Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sunday Supper Substitution

Sunday Supper is so not going to happen tonight. I have a sneaky suspicion that I may have strep throat. I’m known to be a bit of a hypochondriac. My aunt forbade me to go on WebMD ever again after once self-diagnosing myself with SARS. But this time, I think it might be real. I could not make up this killer sore throat that I’ve had since Thursday. I’m going to make a brothy lentil soup tonight for dinner and call it good. In place of a Sunday Supper recipe though, I hope you’ll accept a little chicken talk.

I noticed that Penny was acting a little funny today. When I went to the coop this morning to let the chickens out of the henhouse, she didn’t come out. She finally did after a few minutes, so I didn’t worry too much about it. Later, from my studio window where I can see the girls, I noticed that Penny was up in the henhouse again. Very peculiar. Then, this afternoon, when I went out to check the nesting boxes, I was delighted to find a beautiful blue-green egg! Penny laid an egg today – her first one since November! It was a little cracked and I suspect it might have happened from being plopped onto a hard surface. Although I just refilled and refluffed the nesting box bedding this morning, all of the shavings were diligently pushed off to the side in a big, fluffy circle by an expectant hen. I wonder if I’ll get as much joy from eating it as I did discovering it today. I know one thing, I sure didn’t appreciate eggs as much as this when I bought them from the supermarket. Every one is really an amazing thing.

Have an awe-inspiring week, everyone!

From Trash to Treasure

 flags and other colorful festive decorations
 ORIGIN: early 18th cent.: of unknown origin.

Like most of my off-topic posts, I debated whether or not to write about this. But, this is what this fair-weather gardener has been doing with her time instead of gardening year-round. I’ve been working on my latest artistic endeavor – bunting notecards.

These cards were inspired by a handmade card my bff, Radhi, made and sent me a long time ago. While I love them because they’re so cute and whimsical, I also adore them because they put what could be trash to use. I have a container full of fabric scraps that are not quite big enough to make something substantial with, but are just too pretty to throw away. I’ve been using all those scraps to make the little bunting triangles on the front of each card. So far, I’ve made over 100 cards (didn’t I tell you I get really into my new hobbies?) without one triangle of new fabric. My sister, Rachel, my thrift store shopping resource, let me know that Value Village sells fabric, big pieces draped on hangers, over in the linens section. So, you can bet I’ll be scoping that out for future bunting creations. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll never buy new fabric, but at least I know what I’ll be doing with all the scraps that I inevitably have left over.

When thinking about writing this post, this classic holiday phrase immediately popped into my head, “as visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.” Only for me, it’s not visions of sugarplums that are occupying my thoughts. It’s springtime. It’s garden tea parties with pretty fabric bunting strands dressing up my outdoor spaces. It’s sunny, summer days and the Fremont Sunday market, where I hope to someday sell my wares. But until then, Etsy and my cozy, warm house on this drizzly January day will have to do.

Musings of a Winter Gardener

I may not be a winter gardener after all. That thought just occurred to me last night. And in a way, I was a little ashamed to come to this realization. Why wouldn’t a girl who dedicated herself to grow as much food as possible not be invested in growing her own food year-round? I love the idea. I really do. I live in such a mild climate with so many year-round gardening opportunities, but the truth is, it’s just not me.

Like any reflective, type-A person, I came up with a list of reasons to justify this shift in consciousness:

  • When school starts in September, it requires a lot of my time and energy and I just don’t have the stamina to do anything besides survive.
  • Buying produce at the farmers’ market during the off-season allows me to support local farmers’ when the fair-weather market patrons hunker down for the winter.
  • It gives me the opportunity to replenish the soil in the beds around my garden, so they’ll be ready when I call on them to provide nutrients for my young plants in the spring.
  • It’s not always that fun to brave the dark and dreary weather and most of the time, I’d rather be inside, where it’s warm creating my art.
  • The winter is when I’m the most artistic and it’s the perfect time for creating beautiful garden art. Need I remind you how many different versions of artsy plant markers I’ve made?

