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West coast tastes

Early in November I went out to Oregon for a short visit, to hang out with my family and help my mom with house stuff. Obviously, since what my family does is talk/think/obsess about and consume food, we….ate.

The first night, Mom made pizza bianca (from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, I think), and a lovely cassoulet-sort-of-thing with sausages and beans and bread crumbs, as well as lentils and some other things. Lots of vegetables. Witness:

Since it was a house-decorating trip, Mom and I spent a wonderful day in Portland, where we visited the chains that Eugene doesn’t have (West Elm, Crate & Barrel). Then we headed across the river to The Hawthorne, where we had a killer lunch at Cafe Castagna. Oh man. We had their famous frisée salad, which replaces the usual poached egg with, I kid you not, a deep-friend one. When we saw that on the menu Mom laughed; I famously love anything fried, but to add it to one of the greatest salads of all time? Consider yourself lucky that I snuck a photo while there were still some shards on my plate:

(Oh, their burger was one of the best I’ve ever had, seriously. It comes with waaaay too many delicious fries.)

After lunch I dragged tired Mom around to a few indie shops that I thought would be up her alley. She has very modern, streamlined taste, and we had good luck at Life + Limb and Canoe.

Tom drove me to the airport on my last day, and we had just enough time for a stop at Burrito Boy, a Eugene classic where I have to go every time I’m in town. No visit home is complete without an order of beef tacquitos, served with the smoothest guacamole and a nice sprinkling of cheese.

Now *that* is good pre-flight fortification. I was in a good mood all the way to Salt Lake City.

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Ok, so it’s happened again. I am weeks behind and I blame technology, even though I settled the root problem weeks ago. Ahem. Basically I hadn’t uploaded photos since I left my job at the end of October. …Happy December! Right. I am remedying that.

Meanwhile, um… There was a lot of eating last week. Mom and Dad were here the whole week, and my uncle was here for a couple days, and Thanksgiving was awesome. I recommend it, Thanksgiving. In case any of you forgot last week. Here, I will post some hastily-uploaded photos, because I feel really guilty, and because Thanksgiving is already sort of boring, food-blogging-wise (because who really wants to do anything different from what they have always had, deep down?), so if I post these any later it will be a joke.

I am always so entertained by brussels sprouts. I love them. We made them with pancetta in a recipe that I won’t recommend because they were more bitter than usual, though still quite beloved at the table.

I believe in dressing, not stuffing. And I don’t believe it should contain anything like nuts or dried fruit. I make it with bread cubes, celery, onion, parsley, and chicken stock. It was awesome. (In this picture it is also uncooked.)

Figuring out what I have:

Ben set the table, including the maple candies that my family always has at our places:

Brussels:

Clockwise from top left: Brussels, mashed potatoes, dressing, beans with shallots, turkey. Not shown: Carrot salad, cranberry sauce. My family eats what can only be described as a damn good, sophisticated diet year round. For Thanksgiving we tend to go simpler and keep things really classic.

Dude. So good.

Also not shown: Ben’s annual pies–chocolate cream and pumpkin.

The very best part of Thanksgiving, though, is on Friday night, when we make hot turkey sandwiches. Heat the turkey in gravy. Serve over bread you’ve toasted until hard. Agh!@!!
(I feel stupid explaining it, but Ben had never had one until a couple years ago. Because he’s a heathen.)

Oh, and to get in the holiday spirit, here I am trying to arrange lights at the top of our lovely tree. What you can’t see is the string of muttered profanity uttering from my lips as I toss the lights and get them stuck, over, and over, and over… (Also that is my t-shirt, not my tummy. I’m not quite *that* pale.)

BTW, I’m psyched that WordPress is once again cropping all my photos on the right side. Technology again!

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CSA: Week 18, Carrot pants

Heeeeee hee hee hee hee.

See anything interesting? Let’s zoom in:

Carrot Pants! Hee!!!

Ahem.

The goods:
-1 rutabaga
-1 bunch beets, with lovely greens (purples!)
-2 red onions
-2 apples
-Salad greens
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-Carrots, including Carrot Pants.

I still had the kale from the week before, plus the lovely, lovely purple greens from the beets, so I decided to thaw some italian sausage and figure something out.

I cut up a couple cloves of garlic and a red onion:

Took two sausages out of the casings and cooked them most of the way, then cooked the garlic and onions (in olive oil), slowly, until the onions were soft and a little sweet. All photos from this phase were both blurry AND badly lit, so I’ll spare you.

I added the kale in first, since the beet greens were pretty tender. I let those wilt down a bit, added the beet greens, let *those* wilt, poured in a little chicken stock (at this point, I scraped all the lovely browned bits up, using the chicken stock to deglaze the pan even though it was still full of things), added salt and pepper, and covered the pan.

