Monday, March 28, 2011

carrots and Santa Barbara memories

I've been stock-piling carrots from our CSA for 3 weeks now. Why? Because cleaning and peeling carrots is a drag! I finally tackled the task yesterday (netting 4 pounds of carrots) - in fact, spent a few hours in the kitchen cleaning veggies and preparing dinner. It's so nice to be back in my element. And my Sunday dinner turned out surprisingly delicious.

The line-up: grilled porkchops, roasted carrots & fennel, and a grilled flatbread dish from a Santa Barbara restaurant that I attempted to recreate. Back in November, I tagged along with Todd to a work conference in Santa Barbara. While he was stuck in a room full of geeks discussing boring things, I gallivanted and had dinner at Julienne, arguably the best restaurant around there. It was a wonderful meal. I sat at the tiny bar with the chefs cooking right in front of me and plowed my way through 5 courses. Full by course 3, I ended up giving my leftovers to a transient on the walk back to the hotel. I hope he liked duck!

My favorite course of the night was a grilled flatbread topped with grilled radicchio, lardo and parmesan-pine nut butter. Bitter, smoky, salty, and sweet all on one plate - it was the perfect little dish. My pine nut butter didn't turn out exactly like Julienne's but I had to guess what was in it based on a 5-month-old memory. I think that this is still a good interpretation though.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!
Salty-Sweet-Smoky-Sharp Grilled Flatbread

radicchio or endive (I used endive since it showed up in our CSA share last week; radicchio will hold up to the grill heat better)
flatbread (2 6-inch rounds, or more if you want to spread the pine nut butter thinner)
1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
2 Tbsp grated parmesan
olive oil
agave nectar or honey

To make the pine nut butter: In a food processor, chop pine nuts until very fine. Add the parmesan, a few drops of olive oil and a few drops of agave nectar/honey. Process until smooth and creamy. Add any additional oil to achieve nut butter consistency and additional cheese to taste.

Brush the flatbread with olive oil. Grill the radicchio over a high flame to achieve a char but don't cook it beyond recognition. Grill the flatbread until charred.

Assemble: Spread pine nut butter on flatbread. Top with prosciutto and then radicchio. Drizzle/spray with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

our first major home project: complete!

After four weeks of kitchen gutting and re-assembling, we're finally back up and running...mostly. There still is a (hopefully) minor electrical outlet issue that, cross my fingers, gets fixed this week. But for all intents and purposes, the kitchen is functional and beautiful. I broke it in a few days ago by making a fennel & swiss chard quiche - complete with homemade crust! It felt good to get back in the kitchen even though I had trouble finding things.

Let's start with some before-and-afters and then move on to some close-up shots.

First, the dry bar:

A slightly opened-up pass-through:

And the main event!

Surprisingly, it was the faucet from Amazon that ended up being defective, not the RO faucet that I bought on eBay. A new replacement from Lowe's did the trick:

The LED under-cabinet lights aren't completely hidden, but they don't stick out like a sore thumb like I thought they would. I settled for "on/off" lights instead of dimmables because of MAJOR price differences and I'm happy with our selection:

It feels much more airy without the big bulkhead above these cabinets. Now I just need a step stool so I can reach the cabinets' second and third shelves!

We could have moved back into the kitchen a lot sooner but I had to be difficult and request handles that were back-ordered. But they're so pretty; it was worth the wait.

This photo is the best representation of the actual granite color:

Back to the dry bar, with the most interesting section of granite:

And now we can take a breather and enjoy the new kitchen until we decide what's next on tap...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

arizona kitchen party!

Haven't posted in a while - my sister was visiting and I'm still trying to get the kitchen put back together. Pictures are on the way as soon as I can clear the mess!

Last night we saw my favorite live band in the world, Great Big Sea. They put on the most fun concert! It was my 5th show of theirs, but the last one was 7 years ago - much too long ago! My voice is a little hoarse from singing along, my calves a bit sore from dancing, and my hands tender from clapping, but it was worth the pain, hehe. Sea shanties, drinking songs, accordions, bodhrans and mandolins? What's not to love?! To boot, they played for nearly 2.5 hours.

Gotta love the miracle of technology. Someone already uploaded a video of their final song from last night. After all the boisterous music, I love the stripped down finale (and Sean's little flub at the beginning).

And here's an oldie but goodie to end this post on a peppy note!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

snowflakes and graupel and sleet, oh my

A couple weeks ago, I found myself in a very surreal spot - surrounded by snow in the desert!

I had signed up for a photography class at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a gem of a park in Superior, an old mining town. It's about an hour east of Phoenix and 2000 feet up. Snow at 2000 feet in Arizona is extremely rare - once every 10 years, I'm told. It was pretty cool to be able to experience this surreal event with camera in tow.

The photographer leading the walk-about was a great teacher and introduced us to shooting in manual mode. It's all about metering...which is still a mystery to me. A lot of my photos came out with over-exposed sky so that's something I'll have to work on. Or continue to use automatic mode as my crutch...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

scared of nails

This framed photo/art collage has been in the works for months - it's gotten ridiculous. I just keep dragging my feet. I'm finally to the point where I'm ready to pound nails into the wall. ...BUT I'm having my doubts after slapping together this mock-up. Does the collage look small and silly compared to the wall? Maybe I need more space between the frames? Any opinions?

Friday, March 4, 2011

dreaming of a backyard oasis

The onset of warm weather has got me in the mood for some backyard luxuriating. Now if only our yard was a bit more inviting. Over-sized adirondack chairs are what I have in mind:

along with some strings of lights (pic from Modern Outdoor Lighting):

A patch of weed-free grass would be nice too. At least I can start to tackle that one this weekend.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

the great outdoors

We live in a neighborhood full of tiny yards. Everyone has a brick wall surrounding their backyard for privacy - since the homes are so close together. Phoenix doesn't have squirrels, so the only wildlife we get are lame birds and tiny lizards (and roof rats, but we don't like to think about those). Because of all this, it seemed quite surprising to find a pair of ducks in our backyard this morning! They hung out in the grass snacking away and then took a dip in the pool.

Ginger was itching to "make friends" with the ducks. After they disappeared into the sideyard, I let Ginger out. She went to work sniffing around in the grass. I walked around the corner of the house to find the ducks sitting on the side patio. A few minutes later, Ginger comes blasting around the corner, I duck for cover (and possibly squeal) and the ducks take off. I don't think Ginger would have known what to do next if she had actually caught one of them!