Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oh, mother!

Take a guess at the contents of this jar and win your very own pair of homemade woolen mittens to keep you cozy this winter. The first commenter to get it right wins! (P.S. To win, make sure there is a way for me to contact you by email whether you leave it in your comment or have some method of contact on your blog.)

Comments Closed! The lovely woolen mittens will be going to the closest answer as no one got it completely right. The mystery liquid is mother of apple cider vinegar! And the winner is...

David n Kara who said:
"looks like an old jar of apple cider"

Friday, August 13, 2010


How many times have you avoided making a dish because it had a bad rep for being difficult? Or because you didn't have the recommended equipment? You just might be missing out on gastronomic heaven. One of my most favorite foods of all time is the infamously temperamental cheese souffle (which, by the way, is incredibly easy to make) so I should know better than to dismiss a recipe outright. Nevertheless, last year was the first time I've ever made pesto from scratch. Why I thought it required chef-status to make, I don't know. Such simplicity, such deliciousness!

So we planted six, yes six, basil plants this year with big plans. Big Basil-y, Garlic-y, Nutty, Cheese-y Pesto Plans. No, no, I don't own a food processor. Never have. And earlier this year I shattered the glass pitcher of our blender. No, no, we haven't replaced it yet. And, oh yes, our basil plants have all thrived.

Trust the internet, the cookbooks or the television and you'd think making pesto without either of these supposed requisite items impossible. So what's a girl to do? Take a page from an Italian grandmother's cookbook: Get out some hand-powered kitchen tools and elbow grease. It's vintage pesto!

The results? I added a side of pan-roasted Brussels sprouts (in bacon grease of course) and the 4-year-old declared, "Mommy, you make a mean dinner." Sounds like success to me.

Vintage Pesto
No special requirements for this recipe, just a sturdy cutting board and sharp knife. A hand-crank nut grinder comes in handy to kick-start the nuts, but you don't need it. Because the ingredients haven't been emulsified by power blades, the texture and taste are more distinct, brighter, and richer. Totally worth the little bit of extra time it takes to do it by hand.

3 cloves garlic
3 loose cups basil leaves (just the leaves)
1/8 cup roasted almonds (or walnuts or pine nuts)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Finely chop the garlic. Take the basil in batches and finely chop in with the garlic. Add the roasted almonds and finely chop to combine. Chop in the grated cheese and press the mixture into a small bowl. Cover with the olive oil. Stir to thoroughly combine just before use.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Amongst the 'toes

We've found all sorts of things in the garden since we've moved into our house. Shards of this, pieces of that, small toy cars and marbles . But what should be staring up at me from the depths of the potato patch this afternoon?

One might expect a three-inch person when they pull out a mandrake root, but a potato? I've heard of potatoes producing a rare seed or two, but children? And why do you suppose this strange little fellow is frowing? I guess this will remain one of the mysteries of the soil. Another mystery of the soil....mushrooms.

Springing from what appears to be naught and disappearing just as quickly.

I once read an article that hypothesized Mother Nature might just be a giant mushroom with mycelia reaching into every cell of every living thing. There are mushroom that stretch thousands of acres--one in Washington and one in Oregon have already been discovered. Or listen to mycologist Paul Stamets sometime. What is it about science that as it gets more detailed and complex begins to look like magic?

Whether science, magic or both, mushrooms make a great excuse for taking a walk through the woods with my favorite little man.

And as much as he enjoyed spotting mushrooms, it was the salamanders that enthralled him.

Final count: Seventeen mushrooms, seven salamanders, one tired little boy and one incredibly contented mama.