While that finished getting tender, I sliced up a tube of Trader Joe’s organic cooked polenta–a $1.99 miracle item that you should add to your pantry today–and started crisping it up in a nonstick pan w/ a little oil. It takes longer to get crispy that you’d think; allow 10 minutes. I had to hold the greens and sausage for a little while.

When the polenta was done I added the sausage back into the greens and let it heat back up, checked for seasoning, then spooned it over a couple polenta slices, making sure to get a bit of the very savory and delicious broth.

Very fast and very, very delicious. And pretty. And I would like more now.


In house news, that same week I received a cross-country delivery: My grandfather’s wing chair! It’s not in perfect shape but I love it in our living room.

And if anyone needs a piece or two of furniture shipped cross-country at a reasonable price by an exceptionally friendly, helpful and responsible mover, shoot me a line–I was super-happy with the guy I found!

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So the other big house thing in the last couple weeks was something we’d talked about for a long time and finally decided to bite the bullet and do. We bought a piano.

The background: Ben is quite the musician; he attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (what a mouthful) in NYC–better known as the Fame school–where he played piano and trumpet, and in college he minored in trumpet performance. He decided against a career in music because he likes stability (hee), but he still plays trumpet in a community band and whenever he has access to a piano he plays for hours at a time. We had talked and talked about getting one but were daunted by the expense and hassle or getting one into the apartment, but last month we decided it was time. He picked out a Boston upright 49.5″ piano (it only came in a really shiny black, not the matte I liked, but oh well) and we arranged for the piano delivery company guy to come visit and see how they could get it into our 4th floor apartment.

I called to leave him a message. The voicemail recording was: “Thank you for calling Allston Piano Movers! The Fine way to move a Steinway!” I laughed for about 5 minutes. In fact, I’m giggling now. Is that not an awesome slogan?

Anyway, Bobby came out to look at our stairs and windows and after one glance at the stairs he said he’d never move a piano up them. A crane it was! We spent part of the weekend taking the big front window apart, with the help of our very patient and kind neighbor who has redone all of his. It’s 44″ wide by 54″ tall, with curved glass, and I was SO nervous about the whole thing. While the window was out Ben took the opportunity to replace the broken sash cord on one side and the worn one on the other, so now that window opens and closes really well. The weights inside the frame weigh about 20 pounds each.

I had made Ben promise he’d be the one to supervise the delivery, since the mere thought of a crane+piano+our apartment made me feel queasy, but he ended up with a meeting he couldn’t change, so I was on duty.

The crane man, piano truck and police detail all showed up right on time.

The impressively bearded window man climbed around to remove the storm frame.

And then all of a sudden while I was taking the photos of the window, the piano was off the truck, on the crane, and in the air! It took about 3 minutes. I sprinted downstairs to shoot a photo:

And then ran back up to see the inside part:

There were a couple interesting minutes while the enormous men hauled the piano in the window.

But before I knew it they were wheeling it down the hall to the dining room!

*Poof!* It was just under an hour from minute the crane showed up (before the piano/police) to the time the window guy finished putting the storm window back in. Amazing. I highly recommend Allston Piano Movers–it wasn’t cheap but they worked fast and carefully and made all the annoying permit arrangements, etc.

So now while I cook, Ben plays piano! It’s the loveliest thing. He mostly plays American Standards (think Ella Fitzgerald–all the great old Porter, Gershwin, etc. stuff), but he’s working on some more classical things, too. Also, the Pride & Prejudice piano score. I shot a shaky little video while I was in the middle of making dinner last night and Ben was playing that (he would be appalled to see this if he knew, and would insist on mentioning that the piano tuner hasn’t come yet!):

The kitchen was only that messy until I finished cooking, I swear!

ETA: Ben actually read the post and watched the video. His comment: “The piano is SO out of tune. I’m calling them right now.”

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I was back in Oregon to be in my friend Kathrin’s lovely, lovely wedding last weekend, and amidst all the festivities we did eat at home two nights.

First, though, I always take the same photos when I fly into Eugene but I just love the moment when the Coburg Hills drop off into the Valley and you see the flat farm land like an ocean up ahead:

Mom asked Tom what he thought I’d want for my first meal home, and he apparently said “simple food after flying, Mom!” so we had a perfect and simple meal. I’d brought a bunch of stuff from Christina’s spice shop as a hostess gift, including another bag of that mysterious huge couscous (which turned out to be labeled “lebanese couscous” in the store). We flavored that with preserved lemon and mint and served it along with green beans (with preserved lemon) and grilled chicken. And by “We” I mean “My mom” (Dad does the grilling)–I focused on drinking a Pimm’s Cup and chatting with everyone while eating Kettle Chips, the ruffled kind with black pepper.

