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Archive for the ‘City Life’ Category


-Painting pictures for the newest baby of our acquaintance (welcome to the world, Charles Morrison Herbert!)

-Making a new friend
-Finishing up every scrap of freelance work I had
-Pounding the pavement for more work
-Feeling proud of my friend Jia Lynn’s cover story WITH BYLINE ON THE COVER
-Going for an accidentally really long bike ride

-Staring at another rainy day
-Reading 8 trillion library books
-Gearing up for lap swimming lessons/possibly getting hurt getting into my new swimsuit
-Listening to Berlitz Italian cds
-Not planning our spontaneous trip to Italy in May
-Avoiding cleaning my office
-Obsessively checking the trees outside for leaves
-Dreaming of chucking it all and moving to France

I definitely feel like life is on hold right now. I need a burst of energy and inspiration! Maybe I’ll start with the much-needed office organization. I do have loads of photos uploaded, dating back to late February, I just can’t seem to bother writing about anything! Merp.

Wishing french tulips were all over the house:

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Ok, so. I have spoken before about my unending love for Jamie at Home, and back in February I watched the pizza episode and promptly felt the urge to make dough from scratch. Hurray! It’s so easy! (Note: I had a tremendously bad day leading up to this attempt.)

Pizza Dough
adapted from Jamie Oliver‘s Jamie at Home
7 cups strong white bread flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour (next time I want to try it w/ semolina)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

pizza ingredients

Ok. So you’re supposed to sift the flour and salt together into a mountain on the counter. No sweat! I am a brave person who will go ahead and work straight on the butcher block. No fear! Mountain, ahoy!

flour

Now, that photo does not accurately depict the towering majesty of the 7-cup flour mountain. It was tall and steep. Back to the recipe:

“In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.”

Sounds easy enough, and Jamie made it look like a cakewalk on the show. Proceed: Liquids mixed with sugar and yeast:

liquids

Commence whisking, while feeling extremely smug and craftsmanlike:

whisking flour

Here’s the important part: Get cocky and pour in too much liquid at once, collapsing the walls of the too-tall mountain and flooding yeasty-oil-water down the dishwasher and your pants. And socks. And under the baseboards. Stand stock still while it gushes over, before fitfully trying to shove flour into the liquid to stop the onslaught. Grab paper towels to make a moat, then take a photo that doesn’t come close to portraying the chaos:

mess

(Aren’t I brave, giving you the warts-and-all view into my kitchen?)

Take stock, recognizing that you have used nearly all of the flour in the house, all the yeast, and you don’t have an alternate plan for dinner. Decide to soldier on, mixing what liquid is left on the counter into the flour and then adding additional water and kneading until, miracle beyond miracles, the dough pulls together into a gorgeous, silky smooth ball.

Set it to rise while you pry off the baseboards and scrub yeasty flour paste off the inside of the cabinet doors.

Now, back to the original plan!

“Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. “

Fine! The dough rose, though maybe not quite as much as normal:

I froze half and made the other half into four pizzas:

dough balls

It rolled out like a dream, not sticky like store-bought dough:

I made half with flat edges and half with pinched crusts like my mom does, to see which I preferred. (Note: The Food Network version of the recipe doesn’t specify baking time or temp. I cranked my oven to around 450 and just watched the pizzas carefully; I think they took about 10 minutes but I could be wrong.)

Pinched won:

And dinner did eventually get served. Without the 45 minutes of cleaning up the kitchen, it would have been a really easy process.

(BTW I think I’m over white pies, at least with the slightly-dry cheese blend I have been using. The other half of the dough got slathered with various sauces, to be explained in a future post.)

(Also, I’m totally uninspired and haven’t been cooking much. Is it just the late-winter doldrums? Anyone else feeling it, too?)

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Back soon

This has been a Hell Week, college style–I was on the road and I have three deadlines Monday, but I will be back soon. Hopefully spring will be here, too–last night I dreamed that there was a magnolia tree outside my window, and it was just starting to bloom. (The result of seeing the budding magnolias in DC this week?)

