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Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays from the Chovy Family

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Savory Fall Risotto

I made this last week, and remembered to have the camera ready to take a picture of it, but then the batteries were dead, and I was too impatient and hungry to track down new ones. So when I made it again this week, I was sure to remember.

Here's the finished product:




This is from a recipe of Jamie Oliver's that was published in the Oregonian a few years ago. He called it "Pumpkin, Sage, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto"; I call it Butternut & Bacon Risotto, and my version (adapted from his) is below.
Butternut & Bacon Risotto

1 medium butternut squash, sliced into 1-inch slices and seeds removed
olive oil
1 T whole coriander seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 thin or 6 thick slices of bacon or pancetta (I had thick on hand)
a few ounces chopped shelled roasted chestnuts
15 or so fresh sage leaves
6-8 C chicken broth, reconstituted from concentrated stock
3 shallots, finely chopped (about a racquetball's worth)
2 large ribes celery, finely chopped
two small or one large carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced on the diagonal
6 or so leaves of black Italian (lacinato) kale, stems removed and sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 C arborio rice, give or take
[1/2 C dry white wine or dry white vermouth--didn't have so didn't use]
a few tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
a few ounces finely grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut neck of butternut squash into 1-inch slices. Cut bulb of squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds and pulp, and then cut crosswife into 1-inch slices. Arrange squash on a lightly oiled large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and set aside.

Using a mortar & pestle, crush the coriander seeds. Sprinkle about half of them over the pumpkin, along with a little salt and pepper. If using thick-cut bacon, spread it over the squash slices now. Bake until squash is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the other half of the coriander seeds with the chestnuts and sage and a little salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and toss to coat. Pull pan of pumpkin out of the oven. If using thin-cut bacon, spread it over the squash. Sprinkle the coriander-chestnut-sage mixture over the top, and return to oven until bacon is crisp. [I found my bacon was so thick that I had to pull it off for more frying to fully render the fat, which added another step. Tant pis.] Remove from the oven and set aside.

Warm your broth in the microwave so it's piping hot. Heat a large skillet, dutch oven or risotto pan, add a little olive oil, shallots, celery, carrots, kale and a pinch of salt. Sauté until starting to soften, then add rice and keep stirring for a couple of minutes, until the rice starts to be translucent. If using wine, add it now and stir until it's absorbed.

Start adding broth a bit at a time, stirring well after each addition (but you don't have to stir it CONSTANTLY). Meanwhile, chop the bacon (before or after frying it to crisp it up if you used really thick bacon like I did), and skin and irregularly-chop the squash, adding it to the pan as you go (that way the earliest bits will break down completely, and the later bits will be chunky). Rice is done when it doesn't have any hard bits in the middle.

Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and parmesan. The original recipe calls for sprinkling the bacon, chestnuts, coriander & sage on top, but it's much easier to just mix them in.

Now, that's basically the structure of the recipe as it was printed in the Oregonian. However, it would be possible to make it in fewer steps and with fewer pans. I think I might have done it this way before (there's a note at the bottom of my copy of the recipe--"cook pumpkin in risotto?"). This would involve starting out with the bacon in the risotto pan, frying the sage leaves with it, reserving a small amount of bacon grease to sauté the aromatics, and dicing the squash raw and adding it to the pan with the first addition of broth. I think it would still work, and it would be faster and easier.

One thing's for sure--do not skip the crushed whole coriander seeds. In the past when I've made this recipe, I didn't have any on hand and used a small amount of ground coriander. It's so much better with the crushed whole seeds, I can't even tell you.

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You Would Never Do This with a Film Camera

As I've mentioned before, Number Two loves to take and look at pictures. Today he took (with only the smallest amount of help from Daddy) an actual picture of a person (me).



This is a more typical picture (Mavis's feet).



And this is what he looked like when we took away the camera.

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A propos of nothing

Will someone please tell Hillary Clinton to stop wearing tapered pants? Thanks, appreciate it much.

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Mergers



While I don't agree with Steve Dallas about the cause of linguistic sloppiness, I can empathize with his frustration. Everywhere, it seems, terms that once had specific, narrow meanings are broadened and, frankly, made much less interesting or useful. For instance, the word "bungalow." It used to be that this word meant only a one or one-and-a-half story dwelling with large overhanging eaves and a sizeable front porch, usually with a dormer of varying size and shape. But just in the last couple of weeks, I have seen it (wrongly) applied to houses that might more accurately be called "cottages"--no eaves to speak of, no front porch, no dormers.

Or what about "capri pants"? This term used to refer exclusively to pants cropped about halfway between the widest part of the calf and the ankle (didn't it?). Pants cropped just below the knee were "clam diggers"; "pedal pushers" had another discrete meaning. But now pants of any length between the bottom of the knee and the top of the ankle are "capri pants." Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

That's not all that's sticking in my craw these days, though. Just a couple of weeks ago, the New Yorker used the wrong one of the affect/effect noun pair. And it was in an article in the body of the magazine (the piece about Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier), not in a Talk of the Town piece, which I find sometimes less carefully edited. Grrr.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Two Months Old

The bebe is two months old, and practically perfect in every way. Seriously, she is a really great baby. Eats well, sleeps well, good-natured, cute, doing all the things she is supposed to be doing. I know, I know, just wait until she is a teenager. Ha! If she's anything like her oldest brother, I can expect her to start acting like one some time mid-way through first grade.

