Friday, August 27, 2010

Bistro 27

Have you been to Bistro 27 for lunch?
Don't let the elegant space with its high ceilings, beautiful linens and attractive and interesting waitstaff fool you. You may look at this place and think it's a bit hoity-toity for a nonprofit arts organization employee to have lunch. Oh crap, am I spelling hoity-toity correctly? Probably not.
Anyway, you can buy a lunch here that is approximately the same price as a lunch at a greasy spoon. But you get so much more in return. You get an experience that feels very upscale with fresh, delicious and beautifully presented food.
This particular dessert in the picture is called a "Bomba." It is passion fruit and mango sorbet encased in a thin layer of white chocolate drizzled with dark chocolate, embellished with fresh strawberries and blackberries. It's so pretty that I had my friend Brian take a picture of me kissing and worshipping it.
Bistro 27 is just kitty corner from Theatre IV on Broad St. Next time you take in a show, I encourage you--no--I demand that you treat yourself to a meal at Bistro 27.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Radio Rehab!

My fauxsband, Clever Clogs Cleveland, had this great sounding little radio that was originally black and missing all its little feet. Today he completely revived it by peeling off the shopworn black laminate and covering it in this pretty maple veneer. We found rubber plug things at Lowe's and made feet out of them.

Doesn't it look fabulous now?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cheater Cheater Pizza Eater

I am the first to admit that I am a total snob when it comes to prepared foods. There is a lady named Sandra (?) on the Food Network who has a cooking show called Semi Homemade or something like that. I am not a fan of her half store bought/half homemade approach. Or her store bought big boobs that don't match the rest of her body. Okay, that was ugly, I am guilty. Moving on..

One night Andy brought home some pre-made pizza crust in a magic tube, and I have to admit, it was really tasty. Thin and crispy, just the way I like it. And it's easy. I didn't have time for crust from scratch, so I trotted down to The Worst Food Lion Ever and bought me one of them pre-made crusts.

But I swear, this was the only thing I cheated on!

I picked little roma tomatoes and basil from my own yard. I slow roasted the romas, and made a little batch of fresh pesto, and cut up some buffalo mozzarella.

What a feast for my eyes--the roasted red tomatoes (whose flavors had concentrated beautifully) and the soft white mozzarella on a field of fresh pesto! It looked even prettier when it was cooked.

So I hope I have not completely besmirched my good name with this one little dalliance with convenience crust. I wish I could say I've gotten it out of my system, but that might not be quite true!

Bag Pic and Book Plug!

Here are some pics of the bag I am making for myself. I am showing a before and after to illustrate the transformation. I haven't finished the handles yet.
I just happen to be reading Irene Ziegler's new book, Ashes to Water, which I highly recommend to everybody! Here I use it for scale.
The bag is draped over the Yellow Pages to help it keep its shape when it dries. And you thought nobody had any use for the Yellow Pages anymore! Think again.



Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Peach of a Cake

Oh. My. My. MY. There are no words to accurately describe how much I love a ripe, juicy summer peach.

Okay that's a bit much, but honestly, I would rather eat a peach than a piece of chocolate. They are in the height of their perfection right now, and I aim to eat them every which way I can.

This is my first upside down cake, but it will be the first of many, because it has all the qualities of a successful recipe--it is easy, it looks beautiful, and tastes divine.

Very ripe peaches with soft flesh and lots of juice work well for this cake. I peeled and sliced 3 of them.

I cheated (gasp, swoon) with a yellow box cake mix, and I don't care who knows it.

I melted a half stick of butter in the cake pan, used a pastry brush to brush some of that butter up the sides, and sprinkled the melted butter on the bottom liberally with dark brown sugar.

Layered the peaches like in the picture, then poured the cake batter until it covered the peaches. The pan was about 2/3 filled, maybe a teeny bit more. 35 to 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and it was done. I waited about 5 minutes, inverted it on a plate and gave it a few very firm knocks. Then I waited another five or so before I lifted the cake plate off.

I was thrilled to see that it all held together beautifully and the brown sugar, fruit juice and butter made a gorgeous glossy golden brown glaze.

Butter + brown sugar + ripe peaches + batter = Heaven.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Suvir's Sweet Pepper Biriyani

I have mentioned again and again how much I love chef Suvir Saran, author of my most used and heavily stained cookbook, Indian Home Cooking.

