Monday, August 31, 2009

Sand Art

(5x7 Sand, Card board)

Today I created a drawing with sand. This is a sketch of the color concept for a fabric project I'm starting in a few days.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Post Card

I finally finished this post card last night and dropped it in the mail. See the finished product here: heebeejeebee

happy mail

Birthday Pasta

Money is a little tight these days, and my mother is not the frivolous type. So, I decided that it would be appropriate to go with "a gift from the heart" this year for her birthday, and left the fancy present buying up to my dad & sister. My dad surprised her with a huge catawba tree that she's been pining after for a while... and my sister took my mom to a FANCY nursery and bought my mom a few plants that she's been dying to have for the last 15 years but never got!

So I made a bunch of coupons out of construction paper and crayons:
Sike! Are you crazy?! (The above is an image I found on the web and is not my handiwork.)

My gift from the heart was to spend the day at my mom's, do some yard work for her that she wouldn't want to do herself (digging up overgrown alchemilla plants in 90 degree heat), while she went out with my dad to work out and have a romantic lunch for 2. They're so cute.

I also planned a lovely dinner of Saffron Pasta with a Red Pepper Sauce, Almond Crusted Sturgeon, and a Warm Green Bean, Tomato, Basil Vinaigrette Salad. Oh, so yummy.

As for the pasta... I used:
3 c flour
4 farm fresh eggs
1tsp saffron
1/4 c warm water
This recipe makes enough for 4 to 6 people.

First, let the saffron sit in the warm water for about 10 minutes.

Mix the flour, eggs and saffron water until everything starts to clump together and you don't have very much loose flour in the bowl. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead it until smooth. Don't worry, your hands won't turn yellow; but they will smell heavenly. Let the dough rest for an hour. This can actually be done overnight... which is what I did, and brought the dough to room temperature before I started rolling it out.

When you're ready to roll out the pasta, divide it into 6 to 8 smaller balls. I used a hand crank pasta roller but there is no reason why you can't roll this out with a rolling pin and hand cut your pasta.

Flatten the ball a little and roll it through the widest setting, which on my crank is about 1/8 inch wide. Fold the flattened dough in half and run it through the widest setting again. Do this about 8 or 9 times. Next you can start decreasing the width, passing the dough through each width 2 or 3 times. Eventually your dough will reach your desired width, then you can cut it.

At my house, I hung the pasta on edges of large bowls to air dry a little bit, but at my mom's house, I laid the pasta on floured sheets of paper to dry a little. Laying out and drying the pasta for 30 minutes or so will prevent the pasta from sticking to itself.

At this point, you can boil how ever much pasta you want to eat for 3-4 minutes. The rest of the uncooked pasta can be put into containers and frozen... Then when you're ready for another pasta meal, you can throw the frozen pasta directly into boiling water for 3-5 minutes!

The Red Pepper Sauce has only 6 ingredients:
2 roasted red bell peppers
2 shallots
4 fresh off the vine Roma tomatoes
1/2 c wine (Probably a Chardonnay, though I used our homemade blackberry wine... mmm)
3 tbs fresh chopped basil
1c freshly grated parmesan cheese to stir in when serving.

Slice or dice the shallots and get them golden in a pan with a bit of olive oil on a med-high heat.
Remove the skin and seeds from the roasted peppers, roughly chop them and add them to the shallots. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the peppers and shallots. Stir around to get the heat through the tomatoes, then add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer this stuff into a bowl, and have at it with an immersion blender until smooth. Pour the sauce on freshly boiled (and drained) pasta, then toss with the cheese and basil. Done!

This sauce is naturally sweet, but light, and goes nicely with the delicate flavor of the saffron in the pasta.

happy food!

post script:
A note about salt.
I don't use salt in a lot of my recipes, especially when there is an ingredient that contains salt. I decided the cheese has enough sodium for this dish... 1 cup of parmesan cheese has about 1300-1500 mg of sodium! The average person can have 2000 mg a day, but I aim to have less than 1500 mg a day. It is difficult to consume a small amount of sodium when eating prepared foods; 1 slice of bread has 150 mg... double that for a sandwich... and don't forget the mustard (100 mg) and mayo (100 mg)... and you already have 500 mg which is still before the cheese (170 mg for 1 slice of havarti) and lunch meat (smoked turkey 1 slice 300 mg!). You get the point, right?

I think salt intake is really important to watch out for. Especially when high blood pressure is so predominant in both America and Japan which is where I spend most of my time. My goal is to live a long healthy life without depending on drugs to keep me alive! el fin.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zucchini Frittata

My sister Christine and I were talking on the phone about our zucchini woes today, and she turned me onto the idea of ways to use a lot of zucchini at once. She had made zucchini bread the other day, and had a lot of left over grated zucchini so she sauteed it and used it in spaghetti sauce, and also suggested making a frittata since I already made a pasta sauce with zucchini last week. The grated zucchini's volume reduced tremendously when sauteed. Since I had great ingredients for it on hand, I decided to make a frittata for dinner tonight.

