Friday, May 30, 2008

Attempts at "Gardening"

Growing one's own herbs is a wonderful thing, not least because it resolves that age-old dilemma all cooks have faced at one time or another:

should I buy a whole big bunch of parsely at my expensive New York City grocery store
for $1.99 just for the 2 tsp my recipe requires, or should I omit it altogether?

When you're growing your own, you can just snip off the amount you want! With that principle of frugality and avoiding waste in mind, I am trying to grow some herbs at home this summer.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness to get started on the project right away, I did not employ the most successful strategy. While all aspiring herb growers in their right minds go to the farmer's market and get promising-looking little seedlings, I decided it would be a good idea to plant seeds in the dirt and watch them grow. Not for any philosophical reason, mind you, I just forgot that if I waited a few weeks, the markets would be awash with little parsely, basil, and sage plants--already looking hardy, smelling fragrant, and destined for long-term survival.

As soon as I saw the little starter plants in the green market a few weekends ago, looking far healthier than my wispy little stalks ever could, I knew that I had made a mistake. And then I remembered how I did this very same thing last year and, when my stunted basil never produced enough for a single respectable batch of pesto, I vowed I would remember to start with seedlings rather than seeds the next time. (Fortunately last year we were saved when our neighbors--so green-thumbed that they have been known to grow watermelons on their fire escape--gave us a healthy basil plant that did last the summer.)

Well, I can report that we have had two losses this year already: rosemary (never even sprouted) and thyme (sudden death due to causes unknown). The dill looked promising early on but has since progressed very little. Could it be because I dropped all the herbs on the floor twice in the process of repotting them? I suspect they were not ready for quite such a shake-up. (And that's the bedroom floor I'm referring to--yes, gardening in a little apartment has its risks.)

The surviving little plants are looking so forlorn on our windowsill that I despair of them ever becoming substantial enough to actually cook with. Should I start over with the seedlings I should have used from the outset? Or should I have faith that with enough sun and water, these little plants will eventually come around? It's an either/or decision here because windowsill space is limited. Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hiding in the Utensil Drawer

Like I said in my last post, we've been finding surprises in unlikely places.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Little Visitor

When children come into your life, they sure do turn things upside-down. This past week we have been having a bit of an impromptu family reunion and a number of relatives are staying with us. But the biggest impact comes from the littlest visitor. Truth be told, she leaves a bit of havoc in her wake, but when she turns to you with that mischevious look on her face your heart just melts and you are willing to sing Old Macdonald Had a Farm about a thousand times just so that she will keep smiling at you.

I was hard pressed to tear myself away to go to work this morning, so happy were we taking things out of her little purse and counting "one, two, teee...." as we put them back in.

She's also kept it exciting for all the grown ups by leaving little surprises all around the house in unlikely places. A shoe here, a doll there, a hairclip in your tea cup, a grape in your slipper. I'm hoping my keys will be the next thing to turn up.

If only she did not live so far away and we could see her more often!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Cookie Extravaganza

It occurs to me that I have not posted much in the way of cooking experiments lately. Well, let me make up for it with a triple-whammy here.

5 hours
+ 3 cookie recipes
+ 1 wannabe baker
+ 1 Kitchen-aid mixer
+ 1 million chocolate chips
= a cookie extravaganza

I realize, having been much-reminded lately (curse you, low fat yogurt commercials), that swimsuit season is upon us. But with a Cinco de Mayo baby shower in the works for a colleague, and me assigned to make cookies, I figured I ought to do the thing right.

I had very specific cookie requirements to work with: crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, chocolate chips highly desirable, and if I had time, maybe offer a vegan option as well. A little web searching found me exactly what I was looking for.

Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. A basic all-American chocolate chip cookie made amazing through a heavy dose of chips and finely chopped walnuts mixed in.

Triple Chocolate Cookies (with espresso) from Bobby Flay, via The Food Network. My man Bobby did not lead me wrong. Chocolate cookies loaded with white and milk chocolate chips, with just a hint of coffee flavor.

Vegan Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Post Punk Kitchen. They were soft, chewy, and delicious (and no need to qualify that by saying "for a vegan cookie"). I added raisins--a good call.

Folks, swimsuits be damned, these cookies were worth it. 'Nuff said.