for those who are in or around sane

Sunday, August 30

good things to eat

i've been trying to visit the farmer's market as many times as i can this summer. when there's fresh food staring me in the face, it's easy to find motivation to cook a tasty meal!

From yummy food

heirloom tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and manchego cheese (and rosemary whitefish)

the wicker park market had a huge assortment of different colored heirloom tomatoes that begged for prime plating. i sliced them up thick and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar, a touch of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and basil chiffonade. what i lacked in fresh mozzerella for a true caprese i gained with salty manchego which pulled the tomato tanginess together with the buttery whitefish i fried up.

From yummy food

rosemary whitefish with avocado quinoa salad

the whitefish of choice, flounder. the herb of desire, rosemary. i briefly marinated the fish in olive oil, anchovie paste, garlic and finely chopped rosemary then sauteed it in a hot pan to make a pretty golden brown crust, adding salt & pepper to taste after. light, flakey and no burned garlic!

for the salad i threw together cooked red quinoa, fresh white onion, pine nuts, goat cheese and cherry tomatoes. and the dressing is a riff off the one i've done before from 101 pretty much i used the avocado as the fat instead of olive oil (i did put a wee bit in there for a thinner texture), lime juice, salt & pepper. really simple, really nutty-wonderful.

From yummy food

start with healthy basil plants. harvest a hunka leaves. chop chop chop. YUM! i actually did this batch by hand - no food processor. no joke.

my pesto is a balance of basil, lightly toasted pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, salt & pepper and olive oil. for real, i used the ulu knife gramma & pop-pop brought back for me from alaska. it's really amazing how well the rocking knife works! yes i chopped for a good 20 minutes to get everything the right consistency (the secret is you add the dry things little by little - olive oil last and separately), but i admit, when i was done, it was gorgeous, flavorful and way prettier than a lump at the bottom of my kitchen-aid.

garden v2.4

it's time for a long-overdue garden update!

i've got a nice little slide show of pix i've taken in the garden over the last weeks. and here's a general run down of accomplishments:

too many to count! the cherry tomatoes are sweet with a medium-tough skin. they stand up well to omelets, pasta dishes and fair extremely well on their own with a tiny bit of salt. the yellow pears are sweeter with medium skin and are huge stars in caprese and pasta salads for their awesome color and shape.

i asked lowriter (my friend of the farm) when i should harvest the cucs and after learning a lot of much-needed awesome cucumber information, she told me of the wisest thing yet - check the tag. hehe... turns out my variety grows to about 4" - 6" and thus far i've had 2 successful fruits and one on the way! it looks like there are many more pre-cucs, but according to lo's awesome knowledge about fertilization, they may not come to fruition (oh, yes, pun intended - been waiting to use that one all summer! muahaha).

basil = success beyond imagination. i've harvested one amazing crop for mass pesto production (frozen and stored accordingly for colder days). i may sneak out one more medium-sized harvest yet! rosemary - it's beautiful. i've enjoyed watching it sprout out into a cute bush. it's seasoned many piece of chicken or fish! the cilantro went to seed a while back, but not before providing a few small harvests for mealtime.

well... better luck next year? i say this every year. next year though, i promise to get a hearty variety. marigolds? something that will be hard to maim....


Monday, August 17

july books

helloooo readers! are you still out there? i wouldnt blame you if you werent... its been too dern long! the week i usually reserve for recapping lead me on a trip to denver for work. i enjoyed a lot of air conditioned hotel basement time and a wee bit of walking around pretty downtown. and now it's mid-august and i have yet to report that, yes, i actually did read a lot in july!

the graveyard book - neil gaiman
i've enjoyed gaiman's work for adults and kids alike - graphic novels, regular novels and most recently, a movie. this gorgeous hard-bound, illustrated, young adult novel swept me up just the same.

nobody owens was born with a name. a name and a family and a house. but late one night, a man named jack murders baby nobody's family, missing nobody by sleight of quiet and stealth only a curious baby can muster. nobody finds himself in the local, defunct graveyard surrounded by the ancient, ghostly inhabitants. resident mrs. owens (d. 18??) scoops up the child and accepts him into the family of the graveyard. now anonymous, with a new last name, nobody grows up under the protection of the graveyard. but, the man named jack has not forgotten his lost victim. the search continues as nobody grows up, gets to know the secrets of the graveyard and peeks glimpses at the real world outside the tall, stone walls.

gaiman weaves an edgy, eerie and deliciously scary coming-of-age story. juvi-lit may be easier to read, but this more than others demanded my full attention. i ate it up with chills down my back and finished with a relish of satisfaction. this is definitely a highly recommended quick read!

that old cape magic - richard russo

russo spins his magic again with his newest (and possibly shortest) novel. i had the privlidge to nab a galley at BEA this year and hear mr. russo speak about the birth of this story. he wanted to fictionally recount a true short story about sitting at the leftover table at a wedding. you know - the unbalanced table in the back corner by the kitchen that seats the bride's favorite college professor, his wife, a far-removed relative who always sends cash gifts, and that gray-haired guy who's rumored to have won a pulitzer..... the mediator for russo's panel put it aptly: i dont know what sort of wedding would put a pulitzer winner like you at a leftover table, but damn, i'd like to attend that one! ...or something of that nature...

self-deprication being one of russo's strongest pulls, he continued on after a soft chuckle: the story was too full of loose threads - too many details that needed attending to. he wrote a little more. perhaps it'd be a novella. but the character's needs grew and voila.... a complete novel. i definitely enjoyed the bright landscapes and rather normal characters, which, according to his fans, are out of character for his writing style. i agree. however, this was a refreshing bit of story that had as much humor and poignancy as his other works. yes, he left out some of the gorgeous pathos of his acclaimed empire falls and he didnt wax as poetically about his surroundings, but the main character is so identifiable and honestly confused that i cannot help but overlook that it's probably not going to win a pulitzer. this is simply just a good story. its good reading. its enormously entertaining. i alternately rooted for and scolded the protagonist - sometimes out loud (ask the roomie!). if you're looking for a beach read but are sick and tired of twilight pushers, please pick this one up and give it a chance to make you smile.

flawed dogs - berkeley breathed

the master behind the opus cartoons comes out with another children's tail of animal adventure. sam the lion, born a perfect, purebred pup, wiggles his way into the arms of orphan heidy - sent to live on her uncle's "farm" after getting kicked out of boarding school. uncle turns out to be a retired dog breeder who falls in love with sam (almost) as much as heidy. sam becomes the glue that bonds lonely uncle and heidy, until one day when the housekeeper's sure-to-be-champion poodle turns a jealous eye to sam's pure lines and ability to please the household.

to ensure his own success, cassius the poodle plots sam's demise. and breaking hearts, he succeeds, getting sam cast out of the house and into the cold world - tossed from one bad situation to the next, surviving only on the sweet memories of heidy and the clever wits and squiggly size only a dachsund can display so charismatically. we follow sam to the last chance dog pound, now 3-legged, matted and disheveled, surrounded by fellows of the same ilk. can this motley crew help sam return to his beloved heidy and destroy the evil cassius?

another quick, energetic read, flawed dogs gave my imagination a lot to run with. berkeley breathed is a well-known peta supporter and here we find a lot of reasons to adopt shaggy, imperfect dogs. he doesnt bang us over the head with this notion, but i'm still not sure i'd be comfortable letting a youngster at this one. the little dog takes quite a lot of hits along the way, which may be hard to take for more sensitive readers. overall though, a fun romp and lick and chew!