Friday, March 02, 2012

Wedding invite design

Earlier this year I was approached by a couple who had received my Boston Terriers in Love card from a friend. They liked the card very much and are getting married this June. The two have a full brood of dogs and wondered if I could translate the card into Boxers, since they have three. I had a great time putting together the top design. Ultimately, they decided on something closer to the original design, in a folded card style seen below, but I still wanted to show this off because it so much fun to do and I thought you might enjoy it!  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles

This is a great, fast recipe for weeknight dinners. I joked with the boy that it's like a quick Asian version of bolognese sauce — ground meat fully flavored with a luscious poignant sauce, but made on the fast. I've never had the authentic Chinese Dan dan version, and so can only imagine that this is most highly Americanized version courtesy of Bon Appetit — but I just loved its wonderful flavor! I used the suggested substitute of Japanese udon noodles, as I couldn't find traditional Chinese cu mian (thick fun) noodles called for in the original recipe. I think next time I might Americanize it even more by trying linguine (sacrilege, mais non?!?) as I might prefer a more substantial bite to the noodle than the somewhat mushy udon provides.

But back to the flavor — it is fantastic, yet somewhat subtle. Again, I did more substituting with Aleppo pepper flakes standing in for Sichuan peppercorns. This is starting to sound like a bad Epicurious recipe review where every ingredient is substituted out for something else and then the reviewer is so sadly disappointed in the "recipe," and yet, this is not, and — I am not!

You will find all kinds of threads online saying there is no substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. Alas, I could not find them conveniently, so resorted to my favorite hot pepper, the Aleppo, and just loved the overall result, but I am sure you could also give plain ol' crushed red pepper flakes a try, though I may start with just a 1/2 teaspoon as they are significantly spicier than Aleppo. This dish is truly yummers and you get the picture: Make do with what you have and try this delicious noodle dinner. I served it with a quick pickled cucumber salad to cool the fires on your tongue.

Dan Dan Noodles
Serves 3
Adapted from Bon Appetit

8 ounces Shanghai-style noodles (cu mian) or udon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons (or less) chili oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns or Aleppo/crushed red pepper flakes
Large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

Cook noodles in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until just tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let stand until cold. 

Combine chicken stock and next six ingredients for sauce.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper, and stir, breaking up pork with a spoon, until halfway cooked, about 2 minutes. Add ginger; cook until pork is cooked through and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. 

Add sauce and simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. 

Drain noodles well and add to simmering sauce. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. 

Divide between three bowls and garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the subject of love

I recently had the pleasure of helping my friend Rebecca Packard, the founder of a wonderful online arts magazine called The Provo Orem Word. Her magazine is devoted to the arts and is filled with incredibly high-quality content, including book, theater, film and arts reviews, fiction and nonfiction essays, poetry and much more from the plethora of talented artists and art institutions in her region. Rebecca was in need of an interim designer this winter, so I put together the love-themed February issue (and she kindly asked to use my Bostons on the cover!) and am in the midst of finalizing the March issue. While some of the content is specific to the area, most of it has a broader appeal. I encourage you to have a look at the recent issue as well as the archives.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter blues, spring greens

I've been in quite a blogging funk. If you're a regular around these parts, perhaps you've noticed. Over the past week I even considered pulling the plug on the whole endeavor, having seen several other of my favorite bloggers do the very same this week. But on careful consideration, I realized that it is probably no coincidence that those announcements—and my feelings—came at the peak of the winter doldrums. It does, of course, depend on where you live, but right now in southeast Michigan it has been gray, grey, gray with not nearly enough snow to make it a happy gray and seemingly no end in sight. I've been feeling it and decided that now, in the midst of these wintery blues, is not the best time to make that decision. Instead, I am determined to recommit myself to the health and happiness of this little ol' blog project of mine because it does truly make me happy, and perhaps committing so little to it lately has contributed to my low creatie energy levels, or at least hasn't been there to cheer my moods.

So, in honor of this decision and as a testament to my intentions, I offer you this burst of spring color and flavor: A portioned down recipe for a lovely soup reeking of spring that Dorie Greenspan calls "Cheating on Winter" pea soup. This is not your smoky ham bone split pea, but a bright, light soup made vividly green with frozen peas and romaine lettuce. Don't fear the cooked lettuce — it gets fully pureed and lends a subtle grassiness without any wilted lettuce undertones.  I can't wait to repeat it in the height of pea season and serve it chilled. In the meantime, it's a wonderful promise that spring will indeed come soon enough.

"Cheating on Winter" pea soup
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table

1/2 Tb butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth
1/2 lb frozen peas (no need to defrost)
1/2 medium head romaine lettuce, sliced (about 4 cups)
Optional garnishes: Sour cream, crumbled cooked bacon

Melt butter in medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to boil. Stir in peas and lettuce and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. You'll never fully blend the little pea skins, but get it as smooth as possible. Return soup to pot and season with salt and pepper. (You can thin it with a bit more water or broth if necessary, though my batch was quite thin.)

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or bacon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012