Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekend Warrior

I spent the last few days here:


That was the view from my hotel. The picture really doesn't do it justice - you can see much more of the ocean in real life than the camera shows. And while I am definitely not complaining about my work travel, it's hard to cook or craft in a hotel room, which means I have to squeeze all my crafty activities into the weekend. Today I've been cooking up a small storm for Maybay's birthday party - some apps and a dessert, which I'll post soon.

I've also undertaken a new project involving making a more craft-friendly space out of my 7x10 "storage room." This process began with confronting mild hoarding tendencies and purging things (Why do I keep old boxes? I am not moving for the forseeable future...) These are the results of last weekend's purge:



Not unlike the ocean above, it actually looks like there's less in the picture than it does in real life. Oh well.

I'm onto sketching what storage solution is going to work in there so that I can get organized enough to dedicate desk and craft space. Really trying to make that room my "home office" and not a "miscellaneous items dump."



I think I may have finally hit upon an Ikea solution that will work, but the proof will be in the assembly, of course. Another thing to stay tuned for.

Finally, this weekend is the Renegade Craft Fair AND the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair. My cup runneth over!  I especially love cool craft fairs because being around all those great ideas helps me come up with my own. Plus, this is a great chance to pick up a few Christmas presents (I shop for Christmas year-round and keep gifts in a box in my closet until the holidays. Saves me a lot of last-minute stress.)  And Alameda is great for picking up vintage furniture - hoping to find an end table to replace the crappy Target one the movers damaged, and maybe some interesting candle sconces for the dining room.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What? That doesn't look delicious?

Tonight I'm going to start with a picture of dinner.



What? That doesn't look delicious? Salami-Melon...er...Salad? With a side of...cream cheese? Well, this is what happens when I am going out of town for a few nights and there's a whole cantaloupe in my fridge. Cantaloupe for dinner. Good thing I'm single.  

I'll be honest, I am tired of eating plain cantaloupe. Even when it is ripe and farm fresh, it's still...boring. I also have bad memories associated with cantaloupe thanks to the highlight of 4th grade - when I had cantaloupe for breakfast and then "revisited it" all over the teacher's desk that morning. Sorry Ms. Anita!

Complicating things is that it's not all that hot here in sweet San Francisco. The appeal of a chilled cantaloupe soup is rather limited when you're already wearing a cashmere sweater. On the other hand, the thought of hot cantaloupe isn't all that enticing either.

I found this recipe on Food and Wine, and it sounded interesting. Kind of like prosciutto e melone's rough and tumble little mafioso brother. I was a little concerned that no one had ever reviewed it, especially since it's over 10 years old. Surely someone else has made this?

With no total strangers of questionable culinary ability to trust, I figured this would either be great or utterly inedible. But at least it wouldn't be boring.


Savory Cantaloupe Salad
by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

The black pepper and vinegar bring out the cantaloupe’s sweetness, making it a good foil for creamy fresh goat cheese. The cheese is served on slices of crusty bread alongside the melon salad.

SERVINGS: 6

Ingredients

One 3-pound ripe cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch cubes (see Notes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 slices soppressata salami, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
6 slices country bread

 Directions

1.Put the melon cubes in a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the oil and toss gently, then add the vinegar. Garnish with the soppressata and chives. Spread the cheese on the bread and serve it alongside.


My notes: I skipped the chive garnish (I'm not trying to impress strangers) and got a little french mini-baguette instead of a whole country loaf because I am cheap. It was fine. I probably should have toasted the bread slices but I was hungry and didn't feel like getting out the toaster. Next time.

Oh, and I only used half the cantaloupe, and halved the seasoning/dressing ingredients and bread and only used a fraction of the goat cheese - about an ounce - but kept the full amount of soppressata (hey, it's dinner).

So how was this experiment?





It's safe to say I'll make this again. Tomorrow. For lunch. Glad I picked up a little extra soppressata at the deli!