Today for Sunday dinner I made his Sweet Pepper Biriyani with Cumin and Fennel Seeds. This is a wonderfully light, aromatic dish that is well spiced and relatively low on guilt.

It is basically made from alternating layers of basmati rice, fresh cilantro, and a gorgeous fragrant medley of sweet bell peppers, onions, a spice blend, fresh tomatoes, Andy's homemade tomato chutney (I am so very spoiled) and --this was my addition--raisins and slivered almonds.

The spice blend is coriander, cumin, black mustard and fennel seeds and dried red chile, all ground into a powder. The smell of grinding your own spices is intoxicating.

The veggies are sauteed with the spice blend until everything is really tender. The rice is cooked to near-doneness. Then Everything is stacked up in a covered casserole in layers and baked in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Let it sit for 10 minutes if you are able. The aroma is so tempting that it will be hard to do this unless you have a glass of wine at the ready. Scatter some more cilantro on top and feed to your sweetie with a kiss!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Passport Bag

Man, do I ever hate dragging a pile of luggage around the airport. When I travel I throw caution to the wind and totally trust the airline to take good care of my baggage. Call me crazy, but I always feel really smug when I am calmly settled in my airplane seat and I am watching somebody try to jam a big fat heavy "carry on" into an overhead compartment. I like to feel unencumbered when I am trying to get from A to B. I have enough to keep track of as it is.

I am naming this felted wool bag the Passport Bag. It is just big enough for this following list of things I cannot travel without: Passport, drivers license, debit card, credit card, boarding pass, tinted chapstick, pen (planes never have any pens), and a little cash. Going through airport security is much easier too, unless they just decide to sequester you and feel you up for no good reason.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mini Makeover

My teensy dining room (8x10 feet or so) has a nice big window that I like to use as a focal point to show off my dorky collection of suns and pitchers. I had been meaning to replace the very tragic looking valance for ages, and finally spiffed it up yesterday by making a new colorful shade for it. I chose a lipsticky color with threads of yellow and green running through it. It really pulls my room together! And I am positively queer for ball fringe.

I bought the fabric and the fringe at William and Sherrill. I am overly fond of beautiful fabrics that I cannot afford, and I feel something very close to lust when I walk around in there. I'm usually the only woman walking around in yoga pants, t-shirt and no makeup. The store is highly populated with affluent Salisbury subdivision types who are carefully deliberating fabric choices with their decorators on their cell phones. Some years ago, I had a little business making custom window treatments, and most of my clients lived in Salisbury. They were all very nice, had the exact same taste in everything, and there were endless projects to be done in their McMansions. I eventually had to stop the business because I got so busy I could not keep up with the demand. I still enjoy doing custom window treatments for myself. Here's the before and after:



Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Heart Felting

I am not happy unless I am making something. I must have a project in the works at all times, preferably more than one at a time. I have been a remedial knitter for years. I think I was about 9 when I learned to knit, and now at 51, I am only marginally better at it. I can knit squares, rectangles or things comprised of squares and rectangles. I just learned how to do circular knitting this morning on the internet, and I am starting my first circular knit bag. One of the reasons I am trying to get better at knitting is because knitting leads to felting, much like pot smoking leads to heroin use.

My new obsession is felted objects. Felting is achieved by washing a knitted wool item in hot water. As the wool absorbs water, its follicles stick up. The agitation of the washing makes all the fibers mash and interlock together and the knitted piece becomes a felt piece. The knitted stitches all but disappear. It is such a fascinating transformation, and felted wool is absolutely beautiful and lush.

This is a bag I just finished yesterday. Look how harmoniously this bag coordinates with my blog template! I don't miss a thing, me.
It was much, much bigger when I knitted it, like about 12" square. Now it's exactly the size of a paperback copy of The Mists of Avalon, which is what I used to help the bag keep its shape when I dried it. I still have to line the bag and put a zipper in it, but I couldn't wait to post a pic of it. I'm sending it to Emma for her birthday, which was more than a week ago. You've gotta love a late birthday gift, though, right? Just when you think the prezzies have all dried up, along comes a delightfully unexpected one!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Tomato Channel

Perhaps I will rename my blog The Tomato Channel just for July. I like to obsess when the obsessing is good.

