Thursday, October 28, 2010

Decoration Progress: Coffee Table Disappointment

West Elm, Geo side table, $199 but no longer available!

Ugh, stupid chain stores and your philosophies.  I'm really mad at West Elm right now.  I've mentioned before that I'm on the hunt for an affordable, attractive, round coffee table, and I thought I may have found it at West Elm.  It was still too expensive for me at $199, and I was hoping it would go on sale at a time that I might be able to swing it.  Unfortunately it went on sale last week, and now appears to be sold out completely.  I'm mad at West Elm because they are the kind of store that doesn't restock.  What kind of stupid philosophy is that?  If something is so popular that it sells out, produce more so you can sell more!  Sigh.  I'm just feeling sorry for myself for missing out on such a cool table, which I suspect would have been perfect... small, sculptural, reflective.  I know, buying local is better, thrifting is best, but it's not working when it comes to coffee tables!  I'm actually planning on trying to make my own.  It might be a disaster or it might be cool.  (It will look nothing like table-- do not have those skills!)  More to follow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vintage Kitchen: Brer Rabbit's New Orleans Molasses Recipes

I've been craving gingerbread now that Fall has arrived and I knew it was the perfect recipe to find in a vintage cookbook.  Looking through the stack of old cookbooks I hit the jackpot in terms of gingerbread, this 1948 Brer Rabbit's Molasses Company cookbook.  A lot of the old cookbooks that I've bought at estate sales are of this variety-- an extended advertisement for a product.  Many others are old church cookbooks put together by the members for fundraising purposes.  Both types are very interesting in terms of advertising of the day.

I love to read rules like this.  Note that number ten states, "Never cut hot gingerbread with a knife.. always pull apart gently with 2 forks."  Of course I immediately want to cut it with a knife after reading that.  Why is it such an absolute?

From this I learned that if I add an egg to my oatmeal along with apricots and molasses, I might achieve the most iron-rich meal possible.  Good to remember if ever I become anemic.  Did I ever write about adding an egg to oatmeal?  You just crack it in there right when the oatmeal comes off the stove, and stir it well.  The hot oatmeal cooks the egg, and your oatmeal becomes sort of custardy-- richer tasting and really creamy.  It's delicious, and was not my idea, but I stopped reading the blog from which I got the idea... and can't remember what it was called.  (Oh yeah, here it is thanks to a quick google search Bread & Honey).

There are a lot of gingerbread recipes in this cookbook, ranging from traditional to tropical, but I just went with the first one, "My Best Gingerbread."  It's definitely good, and tastes distinctly of molasses.  I have an organic molasses purchased from the food co-op, not the Brer Rabbit brand, and mine is very dark.  If using a lighter molasses, the flavor would be milder.  My gingerbread also turned out a bit denser than I expected.  Don't know if my baking powder is getting old, or its an altitude issue?  It's not too dense to eat or anything, just reporting the results.

The cookbook also has lots of recipes that I wouldn't think of making with molasses, like the smothered pork chops above, or the veal goulash.  Both sound good.  I've never actually cooked veal though, and I'm not actually sure I've eaten it for that matter.  Reason right there to try it.

My Best Gingerbread-Best gingerbread you ever tasted!

1/2 cup shortening
12 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Brer Rabbit Molasses
1 cup hot water

Cream together shortening and sugar.  Add egg; beat well.  Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Combine molasses and water; add alternatively with flour mixture.  Line 8"x8"x2" greased pan with greased waxed paper; pour in batter.  Bake in moderate oven, 350° F., 50-60 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes.  Remove from pan.

Brer Rabbit New Orleans Molasses Recipes, © 1948, Penick & Ford, Ltd., Incorporated; New Orleans.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Favorite Books: La Foce A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany

This is the second to last book that I'm going to feature for October's National Book Month.  I ordered this book online, sight unseen and was very happy when it arrived.  It was written as part of the Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture, from the University of Pennsylvania Press.  Penn has one of the best known departments of Landscape Architecture in the country, with faculty who are well known for both their scholarship and professional practices.  (i.e. Peter Latz whose firm designed Duisberg Nord, James Corner whose firm Field Operations is {partially} responsible for the internet's current favorite park, the High Line in New York, and more).

