Monday, August 31, 2009

A cyrillic day

Last weekend at the farmer’s market, I purchased some lovely beets, as I had been having a yen for borscht. All my grown up life I have loved borscht, but everyone I have ever lived with has not loved it. How can anyone not love it? It is so beautiful and magenta, and it tastes so uniquely delicious. I planned to make it on Wednesday, but was just too knackered to face all that peeling and chopping. Saturday, the same. I had better make it, I thought, or my lovely beets will go to waste. So yesterday, after my après-church nap, I pulled myself together and got out the vegetable peeler. Once I got going, of course, I enjoyed it, but I had a hard time getting going. I called my aunt to come join me for dinner, but she was not home. Rachael made a face of disgust, muttering something like, “Beets! Blech!” So I had it all to myself. The first taste was a little frisson of delight. It was the best borscht I had ever made. What made it so good? I’m not sure. I didn’t really use a recipe, so it was a bit different from any past borscht. The beets were flavorful and fresh from the farm – at least they had been when I got them. It was the first time I had included the beet greens, the first time I put in any ginger, and the first time I had used the pressure cooker, which may have preserved vegetable flavor via the quick cooking. Whatever it was, it was wonderful. So today I will have a very colorful work lunch, and will have to pray that none of it lands on my white nurse dress. I don’t want that to be colorful as well.

½ cup dried Great Northern (or other white) beans
4 medium sized beets, greens and all
2 small potatoes
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
½ cup of chopped cabbage
½ cup of chopped parsley
1 large or 2 small onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 T vegetable oil
pepper, ground
pinch of cayenne
salt if needed (my vegetarian broth powder is salty so I didn’t need any)
ginger paste, about ½ teaspoon
lime juice from one lime
vegetarian broth, 6 cups (including the bean cooking liquid)
Yogurt for topping

Soak the beans overnight, and pressure cook as directed. Or don't soak them and pressure cool a little longer. Save the liquid and use it as part of the vegetable broth.

Peel the beets, carrots and potatoes, and chop them into fat matchsticks. Chop the parsley, celery, and the beet greens. Chop the onions and garlic.

Sauté the onions till translucent and add in the garlic. Give it a few more stirs. Add in the chopped root vegetables and give them a few stirs. Add the remaining ingredients (except the yogurt, or course), tasting for salt, and pressure cook the lot for about 6 minutes on high pressure. Quick release. If you have no pressure cooker, simmer the soup for about 40 minutes till everything is tender. Serve it with a blob of yogurt in each dish.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A thoughtful day

Have you noticed how you look at some website with ads next to the thing you are actually looking at, and the ads always seem to relate somehow to you because the computer knows all about you? This can be a little unnerving at times. I get ads with information about how I can get an advanced nursing degree online, yarn ads, ads from Hawaii Airlines telling me about their specials, and those ads are all more or less relevant to me and not offensive. But the disquieting ones are the ones like, “Tacoma mom loses 47 pounds in three weeks!” or “Get rid of all that belly fat! Find out the secret HERE!” How do they know? I never go to fat person websites or inquire about weight loss programs. Can the computer actually look out at you like some of my patients think the television can? I am kind of offended. I always imagine that the belly fat is well hidden beneath my voluminous clothes. Is it because I talk to you about food more than they think I should? Well, here is some healthy food. Becca and I made a trip to the local farmers market – always a fun adventure. None of this will make me fat. (Er, fatter.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A well prodded day

Sadly, I am a person who is often needs prodding to get moving on tasks, especially if I think they have much potential for unpleasantness. I have a lot more time in the summer since our choir has a vacation, so I had planned to get some icky duties done. However, next week always seemed like a way better time than this week. I asked Ana to nag me about a couple of them, and she did, for which I am grateful. Thanks to her, I finally scheduled my car’s annual physical (very overdue), and my human physical, less overdue, but no less unpleasant. Tomorrow the car, next week me. Yuck! A year or two ago, I purchased a book of Japanese knitting designs, no doubt because I thought I would knit one of them at least, but once again, inertia set in. Ana, however, said, “Let’s have a knit-along and make something from this book.” We both admired the same sweater, and so ordered the yarn, and have actually begun it. I am very glad it is a knit-along with Ana because I am afraid that the Japanese directions might have thrown me. Most of the symbols and charts are pretty straightforward, but one bit had me flummoxed. I looked for hints in Japanese knitting sites and googled the actual sweater, but no go. Ana was cleverer and found a blog in which the authoress made a similar sweater and explains how to do the leaf tips – something I never could have figured out from the directions. She (Ana, not the bloggess) is much further along than I, but none the less, I am pleased with my scanty progress. Usually I find Aran style knitting fairly mindless and can do it while watching a movie or having a coherent conversation, so I planned to have this be my public knitting project rather than my usual sock. To my surprise, I have to concentrate as hard as for lace – maybe even more. I have only memorized the most simple of the cables. This picture is the sleeve which I started in lieu of a swatch. And a picture of Ana on our ball winding day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A retrospective day