Here's a salad I made for my light dinner tonight. It's not my original idea--I think I had it at a company picnic a few years ago, and I have made many variations on it. This particular one has:

Fresh raw sweet corn
fresh diced tomato
diced whole milk mozzarella
fresh basil
diced purple onion
salt and pepper
olive oil
wine vinegar

Just let everything mingle for about an hour. I recommend eating it at room temperature, which is how I like to eat just about everything. This is a great side to something lovely from the grill, like marinated flank steak. I am just devouring it solo. The raw corn is so refreshing and sweet!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce

When it's a hundred degrees and humid, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven or the stove top. I have an abundance of plum tomatoes at the moment, so this morning I made an uncooked marinated tomato sauce.

Later on, I am going to eat it with some pasta and some shaved parmesan, but this is a versatile sauce that can be used a number of ways. It makes a wonderful bruschetta topping, and grilled or broiled on flatbread with some little chunks of fresh mozzarella, it is divine.

Since I was still in my PJ's, I made this with only things I had on hand. I suppose another name for this sauce could be Lazy Slacker Sauce. Here's what I put in it:

10 plum tomatoes, diced
one clove of garlic, minced
about 12 basil leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon of honey
1/2 cup of olive oil

Just mix this together in a glass bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit in room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. Be careful not to go too heavy on the garlic--it will be plenty pungent in its raw state.

A tip about storing fresh tomatoes:

If you store your lovingly grown tomatoes in the fridge, you should be shaken and have your hair pulled. You might as well buy them at a suburban supermarket in the dead of winter. If you have made the effort to grow tomatoes, do not ever store them in the fridge. This kills their flavor and causes the flesh to go mealy. Just keep them in a pretty bowl and eat lots of them so they don't go bad. If you can't eat them fast enough, use them to make friends with your neighbor. If you still have too many, can or freeze them!

Friday, July 9, 2010

My money is so safe that even I can't touch it!

What I love about traveling in this day and age is that, no matter where you are in the world, you can stick your ATM card in a machine and money comes out (providing there are funds in your account) in the currency of the country you're in. How great is that? So very convenient.

In the six years that Andy and I have been going to England, I have always done this without any complications. This time, when I got to England I used the card for a cash withdrawal and a couple of purchases, but suddenly my card was declined at the ATM when I needed more cash. I managed without the cash, thanks to my sugar daddy schmusband. When I used the card at Dulles to pay my parking bill, it went through. Then, (I am saying this part using my really snotty voice) when I returned to Richmond all my transactions were declined!

It took 2 days and 3 phone calls and several conversations with supervisors, not to mention the embarrassment of my card being declined as I try to pay for a buggy full of groceries at The Worst Food Lion on Jahnke Road, but I think now the situation is remedied.

Bank of America told me that because the economy is in the crapper, fraud is way up, and they are being hyper vigilant about protecting customers' accounts. I guess I can understand that. What I don't get is 1) Why do they not contact the customer to tell her that she can't have access to her money? and B) When the customer routinely uses the same merchants and ATMs in both the USA and England on a regular basis, are they not savvy enough to tell that the transactions are legitimate?

So I was advised to contact the bank now when I am going out of town to apprise them of my travel plans. This frustrates me beyond reason! Why do I have a PIN? Bank of America is wicked retarded.

Okay, I feel better now. Thank you for listening.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Last summer, I saw this contraption on the internet called the Earthtainer. It is a vegetable growing container made out of 2 big plastic storage bins. The basic idea is a large container that wicks water to the plants from underneath. I bought all the stuff to make it last summer, and like many of my best laid plans, never got around to putting it together. Since I spent something like $60 on all the materials and they were still taking up room in the shed, I finally put my nerdy planter together this past May.

As you can see, I have tomatoes galore in this thing! No weeds to worry about, either. The plants grew very rapidly and yielded lots of fruit! Also, in the midst of a drought, this type of container uses water very conservatively. I fill the reservoir in the bottom through a PVC pipe. The reservoir has a soil filled pond basket in it, and the plants wick water up through the basket. You can see how to make one of your own right here.

Not the most stylish thing to have right in my front yard, but that's where the long, hot, brutal afternoon sun is, so there it sits, making the yard appear just a bit trashy. Of course, now you can purchase an attractive version of this planter for a tidy sum. Might not be a bad idea to actually buy a good looking one, as you can reuse it year after year.

What is better than picking a ripe tomato off the vine and eating it right then and there? Especially when it is warm from the sun and its fresh sweet flavor just has a party in your mouth.