Spring time has me all a flutter over here in Northeastern parts. I've been jealously devouring all the posts from the Northwest bloggers, what with their pictures of flowering trees and their getting-gardens-ready-for-planting. Oh, and the fact that they already have spring produce at their farmers markets. But then just today, I saw the first crocuses blooming around a still-nekkid tree over on Tremont Street. Oh, did my heart twinge with joy. I. Can't. Wait.
Some of you may remember my garden from last year. It was a bit of a disappointment for my first back-porch garden, so I thought I'd scale back a bit this year and start with a fresh perspective on the whole she-bang. First off, I'm scrapping the veggies for the time being. It's just not feasible in my little container garden and I feel really happy about buying produce from my farmer's market, so we'll leave that until I have an actual garden. Or a job that allows me to devote more time to caring for veggies.
I bought a whole mess of flower seeds that I'm planning on scattering willy-nilly in several of my containers. We'll see what pops up with those. Theoretically, I should have already started seedlings or at least (I think) scattered the seeds last fall, but...well...meh? I'll be happy with whatever little flowers decide to poke their faces up at me.
And then (here's my Smartest Move Yet!), I ordered actual seedlings of several different culinary herbs that will magically, miraculously, oh-so-perfectly arrive at my doorstep just when they should be planted in the garden. So wonderful. So perfect. And even so affordable! I think I'm getting six different herbs for about $17. I can't WAIT for fresh herbs again. The more I've gotten into cooking this past fall, the more I've been learning and discovering new ways to use herbs. I didn't feel like I really took advantage of the herbs I grew last summer because I honestly didn't know how to use them--unless a recipe called for a specific herb, I didn't think to try adding anything different. This summer? A whole new kinda Emma, just you wait!
Ok, a few updates:1) I have finally finished Stephen's scarf. I custom knit some Urban Mitts (a.k.a. the Aid-and-Abet Smoker's Gloves) for Stephen last fall (link HERE) and apparently at some point agreed to throw in a hat and scarf with the leftover yarn. I don't actually recall this conversation, but Stephen was quite insistent that it did, indeed, occur. I have my doubts, but nonetheless, I did have leftover yarn and so...why not?! Well, other projects struck my fancy and with this and that, I didn't get around to finishing this scarf until a few weeks ago, just as the weather started to turn. I call it "Stephen's About-Time Scarf" and used the My So-Called Scarf pattern from Sheep in the City (link HERE). I love love love with a cherry on top and a few extra dollops of creme fraiche this pattern. It was fun to knit--never boring--and I felt very accomplished to have mastered the stitch (it's not actually that hard, but it looks that hard--the best of both worlds). The resulting fabric is kind of squishy or spongy, kind of like the waffle-weave on thermal shirts and absolutely perfect for a cozy scarf. I also have dreams of a cardigan in this stitch, but I'm afraid that will have to remain in Knitted Dream Land for a few more months. I knit this scarf length-wise because I was worried about running out of yarn (which I did. I even used all my little tail-scraps to finish binding off the last row! But look how symmetrical I got the stripes to be!). Oh, and a hat? Did I agree to a hat? I don't remember a hat...*Note to anyone out there thinking of commissioning some great knit good from me--I'm more than happy to do it, but don't expect anything in a timely manner. True art takes time, don't ya know. But wine and a steady supply of Top Chef DVDs will also help get the job done. Just sayin'.
2) The next book in the Keys To The Kingdom series by Garth Nix is out and in stores! It's called Lady Friday and picks up the story of our intrepid young hero, Arthur, just as he has taken the fourth key. Unlike the other books in the series which wrapped up the individual book with minimal cliffhangers, the recent book (Sir Thursday) ended practically mid-sentence. I believe I may have gasped when I turned the page and saw that the book just...just...ended! So it is with much delight that I anticipate reading this fifth book. Stay tuned, fellow lovers of young adult fantasy!
3) And last but not least, I leave you with the recipe and mouth watering pictures for my new favorite comfort food: Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil Fried Eggs and Garlicky Swiss Chard. Mmm, mmm...good. If only I had a few black truffles to shave on top, this dish would take no prisoners. All the flavors combine so perfectly--especially the creamy polenta, the runny yoke, and the crispy edges. I'm a huge fan of wilted greens, their bitter flavor and slight chew make a great contrast to the egg and polenta. I would like to point out that this simple dish combines every flavor profile: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami.
This dish comes courtesy of the New York Times and their article "A Morning Meal Begs to Stay Up Late," published 2/7/07. (Click HERE for the article--though it may be content protected) I have made a few adaptations from the original recipe.
Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil Fried Eggs
*Note: This recipe for polenta makes the best polenta I've ever made--very creamy and smooth. It makes several cups, so I usually pour the leftovers into a bread loaf pan, cover with saran wrap, and let set. You can then cut off blocks of polenta as needed from the 'loaf.'
4 1/2 cups broth or water (I use half chicken broth and half water--all chicken broth makes the polenta taste a bit 'tinned,' in my opinion)
1 1/2 cups polenta (not quick-cooking), course corn meal, or corn grits. (I use Goya brand corn meal)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1-oz chunk of Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 large eggs (or 1-2 eggs per person)
course sea salt for garnish
1. In a large pot, bring broth/water to a simmer (not boil). Gently shake in the corn meal a bit at a time and add salt. Simmer, stirring as frequently as your arm muscles can stand, until it thickens to taste--between 10 and 20 minutes. Cover pot to keep warm.
*If making the chard as well, start the chard wilting now.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese into slivers. Alternately, grate it on the largest hole of a box grater.
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until very hot. Fry 4 eggs at a time until edges are crispy and the yokes are still runny. Repeat with remaining oil and eggs.
4. Pile polenta into 4 bowls and top with first the cheese and then the fried eggs. Garnish with sea salt.
Garlicky Swiss Chard
(if serving with polenta and fried eggs, cut the chard before starting any cooking and then start wilting the chard after the polenta has finished cooking.)
2 bunches of Swiss chard, stems removed (You could really use any leafy green, here. I think I might have actually used collard greens by mistake, and it was still delish.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Juice from one half squeeze lemon
Salt to taste.
1. Stack chard leaves on top of one another (you can make several piles), and slice them into 1/4-inch strips
2. Heat oil in a very large skilled. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the chard, turning to coat with oil. Cover pan and let cook for about 2 minutes until chard is wilted. Uncover, stir, and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Serve alongside the polenta with fried egg, and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top just before serving.
Weight Watchers Points: One egg, a half cup of polenta, a few shavings of Parmesan, and as much chard as you want will equal about 5 points.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007