26 February 2009

the boy

3 months! can't believe how fast time is flying with this sweet, funny and precious little boy. Here are some of the latest...

10 February 2009

ah, nurseries

Do you have a "back-up" profession? You know, one that you'll turn to (effortlessly of course--this is fantasy!) when the you-know-what hits the fan, you lose your job or decide to change your life? (Apros po in this economy, no?)

Until recently, I have always thought mine was Park Ranger. The more remote the station, the better. My 8th grade English teacher was a very eccentric man who claimed to apply every summer for a ranger job. He would always turn it down, but I guess he liked knowing that he *could* if he wanted. I love the (100% romanticized) idea of being a ranger, which is totally bolstered by my reading of lots of Edward Abbey during my freshman year of college. If you're familiar with him, recall the fire look-out passages. Isolation, beauty and lots of time for reading!

ANYwhoo, I think I have a new back-up fantasy profession: Fabulous Plant Nursery Owner.

Now, I'm not talking about one of those dreary places with plastic containers, tacky annuals and fake rocks. I'm thinking seasonal, beautiful, organic, creative--and an amazing place to hang out. Two of my favorite places:

First, the oasis-like Flora Grubb nursery here in San Francisco, which features graphic, gorgeous low-water perennials, striking succulents and cacti, a recycled-chic aesthetic, lots of hang out space, and a Ritual espresso bar. How perfect. I didn't want to leave. Can't wait to populate my new/future garden with these beautiful low-maintenance plants. Check it out:

Second, Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London. I haven't visited (yet!!) but really, really, really want to. Especially now, with the exchange rate what it is. What I love about this place is that it quietly exudes an English formality in the placement of plants and overall design, but often features unusual plant choices. They use no plastic whatsoever, are nearly totally organic, source locally, and use all my favorite materials: weathered wood, bamboo or branch stake teepees, pottery, baskets, woven trellises, pea gravel, etc.

Oh, and the Cafe! I received an email noting their prix fixe Valentine's Day menu and caught myself scheming how to pack husband and newborn on a last-minute 8-hour flight... ah well, some other time. I consoled myself by ordering a cookbook by the Cafe's chef, Skye Gyngell.

Lookeehere... (you can also find lots more on their web site and by searching for Petersham Nurseries on Flickr):

Images from FloraGrubb.com and PetershamNurseries.com

02 February 2009

kookoo for kale

I appear to be late to the kale party. Seems like everyone has been all over this healthy, superfood for a long time. I've dabbled in the kale kingdom, but I guess I have always been more partial to green veggies which require the most minimal cooking. In my opinion, kale is best after long cooking -- though I know some like raw kale salads -- and until recently, it seemed so wrong to cook a vegetable for... quite... a... long.... time. Usually, that leads to nothin' good.

Anyway, I saw a crazy recipe recently for crispy kale "chips" (I forgot which magazine -- need to implement that filing system!) which sounded easy and totally unique. Basically, you roast cavolo nero leaves (kale variety shown in photo) in the oven until crispy. Add a little salt, and munch munch munch. Guilt-free, I'd imagine, too.

I haven't attempted that method yet, but while watching the 'Tuscany' episode of Gourmet magazine's Diary of a Foodie TV show, a demonstration by Ruth Reichl drove me straight to the kitchen to turn a gorgeous bunch of kale into a simple, delicious lunch of braised, spicy greens over pasta. I can't find this recipe on the web site, but it's more of a method than a formal recipe, in my opinion. Here's the basic gist:

Strip the central spine out of the leaves and chop them roughly. For one portion, I used about this much cavolo nero kale (aka Dino, Lacinato, Tuscan kale):

Heat 1T olive oil over medium heat in a medium non-stick pan. Add 1/2 an onion (diced) and sautée until slightly translucent. Add a good pinch of sea salt, a pinch of red chili flakes (to taste) and 1 or 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Sautée until garlic is fragrant. Then toss in the chopped kale:

Sautée until the kale is slightly wilted and coated with the olive oil. Then, begin braising with hot water (I turn to my beloved Zojirushi hot water kettle for this), 1/2 cup at a time. Add the water and cook, stirring frequently, until the pan is almost dry again. Repeat, taste, repeat, taste, etc. Each braising step yields a different result, so see what you like. I like about four steps, which looks like this:

A special textural addition, which wasn't in Ms. Reichl's demonstration, is a spoonful of crispy, buttered breadcrumbs. It seemed like the tender, healthy greens needed a little richness and crunch.

I toasted a small quantity of panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs, with a pinch of sea salt, in a tiny sliver of unsalted butter until golden brown:

To serve, cook one portion (about 2 oz.) linguine or other pasta in boiling salted water. Drain the pasta and twist it into a serving bowl. Top with the cooked greens, some fine gratings of Parmesan cheese, and a spoonful of the crunchy breadcrumbs. Yum! A simple, satisfying bowl of goodness:

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