The Weekend Left A Good Impression

It’s been an extraordinarily rainy weekend. Rainy and windy, which means that all the windows facing south and east are providing a rather impressionistic view of the world.  This hazy, beautiful view inspired some watching of Amazon Prime videos to learn more about Paul Durand-Ruel, an avid believer in the Impressionist art movement, at a time when they were scorned, mocked and slandered by most of Europe. I was rather cheered to learn that America gave that particular art movement heaps of support and love—something that Europe couldn’t be arsed to do.

Rather than link you to the Amazon Prime videos, I’ll give you this NPR article, Durand-Ruel: The Art Dealer Who Liked Impressionists Before They Were Cool.

And as one of those open-minded Americans, I’ll now share my Impressionistic weekend view of the world with you.

I call this one “Tree With A Nice Tush Ignoring The House”  It was created with the use of an ancient Virgin Mobile slide-keyboard phone, and a patio door screen.

Next we have “Kneeling On Carpet While Being Pestered By A Cat And Gazing Over The Deck Railing”

And lastly, my proudest effort, entitled “I’m Not Sweeping That”.

Drive, She Said

My desktop computer, Scoundrel, is under the weather. His harddrive took a nosedive a few days back, and it will be a bit before the scurvy lad is back up and dancing. In the meantime, I have my laptop. As nice and helpful as it is, it doesn’t have my Outlook files on it, so there’s a lot of reference info I can’t get at right now, and that means I can’t get my monthly Postcards From Industralia newsletter out. Also, the laptop isn’t mighty enough to run Second Life, so I’ll be missing my storytelling hour tonight (again). I won’t lose any data because we are careful about backups and redundancies, but it is an inconvenience.

For the foreseeable future, I’m on a slightly vintage (but great) laptop, supplemented by a quite vintage iPad and my wee Kindle Fire. Besides no access to Second Life, I have NO access to Facebook Messenger. None. Nada. Nix. Zip. That beast of a gadget bleeds these devices dry of power faster than a starving vampire. I don’t like Messenger at all, even on a good day, but right now my hatred for it is justified with non-access. Gmail is my friend and can be yours. Though I know most of the planet now thinks traditional email is as cool as Prodigy or CompuServe or hula hoops. Bah. Kids today.

I’m offsetting all this by indulging in a binge of the original Dark Shadows. Bad acting and horrific production values will make the day wonderful after all!

Typical August Weekend Out In The Country

We’ve only lived in Casa de Caribou 2.0 for about 5 months, but the grounds are already being cultivated into useful, productive, pretty land. Here’s my progress from the last few days, as an example of what late summer looks like for a Midwest gardener and foodie.

Harvested:

  • Bush beans (large basket of purple, green and yellow beans, worked out to be 4 pints when canned)
  • 4 cups Moby Grapes, yum. Best snack ever and also makes a surprisingly good pasta sauce, if you have patience to blanch/peel them.
  • 6 Short stubby wonderfully fat carrots
  • Green Onions (2, just for garnishes)
  • 4 cups VERY fat ripe raspberries
  • I’d picked almost a quarter bushel of tomatoes on Thursday and was waiting for them to fully ripen. They were ripe by Saturday, so I canned 10 pints.

Side Projects:

  • Gathered 8 big sprigs of Sweet Woodruff to share with a friend at work who wants to learn how to make May Wine. If you want to learn how to make it too, here’s a quite pleasant article from one of my favorite food bloggers.
  • Cleaned up the carrot tops, discarding the long hard stem and just keeping the feathery green bits. Scissors make this easy. Now they are in a basket to dry, and then I will crunch them up and store in a glass spice jar. They make a fun substitute for parsley.
  • I saved aside a big handful of oversized beans from my harvest. These are too rubbery and tough to be enjoyable, but can be split open to get at the beans inside. These can be simmered for about 30 minutes and served as a wee side dish. I say wee because it takes a lot of tough old beans to add up, but it’s a way not to waste them.
  • I’d cut all the flowers off my garlic chives early in the week, since they can spread like wildfire if you let them go to seed. For fun I stuck them in a green glass vase with some water, where they all bloomed spectacularly. Saturday I snipped the flowers from the hard stems and set them in a wicker basket to dry. Another goodie to chop up and store in a spice jar. They taste very peppery and a bit garlicky.
  • Since I’m planning to sautee salmon for Sunday dinner, I whipped up a sauce of avocado mayonnaise, small touch of mustard, cracked pepper, touch of sea salt, and a generous amount of dried Mexican Tarragon. Tarragon goes so nicely with salmon! So that’s all ready and blending flavors, for later tonight. I won’t cook it on the fish, just will have it as a side dip. Mmmm.

Today I’m thinking about starting a double batch of chamomile wine, as long as I have the huge canning pot upstairs. It does double duty. And I may simmer up a small batch of what I’ve named “Moby’s Pick” spiced tomato sauce, for later in the week.

