Friday, May 25, 2012

Cinderella's Kid Sister

Puntarelle, in fact, is no relation of Cinderella. Rather, it is a type of chicory and one of the darlings of Roman cooking.  Although it's not well known here or even in other parts of Italy, I'd heard that it is quite delicious, and difficult to find in the market or on a menu.

So I thought, if you can't find it, go out and grow it. But first, you need the seeds (I know, this is beginning to sound like a chicken and egg story...).  But I got lucky. In Italy last fall, while looking for romanesco broccoli seeds (which I never found), I came across a packet of puntarelle seeds and they, ahem, sort of just followed me home.  (A number of years ago, a very different kind of seed also "followed" me home from Bhutan, but that is another story, and those seeds are all looonng gone.)

Once home, I planted the seeds and waited. And waited. And waited at least twice as long as the seed packet made me believe possible. But in April, I finally had something to talk about.

And, put politely, it was very obvious that my puntarelle were really something to talk about. They were all, shall we say, most manly.  You'd of thought it had been raining testosterone instead of water. Or maybe Cinderella had a kid brother?

Unlike most "greens," you don't focus on the leaves of puntarelle, but the the stems and the shoots that are tucked in at the center of the plant. The shoots are finely sliced and made to swim in ice water for an hour or so to remove some of the bitterness and curl the slices. It also keeps them very crunchy.

This part can be  time-consuming, so you really have to like the people who are dining with you. (And they damn well better like the salad, too, and tell you so. Repeatedly.) It may appear seasonally on restaurant menus, such as Locanda in the city.

Drain the slices, pat dry in a towel, and gently mix with a dressing of finely minced garlic, mashed anchovies, olive oil, vinegar and/or lemon juice, and salt to taste.

Buon Appetito!

(If you want to plant some yourself, search for "puntarelle seeds" or "chicory catalogna seeds" and plant late summer/early fall for a holiday season harvest. That's what the Romans do.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Taking a Shellacking

A few weeks ago, I had to shellac some lampshades. Not my favorite activity: carefully putting down layers and layers of stinky insect secretions with a small brush. And then do it all again. And again.  So, while that's going on, you try and be distracted. Without chemical enhancements. Because all those dead bugs supply plenty, thank you. However, since I'm not in my own work space, the options are limited: the radio, tuned to KQED, the local public radio station.

But I got lucky - Peter  Coyote was being interviewed by Michael Krasny on Forum. Now I've enjoyed listening to Peter Coyote for many years (and, in some instances falling asleep to Mr. Coyote, especially while watching Ken Burn's Prohibition series). And I was enjoying the discussion of his experiences in the '60's, and now, as a Zen Buddhist priest, actor, and roadie for his wife's rock & roll band.  Until he was asked about the Occupy Movement:

A caller named Susan asked,  "I wonder where you place the Occupy Movement in the social change arc?"

"I think the Occupy Movement is the most exciting thing that's happened in the last 35 years. And I think that they've refined a lot of the things that we began....." And he elaborated.

"But what about the people who say that they sympathize with the Occupy Movement but they're concerned about the violence. Or they don't support it any longer because of the violence."

Coyote:  "What violence?"

Krasny:  "Oakland."

Coyote:  "Whe..."

Krasny:  "Property damage."

(Right. So let's do the arithmetic: the Occupy Movement = violence, that is, property damage, not head-bashing. And violence = Oakland. Umkay...).

As I said, I've enjoyed listening to Peter Coyote's voice for a long time. The thoughtful responses he gave to this questioning turned me into a fan.

KQED Forum interview with Peter Coyote

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just in Time...for Winter?

Afghans for Afghans, (you knit or crochet it, they send it to keep Afghani families warm) has just announced a new campaign for hand knit wool socks, mittens and hats. Deadline is sometime in July.  Details here.

Please pass this along to someone who loves to knit, but doesn't want to be smothered under a large, itchy project during the hot summer. (Right. Have you taken the flannel sheets off your bed yet?)

Photo by M. Reardon

And if you do donate a project (or two), most likely I will get to ooh and aah over it, since I sometimes volunteer as a packing helper in the AFSC basement in SF. Not the best neighborhood, but the company is fun.

Shameless Plug #2: Sue Johnson Custom Lamps & Shades

Haha, hoho, once again, it's the annual Spring Sale time at Sue Johnson Lamps & Shades on Solano in Berkeley.  Starts Friday, May 11th and keeps on going through Sunday, May 20th. Be really nice to the helpers there, 'cause we get a little wonky by the end.  

Happy Mother's Day!

Yup, I made the shade for the lamp to the left. And that most gorgeous ceiling piece shown below was made by Mary Shilman. She also took the photos. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking News! Wild Shoots! Out in Oakland!

I know, I know, collards are not the most glamorous vegetable on the plate, even if eating your greens is very cool right now.  But if you wait around long enough, you get something even better (can that be possible!) than the leaves.  You get the shoots.

The shoots are tender (stalks included), mildly broccoli-esque, and if you pick them regularly, will keep producing for a very long time.

Saute them in olive oil with garlic and onions; do the southern Italian thing by adding raisins, pine nuts (actually, most often now I use almonds or pepitas since pine nuts have gotten so dear) with a splash of balsamic; or chop them up for use with those other healthy greens you have on hand.

In fact, collard shoots are very reminiscent of my favorite broccoli: the trendy "piracicaba broccoli."  Found on menus from as far away as Blue Hill at Stone Barns (one of my lovely sisters is on the Board at Stone Barns) to Bar Agricole in SF, piracicaba is somewhere between broccoli raab and a heading broccoli, only sweet-flavored, and very easy to grow.  Winter or summer.  Eat the small heads and the tender leaves, wait, and more will appear over a number of months.

Piracicaba seeds are available from Bountiful Gardens, (although they misspell the name and mash the pronunciation.  It's "peer-a-see-CA-ba".  I told 'em, but they just weren't listening).  Bred by Brazilian agronomists, so of course it's trendy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Brag, Brag, Brag #1: Miquette Elliott

 Fashion Alert!  Fashion Alert!

Miquette Elliott, that soon-to-be alumnus of UC Davis's fashion and design program will have some of her creations featured at the Inspired Innovation show at Supperclub on Sunday, May 6th.

I saw her menswear and women's wear collections - Fiat Lux - at Picnic Day in Davis a weekend or so ago. Wow! The collections were inspired by Chartres Cathedral. And I've never seen a more beautiful version of the Virgin.

You can view more of her work at MiqDesigns.