Yesterday, at some point…

ecco farm stand

I’d like to say that the reason I have been MIA from this blog for a couple of days is that my husband swept me up and took me on a whirlwind vacation in Paris.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

In real life, I have been getting our house ready to surrender to another family for the month of August. This is the second summer we are renting our place, and while this year’s prep is less painful than last summer’s, it is still a drag. I’m not gonna lie.

But we still have to eat. So rather than a photo of my basement that is filling up with boxes of our stuff, I give you this shot of the farmstand from which I bought the pint of gooseberries that I am planning on turning into jam.

Just as soon as I finish scrubbing down the railing, cleaning the front porch, scouring the oven…

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This image is part of a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. Or within the past few days… No need to be a stickler here.

Any excuse to serve up some vinegar

Vinegar chicken

Our dinner the other night, thanks to the NY Times new cooking site and my daughter’s love of vinegar.

My daughter has long been a fan of vinegar in general. Pickles are one of her favorite foods, and she tends to lick the salad plate if I’ve made balsamic vinaigrette. So imagine my joy when I encountered this vinegar chicken recipe by Mark Bittman while trolling the almost overwhelmingly extensive and superb new cooking site from the New York Times.

Oh happy day. I get to go to Iacono in East Hampton, my favorite chicken farm, to pick up a fresh bird, maybe stop at the farm stand across the street for a side and we’ll be good to go.

And good it was. The chicken is perfectly crispy, the vinegar sauce is mellow but flavorful, the whole thing is done within 40 minutes with minimal prep (I think the most difficult part is cutting up the scallions) and my daughter lapped it up.

I’ve put the recipe below, but if you are feeling adventurous, here’s how it looks on the NY Times cooking site which is still in beta (Exciting! Get in on the ground floor!) and well worth checking out.

If you really want to go all out and learn all about the history of the dish and why it is a Bittman favorite, you can always check out the original article in the Paper Of Record.

Oh and the side dish of carrots, also delicious, is beyond easy. Just drizzle some cut carrots with olive oil, a little salt, and some chopped parsley and roast them in a 400 degree oven till they’re brown (about 15 mins), turn them over so the other side gets a chance to catch up (another 10 minutes or so) take them out and enjoy.

And now, without further ado, Mark Bittman’s Chicken with Vinegar

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-pound chicken, cut up for sauteing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
ΒΌ cup minced shallots or scallions
1 cup good red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; when it is hot, place chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.

Place skillet in the oven. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost done (juices will run clear, and there will be just a trace of pink near the bone). Remove chicken to an ovenproof platter. Place it in the oven; turn off the heat, and leave the door slightly ajar.

Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking juices out of the skillet (discard them). Place skillet over medium-high heat, and add shallots; sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, and raise the heat to high. Cook a minute or two, or until the powerful acrid smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 cup water, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened. Stir in butter, if desired.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, and turn the chicken in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter

Ronia, The Robber's Daughter.

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter. A classic that I somehow missed as a kid.

This was one of those books that had me as soon as I saw the cover.

Written by Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking fame, it’s got everything we love in a read aloud book. It’s basically a Romeo and Juliet style story, where the lead character is a formidable pre-teen female and the kids (who are in love but refer to each other as sister and brother) get to ride wild horses, be surrounded by mythical creatures, spend their summers in the forest swimming and fishing in the rivers, and eventually lead the parents out of the darkness of their feud into a relatively peaceful and cooperative coexistence.

It’s not without moments of sadness, and the relationship between the kids is complicated and more real than many one might encounter in these kinds of books, but the ending is optimistic and the future looks bright.

Which is all we can hope for in our real lives as well, right?

Oooh also, if you are lucky enough to live in Japan, Studio Gibli is producing an animated TV series version of the novel set to air this fall. Sadly, those of us in the West are going to have to keep our fingers crossed that it eventually makes its way over to us…

You can find essentially new copies of Ronia on Alibris, among other spots…

Monday, Monday– or 7 interesting lists of things worth checking out in the digital universe

A wall mural girl waters a real tree in Poland. Photo by Natalia Rak on BoredPanda.com

A wall mural girl waters a real tree in Poland. Photo by Natalia Rak on BoredPanda.com

28 pieces of mostly 2-D street art that brilliantly interact with their 3-D surroundings.

