looking at a pattern on a dish towel.

I wasn't up for modeling after a tough day with a teething toddler, I'll post photos the first chance I get to wear it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Becoming Whole - Challenge #5

Look with all your eyes, Look.
Jules Vern

We all have them uncompleted projects lying around, stashed in closets or molding in our brains. This week get a fresh perspective on an uncompleted project. Breathe new life into something. What does it need to give it that extra umph that will get you to complete it. Maybe it's a new layout or possibly a different medium. Maybe it needs to become something altogether different. Choose one uncompleted project and finish it by next Monday. Document both the finished project and where it started from.

A day late and a dollar short - Julies' #4

Steph and I are following similar travels this month as last week took me and my family to Washington DC for a wedding. As I would not be home to create a fabulous spring table display. I improvised.

The wedding had fabulous spring table displays. So I used materials I could 'freely access' and drew a picture of their spring table center pieces. I borrowed a pen from the grooms uncle and took apart the wedding program to find a blank piece of paper.

The centerpiece consisted of: a metal bucket filled with branches bursting with cherry blossoms, a second metal bucket filled with pink standard tulips, a small square glass vase with white parrot tulips and three votive candles in small glasses with a middle eastern pattern. All of this was sitting on a square mirror. Simple, elegant and stunning!

Sorry for the delayed post, we were en-route home. Arriving in Denver at 11:35 pm. Because I love the idea of the spring centerpiece, Keenan and I will be creating one this week at home, we will post photos as soon as it is completed!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Steph's Spring Centerpiece

I love forsythia bushes in the spring. Thus, I knew I wanted to use them in my spring centerpiece. Luckily, I found a forsythia bush on my condo property so I was able to cut off an armful of limbs in short order.

I knew that I wanted a multi-container and multi-level arrangement so I pulled about eight books out of my bookshelf and arranged them in different size stacks on my table. Next, I found an old gingham tablecloth that matched the yellow flowers to throw over the books and create additional texture. Finally, I placed a tall vase and two wide-mouth jars of varying heights on the stacks of books and filled them with the limbs. I am pleased with simple, light, and energy-giving finished product.