Verbless VVednesdays

April 23, 2014

Spring nubbins.

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— The Neurotic Gardener never sleeps –

I do not mind a messy sock drawer, I can leave a bed unmade for days, I discard rejected outfits at the foot of my bed like a petulant teenager, and I have gotten a ‘talking to’ from Mr. Muddy Kitchen on more than one occasion for a used strand of dental floss hardened onto my sink basin like someone’s long lost iPhone 3 charger cord, but dang if I can’t stand a single germinating onion seed flung 1/8″ off course. That just doesn’t work for me.

Hello, my name is Jennifer Solow, and (in addition to my OCC) I am a Neurotic Vegetable Gardener (clap, clap).

— Do I love Seed Tape or what?! –

So, as you might imagine, I am seriously excited about my newfound discovery: Seed Tape. And if you suffer from my particular disorder, you will be too.

Okay, so here’s the deal: the tape comes with pre-measured marks and with adhesive (already on there!) that holds just about any ordinary seed in place. The entire length of tape can be planted in the ground, seeded by you, whenever you feel like it. The tape then dissolves and the seeds are left to do their thing. I mean, hello!?

Why is this so great, you ask?

Imagine – me sitting on my ass, perhaps in my pajamas, in my comfy office, in January, February, March…hell, whenever! I meticulously place my seeds exactly where they need to go, hang them on a hanger in my office closet until I’m ready, then plant, in about 30 seconds, in the garden, in situ. 

This was particularly great this year when April’s normally tolerable outdoor temperature turned unseasonably fra-eeeezing and I found myself amidst the charming snowflakes of, like, FEBRUARY!! Instead of freezing my paws off, I simply tweezed my seeds onto my seed tape, lounged around my fireplace, sipped sherry, lounged some more, then voila — planted my entire spring planting in minutes —  without freezing my rosebuds off.

— Peas are so tempting to plant too close to each other. But no…. 4″ to 6″ away from their buddies. –

— Do I have a problem? Um…it’s not that bad. –

— Brrrr. Run back inside ASAP! –

— Gardens should be organized. Life should not. –

— Rows of Perseo radicchio are nothing if not straight. –

Of course, April food is a lot like November food, with lots of junk from the pantry, the last of the curly butternut squash, duck breasts from the freezer and glasses of yummy red vino. The good part is that I actually adore November food – duck breast, fatty junk, squash-something…all delightful! Even in April.

— Lower in fat than turkey, duck breasts are a delicious freezer staple. –

 

— Salt. Fat. Duck. A good name for a band? –

Duck breasts should sit in a puddle of salt in a pie plate for a while before searing, or so says Martha, for about 30 minutes, no more. 

— Oh, dear, Martha, how doth we sear a duck breast again? –

I don’t sear duck breasts too frequently so I forget the best way to do it every time. I always return to Martha, who seems to know best when it comes to poultry.  

— It’s spring! Get your rhubarb on! –

 The first think to pop up in my garden is rhubarb. I always do the conventional thing and stew it up with a few strawberries, but the fact is, I love the rhubarb itself and always eat the rhubarb blobs out and forget about the other stuff. Rhubarb is divine.

— When it’s un-springlike outside, do you tape inside.”

It’s April. Too cold to plant. Too cold to get dressed. Too cold to wake up too much.

SEARED DUCK BREASTS WITH JUNK FROM THE PANTRY

Ingredients

2 6-ounce duck breasts
A fair puddle of coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
7 ounces Bing cherries or a few spoonfuls of jam from the pantry
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
10 twists on the black pepper mill
1/2 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter
 

— It’s always nice to have everything mis en place…in it’s place. –

 
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Take the duck out of the fridge 60 minutes before you want to use it. Cover the breasts in salt and let them sit for 30 minutes in a pie pan. Transfer the duck to the freezer for another 30 minutes.
 
Brush as much of the salt off the duck as possible. Score the fat on top of the duck in a crosshatch pattern, carefully to score only the fat and not the flesh beneath it. 
 
Preheat a small cast iron skillet on medium heat. Place the duck, skin-side-down, in the hot pan and leave it alone for 10 to 12 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and the fat has rendered.
 

— Sear ‘em up! –

Take the pan off the heat, and turn the duck breasts over and let them “kiss” the pan—or so says Thomas Keller. Spoon the excess fat into a heat-proof container and keep for frying potatoes or spreading on whatever.
 
Put the duck, skin-side-up in the pan, in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. The internal temperature will be about 135°F. Let the duck breasts rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing.
 
To make a sauce for the duck, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and the shallots. Sauté for 1 minute, just to soften the shallots. Add the wine, stock, and jam from the pantry. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the honey and the cold butter.
 