How 15 of the world’s greatest thinkers manage their time. (They all seem to be getting an ample amount of sleep.)

Here are 7 ways for you to start getting a better night’s sleep. Maybe you will then become one of the world’s great thinkers.

According to the people at World of Wanderlust, these are the 12 most scenic countries you can visit to escape reality.

We should all check out this list of 5 easy ways to start reusing grey water in our gardens (if we have gardens) and implement at least one of them into our regular routines. Because from what I’ve been reading lately, water shortages are going to start being a huge world-wide problem in the near future.

12 great DIY posters, record covers and zines from the 70′s punk and reggae movement. Lets bring this spirit back, shall we?

32 top rental houses featured on Remodelista. In case you’re in the market for a beautiful place to stay…

More soaps to love

Lavender liquid soap (and a Vintage Rose refill) from the Southampton Soap Company

Lavender liquid soap (and a Vintage Rose refill) from the Southampton Soap Company

I never thought I’d see the day, but we FINALLY finished the random, overly scented liquid hand soap in our bathroom. Oh happy day. I can now go out and buy something that I actually want to use, instead of being mildly annoyed every time I wash my hands (but not so annoyed that my sense of not wanting to waste anything disappeared…)

I’d recently bought a really nice healing salve from the Southampton Soap Company, so I headed straight to their table at the local farmer’s market and checked out their soap selection, which is formidable. Their products are all handmade locally, the packaging is understated and beautiful, the all-natural ingredients are carefully sourced and I swear there is a little fairy dust in their salve, but don’t hold me to it.

I am a fan of soap bars, but everybody else in the family prefers bottles, so we ended up with both. First, an all-natural liquid castille soap set– the pump is filled with Lavender, but we chose Vintage Rose for our refill just to change it up a bit.

A felted bar of lavender soap from the Southampton Soap Company

A felted bar of lavender soap from the Southampton Soap Company

And for me, this amazing felted soap bar. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like a sudsy-gentle-exfoliating-bar-washcloth all in one. I think I may be outing myself as a deep hippie here, but I don’t care. Felted soap bars are the bomb, and I plan to make them a regular part of my life from now on.

And so should you.

Tofu, anyone?

soy sauce tofu stirfry

One of these days, I will have the presence of mind to actually photograph the dish once I’ve cooked it. But in the meantime, I have borrowed this image, beautifully shot by Mark Weinberg, from Food52.

I have been in a bit of a food rut for the past few months… My energy seems to dry up right before I begin the long meandering path down the road of meal planning and grocery shopping. I have resolved to try to break out of it, despite still feeling terribly lazy. I am also not currently super motivated because I am spending the vast majority of my time alone with my 6 year old who would be happy to eat avocado risotto every day of her life, with a steak thrown in every now and then for good measure.

My cookbooks are back in Brooklyn with my husband, who doesn’t need them, so I am taking a very modern approach and turning to a few websites for guidance. Luckily, there is no shortage of recipes online. Right now, I find myself drawn to Dinner, a Love Story (almost more for reading pleasure than cooking, though she always has great ideas), Food52 (for it’s lovely photography, huge inventory and everyday cooking section) and the new, still in beta, NY Times Cooking site (which is state of the art, full of videos and informative how-to’s and will probably become everybody’s go-to once it “officially” launches.)

Last night’s dinner comes from Food52, which I must say has always done me right, and a quick and easy Soy Sauce-y, Peanut-y, Tofu over rice. Lots of soy sauce makes pretty much everything palatable to my daughter, and the hardest thing about the dish is locating Shaoxing wine, which I did not manage to do out here on the east end of Long Island. I used a dry sherry, which is evidently the western-style sub, but I plan on getting some of that exotic sounding brew when next I find myself in civilization. I feel like this meal (which ended in plate licking, by the way) is going to join the others on the heavy rotation list.

Here’s how to make it:

Serves 4, generously, which is good because you’re going to want leftovers.