This book is composed of four parts, a historical overview, one hundred photographs, field notes and  study drawings taken from the notebook of Laurie Olin, and a history of the garden designed by Cecil Pinsent.  Additionally it includes a poster sized rendered site plan of the gardens.  For someone trained in landscape architecture such as myself, my favorite part are the pages from the sketchbook of landscape architect Laurie Olin.  Looking through artistic people's journals and sketchbooks is always fascinating, but especially so when they detail construction elements or planting details.  Any gardener or lover of Italy would enjoy this book.

La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany, by Benedetta Origo, Morna Livingston, Laurie Olin and John Dixon Hunt.  © 2001, University of Pennsylvania Press; Philadelphia.

Garden Update: End of the Season

We had our first hard freeze last night, so all of the tender veggies are no more.  I'm okay with that, it's kind of nice to be done with the watering season.  This is a photo of what I've been harvesting over the last couple of weeks.  Last night my mom and gathered a big basket of green tomatoes, tomatillos, the last zucchinis and basil.  It was dark when we finished, so no picture.

Now just the hardy winter vegetables will survive.  With a little protection the swiss chard usually makes it through the whole cold season, the same with the kale and beets.  We get a good crop of late wild mustard and dandelion-like greens that I've been known to make into weed salad.

Now we need to process and put aside all of those green, semi-green tomatoes, and tomatillos.  So the garden work isn't quite over yet.  We're planning to can tomatillos, ripen any tomatoes that show any signs of pink, and make this delicious sounding green tomato soup that my friend Deirdre posted recently.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Molé Pizza with Arugula, Apple and Bacon.

I think I'm on to something here.  I made a pizza last week that used prepared molé sauce instead of a tomato sauce or pesto.  I'm sure someone else has thought of this, but I'd never heard of it.  (Google tells me I'm right, of course others have tried it, but most seem to have kept it Mexican in theme, and I took it in a totally different direction).  It was good!  As I've talked about before when I made tamales early in the year, I think the prepared molé that I can get at Pro's Ranch Market deli section is better than the brands like Dona Maria that are available in most supermarkets.  It's got a pretty high cinnamon flavor to me, but is still (hot) spicy too, and so toppings would have to adjust according to the exact flavor of your molé.  I topped my pizza with garlic, ricotta, apple slices, fennel seeds, brie cheese, arugula and bacon.

This is what it looked like spread on the crust.  Not too much because its got a lot of flavor.

It comes as a dry cube, so I blended it with just a little oil before it was spreadable like above.

Next I layered on the garlic slices, cheeses, apple and fennel seeds.

Finally the bacon and arugula.  The bacon is apple smoked and the arugula rather bitter, which I thought contrasted nicely with the sweet spiciness of the molé, sweetness of the apple, and creaminess of the cheese.

The finished product.  I would have added a bit more arugula if I'd had it since it baked down to almost nothing.

The molé would be great with pineapple too.  I recommend this highly.  Let me know if you give it a try, and what you combine it with.

Weekend Edition: Santa Fe and Seasonal Chores

View from the top of La Bajada hill.

This weekend was a combination of staying home to get chores done, and going up to Santa Fe to have a little fun and help a friend with some design related work.  Saturday was a mix of very cloudy and partly cloudy, making for some pretty dramatic scenery on the drive to and from Santa Fe.  

The main purpose of the trip was to help our friend Linda with some space planning issues.  This is not exactly an "after" shot, it's more like a "in-progress" photo.  There used to be a couch and a sofa table facing the fireplace and effectively blocking off the middle of the room and leaving a big unused empty space behind it (like where the viewer is standing).  Stupidly, I forgot to take real before pictures and just dove into moving furniture around.  A lot still needs to be done, like painting, additional furniture, new lighting, and more.  I think I'll make a separate post out of it.  Linda isn't someone who has ever thought much about interior decor, so I've been making suggestions and virtual boards for her to try to illustrate possibilities and get her excited.  She has gotten pretty excited about it, and I think seeing the space reconfigured really helped her see it's potential and helped her trust my design eye.

On Sunday the day was pretty typical-- laundry, a long walk by the bosque, and seasonal chores.  What does that mean?  This weekend it meant getting all the indoor plants, which reside outdoors all summer, ready to come back in.  We haven't had a frost yet, but the weather is changing, and that can't last much longer.  Had to get those plants cleaned up and back on window sills.  This morning I headed out to Home Depot to buy new pots and potting soil for those that needed replanting.  I also bought a couple bags of mushroom compost to add to the raised beds, and a pack of 75 daffodil bulbs to add to those already planted in the meadow.  Bulb planting and garden clean-up/prep, also both fall chores.  