Unrelated, and found through Rebecca’s work-mandated Twitter: Overheard in the Newsroom, which really does give a very accurate peek into the lives of journalists everywhere.

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Zigs and zags

In late January I suddenly decided I couldn’t live with the drab faux-oriental rugs we had in the bedroom and dining room. Couldn’t stand them for another minute. I picked up a striped rug for the bedroom from PB, and ordered the (back-ordered) zigzag rug from West Elm. At the same time, I finally found a new coverlet for the bed–ours was a bit too small and very thin. Finally, last weekend I went to Ikea and got frames for some of the vintage photos I’ve been collecting for years. (I always get sucked in by some of the faces or scenes and feel like I have to take them home with me and make up stories about them.) Today the rug arrived and I finally made the bed up with the new coverlet and took a few pictures. It feels good to freshen things up!

Dining room before:

dining room before

Sigh, blurry pics. Next week I’ll have Ben help me move the rug/table properly under the chandelier. I HAD to see how it would look, so I managed to replace the rug myself this morning. I may be broken. Anyway, Dining room after:

Oh, those are the finished chairs, too!

rug and chairs

No before pic of the bedroom since I carefully cropped the rug out of everything.

bedroom rug

I love the yellow with the blue walls.

And the photos in my office–it’s hard to see them and I’m trying to decide whether to add two more on top or put them somewhere else. You can’t tell in the photo but the biggest frame (containing a wedding group portrait from Brooklyn in the 20s) is hung w/ fishing line from a picture hook, so it’s a little hard to put anything over it.

old photos

By the way, I hung all the small ones with those “command” velcro-ish strips from 3M. My friend Ann told me they worked great for her, and sure enough, they do!

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New Year, new goals

This doesn’t have much to do with food.

I’m not one for resolutions; my attention span is far shorter than a year, and Back to School always feels more fresh-startish than January, to me. But I feel like I slipped into a bit of a funk as the year wrapped up, and I am at a bit of a crossroads in terms of work and health and so forth, so I do want to take the New Year as a chance to re-set and try harder.

For the blog: I did much better in December, but during the fall I really let the blog slide, and only posted a handful of times per month. I want to try putting myself on a schedule (I’m a journalist; without deadlines I can procrastinate until the cows come home), posting on Tuesdays and Fridays at a bare minimum. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s worth the effort, right?

I also want to work on the quality of the photography… Enough with letting the terrible kitchen lighting serve as an excuse, I have little studio lights and a lightbox/diffuser thingy, and I just need to be more consistent about taking stuff into the pantry and shooting it. Not sure what can be done about things I’m actively cooking, but I’ll get there. One day.

Finally, I want to be more specific with recipes. I’m lazy and tend to just say “eh, an onion or so, some olive oil, blah blah blah,” but when I think about the blogs I find most useful, they isolate the recipe so it’s easy to follow, in addition to writing about the process.

For me, I mostly want to figure out if I can freelance full-time for a while, or if I need to go back to an office job. I like working from home, but obviously it’s not the most stable thing. If I stay home, I need to make a major effort to, um, leave the house. For exercise, for socialization, for fresh air.

During the fall I took a drawing class at the MFA’s museum school. It was rigorous and challenging and I learned a ton, but I can’t justify doing something like that right now, so I want to make sure I also keep drawing, get back to painting, treat photography more seriously, etc. I am also hoping to help a few people with some interior design advice. Finally, while I write for a living I’d also like to write something different, for pleasure. Fiction, maybe? I doubt it but I’ll try, perhaps.

sketches
[For my class, we worked on a final project consisting of a series of studies and drawings on one topic. I chose ballet, and used a couple books of photos of the New York City Ballet as my subjects.]

The greatest lesson I learned in my drawing class was how to relax. At the beginning of the semester all my drawings were in pencil, mostly of interiors, very literal, very precise, not very dynamic or interesting. I never expected to enjoy figure-drawing and I never thought about charcoal one way or the other, but those two things brought me tremendous joy. Charcoal is messy and it didn’t let me stick to my precise lines. I couldn’t really use a ruler. And drawing the figure made me want to explore movement. I want 2009 to be like that. I’m feeling closed in and limited in a few ways, and I want to break out and try things I hadn’t considered, even if it means I have charcoal-stained fingernails.