— Do something friendly while the duckies wait. –

 
Slice the duck. Pour the sauce onto a pretty plate and arrange the slices of duck on top. 
 

— Spring dinners as as yummy as Autumn ones. –

 

Take your boots off before you come in here!

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 24, 2013

My little friends!

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Little Fried Things

July 22, 2013

– Nothing warms the cockles like little fried things. -

I’m no snob when it comes to fried stuff; I like it all. The crispy bits at the bottom of a barrel of KFC. The browned edges of a pancake that’s been cooked in too much oil (Oops, how did that happen?). A chunk of golden bread on the end of a skewer fresh from the bubbling fondue pot. The fact that I’ve misspelled “fried” as “friend” a dozen times while writing this post is a telling slip-up. There isn’t one molecule in my body that knows how to say no to that glorious, oily crunch.

The garden is a perfect place to find things to fry up in a cauldron of oil. The trick is to fry things that are equally light and frilly in a batter that barely exists. While I’m content to use my cheapest olive oil for frying, salt is an ingredient you shouldn’t skimp on here – something that tastes bright with a flaky texture completes the mouthful. (Maine Sea Salt is my recent obsession after swooning over it at ABC Kitchen.)

– Off on another garden hunt. -

– If I can bear to kick the bees out, squash blossoms are the prettiest thing in the garden to fry. -

– The batter should look like chalky (not gloppy) water. -

“LITTLE FRIED THINGS” – GARDEN FRITURE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of cold water

1 tbsp of flour

1/2 cup of crushed ice at the ready

2 cups of olive oil (or more depending on the size of your pan) for frying

3-4 big handfuls of little things to fry (see below for ideas)

Flaky salt to taste

1. Mix the flour and the cold water together with your fingers in a shallow baking dish (like a pie dish). The batter should be no thicker than chalky water. As you work, you may need to add a bit of the crushed ice to keep the batter thin and cold.

2. If frying larger things like carrots, slice them extremely thin with a mandoline, about 1/32″, so they flash fry instead of “cook” in the oil.

3. Heat the oil in a small pan (preferably cast iron) on a medium high flame until the oil sizzles when you flick a drop of batter into it.

4. Working with tongs in very small batches, add a few pieces of your “things” into the sizzling oil and poke around until each bit is golden and crisp. Be careful because the oil will spatter, especially if too much of the watery batter is clinging to the piece you put it. Don’t crowd the pan or the oil will cool down too much during the process. Remove one piece at a time and place gently onto a few layers of paper towel. Add a few chips of ice to your batter if it gets to thick.

5. Once all your bits are fried up, transfer them to a pretty platter and sprinkle with flaky salt.

– Herbs deserve respect. Make them the star of the show. -

Some ideas of little things to fry:

  • Parsley stems
  • Sage leaves
  • Carrots or beets sliced thinly
  • Squash blossoms
  • Elderflower blossom stems
  • Shiso leaf
  • Basil leaf
  • Spinach leaf
  • Fresh chickpeas in the shell
  • Baby chard leaf
  • Thinly slivered onion
  • Mushroom sliced thinly
  • Borage blossoms
  • Thyme flowers
  • Kale leaf
  • Thai basil
  • Beet greens

– Better than chips? Maybe. -

– Little fried things and a glass of yummy vino. A perfect summer lunch. -

Take your boots off before you come in here!

 

 

 

 

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From Juice to Jowl

July 18, 2013

Every morning I make and drink juice. Not the O.J. sweet-as-sunshine brunch-y sort, but the kale-cucumber-apple-beet-parsley-mint sort (K.C.A.B.P.M.J.). Green juices are super trendy and juice drinkers are fanatics about the health benefits of its live enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, biophotons and cornucopia of nutrients that increase the mirco-electric potential of the cells yada yada, but I [...]

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 17, 2013

On the go.

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 10, 2013

Barn swallow egg omelet?

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Elderflowers – Make Your Own St~Germain

July 7, 2013

By the side of the road is my favorite place to find food. Why? Because I’m a sucker for free stuff. A natural swag hag. And an Elderberry bush is especially swaggish because it has two seasons: the Flower Season and the Berry Season. Two projects. One bush. I look forward to the appearance of [...]

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Steaks & Boys

July 5, 2013

This summer I have agreed to host my 16 1/2-year-old-son, The Big Lebowski, and his two cohorts, also 16 1/2. I made sure the downstairs bathroom-slash-laundry room renovations were finished before the crew descended on the house so that the whole downstairs floor could be boy-land: smells, dirty socks, wet towels, skanky bathing sits, half-eaten [...]

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Verbless VVednesdays

July 3, 2013

Hello, Gorgeous.

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