There are about ten houseplants that need repotting, can you believe that?  Seems like a lot to me, but I'm trying to get rid of all the ugly plastic pots that may remain amongst the collection, and replace the terra cotta that start to flake and chip after years of watering. Now this afternoon I need to get myself out in the gloomy windy weather and get the potting done.  Doesn't sound very fun, but here I go!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fun: Fall Flowers

I'm still feeling under the weather and it's overcast and cool here today, which means that I'm planning not to leave the property all day.  In order to bring a little fun into my day, I cut some fall flowers to adorn my kitchen.  The zinnias are in their prime right now, but we're bound to get a frost soon, so I figured I'd better cut some before it's too late.  The red spikes are from the pineapple sage.  Edible leaves and great fall flowers?  Plant some soon!  This bouquet, along with comforting leftovers made my lunch as fun as possible.

In keeping with the floral theme, I bought this blue floral cape on Wednesday at Savers.  I kind of love it, even though capes are difficult to wear.  Take it from Garance Doré, she recently wrote about her cape dilemma.  

So yeah, like it in theory, but in practice capes are a bit awkward for arms and bags.  And this upholstery fabric in a shapeless cut?  Probably not the most flattering.  Overall I really like it, but what could one wear with it?  I'm thinking this dress underneath would be perfect, if I had a wedding to attend soon.  I don't.
Matilija velvet burnout dress, $188.

And those J.Crew red shoes that I've posted about before could look awesome with skinny jeans, this cape, and red lipstick, right?

J.Crew Coddington suede platform pump in Dusk Red, $228.
Anyway, for the rest of the day I'm going to stay inside, drink lots of tea, and deconstruct some other vintage finds that have been awaiting my attention.  Have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorite Books: Casa Italiana

In honor of October being National Book Month, I'm sharing my favorite books and have moved into the realm of books for adults.  Or very precocious children.

It rained here last night, which was lovely, but seems to have triggered some cold/allergy symptoms that have left me feeling a bit beaten up this morning.  I'm going to forego my usual wordiness and leave you with the following pictures of one of my favorite design books.  I have eclectic tastes and these interiors reflect that.  Some fantastic tile work in here, too.  Click images for bigger version.

This is the rationalist style kitchen (left) of the Serena Family home in Rome.  Built in 1937.
Bathroom in the house of Carlo Mollino, Turin.
Animal print walls in the bedroom of the house of Carlo Mollino, Turin.
Modern mixed with classical design in the house of Carlo Mollino, Turin.
Views of the living room with fantastic starburst style chandelier in the house of Carlo Mollino, Turin.
Entry hall and Japanese style doors to living room in the house of Carlo Mollino, Turin.
Pale blue walls in the bedroom of an architect's house in Cremona. 
Hallways and sculptor's studio of  architect's house in Cremona.
Dining room and studio study area of an architect's house in Cremona.
Old paintings casually leaning against the wall, and modern furniture in the loft of Rudolfo Dordoni, Milan.

Casa Italiana by Patrizia Catalano and Photographs by Henry Thoreau.  ©2002, Rizzoli; New York.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vintage Kitchen: Moosewood Cookbook's Mexican Corn Bread

Yeah, a cookbook from the 70s isn't quite what I had in mind when I decided to start the Vintage Kitchen series, but those older books just haven't been catching my eye lately.  And since I was born prior to 1977, I'm not so thrilled to be calling this cookbook vintage, believe me.  However, if I were selling a blouse from the 70s on eBay I'd call it vintage, so the same applies here, right?  So, here is a nice hippie restaurant recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, circa 1977, that I made as part of last night's dinner.  I added chopped Oaxacan pasilla chiles to the milk and egg mixture and let it sit for about a half an hour to really absorb the flavor.  Very tasty, so I'd recommend the addition of any pepper you have on hand.  

The Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen.  ©1977. Ten Speed Press.

The Moosewood Cookbook's Mexican Corn & Cheese Bread

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. honey
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (whole kernels)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
finely chopped chile to taste (I used a very strong smoked Oaxacan pasilla, and only needed about a tablespoon worth.  Chipotle pepper would be good, s would roasted green chile or jalepeno).