Next, the focus needs to be on clearing out encroaching weeds and volunteer saplings in the large raspberry patch, researching how to tame back the purple grape vines without harming them, edging back the grass from the bark in our curved beds surrounding the house, and pulling weeds. This place is weed heaven, they grow FAR too happily here. More mulch is needed soon to help squish them!

And somewhere in between all this yard and kitchen work, I am shoehorning in tiny bursts of editing and writing, because books simply don’t publish themselves, darn it!

Sweet and Sourdough

I love my sourdough starter. I’ve been maintaining it for a couple of decades now. Even when I neglect it, old Beastie always springs back to life when I pull him from the back of the refrigerator. He makes a nice, light, white sourdough loaf, fantastic waffles, and really good pancakes.

But today I put Beastie to the test on breakfast pastries! After setting up a batter of flour, hot water, sourdough starter, and salt last night, I woke up to a really bouncy batter, one of the best I’ve seen. It wasn’t sticky, it held a lot of air and fluffiness. And to be honest, when I mixed up the batter last night, I really didn’t have a plan for it. I simply liked the notion of a sourdough batter rising for a Saturday morning.

And so randomly, I decided to make bite-sized pastries. I made three kinds. Little rounds like donut holes, slathered in sugar, cinnamon and honey, twisty tied dough drowning in apricot jam, and cookie-like sweets imbedded with pecans.

It’s fun to make pastries in minature. These are each only about two inches across, or less.

My technique, if you could call my random style of baking any sort of technique, was to use a mix of cinnamon laced brown sugar and white sugar at every stage where you would normally throw down a layer of flour to work your dough against. No flour. All sugar and cinnamon. I also liberally coated the cookie sheets and mini muffin pans with butter. Loooooots of butter. And as the treats settled in for their second rise, I kept splashing them with more sugar, honey, cinnamon, butter… basically I just let my natural inclination towards no-self-control take over.

Then all the goodies were baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Mmm. I liked this experiment! Especially the pecan sorta-cookies. Perfect texture and flavors on that one. I’ll make those again.

I had enough leftover dough to knead into a small loaf, containing three types of cheese, oregano, celery seed, lots of cracked pepper and a good coating of olive oil. This will rise another hour, and then get baked. It will be enjoyed with a roasted salsa made of halved cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers. This will accompany marinated, sauteed pork chops later this evening.

Saturdays in the kitchen are fun!

 

 

Potato Salad My Way

This is my favorite way to make potato salad. I know I break the rules by dicing the potatoes before cooking them, but really, why should I mangle a soft, warm, potato when I can get that step cleanly done before the cooking? It makes more sense to me.  Be sure to read through the entire recipe before starting, so you can gather together your ingredients and equipment.  Hope you like this!

PREPARING THE POTATOES

Large Pot of Boiling, Salted Water
6 large Russet Potatoes, more or less
1/4 Cup Pickle Juice

Peel all the potatoes and dice into half inch squares. Put diced potatoes into boiling water. Boil for five minutes and then start checking them with a fork to know when they are getting tender all the way through. Don’t overcook. Empty the water and potatoes from the pot into a large colander set in the sink and let the potatoes drain and cool down.

When potatoes have stopped steaming and are just warm, pour them into a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the pickle juice over the hot potatoes. The juice will be completely absorbed by the potatoes and add flavor from inside. You can add more juice if you really love pickle flavor.

MAKING THE DRESSING

In a separate bowl, stir together:

2-1/2 Cups Mayonnaise (My favorite is made with avocado oil but any mayo will work)
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard (or spicy brown if you prefer)
2 Tbsp White Granulated Sugar
1/2 Tsp Celery Seed
Salt and Pepper to Taste

ADDING CRUNCH AND FLAVOR

1 Large Celery Rib, finely diced
1/2 Can Black Olives, drained and chopped
1 Cup Pickles, any type you like, drained and chopped (I like bread and butter pickles)
1/2 Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, VERY finely diced or juiced

These are the additions I like – you may enjoy adding other goodies, or leaving some of my suggestions out. Nothing is carved in stone here.  Other common ingredients include green onion, green olives, pimentos, purple onions, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, chopped arugula, and fresh green peas.  I’ve daydreamed about mixing in lumps of lobster and I just might do that someday when I can. Add whatever you like!

ASSEMBLING THE SALAD

Have ready in another bowl:
5 Hard Boiled, Peeled, Chopped Eggs (about this consistency)

First, start folding the dressing/additions mixture into the cooked potatoes. When it’s all about halfway blended, start folding in the diced eggs. Don’t stir – just gently lift the potatoes with a really large spoon or spatula, and move them around to distribute the dressing, additions and eggs evenly. Do not over mix. You want the potato squares to hold their shape.

FINISHING TOUCHES

Hungarian Paprika

Smooth out the potato salad and clean the inside edge of the bowl with a paper towel to neaten the look, then dash paprika over the top – don’t coat the salad with it, just keep it light enough to add color.