I told you I had been going to make a meal-in-minutes for Ana, but that it turned out to be a meal in far more minutes than I had anticipated, resulting in us spending more time in the kitchen and less time knitting in front of our movies than we had planned. Later, I was speculating as to why this was as it was, and decided that making bread had been a big part of the problem. I always think of making bread as something that you have to be there for, but as something that really doesn’t take up much time. But I think it did take up a bit. Everything else really was pretty quick. We had wonderful tomato salad from Ana's garden. I made a tomato feta tart – very good. You can find the recipe here. I left off the chorizo, naturally. I recommend it for a quick and impressive dinner dish. The Sunburst Carrot Salad requires a little time to prepare the carrots, but with an efficient vegetable peeler, that goes quickly too. I made the yogurt ice cream in the morning, and that too is ready in minutes. We put a blueberry topping on it. The recipe for that is very complex. Here it is: Take about half a cup of frozen blueberries, add about two tablespoons of sugar, and microwave it for two minutes. Voila! Your guests will think you worked on it all day!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another hellishly hot day!

Ana and I were planning to watch movies all day today, and start work on our sweaters for our Japanese sweater knitalong group, a group with two members. I, of course, took way longer to fix our food than I planned. It was all meals-in-minutes sorts of dishes, but very little takes me only minutes to prepare. While things were cooking, we put Ana’s lovely sweater on the wooly board. Isn’t it fabulous? Then we took pictures of my brown scarf – or is it big enough to be called a shawl? Maybe a scrawl – sort of in between the two. I made it from 100 grams of sock yarn, and it is a nice size for everyday wear, I think. We finally got to our movie, and the first one we watched was “Nancy Drew, Detective” from 1938, and starring Bonita Granville. Somewhat surprisingly, we liked it a lot! We are now both Bonita Granville fans. Maybe we will start another group - a fan club - also with two members. Then we decided to watch “Scoop,” given that it had a similar theme – intrepid girl reporter/sleuth goes after monstrous murderer and nearly gets murdered herself in the process. But the temperature was rising and about 20 minutes into Scoop, it was well over 90˚ in my upstairs. We couldn’t stand it. So, drooping sadly, we came downstairs, took cold showers to revivify ourselves, and worked on our knitting in the
relative comfort of my sitting room. Our knitalong group is finding that this sweater project is a little more confusing than anticipated. I am glad I am part of a group. That will help in figuring out the arcane directions.
Here is a picture of the delightfully simple and simply delicious midday treat we had. Tomatoes grown by Ana on fresh from the oven ciabatta! Yummissimo!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A workaday day

I don’t cook dinner every day. In fact, I usually only cook real food when I have company or am going to work. Rachael is an unreliable dinner companion, and I don’t enjoy preparing a meal and then eating it alone. When I am home by myself, I frequently have Cheerios or Corn Pops (my very favorite) for dinner. If I am feeling terribly gourmet, I slice a banana or chop some fruit to put on top. At work, someone always eats with me, so it is a more social event, and therefore more labor-worthy. In fact, when I get out my dinner, my colleagues often come in to see what I have prepared. Then they sit around and discuss it. This puts a bit of pressure on me, especially if I haven’t gotten groceries enough for something tasty or interesting. One day I had very little on hand, and had purchased one of those yummy Asian noodle soup “just add hot water” things. On a previous occasion, several people were shocked that I had brought a microwave Indian dinner, and this soup would be even more of a letdown for my image (such as it is!) as well as a blow to my vanity. I was telling Rebecca how what I really wanted to eat was a bowl of already made noodle soup –I LOVE Japanese noodles- but felt pressure to please my dinnertime audience. She suggested that I dress it up. What a great idea! I had some mushrooms and some baby bok choy, so I sautéed that along with garlic and onions, added some ginger, and had a lovely meal. The audience was impressed and satisfied and I had my packaged soup.
One of my standbys is spinach salad, pictured here, and another is tabouleh, always a success as long as you have flavorful tomatoes. Here is a recipe for the tabouleh.