Heat olive oil in a small skillet.  Add minced onion, and sauté over medium heat 5-8 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent.  Set aside to cool.  Beat together egg, honey and milk.  Combine thoroughly together flour, corn meal, baking powder, and salt.  Combine milk mixture and cornmeal mixture.  Mix until well blended.  Add corn kernels, sautéed onions (be sure to scrape in all the excess olive oil from the pan), grated cheese and chile if using.  Mix well.  Spread into well-buttered 8-inch square pan.  Bake at 375° F for 25-30 minutes, or until brown and firm on top.

I served it with this mushroom-y barley soup.  No recipe for that because I made it up as I went along and didn't take notes.  Probably pretty standard.  I spiced it with a tiny bit of cumin, coriander seeds, sage, and yellow mustard seeds, and I added about a quarter cup of soy sauce to deepen the flavor and make it saltier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm Out for the Day: Guest Posting at The Marion House Book

I'm guest posting at one of my favorite blogs today, The Marion House Book!  Emma is a designer in Toronto with one of the best real-life houses on the web.  Its a Victorian that's filled with modern furnishings and cool art.  She's got spot-on good taste, takes her own photos, and styles them perfectly.  Her blog is almost exclusively original content, which I love, and her comments section is always an interesting read.  Plus, she actually responds to commenters!  Love that.  She can pretty much do no wrong, so if you aren't reading her blog already, you should start.  Seriously, she's trained as a chef, so her food posts are awesome.  She apparently lives in the coolest neighborhood ever, if you can judge from her Hello! Neighbour series.  She can make discussions on grey paint interesting.

I'm flattered to be guest posting for her while she's on vacation.  What are you waiting for?  Check it out here.  Want to see other rooms that I've virtually redecorated for friends/family?  Check here and here.  It seems that I've forgotten to post a couple others.  Perhaps another post soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Favorite Books: Children's Book Wrap-up

More favorite books in honor of National Book Month. Today I'm going to wrap up the children's book posts, because I know I'm getting a little bored with them, so no doubt you are too!

When my mom and I moved to San Francisco I was four and couldn't yet read.  We were staying with friends while looking for an apartment, and in that time most of our belongings were in storage.  That meant that most of my books were in storage.  My mom bought this book for me, and it was basically the only book I had for at least a month.  What did that mean?  It meant that at least once a day, sometimes twice,  my mom had to read it to me.  Over and over and over.  Poor mom, she probably could quote it by heart even now, 32 years later.  It tells the story of Elizabeth as she goes through hospitalization for a ruptured appendix.  Its a great book to teach kids about what goes on in a hospital.  I don't know if I'd have the patience to read it day after day though.  To get relief my mom also read aloud A Tale of Two Cities to me, which was super exciting but the injustice of the wrong man going to the guillotine was such a travesty to me that I never forgot it.

Elizabeth Gets Well by Alfons Weber, M.D., ©1970, Thomas Y. Crowell Company; New York.

The next book is one that I checked out of our local library when we were living in Albuquerque.  I might have only read it once, but the illustrations stuck with me for years, haunting me until I finally had to track it down.  It was difficult, because although I remembered clearly that the book was about a monkey who escapes from the zoo and ends up at a department store (among other locations), I was convinced the monkey was named Horatio.  (And was a monkey, not an orangutan).  I finally figured it out and bought an old copy for my collection.

See, a department store!  Exactly how I remembered.  Just reinforces the fact that I have a visual memory, not a verbal one.  Can you spot Wallace?

Where's Wallace? Story and Panoramas by Hilary Knight. ©1964, Harper & Row, Publishers; New York, Evanston, and London.

Turns out that the same illustrator was responsible for the pictures in a later series of favorite books too.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, who used magic to teach kids important moral lessons, such as lying is bad. 

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic, by Betty MacDonald, pictures by Hilary Knight. ©1949 text and 1957 illustrations, J.B. Lippincott Company; Philadelphia and New York.

And finally, this book is representative of a genre of deductive illustration books that I really loved.  Short mystery stories with clues offered in highly detailed illustrations.  I also loved books about gangs of kids who had adventure clubs, invented things, solved mysteries, etc.  Trixie Belden, Harriet the Spy, and more. 

The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang, by Hans Jurgen Press. ©1976, Scholastic Book Services; New York.

I loved many more books than this of course, but I can't feature them all!  If you were going to gift a friend with great children's books from your favorites what would it include?