Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday fritatta

I just can't get enough of the fresh asparagus. I decided to make a fritatta with it for lunch today. We are in need of an eight-inch skillet — it's just such a handy size. But, without one, I opted for the 10-inch cast iron and it worked swimmingly.

With the oven preheating to 400 degrees, I poured a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of the skillet and tossed the asparagus around in it to coat with a little salt and pepper. Then I tried to organize the asparagus into a lovely design with a few spears placed around in a spoke pattern and smaller chopped pieces scattered throughout — one spear obviously made a break for it at some point in the process as seen above. I roasted these for several minutes until they were sizzly and starting to soften. Then I poured in a couple of eggs scrambled up with some scallions and a little more salt and pepper stirred into them. Back into the oven for four or five minutes. For the last minute or so I turned on the broiler to brown it up a bit. Scrumptious!

I'm definitely feeling my kitchen inspiration seeping back in. I'm contemplating going all out over the weekend with the full-on Korean menu from March's Gourmet. It's a feast for ten, so I don't think I'll be going dish-for-dish, but I do want a spread with all the little bowls of condiment type sides.

Here is my abridged version of the menu:
• Grapefruit Soiju cocktails (my sweet mom sent a box of oranges and grapefruits for Easter — this is just the thing for them. Too bad she can't be here for a Korean Mother's Day fiesta.)
• Cucumber Apple Pickle
• Quick Kimchi
• Soy-pickled jalapenos
• Korean-Style romaine
• Short rib and vegetable stew
• Brown rice and barley

I may or may not include the following, depending on my commitment level and stamina!
• Warm tofu with spicy garlic sauce
• Sauteed oyster mushrooms
• Shrimp and scallion pancakes

It's a long list, but much of the prep is done on day one to allow for pickling time, etc. So my plan is to hit the Asian market tonight, do a whole lot of prep and cooking tomorrow and then a little bit more on Sunday for a super celebration Sunday night dinner. What do you think? (Option 2 is to finally pick up a much-coveted grill and have some steaks! Which reminds me to look at the Asian market for a tao: a clay-lined bucket used as a grill. It was mentioned in a story about the Portland Thai restaurant Pok Pok.)

Oh my goodness, so many good things to try! I'll fill you in on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Finding spring's first asparagus and farro

It's funny how when you're cooking every night, it just happens and comes together easily. You have an easy sense of what should be on the menu, or how much effort you might be willing to put in. But then, just as easily, you get out of the routine and — poof — it's gone. Or at least, that's how it's been with me. Maybe it's inspiration, maybe it's habit… I'm not sure. But anyway, I haven't cooked a whole lot in the last two weeks because of my schedule and am having a hard time getting back into the swing of things.

I did find a wee bit of inspiration last night at Arbor Farms Market — fresh asparagus picked yesterday morning from Palmyra, Michigan. You can see how fresh it is looking at the tightly closed tips and fresh, roughly picked ends — none of those dried out clean cut ends you usually find in grocery store asparagus. As I was making dinner, I kept nibbling bits of it raw — so good! I had forgotten how good real spring asparagus is.

I decided to make a recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking: Farro with Green Onion Sauce, Toasted Walnuts and Asparagus. I've been wanting to try this recipe for ages since I had never tasted farro. I was just over at Heidi's terrifically healthy and yummy blog, 101 Cookbooks, and am certainly starting to feel more inspired (top of my list: Yogurt Tartlets and Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs. Who needs dinner when you can have an appetizer and dessert, right?!).

Farro with Green Onion Sauce, Toasted Walnuts and Asparagus
from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking
The recipe serves four and since we were having it as a side dish with chicken, I halved the recipe. I'm including Heidi's version for four here.

2 cups farro, picked over and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 Tb olive oil
12 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut on a sharp diagonal into 1-inch pieces
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts
Creme fraiche, for garnish (optional)
Freshly grated Parm cheese, for garnish
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Combine farro and stock in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour. (Note: I used semi-pearled farro which, as Heidi notes, cooks in about half that time.)

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over med-high heat, add chopped green onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir in couple pinches of salt. Puree briefly in food processor, but don't go overboard — you want chunky bits of greenery in there. (This part was so easy and yummy, I could have done full recipe and eaten it all!)

When the farro is nearly cooked, stir in asparagus. Let pot simmer for another couple of minutes, until the asparagus is bright green. Some stock will still be visible in pot. It will continue to be absorbed when you take it off the heat. Stir in lemon zest, walnuts and 1/ tsp salt. (
I toasted the walnuts whole in a skillet. Next time, I think I would chop first and get them nice and toasty in the oven for a fuller, toastier taste.)