If you do try this at home, make sure your cantaloupe is really sweet and ripe. This would be terrible with under-ripe cantaloupe. How do you tell the difference? If it's super crunchy and pale and looks/tastes like it came off the "fruit platter" at your last breakfast meeting, it won't work here.





Monday, July 26, 2010

This Never Happens

One of the things in life that gives me great joy is cooking. I love to cook dinner because it is the perfect way for me to forget work for an hour or two while I create something (hopefully) delicious.

This means that before leaving work, I'll hop onto Epicurious or Food and Wine to figure out what I'm going to make and print up a recipe (in case I need to fetch any ingredients at the Whole Foods conveniently located on the way home from work.

I wouldn't say my fridge is generally well-stocked (especially not lately with all the work-travel I've been doing) so frequently what happens is that ingredients beget other ingredients. For example, last week, I made Ina Garten's Pan-Fried Onion Dip for WTF Friday (kind of like happy hour) at work.  That recipe calls for cream cheese, but only 4 ounces, so I had the rest of the bar of cream cheese leftover. Sunday lent itself to picking up a bagel, some smoked salmon, and dill for a little mini-brunch feast. Then today I had on hand the salmon, sour cream (also left over from the dip) dill, zucchini on its last legs from my farm box, and some eggs. I typed these things into Epi and poof! This recipe popped up. I had all the ingredients at home. Every last one! That never happens. Something of a Monday miracle if you ask me.

Zucchini Cakes with Smoked Trout Bon App├ętit
June 2010
by Tori Ritchie
Grated zucchini gives these fritters a fresh flavor and a tender texture. Excellent served with Champagne.

Yield: Makes about 24
1 pound zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated in processor
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten to blend
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil (for frying)
1/3 cup (about) sour cream
2 ounces smoked trout or smoked salmon, broken into 1 x 1/2-inch pieces
Chopped fresh dill


Place zucchini in colander set over bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Place small plate atop zucchini to weigh down. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.

Squeeze zucchini as dry as possible in kitchen towel. Transfer zucchini to medium bowl. Stir in flour, Parmesan, and shallot, then stir in beaten egg mixture and pepper.

Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush large nonstick skillet with enough oil to coat; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop zucchini mixture into skillet by scant 1 tablespoonfuls, spacing apart. Using spatula, flatten cakes to 2-inch rounds. Cook until golden on bottom, brushing skillet with more oil as needed between batches, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer cakes to prepared baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely, then cover and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 325°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Place warm zucchini cakes on platter. Top each with small dollop of sour cream and piece of smoked trout. Sprinkle with chopped dill and serve.

If you can read this blog, you can read a recipe, so I'm just going to focus on a few parts of this:

1. They are not kidding when they say to drain the zucchini. Mine gave off fully 3/4 cup of liquid. That's a lot of juice!



2. Here's the batter being fried up. I used way less oil than they recommend and it was totally fine in my nonstick pan.



And here's the finished product!



Yum. Somehow this recipe made 9 2" cakes rather than 24. Which is good because I ate them all for dinner. I may have not put in enough zucchini (think I probably had closer to half a pound than a full pound) but all in all a successful result. And if I can figure out how to make them a little smaller, I think these cakes could be really great hors d'oeuvres. Other than the draining the zukes, this was quick to pull together.

I'm also still working on how best to photograph the food...but not a bad first effort, right?


And I'm Back!

I started this blog four years ago. At the time, it was something of a magnum opus featuring not one, but two whole entries. Two. Which is 100% more than the number of followers I had. You're impressed, right? As well you should be.

And then I was thinking the other day about all the great ideas and inspiration I get from some of my favorite blogs like B-School Studio and Angry Chicken. I love reading blogs of friends and strangers alike, who, like me, enjoy the challenge (opportunity!) of turning nothing into something. And so that's what this is: a blog about turning nothing into something. A blog about elevating the humble to the sublime.

Hope you enjoy it.