This revelation occurred to me as I put another seed catalog onto the pile that I have not yet delved into. I’ve been waiting until the time is right. And for me, that time comes in February. It’s the time when I start seeds inside and begin preparing my garden for the coming spring. It’s the botanical New Year – a time to reflect on your gardening successes and failures, a time to take risks with new plants you’ve never tried before, and a time to imagine new possibilities. For me, it’s a time to get excited again because frankly, I get bored. Even with the things I’m super passionate about. I get super excited about some new venture, I put lots of time and energy into really owning that activity, and then I move onto the next inspiring endeavor. You should know that about me.

I’ve tried my hand at winter gardening for two seasons with moderate success. I just think it kind of takes away the newness of gardening again in the spring and the excitement that comes with starting something new. Being a seasonal gardener is what keeps me from getting bored and what keeps me coming back for more every season.  Maybe just like my garden beds, I need the time to replenish too.

Sunday Supper: Artisan Bread with Leftover Soup

The date: Sunday, January 23, 2011

The menu: Rustic Boule (Artisan Free-From Loaf) with Farro and Chickpea soup from Saturday

The cookbooks: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, and Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

This post feels like a cop out. Sunday supper is supposed to be about trying a new recipe and usually entails putting together some elaborate meal that I just wouldn’t have time to put together on a week night. But, not all Sundays work out that way and today is one of them. Tonight, I’m going to see my sister Rachel make some music, so I’m going to eat some leftover soup for dinner. There’s always time for baking a little bread though.

Most of you know by now that I’ve been baking my own bread every week for a few years. I practically wore out my Kneadlessly Simple bread cookbook as I tried to bake as many of the bread recipes in it as I could. I’ve got the timing down, putting the dough together is old hat, and I end up with a delicious, moist loaf of bread just about every time now. But even though I was completely satisfied with my bread making routine, I was always curious about the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day thing. The appeal for me was simple – a bread with little effort and hands on time like the kneadless breads I know and love, but with the convenience of baking a loaf on the fly. I knew it was something I had to try.

I’m still learning. This method, while also kneadless, is quite different than the other process and I’m still working on getting the correct moisture ratio down. In a nutshell, with this bread, you make a big batch of dough that yields about four rustic loaves and you store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. It will keep for about two weeks and the work you have to do on the day you decide to bake a loaf is minimal, so it’s doable on a week night. I have to admit that after making four so-so loaves out of my first batch of dough, I was tempted to go back to my old stand-by, but I decided to give it another chance. And I’m starting to see some improvement. I’ve vowed to stick with this book for a while until I get the hang of it. I am by no means abandoning all my old ways, but a fresh perspective can be good every now and then.

Farro and Chickpea Soup, for winter
Adapted from Vegetable Soups by Deborah Madison

I love this soup. It is so simple and hearty – the perfect thing for a dark, January evening. The original recipe suggests putting a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind into the soup when you add the farro. Deborah also suggests grating some of said cheese on top of the final product, but since I’m dairy-free these days, I skipped those steps. There’s a delicious summer version of this soup with tomatoes in this cookbook too, but we’ll get to that when the time is right.

Yields about 7 cups.

1 1/2 cups farro, soaked for an hour or longer in cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 plump garlic clove, peeled
6 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups chickpeas, cooked (or one 15oz. can)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Drain the farro. Heat some olive oil in a wide soup pot and add the onion and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, drained farro, and broth. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and simmer until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes (or 40 minutes if you forgot to soak the farro ahead of time like I did).

If using canned chickpeas, strain the liquid into the soup. Cover the chickpeas with cool water, gently rub them together to loosen the skins, and discard them as they float to the surface. Then add the skinned chickpeas to the soup. According to Deborah, they taste better and look nicer this way. I agree.

Taste for salt and season with pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with big hunks of crunchy artisan bread. Enjoy!