Friday, May 06, 2011

Changing Gears

I've been a little distracted this week because the boy and I were getting ready to close next week on this cute little A-frame house. We had been through a lot trying to get the house since February and it was all finally coming together — though along the way seemingly  everything that could go wrong did. It must have been for a reason because — as some of you may already know from my other online rantings—it fell through earlier in the week. There was a court decision in Michigan that calls into question a certain kind of foreclosure and, of course, this house was that kind. So sadly, this poor little houses will have to sit empty for even longer because now no one can buy it. I may go into more detail next week and explain step-by-step how this whole thing proceeded since we first bid on the house in February because it may be helpful to others in a similar situation. 

In the meantime though, we're dreaming about new possibilities and adventures, including these amazing houseboats. What do you think? I could be very happy in one of these!

So for now, I'm busy getting ready — and getting super excited—for the Crafty Supermarket in Cincinnati this weekend and road trippin' to Renegade Austin in two weeks! Hooray for road trips and houseboats! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Crispy, creamy potato puffs

I have only been cooking as regularly as I do now for a few years. I always liked the idea of it, but would only do so about once a year when I lived in NYC with a mere postage stamp for a kitchen and an enormous wealth of terrific restaurants all around. Once I moved away and had my own space with its own comparatively enormous kitchen, I began to enjoy having people over and cooking for them. And now enough time has passed that I am starting to have recipes that remind me of a certain time and space and of feeding family and friends. I have plenty of memories of the foods of my youth made lovingly by my mom, or aunt or grandmother — even my brothers. But, it's slightly different when the memory is of having made it yourself for others. This is one of those recipes. 

The first year I had moved out of New York and rented a little house to myself on the North Fork of Long Island, I had my family over for Easter dinner. I chose an ambitious menu from Food & Wine and was dedicated to cooking every last bit of it as it appeared in the magazine. I slaved away and sweated and puffed and didn't let anyone lift a finger — my stress measurable with each cocktail my family downed while watching me through a haze of flour and steam and mumbled profanities in the kitchen. It may even be the recipe for which I bought a potato ricer. 

I have relaxed somewhat in the kitchen since then, but still recognize the beauty of these little puffs of creamy, light, potato puff balls encased in a crispy yet tender crust. I'm glad I sweated through that evening with family so that I can look back now and laugh and make them somewhat more gracefully for the boy — just a half batch — without worrying that I'm missing an ingredient or that they might not be perfect. I am cherishing this feeling and look forward to more of it as the years pass—especially once we get back into a physical space where we can fit a table that will seat more than two!  

I made these potato puffs — basically an amped-up tater tot—this year for Easter along with this leg of lamb recipe slightly modified with the addition of a thin layer of dijon mustard on the lamb before coating it with the garlic-herb paste. I was so ready to dig in, that the above is the only photo I bothered to snap. This meal is divine — enjoy!

From Food & Wine

2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil, for frying

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Cook for 1 minute over high heat, shaking the pan frequently to dry out the potatoes.
Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Stir in the egg, butter, dry milk, cheese, flour and nutmeg; season with salt. Using floured hands, roll the potato mixture into 1-inch balls; you should have about 60.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working in batches of about 12, fry the potato balls over moderately high heat until they are browned on 3 sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, season lightly with salt and transfer the potato balls to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls.
When all of the puffs are fried, reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve at once.
Note: The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated  for a few hours or overnight. Bring the potato balls to room temperature before frying.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Wild Spring Ride limited edition print

Tada! One of the things I mentioned in my latest newsletter was that I was going to be releasing a few limited edition prints, originals and handprinted items. Some of you may have seen the handprinted giraffe onesies I made for the Handmade Arcade in Pittsburgh or on Saturday at Blue House. I haven't posted those online yet (I'm still trying to figure out the best way to photograph them), but what I do have is my first ever limited edition print. Called Wild Spring Ride, this is an edition of 50 — each signed, titled and numbered and packaged with a Statement of Reproduction to authenticate the edition.

It's a piece that I developed during the Get Your Paint On workshop with Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough earlier this spring. It is a complete departure in technique for me as it is all painting — no drawing. Using the work of Jennifer Davis as inspiration, this is where my mind flowed—and I have to say I like it! Jennifer's color palette is predominantly pastels, which I usually am not a fan of but she does so in a way that feels menacing and edgy yet oddly appealing. I definitely recommend taking a stroll through her shop or portfolio. And I would also highly recommend the Get Your Paint On course if you are looking to spark your creativity — no experience necessary! I really enjoyed this process and hope to keep up with the painting and develop it more in the coming year or so.