Here she is in my favorite outfit for her at the moment--one I bought for her after she was born and I saw what she really looked like, as opposed to what she looked like in my imagination. I think she looks great in brown (which looks HIDEOUS on me!). If you can't tell in this medium, the pants are velveteen. The shoes were originally a gift from me to my niece, J&J's youngest, and now fit the bebe perfectly. The outfit sadly no longer does--note how the sleeves are practically three-quarter length. In the first shot she is smiling at Daddy, and yes, that's spitup.






Note that she still has brown hair! She also has a pretty severe case of hat-head. Longer hair = more mess-up-able. It's not quite as dark as it seemed when she was first born, more of a medium-brown chestnut color like some on my mom's side (my mom or her brother, though my mom had blond hair as a child) than my dad's (or grandmother's) very dark brown. I've looked through the slides we've scanned so far for a good picture of my grandmother, whom I think the bebe resembles and for whom we've named her. This was the best one I could find (isn't this just the perfect picture of Christmas 1964?), of my grandparents, uncle (my dad's brother--yes, they look alike) and aunt.



Here is a zoom-in on just my grandmother (obviously we'll have to scan the slides at higher res if we intend to do this to any of the others):



Can you see it? I can especially see it in the mouth and chin.

Finally, a couple of bonus shots of Number Two, because he likes having his picture taken (as opposed to Number One). The schmutz around his mouth is the remnants of tonight's dinner, chicken with mole poblano.



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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Editing

So, how do you decide when to stop sending someone Christmas cards? I always struggle with this, particularly if I haven't heard anything from their end for a while. There's no way to tell if they're happy to get your card or if it goes straight into the recycling unopened. Any of you have a good rule of thumb on this one? If someone moves and you don't have their new address, how much of an effort do you make to track them down to keep sending them missives that may, after all, be unwanted?

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There's No Place Like Utard for the Holidays

We're heading to the Wasatch Front for Christmas, and it occurs to me that if I start planning NOW, we might actually be able to see non-family friends who live or spend the holidays there. My current thinking is to have crazy potluck open-house get-togethers on either/both Boxing Day (December 26) or New Year's Day. So, if you don't live in Utah but are planning on being there for the holidays, or if you live in Utah and think I might not have your correct contact info, and you think you'd like to see me and/or my child(ren), let me know.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Olio

Well, I'm finally about done with the last of the Thanksgiving cleanup. No, really! The last thing was to wash and press all those beautiful lace table linens that came from my grandmother. The trouble is, to get them (or any fine table linens, made of linen or cotton) beautifully shiny and smooth, they have to be pressed while thoroughly damp, and not just from spraying them right before ironing. They have to be damp for a while, so the fibers can relax. Since I have a front-loading washer that spins as fast as my car's engine at freeway cruising speeds, they are perfect for pressing pretty much right out of the washer. So I waited to wash them until I thought I'd have a chance to get around to ironing them right after. That chance finally came last night and this morning.

I did not grow up with cloth napkins--strange for someone whose mother seemed so to love ironing. But I guess with six kids the laundry load was already monumental, so perhaps not so strange after all. Anyway, somewhere along the line I decided I liked using cloth napkins, so any time we eat in the dining room, that's what we use. I have plain white cotton napkins, variously colored ones that match placemat sets (I'm not generally a tablecloth kind of gal, as you may have noticed from pictures of my table), and a few sets of white and ecru linen ones that I bought at an estate sale. More than I can realistically use, really.

Anyway, I love using cloth napkins for anything fancier than a weeknight family dinner. It took me a while to become comfortable really wiping my mouth on them, but now I don't hold back--I suppose it helps that I never wear lipstick, which might give me pause. But with the aforementioned front-loader (which can also achieve a water temperature of 205 degrees Fahrenheit), they almost always come clean.

Been busy lately, trying to get birth announcements out, plus Christmas cards, and then party invitations; Christmas shopping; another house project (I know, I said I was done!); getting back to teaching choir at Number One's school; and just plain old taking care of the kids. The house project is related to this summer's slew of projects, so not really something new. Just a couple of smaller things to help make all the $$ we spent this summer last longer.

As for the kids, well! I'm tempted to start calling the bebe Genius Baby, because Saturday night she slept for over eight hours straight. Even better, they were almost exactly coincidental with the hours that I wanted to sleep! Sunday was a good day. That was the first time she'd slept that long (she's only seven weeks old, after all), but she does regularly go five or even six hours at a stretch. Good girl.

We've never yet had to make a trip to the emergency room for one of the kids, but I feel quite certain that we will have to eventually. Yesterday, Number Two was running around in circles in the living room and kind of sort of falling down on purpose. Of course, on about the second time he landed right on his face and gave himself The Fattest Lip Ever.



I'm also really loving his language these days. He's stringing together longer sentences, but still in a rather staccato fashion, and with adorable Toddler Approximate Pronunciation. Some words are beautifully clear, and others can only be understood in context. Ls are pronounced either as Ws (weft instead of left--he knows his lefts and rights, btw) or Ys (yehyoh for yellow), depending. Combined consonants including S drop one letter (suck instead of stuck, for example), but not always the second one. "Small" is pronounced with a nasal exhalation before the M. Longer words are particularly susceptible to elisions, additions and transpositions--"diffeff" for "different," etc. Fortunately, he's pretty good about repeating himself when asked, so we can usually communicate pretty well.

I have realized that I don't write much about Number One compared to the younger two. Partly I think this is because he spends most of his days at school, and when he's home he's frequently entertaining himself. He also is turning into a teenager before his time, so not only are the things he does less cute and endearing, he'd probably be mortified if he knew that and what I was writing about him. I will say one thing: he's decided to be Draco Malfoy next Halloween. Won't that be perfect?

Edited to add that I think it might actually be "yeft" instead of "weft," and I forgot the cutest one of all: "movie" is pronounced "moozhee."

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