Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Work in Progress: Tumbling Blocks Wall Quilt

George Will said the pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.  He's right.  I was getting a bit demoralized at seeing some not so parallel lines and at all the bits and knots of gray bobbin thread coming up to the front from the back.  And so that's when I stop sewing for the night.  
Then I come back to the quilt and find charm in my unsophisticated stitching and resume again.  Besides getting better and realizing what to do differently next time is where all the fun is. 
The back is a hot mess, but I'll take some time to pull and snip these loose threads. 

And being close to done is better than being perfect.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cooking: Shellfish Stew

Before my trip to New Orleans last week, I had bought a fennel bulb and a leek, intending to make a bouillabaisse and just didn't get to it.  Luckily, these root vegetables remained fresh enough in the vegetable drawer, which made for a delicious midweek dinner.
My mise en place:  a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, olive oil, 2 bottles of clam juice, Chardonnay.  I started by dicing half of a large yellow onion and mincing 2 large cloves of garlic.
I then chopped and diced the fennel and sliced half the leek into thin segments.  I normally discard the tops and fronds of the fennel, but decided this time to finely chop the fronds and am glad I did as they added lovely color to the broth and a bit more of that licorice flavor to the stew.
I had already tossed my onion and garlic into the soup pot along with a glug of olive oil.  Then I tossed in the sliced leek and let the aromatics sweat with a sprinkle of salt on medium high heat.
After about 5 minutes of sautéing the aromatics, I then added my chopped fennel bulb as well as its fronds.
While the fennel was sautéing further with the onions, garlic and leek, I got to chopping and dicing 4 Yukon gold potatoes from my garden. 
When I added the diced potatoes into the soup pot, I also added a couple knobs of butter.
I also added a couple bay leaves and then shook a couple of teaspoons of saffron into my palm to rub and crush and add to the pot.
Next I added what was left in my wineglass after sipping.
Then in went the canned tomatoes and the bottles of clam juice.
I let the soup simmer for a good 45 minutes to meld the flavors and cook the potatoes, occasionally adding water and tasting to add more sprinkles of salt.  This is the broth after the simmer.  I then took out my shellfish from the freezer.
I had bought a bag of frozen shellfish:  cooked mussel in the shell, deveined and peeled shrimp, calamari rings, and scallops.  I had already cheated by not making my own fish stock, so this is another shortcut by not buying the seafood fresh from the fishmonger.  I added half the package or 3 soup bowls full of seafood.
I hate when shellfish gets overcooked, and so I added it before serving rather than letting it get rubbery.  It only needed to cook for a couple minutes in the bubbling broth.
A toasted piece of baguette rubbed with a bit of garlic clove and a slather of butter, a glass of ice cold white wine and a bowl of shellfish stew made for a lovely and ooh la la meal.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hand Sewing: Dachsund Brooch

I'm on spring break and cleared my dining table of everything but this afternoon's craft:  a dachshund brooch kit that came with this magazine, Mollie Makes.  I photocopied the templates from the instructions, and the kit contained everything needed to make the brooch: felt, embroidery floss, medallion, pin back and even the needle.

Here are the complete instructions in the magazine which was my guide for which colors to place next to each other. 

I cut the xeroxed templates and pinned the larger templates on the felt.  For the smaller triangles of the dog's coat, I merely held the paper to the felt and cut around the template as they were too small to pin.  I used craft scissors to cut the paper and these super sharp scissors to cut the felt.

I used an overcast stitch to affix the brown felt pieces on to the white background.

There is enough leftover felt for the vest and gold fabric for the collar and belt if I decide to make more of these dachshund brooches.

After finishing the front of the pin brooch, I used needle and thread rather than fabric glue to affix the pin back and then sewed the two white pieces wrong side together with a blanket stitch.  Adorable!  I would like to design a brooch of my chihuahua, Elmo, but instead of a halter, I'll put a bow tie on him instead.

Cooking: Salmon Chowder

I shared my lunch of salmon chowder with a friend, and she ate all of it, gave it thumbs up and said send more of my leftovers her way.  And here's how I cooked it.

I laid out all ingredients I had on hand:  heavy whipping cream, a red potato, a Yukon gold potato, a fingerling, a stalk of green onion, uncured bacon, salmon "bones" or the fish head, spine, ribs, and tail of a filleted salmon which you can buy from the fishmonger and a salmon steak. 

I chopped 3 slices of bacon into 1/4 inch slices.

I peeled the skin off the salmon steak and cut it into 1" cubes.

Here are the "bones" for my fumet. 

I chopped half a white onion and decided to also chop a shallot.

Here are my boiled salmon bones which I simmered in water for 35 to 40 minutes.  I am about to remove the meat to put back into my chowder and discard the bones and skin.

Here's the broth which I skimmed and added a bit of salt to taste.

Here's all the meat I removed from the bones along with a little belly fat into the same bowl of cut-up salmon chunks.

Next I browned the bacon and reserved it for later.

I added a couple pats of butter in which to brown my aromatics.

I sautéed the onion and shallots probably for 10 minutes or so or until almost translucent.

In went in the diced potatoes and a bay leaf.

And then the fish stock and a bunch of fresh thyme tied together with butcher string.  I simmered the fish broth which I tasted and which I thought lacking.  And then I looked at the recipe for the New York Times smoky fish chowder and remembered that it needed smoked Hungarian hot paprika which I added with a rather heavy hand--a teaspoon rather than a quarter teaspoon.  

Once the broth tasted yummy and the potatoes tender, I added a quarter cup of heavy whipping cream, the bacon and the salmon.

Ready to serve.