June 21, 2005

FIRST DAY OF SUMMER - NOT

The first day of summer (and the longest day of the year) is a lesson in patience. It's raining, it's dark, there's lightning and thunder. Cleveland, can you hear me? On a day that can potentially display sunlight until after 10 pm, it already looks like 10 pm at 4:30. I'm relatively wet from my walk from the bus and the yardwork I did harvesting stuff for a stir fry. Rain doesn't bother me like it used to. I can do yardwork in the rain here but never back home. The rain is different here. The rain seems more comfortable with itslef here. And I don't feel as if I'm invading its space by letting it fall around me.

When it rains the bus is very crowded and very loud. 14 different conversations and none of them interesting. Again, if I ruled, there would be no talking on the bus. I sank into my latest book, Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, by Patrick French. It's history, travel writing and memoir all in one. I dig it. I'm learning a great deal about Tibet from the people who live it.

Back to the kitchen. Dishes to be done from last night, bok choi to wash for tonight, rice to cook, and still more vacation work to do. Two days! By this time Thursday we will be solidly stuck in traffic on I-5 South but we will be ON VACATION.

June 20, 2005

THE EAGLE HAS FLOWN

Well, it was just last week I was wondering if the day would come when I would see a bald eagle fly over the house. It's not that bald eagles aren't common around here. Just toodle a mile down to Lake Washington or 22 blocks to Puget Sound and you might see one, sure. But there isn't much water in the Central District. Then again, he was probably just going from one water source to another. We were sitting here having after dinner conversation with Dianna and I suddenly saw one, flying low and slow and coming right at us. My arm automatically went up and I blurted out, "Eagle!" We all stopped and watched it fly over and away. He wasn't in a hurry but there wasn't any time to grab a camera. First a dragonfly, now an eagle. What's next? Anyway, it was exciting and it's always fun to see an eagle.

June 18, 2005

FLY DRAGON, FLY

I saw Henry take a jump towards something. I also had heard a slight buzz and a bit of a splat noise right before he jumped. He's always chasing bugs. Occasionally he can take down a moth but that's the extent of his hunting skills. J and I both looked to see what he might have found and were surprised to find a giant dragonfly. First time one has ever come to our yard. Because I'm a huge goober when it comes to this stuff, I ran and got not one but two cameras. I first started clicking right away with the digital because I was sure the dragonfly wouldn't stick around - it's not in his nature. But I think he was a bit stunned, either from hitting the Rubbermaid container or from a paw swat from the cat. Either way, he was easy to pick up for a closer look. Where his shoulder blades would be was vibrating. The fuzzy little hairs were moving really fast. J set him on the flowers so he could recover from whatever was ailing him. I was snapping away with a Nikon (better macro capabilities) when he took off. There are too many pictures of this dragonfly but we might never see one again in our yard.

It's the biggest bug Henry's seen


Henry gives a love tap to see if it's real



Originally uploaded by sissalice.



Originally uploaded by sissalice.

J sets him on the nasturtiums in the hopes that he would snap out of it.




Originally uploaded by sissalice.



Originally uploaded by sissalice.

June 16, 2005

June 13, 2005

A PASSAGE TO INDIA - OR, HOW TO MAKE AUTHENTIC INDIAN FOOD IN JUST 137 EASY STEPS

So we wanted to cook authentic Indian food. It is a cuisine we have been eager to conquer. Right before he left for 6 weeks in India, our neighbor, Chandan, lent us his two favorite Indian cook-books for inspiration. Plus, I had made the homemade paneer with an Indian dish in mind, though I hadn't decided which one. Check out how I made the paneer on the new blog just keep driving on the June 12th entry. We decided to tackle two recipes this weekend -Eggplant Rasavangy from one of the cookbooks and Spinach and Paneer Kofta, a recipe I found online. Lots of good paneer recipes on this woman's site.

We were ready for an adventure and we got one. We were not aware of the number of ingredients and steps involved in Indian cooking. It's like no other cuisine we've tackled. The first dish, Eggplant Rasavangy, has 12 ingredients for the main part. One of these 12 ingredients is 1/2 teaspoon of Sambar Powder which on its own has 13 ingredients. Then there is a paste which has 7 ingredients. And right as you begin to cook it all together, there are four extra little ingredients to toss in the hot oil. We set out to
Madison Market's bulk spice section for things like asafoetida powder. Asafoetida is widely used in Indian cooking, often for an onion and/or garlic substitute. It's included in almost every recipe in the cookbook in very small amounts. The smell is strong. It's hard to describe but it isn't pleasant. It's made by mixing the asafoetida sap (resin) with gum arabic, wheat, rice flower and tumeric. Don'tworry, you just buy the powder. The label on the jar at the store indicated that it is such a good remedy for flatulence that it can cure a horse from indigestion. Encouraging. Other ingredients we needed, like tamarind pods, were easily found in the International District.