1 cup of bulghur
½ cup chopped lovely red onions
½ cup chopped parsley, cilantro and basil or mint
About 1 cup chopped tomatoes
Juice of one lemon
Salt (about ½ teaspoon) and a few generous grinds of pepper
Olive oil – about 2-3 tablespoons

This recipe depends entirely on the tomatoes. They must be flavorful and delicious.

Put the bulghur in a bowl and pour in enough hot water to cover it with some to spare. Let it sit until the bulghur is soft – softer than al dente, but not much softer. If the water is absorbed before the bulghur is soft, add more water. This will take about a half hour.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. When the bulghur is soft, drain it in a sieve. Add the vegetables, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir it up gently. Taste it to check the salt. Add the olive oil and stir that in. Voila! Yummers!

Today I added a nectarine to it and that was very good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A conclusive sort of day

I usually walk to work and to church through Seattle University, past its lovely fountain, and up some steps which I always refer to as the Spanish Steps since they rather resemble the steps in Rome. Sometimes if I am in a hurry to get home from church, I go a somewhat less roundabout route past the SU library and by a tree that I particularly like. Recently, however, I was rushing home from Mass, took the shorter route, and was foiled! There was construction blocking my way. Then I remembered a lovely garden sequestered behind some buildings. It is a sort of Hortus Conclusus, and is not really on the way from anywhere to anywhere. But it did let me skirt the construction. What a pleasure this little garden is. As it is hidden behind things, it is always quite and serene. I think it must have been a little prayer garden for the Jesuits who lived right next to it. A Hortus Conclusus has certain required characteristics, including a fountain, and this quiet garden fills the bill.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A delightfully foggy day

I had lunch the other day with a very old and once very dear friend – one from whom I had parted years ago on rather acrimonious terms. I had always liked him very much, and was sad that we had such a misunderstanding. I had tried to mend fences, so to speak, several times, but it was no go. Then I met him at a concert and he gave me his phone number so I could call and invite him to dinner, but I lost it (and the whole cellphone in which I had noted it) before I ever called. Several more years went by. Then one evening I came home from work, and there was a note on my door, asking me to call. I was delighted to. He took me to lunch at Ivar’s Acre of Clams – a real Seattle institution and tourist destination. And someplace I never had been, although I have been to Ivar’s Salmon House many times. The two Ivar’s restaurants that I know have an inside semi-posh restaurant and an outside-over-the-water fish and chips bar. I had eaten at the fish and chips part with my mother and Rebecca a zillion years ago, and I seem to recall that my mother made a scene which somehow involved milk. Maybe a seagull tried to get her milk or dropped a chip (or worse) in it. Those gulls are pesky fellows and are determined to share your meal if you will only allow them to. Little Rebecca always enjoyed my mother’s scenes as much as my mother did, and I think part of the thrill was that I was always suffused in shame. As my mother got older (and so did I), I came to enjoy them a bit myself. Don’t tell anyone that, however. Oddly enough, Rachael tells of going to Ivar’s Salmon House years ago with Lillian and her family, one of whom made a scene there and embarrassed Rachael. I believe it was Lillian herself, but not sure about that. Will have to check. Anyway, no one made a scene on Monday, and I had a wonderful time. We reminisced, and it was as if there had been no time in between our visits. Rebecca is excited about future visits and we plan to have Bill to dinner very soon.