The next morning I ate bread with fresh raspberry jam (made days before my Mom and Tom) for breakfast:

By the way, the whole time I was home it was around 75-80 degrees during the day, perfectly dry, and 55 or so at night. I think in Boston is was 90+ with solid walls of humidity. I’m just putting that out there.

Thursday night we had another lovely meal al fresco.

Baby chioggia beets with arugula, feta and walnuts:

German-style potato salad:

Also chard from a friend’s garden, and pork sausages from a local farm:

I think only the potatoes and feta came were non-local–Mom, am I right?

For dessert we had my favorite: Flan with summer fruit, in this case blueberries from the backyard bushes, cherries and nectarine:

Last light over the golf course:

Candlelight:

More pics are here.

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Blackboard results

Oh, for shame, Kate! I swore to myself that I would do some posting while I was home in Oregon (for a very, very lovely wedding, in which I was participating and at which I gave a toast–eep–and ate wonderful food and danced a lot and my feet hurt), but I was too too busy and didn’t. Very briefly, here is the final result of the magnetic blackboard saga. I painted 5 or 6 coats of the magnetic primer, one coat of white primer and one coat (plus touch-ups) of homemade blackboard paint, from Martha Stewart Living per Germi‘s tip. The chalkboard works, but not that well–the wall is just too textured to get a smooth line from the chalk. I love the idea, though, and will definitely use the recipe for future projects–it is super easy and I bet it works great if you have a smooth surface and, um, use matte paint instead of eggshell heavily doctored with regular acrylics. Ahem.

Anyway!

This before picture doesn’t show the blank wall very well–the blank wall where the board went, anyway. But it does show the messy office and how badly I needed to hang art.

Now (The wall color is the same and is more accurate in the before photo!):

Closer look at the board–I had no idea I was on a citrus and orange-colored-things kick until I put up a pile of things I’d been saving in one place. The power of the inspiration board!

In addition to not writing very well on the bumpy surface, the chalk is not well served by my horrible handwriting–I need penmanship classes. There is a girl in my office with the most astonishing handwriting, and I always think back to my friend Margaret’s gorgeous perfect cursive with longing… I am too impatient!

Funny synergy thing: I just caught up on my bloglines from the last 5 days and saw that Mrs. Limestone just did a magnetic blackboard, too. And then I saw blackboard walls all over at The Kitchn today. Odd.

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There are three things left to do in the kitchen:

-Install a hood
-Replace the lighting over the sink and in the middle of the room
-Hang art

I find the first two things totally overwhelming, but the third I can handle. Looking at the kitchen photos with the new shelf really made me aware of how bare the wall above the sink is, so I want to make that a priority. I have a whole pile of amazing prints and posters I’ve been buying from people like Keep Calm (the tea print), Amy Ross, Renee Garner of Wolfieandthesneak and Kate Bingaman-Burt. It’s an embarrassment of riches and I can’t seem to fit any of it in normal-sized frame (except the Amy Ross Manshroom, which is just languishing in my office waiting to be hung up).

I got the Kate Bingman-Burt and Renee Garner stuff just this week and both ladies sent along lovely little surprises with my purchases. I thought I’d post some photos since I was charmed.

From Kate I bought four of her “Obsessive Consumptiondrawings, of things we like to eat. (The bananas are for Ben only. Yuck.) She is moving to Portland, OR as we speak and was having a moving sale in her Etsy shop. She included two issues of her Zine, which chronicles a purchase every day, each month. The zines are tiny and so fun and charming, I really enjoyed them.

For now I’ve propped the wrapped drawings on the kitchen shelf–once I frame them they may still live in the same place! Or I might try to hang them low under the shelf; not quite sure.

Renee really surpassed herself with darling packaging. I was a doofus and ordered the posters seperately, just far enough apart that she had to send them in two tubes (I’m sorry!). The first poster was the Fungi one I’ve been wanting since before Christmas. She sent it with a magnifying glass!! Plus a “No Plastic is Fantastic” fact card.

The second poster, the “pods” print, came today, and tucked inside was a little sketchbook with some of Renee’s drawings on the front, and an awesome lime green pencil. (Plus a nice note inside the sketchbook.)

(It was hard to photograph the funny pencil, but here’s my best attempt. It says “Wolfie and the Sneak Love You” but WordPress has started cropping my photos for me, so part of it is cut off.)

I can’t express how much I love Etsy; once I get around to framing everything (sigh) my house will be packed with art by people I’ve gotten to interact with, instead of random impersonal stuff. I was on the phone with my brother when I opened the new poster, and he said, “Etsy is sort of the CSA of art, isn’t it?” I think he hit the nail on the head!

More food soon, I promise…

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