Once the bags of spices were home, we both set to work on the sambar powder since we knew we couldn't get the rest of the dish made without that crucial 1/2 teaspoon. Julie measured, ground, and toasted seeds and spices. I seeded and de-veined two cups of chili peppers. The book didn't call for this action but there is no way we could have eaten this powder with two cups of whole chillies and their full fire power. As it turns out the powder still has plenty of punch. Even though I washed my hands three times after working with the peppers, I managed to burn my nostrils and lips by touching them. It was painful but it wasn't the first time I suffered from hot pepper burns on my face. But the worst part came when I had to sautee all of these peppers. That's when they give off all the fire straight into the air we breathe. There was choking, tearing, coughing, sneezing. We had to go outside and catch our breath and then come back in for another round. The peppers only cooked for two minutes but the aftermath lasted a couple of hours. The whole kitchen was so full of spices and oils in the air that when I wiped my face later with a facial cleansing cloth there was yellow residue on it. In fact, my food processor turned yellow almost instantly when we ground up everything. But the recipe did yield quite a bit. We filled a pasta sauce jar to the top. It will last for three years and we'll still have to sell some. Then I had to make the paste. This involved more chillies and more asafoetida. And the taste of the finished product was not entirely pleasant. However, once it was included in the final product all was well.

As it happened, by the time all of this was accomplished it was almost 8 pm and we were still an hour and a half away from having the red gram dal (pigeon peas) completely cooked. We admitted to each other and to ourselves that we had had enough for one day. With parched throats, burning eyes, and stuffy noses, we ordered Indian food from a place on Capitol Hill - you know, just to get us in the mood for the real thing we would make the next day. First time we've ever ordered Indian food to be delivered and probably only the third time we've ever ordered food to be delivered at all. But we decided to treat ourselves. So we had Indian leftovers for lunch yesterday but were still looking forward to our own Indian creations for dinner.

Creating the actual dishes was pretty easy. The paneer dish was very easy, had a normal amount of ingredients and tasted fabulous. You basically crumble the paneer into steamed spinach, mixed with a little oil, bread crumbs, and spices, and make into "meatballs" and then simmer in a tomato paste based sauce with onions, garlic, cinnamon, ground corriander seeds and nutmeg. I tossed in some garam masala cuz I felt like it. The eggplant dish did turn out to be quite tasty. All of the flavors blended nicely and we cooled the spiciness by having some goat's milk yogurt on the table for a condiment. I am looking forward to trying more dishes out of these books. Next weekend a poriyal. This is a dish in which vegetables are allowed to sweat and cook in their own moisture. Ingredients are usually chopped small and mustard seeds are often added. There are so many to choose from and they are easy to make. Stay tuned.

If anyone would like any sambar powder, let me know.

The simple beginnings of sambar powder.  Posted by Hello

June 09, 2005

GREEN IS GOOD


GREEN IS GOOD
Originally uploaded by sissalice.
Yesterday I picked the first strawberries of the season. We haven't yet tried them but I suspect they are pretty good. The slugs have gotten many already. It was hard to leave the ones behind that were almost done. So close. But I want them to be ripe. There is a small window between ripe and lost to bugs.

We enjoyed a salad of merlot lettuce, frisee, spinach, and arugula. I brought in the bok choi and the icicle radishes for a co-worker. I also shared some of the green goodness with our new and temporary neighbors, Risa and Eric (forgive me if I've misspelled the names). They are subletting Chandan's place while he is in India. Welcome!

43 THINGS

My long-time written word (and sometimes phone calls) pal J.P. has introduced me to the site 43 Things. This is a place to write and track your goals and ideas. You can see what the rest of the world is tracking too. You can do any number of things on this site in the way of maintaining your list. I've created a separate blog, just keep driving, to track my progress on some of the goals on my list. I don't have 43 things yet but I'm in no hurry. It's not a race to create a list. The list is in no particular order and is subject to change. Blogging in regard to list specific goals will be done on just keep driving. Please bookmark it and visit often. In fact, I encourage others with like goals or any goals to add commentary. You can send me info, photos, links, ideas and I would be happy to post them in order for everyone to cheer on your progress or help you tackle the hurdles. Don't be left out!

June 07, 2005

FLOWER SALAD


FLOWER SALAD
Originally uploaded by sissalice.
Last night we enjoyed a big salad with romaine and red lettuces and arugula from the garden. We threw in some nasturtium petals for color.