Ladle into bowls and garnish. (I skipped the creme fraiche. But I love adding all the garnishes — it's like composing a painting on the plate, or in the bowl as the case may be.)

The lighting in our kitchen makes for some interesting color shifts, but here is an idea of what it looked like! Delicious!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This little fizzy went to market

I've decided to bite the bullet and participate in my first craft show. I recently joined M.I.C.E. — Michigan Indie Crafters of Etsy — and through them was invited by Kate of chicalookate to join a group of Etsy sellers at the Ann Arbor Sunday Artisans Market. Yikes! The lovely image above was created by Marcy of All Things Grow (just found this on chicalookate's blog and had to add it to the post because I love it!) and the ad below was designed by another MICE member — BarrelOfMonkeys. I've been wanting to start doing shows for a while now, but have always worried about how to display everything, having enough inventory, putting myself out there… etc. But I figured, when an opportunity presents itself so handily, I better just dive right in, commit to it and worry about the details later… well, later is now and the show is June 7th. If you're in the area, come on down and say hi! I'll be the one cowering under my table (do I even have a table?!)!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Morning of rest and indulgence

Good afternoon, everyone. A few months back I took a part-time job at an outdoor clothing/gear shop downtown to get myself out and about a bit and bring in a little extra money. Being a college town, many of the employees are students and last week was finals. I offered to work some extra hours to cover and so today was the first day in many that I didn't have to go to work. Instead, I indulged myself fully, lying in bed reading and drinking coffee all morning. Looking out the window I couldn't believe how quickly the leaves are filling in on the trees. I'm in the midst of Watership Down and would highly recommend it to anyone interested. It's one of those books that I always meant to read, but never did. I rediscovered it on Goodreads. I've also got a loaf of bread in the oven, having finally found a bit of time to try out the new locally grown and milled flour from Westwind Milling in Linden. It smells heavenly. The seed trays and pots have been brought out for a day of sunshine on the balcony and, as you can see above, the basil is thriving and ready to move up in the world. The other seeds are not doing quite as well though the jalapenos and chives seem pretty healthy.

Anyway, while having an extra long soak in the shower, I took some time to contemplate the state of our bathroom. The boy and I decided yesterday that we would renew our lease for the coming year and so, once again, home projects have jumped to the head of the line in my mind. We'd like to paint the entire apartment some fun colors — all picked out and just waiting for us to jump in. But the bathroom is in need of a bit more than that, I'm afraid. It has no windows and is so horribly, terribly dark. The lighting is all wrong and colors pretty dismal — and I'm just not sure what to do about it. The white on the upper walls is that super cheap kind that has more of a washed out grey feel to it. Definitely in need of a fresh coat of paint, something to brighten it up. For the walls, I've been thinking about those shimmery, luminescent paints by Ralph Lauren, but am trying to find a non-Ralph option that might be cheaper and found closer to home.

There is definitely some potential in the room, it's just a matter of finding it. It has cute black and white tiles on the floor, but the wall tiles are grey — a nice purple-y grey, but still — contributing to the dim dankness. You can see the corner of a little stool we picked up at Ikea in the fall that I painted red. I wanted to add a sharp little contrasting design to it, but the red is as far as I got. That's what spring is all about, I suppose. Any thoughts, anyone? Gold foil on the ceiling? Disco ball with spotlight? Paint it black? Anyone? I may have to make a post over at Apartment Therapy. It's nice to have a wee little bit of time to ponder such things, yes? Thanks for reading the world's longest post and have a wonderful afternoon, all!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Beads of seeds

I wanted to start the week by sharing another great find I made at the Lansing City Market last week. Debra Groat of Saverine Creek Heirlooms handcrafts beautiful pieces of jewelry made from heirloom and rare varieties of beans and corn grown on her family's farm in northern Michigan. Each seed is organically grown, planted and harvested by hand. When Kathie Kuhn — who tends to Debra's table at times — pointed them out to me, it took a minute or two for it to sink in that they were made from seeds. But when it did, I couldn't take my eyes off of them. They are so unique and gorgeous! I encourage you to out her web site to see more:

And on another note, I received a most-welcome seed of a different sort from Pam of Yoborobo yesterday. She was kind enough to award this blog, along with eight others a Renee award. And so I have been introduced to a truly inspirational woman and her story — and to the award created by friends in her honor. I will write about it more in the coming week and pass on the award to eight others — but wanted to say a quick thank you here and now!