I used:
1 medium green zucchini grated
1 medium yellow squash grated
(combined total of 2 1/2 cups of grated stuff)
2 shallots (use half an onion if you don't have shallots)
5 sun-gold tomatoes (that is all I had ripe on my vine)
2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
3 slices of bacon
1 handful of cubed fresh mozzarella
black pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to top the frittata
4 farm fresh eggs
(makes enough for 8 good size slices.... serve with a yummy crusty bread and a tart-zingy salad which compliments nicely the natural sweetness of the zucchini, tomato, and basil. don't forget your glass of pinot grigio too..)

Start by cooking up your bacon until crispy and set aside.

Dice or thinly slice up your shallots and sauté them in a bit of olive oil. When translucent crank up the heat to high and add the grated zucchini.

Keep an eye on the zucchini, stirring it a lot to make sure it isn't burning on the bottom, and cook until it is reduced to about 1/3 of the volume and there is no liquid visible in the bottom of the pan... Zucchini is mostly water so it will shrink down a lot (yesssss!). Reduce the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes, some fresh black pepper, the basil and parsley. Stir that around until the tomatoes start to break down then put the mixture into a mixing bowl to cool off.

Once the zucchini mixture is cooled... add the chopped bacon, chopped mozzarella, and eggs. I also put a dusting of cayenne pepper but it didn't seem to do much, so I ended up eating mine with some green hot sauce. Yum. Stir it up until everything is combined and the eggs are mixed in well.

Turn on the broiler.

Heat up a 12 inch skillet that has been sprayed with some cooking spray on a medium heat. Pour the egg-zucchini mixture into the skillet and let it cook w/o stirring or scrambling for about 7-8 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked half way through. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the entire surface of the frittata, then put the entire skillet into the oven. Make sure your skillet can go in the oven! I put my broiler on high, and the skillet on the 3rd rack from the top for about 5-7 minutes until the eggs were cooked, and the cheese turned brown. viola!

Let the frittata rest for a minute or two before slicing and serving!

happy cooking,
xoxo, char

Frittata with... (guess the ingredient)

What can the secret ingredients be?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fresh Pasta

Since finding myself in an over abundance of zucchini, I've been searching high and low for creative ways to use the vegetable...

In the last week and a half, I've eaten zucchini bread, grilled zucchini, sauteed zucchini, zucchini in a tomato pasta sauce, and zucchini in a coconut curry with black sea bass.... and left overs of every said dish several times.

Needing some inspiration from preexisting recipes I decided to look at the Food Network website. I ended up finding a recipe by Jamie Oliver for Penne Carbonara with Zucchini. After making it, I found the recipe to be quite greasy, and surprisingly a little too zucchini-y even for myself.

All was not lost; inspired by his most recently acquired kitchen gadget (his dad's pasta roller), Jeff decided to make our own pasta for the Carbonara. Instead of penne, we had home made fettucini! The pasta itself had such a fresh and clean quality to it, it was easy to overlook my disappointment in the sauce on the pasta. Ha.

Making pasta is incredibly easy, and anything uncooked can be frozen which is great to have on hand for quick future meals. I'm really excited about making more pasta in the future.

happy noodles

Monday, August 3, 2009

Zucchini Boats

It is zucchini season, and everyone I know has refrigerators overflowing with zucchini and squash right now... including myself. Since I shared this recipe with some of my friends over the weekend, I figured it wouldn't hurt to post it because it is a super fast and easy one!

Zucchini Boat is a dish that my dad grew up eating. I learned to make it when I was about 12 or 13 while visiting my grandmother Virginia (Ginny), and my Aunt Diane and Uncle Joe in West Virginia. That was the summer I learned how to make the best Sloppy Joe filling from Aunt Diane, and Grandma showed me how to bake Italian Bread & Pepperoni Rolls, but those recipes will be posted another day.

3-4 medium Zucchinis (around 12-14 inches)
1lb Italian Sausage (uncased; if you buy the stuff in the casing, you'll have to squeeze the sausage out of each link.)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1c bread crumbs (saltine cracker crumbs can be used also)
1 egg

So for the boats....

Preheat your oven to 350 and boil a big pot of water.

Slice 3 or 4 medium (around 12-14 inches) zucchinis in half lengthwise.

Put the sliced zucchinis in the boiling water for about 7 minutes to soften the flesh for scooping.

Drain and set aside so they can cool off before you scoop out the middle.

In a skillet, brown a pound of Italian sausage (the uncased stuff). Drain off excess grease... at this point I'll even pat the ground sausage with a paper towel to get even more of the fat off. Then throw the sausage into a big mixing bowl.

Now, the zucchinis should be cool enough to handle.

Scoop the middles of the zucchini out with a spoon and put it into the mixing bowl with the sausage. tip: don't scoop out too much because the boats will get too thin and collapse, so leave about a 1/2 inch of flesh.

Add a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup bread crumbs and an egg. Stir up the zucchini middles, bread crumbs, cheese, and egg until the breadcrumbs aren't dry anymore.

Place the hollow zucchini on a large baking sheet that has either been drizzled with a little bit of olive oil or has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Spoon the mixture into the hollow zucchini boats. Bake at 350 for about 45 mins. Since the insides are already cooked (except for the egg), the baking is just to get the top crispy and brown, and so the outer zucchini boat gets tender.

happy zucchini