June 06, 2005

TO MARKET TO MARKET AGAIN

Sunday morning we picked up our friend Linda in West Seattle and head to the Farmer's Market. Peggy the bread lady wasn't there but her son was so we again sampled the goods but without the pressure to buy and be converted. Picked up two tarragon starts. The market was the only place I have seen tarragon plant starts so far this year. Also grabbed a parsley start. Plenty of fresh produce to be had and we bought our share. We then walked over to Uptown Espresso "Home of The Velvet Foam." Well, not much foam on a rice milk latte but it was delicious. I was envious of J's and Linda's foam. I could tell it was velvet just by looking.

My car desparately needed to be washed so we took care of that. Once clean we discovered the many scratches on the driver's side door left by the dogs at Black River Canoe from our recent camping trip. There should be a sign on the property that reads A. The dogs are friendly so feel free to leave your car before you B. pull up far enough to search for signs of life and my dogs jump on your car. If I took my car to a body shop, this would cost some serious green to make like new. Such is life with a car even if you do only drive it once a week.

CULTURAL EXCHANGE

Saturday morning I participated in a three hour class to learn how to make cheese at home. The class was held at Cook's World in the U District. The instructor was Linda Conroy, an herbalist, soap-maker, cheese maker, etc. She demonstrated how easy it is to make several cheeses right in your own home with just a few extra tools and a little bit of planning and patience. First she made paneer, a product similar to extra firm tofu in texture and used throughout southern Asia. It was extremely easy to make and required only milk and lemon juice (to curdle the milk). It took less than an hour.

During the class she also made
feta. Again, this was not difficult to make and required only the milk (she used 1 gallon cow's milk and 1 gallon goat's milk), rennet (she uses a liquid vegetable rennet), and a "starter" or culture, in this case, Mesophilic-A. We also whipped up some cultured butter by adding some Piima culture to some heavy cream in a mason jar and shaking. Piima is a starter culture like (but not the same as) buttermilk, acidophilus and kefir. With it you can culture fresh milk at room temperature to make a delicious custard similar to yogurt. Shaking to a certain point gave us whipped cultured cream basically. Tasted pretty yummy. More shaking and suddenly this blob of butter spontaneously appeared along with buttermilk to slosh in. Both the butter and the buttermilk tasted really good. The butter was light, extrememly smooth, and didn't have that awful stick to the roof of your mouth, wax feeling of regular butter that I hate. In addition to health reasons, this is why I don't eat butter. But I think that once in a while I wouldn't mind having some of this cultured butter mixed with fresh herbs on some homemade bread. It would be a treat.

After class I went to Andrea's house in Lake City and prepared the food for her sister's baby shower. The menu included turkey and non-turkey and herbed cream cheese roll ups, hummus, spicy eggplant dip, greek pasta salad, cheesy cresent rolls with cheddar and scallions, meatballs in sweet and sour sauce, and a huge cheese tray. The food prepared, Andrea and I raced to Fremont to collect Evan from a basketball game. Then raced back up to Montlake Terrace to drop off Evan with his grandma who was picking up cousin David from a pool party to take both boys to see the
Lipizzaner Stallions. Andrea and I then headed to the Edmunds Waterfront Festival. We strolled along and visited the vendor booths and then had a beer in the beer garden (we both got carded?) before heading to Arnie's for a drink. I had my first ever Mai Thai. Pretty powerful and not nearly as sweet as I expected but that was a good thing. For dinner we walked over to Thai Park. The food was really good and we were the only ones in the place - it was pretty late. Then it was over to Andrea's mom's to pick up Evan, then back to Andrea's place where I could pick up my car to go home. I haven't been out that late in a long time. Made it home around 11:15 pm. I'm old.

June 05, 2005

WINE AND SOUP

Friday night we tasted big Zinfandels at Tarragona and picked up a nice bottle of Paso Robles Zinfandel by Rosenblum Cellars in California. Paula and Michael at Tarragona slipped us passes to see the movie Mondovino. That was swell of them and hopefully we will catch that flick this week.

We went from the Zinfandels of California to the soups of Vietnam when we left the car at one end of Broadway and walked to other to Than Brothers for dinner. You can't beat a steaming bowl of pho the size of wash basin, plus a homemade cream puff for $4.25. It's always best to walk to and from the car to get Than Brothers because the soup is very filling and you need to be standing in order to breathe. I've scaled down to the medium bowl but no more. From now on only the small bowl for me. It would be nice to leave Than Brothers without feeling like I need a stretcher.