Or hands that smell like garlic. I’ve never minded that!

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I hope everyone else had a Christmas as relaxing as mine. My dearest friend came to stay (before flying out this evening) and we got to visit with another good friend—complete with much-delayed arrival and impromptu sleepover—on Tuesday night. We ate a delicious dinner Christmas Eve (more on that later) and slept in late this morning. Santa blessed us many times over.

Before Christmas is 100% over, a few shots from our holiday party earlier this month. I think about 30 people ended up coming; I focused on food that would let me enjoy myself for once, so I made a couple things in advance and the only hot food was a giant pile of mini pizzas that I’d par-baked in the afternoon and reheated during the party.

I made one dip with butternut squash, a bit of crème fraîche, roasted onions and garlic, lots of parmesan, and sage. That was ok but not something I’d make again. Another dip/spread was basic white bean spread like we’ve always made, but dressed up with a little rosemary and lemon. Easy and so good:

I sautéed the garlic and onion until soft, then added in two cans of organic white cannellini beans and some very, very finely chopped rosemary. Chop as finely as possible; that texture is not good. They are technically already cooked but I find that they always need quite a while to take the canned edge off. I added a bit of chicken stock every so often to keep things from drying out, and cooked uncovered for a while, then covered until the beans tasted good.

I mushed them around a lot with the spoon so that it turned into a chunky spread instead of a pile of beans.

I stirred in lemon juice (about half a lemon) and topped with a bit of zest. I’d seen a Bittman riff on a Marcella Hazan recipe for a bean spread (canned beans uncooked, but pureed in the food processor) that included lots of lemon, and I will definitely add it from now on. It brightens up the beans and really offsets their earthiness and the rosemary flavor. Yum! I could have kept this a little wetter; next time I’ll do a bit more broth towards the end. Still, very very good.

The mini pizzas were a bit of an ordeal but fantastic as party food–easy to eat, no mess, hot and comforting and tasty. I used dough from Trader Joe’s; four bags divided into six little pizzas each. I topped them with sautéed leeks and sausage.

(I cooked them until just golden; during the party I heated them up so they were nice and crispy and cut each one in quarters.)

The living room, ready to party:

Ben’s chocolate chip cookies top the dessert offerings:

A crowd in the dining room:

And, just because I promised, here are Ari and Alex from Ben’s office (they’re not a couple, ladies). Alex is a faithful reader of the blog and likes to inspect Ben’s lunches when I send in leftovers. I hear he’s quite a cook, too!

Now we’re off to our friends’ wedding in CT, then a visit to Long Island before coming back to Boston for New Year’s. Enjoy the weekend!

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I must be some kind of masochist; this afternoon as the snow barely started to fall I thought to myself “Kate, go run 90 errands. It is less than a week before Christmas and they’re saying to stay off the roads, but clearly you must acquire more Pine Mountain logs (like duraflame, but better, and I know we should use real wood but it makes the fireplace smoke, so shh) in order to survive this weekend.” So I got in the car and drove to Everett, where Costco is, and while I was wandering aimlessly in Costco (do those places make anyone else feel like a lost kindergartener?) the harmless drifting snow turned into a pelting blizzardy craziness, but still, instead of heading home I went to three other stores in the complex in order to run lots of other slightly-pointless errands. And then after it took about 40 minutes to drive home, I went to Whole Foods.

The upside is that while the 45 pounds of Pine Mountain Logs remain in the back of the car, I did get the makings for another batch of those meatballs. Posting about them the other day reminded me of how good they were. I also got one of those half-loaves of bread that come slathered in butter and garlic, hurray!

Since this is an aimless sort of post, here is an aimless sort of picture: The wreath I made out of willow twigs I found on a walk after Thanksgiving!

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone, and be careful out there in the snow!

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