Here are some of the gulls waiting on the nearby fireboats for a bite of an innocent and unsuspecting tourist’s lunch. And, you can see that the Seattle weather has returned to normal, God be praised!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A delicious day

I said I would tell you about the maaahvelous dinner Rebecca prepared while I napped on her bed, and here are the yummy pictures. First, we went to the Market, and here she is purchasing vegetables from a very cute H’mong lady. She wanted to get them at another stand, but this woman was just too adorable not to purchase something from. So I had to nag a bit about it. I’m an expert at that. Actually, the reason Becca didn’t want to buy something from the cute woman was because she already had everything she needed. That is reasonable, I suppose. Rebecca is a vegan so the pasta did not have eggs but garbanzo beans all mooshed up. I think it was better for it – actually, I know it was because it was the best pasta I ever ate in my entire life!!! It was really a miraculous food of the goddesses. Our friend Julie, another goddess, was there as well. That was a bit of a miracle also. I said, “We haven’t seen Julie in a long time. Why don’t we invite her over.” So we called her, and she said that she had been driving past my house and thinking of us at that very moment, and thinking that we had better get together asap! (Naturally, she didn’t answer her cell phone as she was driving, but waited and called back a few minutes later. Julie is a woman of sense.)

PS. I am hoping Becca will put the recipe on her blog right away.

PPS. Update! She did put it here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A day downtown

I had planned to spend Saturday staring at the wall in order to recover from my gruesome week at work. However, Rebecca, knowing that I am a major fan of Julia, invited me to go to the Julia Child movie. The bargain matinee was at 1030. This meant leaping out of bed – actually staggering down to the kitchen for the first cuppa – at the crack of dawn – and trotting downtown before the crowds arrived. It was a somewhat subdued downtown in the early morning, but when we came out of the movie – which was wonderful, by the way - the crowds had arrived. I love downtown Seattle. There is always excitement and a frisson of energy in the air. And always fun things to see- like this cyanotic window display. We went to the Market for vegetables, and on the way saw several pigs. One was a huge pig truck in a parking lot, selling some food item which was surely not vegetarian. There was a new pig in the Market, high up. And a Vietnamese wedding party nearby. We later saw the wedding party coming out of Tully's, all supplied with some exotic coffee drink. Then my own little Julia Child took me home and cooked me a lovely dinner which I will tell you about tomorrow. Or so.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An anniversary

Today was the anniversary of Tom’s death. Rebecca and I went to Mass and dinner afterward with Suzanne and some of Tom’s other friends. We had a fun time and told happy Tom stories. I told pathetic executrix dealing with the horrid bank stories, and got appropriate sympathy. On the way, we stopped at the library and nearby, saw these cute bees.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A medical day

My Aunt Pauline had a lump that looked like a big cyst in her wrist, and her fingers were always getting numb. Was there a connection? No doubt. I told her to go to a hand surgeon. So she called her doctor and said she wanted to be referred to a hand surgeon. “I can take care of it,” he said, so she went to him so he could take care of it. “Hmmmmm,” he said. ”I don’t want to mess with that! You had better go to a surgeon.” “How about a hand surgeon?” she asked. “No, he said, “A regular surgeon can take care of it.” So she went to the regular surgeon. “Hmmmmm,” he said.” I don’t want to mess with that! You had better go to a hand surgeon,” the regular surgeon said. So he referred her to a hand surgeon. My aunt probably said something like “Grrrrr!” The hand surgeon said, "Numb fingers, eh?" and did some sort of carpal tunnel surgery. The numbness is gone, but the lump is still there. Her dressing looked a bit like something Joe Palooka might wear, and the stitches impressive, too. The hand surgeon did a good job.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A long awaited day

Only my nearest and dearest will immediately appreciate the significance of this photo. What is it? It’s my bedroom windows. The magic and wonder is that you can see through them. They now have panes of glass in them rather than boards (through which squirrels can squeeze) across them. John, the fellow who does many jobs for me said my windows all needed a lot of work. For most of the winter and during the snows, I had missing windows in the downstairs part of my house. We were chilly even with our coats on. After that ordeal, I told him not to bother with the upstairs ones. I couldn’t stand months of no windows. “Oh,” he said, “Those took so long because it was winter and I couldn’t work on them as well. The upstairs ones will go really quickly – three days a window.” That was in – I don’t even know when – maybe March. I know that in May, he started saying, “I will be done tomorrow. I promise!” He said this on a daily basis. For a lot of days, I believed him. Then I just got irked every time I heard it. Then, when I came home from work on Saturday midnight (about 90 tomorrows later), there my windows were, and there he was – putting on the final touches. I could not believe it. I have to say, that whenever he finally works on a project, his work is exquisite – way beyond what one would expect from a normal carpenter. His attention to detail is amazing, and there are always little artistic extras with every project. But the windowless waiting! I told Rachael how nice my windows were, and that she should be cheered. At this rate, hers will be in by November!