Sunday, January 31, 2010

Whose nest is this?

I see a bunch of these nests out at Chatfield State Park. They're very cleverly made baskets, dangling from the ends of branches. They're about the size of a baseball. Does anyone know what bird makes them? You can click the photo to see it larger.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

If you like licorice, you'll like absinthe. Or my preferred anise tipple, Pernod and ice water, a.k.a. pastis.

A fun place to try both, and a tasty menu to boot, is Z Cuisine and its companion bar, À Côté.

Z Cuisine
2239 West 30th Avenue
Denver, CO 80211

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Be it resolved

While I didn't make a New Year's resolution to declutter and get more organized, it's been at the top of my list of things to work toward for a while. And seeing many others making a concerted push is inspiring. Susan, for example, started a blog about her decluttering efforts.

I've managed to keep most of the house clutter under control since I moved, but I've got quite a few boxes full of the detritus of my youth. Things I loved dearly back then but haven't looked at in years.

It used to be I couldn't bear the thought of parting with a piece of it, but now I think, "Why should I keep it?"

Today I went through a box of little figurines I loved as a girl. Some of it is quite old. Little dogs, cats, horses, chickens, a tiny tea set "made in occupied Japan." I looked at it, said, "Aww, I remember that!" then put it all in the Goodwill box.

Well, almost all of it. I'm keeping the poodles.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Awesome salad with pickled onions and parsley pesto

This salad starts with a turkey reuben, oddly enough. That was the very tasty sandwich I had at 900 Grayson in Berkeley on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

With it came a nice little green salad with pickled beets and even better, pickled onions. Oh my, so tasty.

Since I had volunteered to bring a salad to Thanksgiving dinner, those onions were an inspiration. I looked around online and found Sassy Radish's post on Anne Burrell's recipe for escarole salad with pickled red onions.

Well, you don't have to use escarole; romaine works just dandy. And the salad's not just about the onions; it's got some other goodies, too.

Start with the pickling a day ahead if you can. You'll need a red onion, thinly sliced. Put it into a mixture of 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup cold water, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a couple good shakes of hot sauce such as Tabasco or sriracha.

If you're making a really big salad, you can double this with two onions, but don't double the salt. (I learned this the hard way, but with enough time to rectify it.)

If you like pickled things, you may find yourself the next day eating onions out of the bowl like candy.

When you're ready to make the salad, you toast 1/2 cup hazelnuts (pieces or whole, doesn't matter). Toss them into a food processor (if you have a mini one, that works great) with 1/2 cup grated hard, pungent cheese such as pecorino romano or asiago or parmesan or a combination (thanks, Trader Joe's!), and about 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley leaves. Pulse until it looks a bit like dry pesto.

Toss this mixture in your lettuce with a good drizzle of olive oil, the onions, and some spoonfuls of the pickling liquid.
It was very good! The Thanksgiving salad disappeared, as did one for a party the next night.

The salad you see here is just for me; I made a big batch of onions and pesto and I'm eating yummy fresh salads all week.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It's only natural

After a few days of bitter, bitter cold, it's so nice to get out and really stretch your legs. The best place for us to do that is Chatfield State Park. It's a 20-minute drive, which is well worth it when we have the time. We only go on weekdays, though. Weekends are too crowded.

On the less-crowded side of the river we can usually spot some wildlife. There are lots of Canada geese, ducks, pelicans, seagulls and the occasional heron or egret. It's always cool to spot a raptor. I've seen this kestrel twice now, each time with a snack.
The picture above is from Dec. 12. The one below is from yesterday.
It's a treat to spot kingfishers, too, though I always get the kookaburra song stuck in my head when I see one. "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he ..."

If I had a better camera or a digiscope I could get better shots, but then I wouldn't be able to just tuck it in my pocket for such walks. So I'm just happy the birds are identifiable!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

May 2010 be as golden

This is a portion of our New Year's Eve sunset. We often have such nice ones here, so I can't say this was particularly auspicious. But maybe it was.

Monday, January 04, 2010

When life hands you lemons

For my birthday, the Sergeant gave me a jumbo bag of Meyer lemons. I wanted them for their juice – I freeze it in ice cube trays, then put the cubes in bags to use throughout the year.

This year I decided to try my hand at candying the peels. I messed around with the different variables, looking at recipes from both Jen and Diane and Todd.

You can go with pithy slices of peel (above) or with skin alone (below). Then there's blanching to get rid of the bitterness of the pith. You definitely need to do that, even with the non-pithy peels. Another variable is the sugar:water ratio – 2:1 was Goldilocks' pick.

In the end, the thicker slices shown above had to be dried out in the oven a little so they would not be so gummy. I dipped them in a melted bar of Dagoba "Rich Dark." Very tasty!

The real winner, though, was the candied peels of pure lemon skin, without pith. They all got eaten before I could do a glamor shot with them, so you get a picture of them on the drying rack. They curled up a lot in the cooking process.

I didn't put chocolate on them because that would've been gilding the lily.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mr. Books II

There used to be a black cat named Mr. Books at this bookstore. Then Mr. Books died and the owner was very sad. The store was cat-less for a long time.

When we walked by the other day we saw there was a new cat. We don't know his name yet but we were happy to make his acquaintance through the mail slot.

Friday, January 01, 2010