The Tofu Part

2 blocks of tofu, extra firm or firm
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3/4 cups unsalted peanuts, whole or halved, roasted or raw (depending on personal taste and what they have at the store)
Cooking oil

The Sauce Part

3/4 cups soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses (I used agave here because I didn’t have molasses)
A touch of lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

If you have time, press the tofu. (Place it under a weighted cutting board for a half-hour, letting the liquid run off or get absorbed by paper towels.) Dry it off. Then slice it into small cubes, in the 1/2-1-inch range.
In a wok or a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of the oil on medium-high. Then add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Scrape it out of the pan and reserve for later.
While the onion is browning, stir together the sauce ingredients. Taste. It should be sweet and salty and a little bitter, too. Adjust until the flavors are aligned to your taste. You might want more molasses or more Shaoxing wine; you might need a squeeze or two of lemon or lime for more acidity.
When the onion is done, add a couple tablespoons of oil to the wok or pan and increase the heat to high. Add the tofu and immediately toss it with the hot oil. Then leave it alone. Let it sit for a few minutes, longer than seems wise. Once the tofu begins to brown, stir it to brown the remaining sides. It should take around ten minutes total. A minute before it is done, add the ginger and briefly saute it. Then spread the browned onions and peanuts on top and add the sauce. Gently stir, so that everything soaks in the sauce, and let the liquid reduce for a few minutes. Reduce until the sauce is as thin or thick as you like. Then turn off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil on top, and serve.

Yesterday, at some point…

homefrombeach

A couple of weeks ago we had some time to kill in SoHo before a doctor’s appointment, so when my daughter suddenly expressed the urgent desire for a sun hat, we headed over to J Crew just to see if they had anything there that was reasonable. And lo and behold, 15 minutes later, we walked out with the perfect hat: wide brimmed, easily foldable, and blue (one of her two favorite colors.)

As you can see from the above photo, it is in high rotation.

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This image is part of a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. Or within the past few days… No need to be a stickler here.

Monday, Monday– or more links about the USA, getting organized and staying cool

Woops, guess computers aren’t better at everything. Check out what happened a couple of years ago at at July 4th in San Diego when the computer decided to set off all the explosives at once!

Now that the search for the perfect red, white and blue napkins is behind us, I am suddenly finding myself reflecting more thoughtfully about important stuff like what America is all about. Frederick Douglass had some interesting things to say about that back in 1852 (13 years before the abolition of slavery) and James Earl Jones reads some excerpts.

While we’re on the topic of our fair nation, here are !3 facts about the USA that conservatives would rather we all forgot…

And speaking of altered realities, here’s one person’s honest comparison of their real life vs the version they put up on Instagram.

My pretend Instagram universe, if I had the energy to produce one, would be filled with all sorts of organized cabinets and NO CLUTTER. Here are a few tips personal organizers use to help turn that fantasy into reality. (Oh and Apartment Therapy has some other tips worth checking out too…)

And while I was visiting Apartment Therapy, I couldn’t help but check out the House Tour called Claes and Melinda’s Natural (and Beautiful) Chaos. Any couple who lovingly describes their home as chaos are my spiritual brethren. Looking at their place gives me hope. Maybe I don’t need to aim for emptiness, just a bit of order…

And lastly, a propos of nothing except the heat… here are some great ways to cool your body from the inside out, using the ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine as a guide.

Happy Rainy America’s Birthday!

4th of july dream catcher

This has been the view out of my daughter’s room all day today. The rain has been relentless, but at least we know that no bad dreams will get in…

Thanks to tropical storm Aurthur (or hurricane Aurthur, depending on where you are and who you are listening to) our July 4th has been pretty much washed out. Not that we had any real plans.

Our day has been filled with friends, puzzles, fairy tales, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, an impromptu kids gallery show, a family viewing of Galaxy Quest (quite possibly the funniest cult movie ever made, starring the unspeakably brilliant Alan Rickman) and an upcoming BBQ, made possible by the abatement of the rain.

I cannot imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate our nation’s 235th birthday.

Have a great weekend everybody…