tomatillo, -illo, illo.

Pronounced incorrectly, the word “tomatillo” calls to mind a certain pop song (circa 2007). Not exactly my preferred genre, but the suggestion of said song does make me smile, if only because the memory a particularly enthusiastic ’round the campfire acoustic version takes over in my brain and makes me think of my time in the Southwest. What else makes me think of the Southwest? Tomatillos. (-illos, -illos…)

And now I have to tell you about a new blog that I’ve read cover to cover since I came across it on Friday morning: local kitchen. Kaela makes everything from salsa and mustard to jams and booze-y preserves, and it is all beautifully photographed and thoughtfully described. Swoon. My adventures in blog-reading on Friday evening may have prompted me to print out a slew of ideas for my kitchen binder. And then I had to retire my kitchen binder and transfer everything to a bigger 3-ring set up. That’s how great Kaela’s blog is. Local Kitchen was a timely find — here I was, with a kitchen counter COVERED in farm produce, and without a good idea for what all of that deliciousness was going to become.

First up, Kaela’s Salsa Verde. Tomatillos, green peppers, hot peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro…yum. I might make another batch this week.

Next? Cherry Tomato Confit, also from Local Kitchen. The boy and I went to the farm on Saturday to pick more produce before the season’s first frost, and several of the cherry tomatoes were literally splitting as we picked them — bursting with juice and flavor. I took a pint of these and slow-roasted them in the oven, turning them into Cherry Tomato Confit, and now there is a tiny 4 oz. jar in the fridge filled with the powerful flavors of sweet tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. On pasta? On pizza? Straight out of the jar?

I also harvested several big handfuls of mint to hang to dry in the kitchen (also something I learned from Local Kitchen). I love these pictures so much. Something about the vibrant greens.

And that isn’t even the whole of my Local Kitchen-inspired weekend adventures. Yesterday I may have been saying aloud (to anyone who would listen), “I don’t want to be a grad student right now. I just want to play in the kitchen.” Sigh.

And I do actually very much want to be a grad student. I’d just really like to press pause on life for a week in order to focus on preparing my kitchen for winter.

More produce, and even some spinning next time!

jam/toast.

Friday morning, tomato jam and goat cheese on toast. This was exactly what I needed to start the last day of the (school) week. The jam is very sweet at first, and then the flavors smooth out a bit and there is a nice kick (from the chili flakes) at the end of a bite. I was concerned about the consistency of the jam — seemed a bit loose to me — but this was well within the range of the jam category, though I spread it with a spoon instead of a knife. I’ve been reading a bunch of food blogs that focus on preserving, and I’ve seen some discussion about how flavors mellow and meld as canned food sits on the shelf. Or in the fridge. This makes sense — the last jar of my summer 2009 dilly beans were different than the earlier jars. And some meals that are just alright as dinner are incredible as leftovers.

So I like this! It appeals to my love of savory breakfast food, and I’m interested to see if the flavors in this jam mellow over the next few weeks (for the jar in the fridge) and months (for the jars stacked on the shelf). My next plan is to slather this stuff on grilled cheese, and to think about using it as a sweet/spicy homemade alternative to ketchup (and someday, I’ll try my hand at making my own ketchup!).

Also, Friday morning it was chilly enough for a fleece vest and my handspun (knitted) toast. (I swear I wasn’t thinking about blog post content when I both ate jam on toast and then put on a pair of toast. But it works, doesn’t it? Silly rooster.)

Speaking of silliness, somehow the boy managed to get Boh perched on a chair. And then Boh serenely gazed out the window.

On Friday night, after a long week, we curled up and watched a movie, which meant that I finally picked up my idlewood. I am super close to separating the sleeves from the yoke. And I am super excited about this sweater.

Also, remember all that produce I posted about? Stay tuned for a whole slew of kitchen adventures…

tomato jam.

Last night I made tomato jam. And even though incredible aromas filled my entire apartment, I think I need to take my own advice next time and avoid evening canning. See, the recipe calls for allowing the tomato mixture to simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, in order for it to get all sticky and jammy. And after 1.5 hours, I stirred my mixture and thought to myself, “Well…it isn’t quite thick enough, but it has been an hour and a half, and I am tired, so I’ll go for it.” Then, I packed the jars (mostly tiny jars and a few half pints) with a ladle. I think a slotted spoon might have been a better idea, in order to create a stickier jam. (The strawberry-balsamic jam recipe that I love uses a slotted spoon, and separates the gooey bits from the thinner syrup.)

All that said, I am excited to try this, and am hoping that the water bath/cooling time has helped a bit with the congealing. And in the future? I’ll start this in the morning, so that my tiredness is not a factor in deciding when my jam is jammy.

I haven’t tasted this stuff yet, but I’m guessing it is amazing. I had a pint or two leftover, due to the small size of the jars I had handy, so I tucked that into the fridge. Planning to spread it on toast with some goat cheese for breakfast…I’ll report back.

good/bad.

Good: yesterday I received a box of ice cream. Of Jeni’s ice cream. In the mail. Complete with a love note and special effects (fog from the enclosed block of dry ice). The friend who sent this rocks far more than I do. And the ice cream? It is fabulous. We savored several small bites of the salty caramel last night after dinner. I will not even attempt to describe the fullness of the flavors that combined to make me incredibly happy.

Bad: The dent the resulted from my poor choice of a three-point turn location. This occurred about 15 minutes after I discovered the box of ice cream on the front porch. There is a tree on my street that I love. It stands on the next block, so Boh and I walk by it all the time. It is tall, sturdy, and has a bulbous, knotty, interesting trunk. I never noticed (until yesterday, anyway) that one of the round, knotty bumps sticking out of the trunk hangs out just a bit over the curb. And when I, in a hurry to make a meeting, left without my phone, I pulled a quick three-point turn to head back to my apartment. Problem was, I chose to do so right at this tree. And as you can see, when I backed up (still on the road, mind you), a bulbous portion of the trunk made a bit of an impression below my rear window and to the side of my spare tire. The whole thing is sort of ridiculous. Somehow I managed to position myself so that the bulbous part of the tree was exactly where I couldn’t see it. Super lame that I’ll need to put some extra money into my car, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I could have avoided this (or now, reproduce this)  if I tried. Plus, ice cream makes everything better.

Thanks for listening. After I went outside this morning to take a picture of yesterday’s dent, I dug out my handspun eternity scarf. It was cold this morning, so I wore this doubled up on my walk to campus, and then wore it in a big loop once I was inside. I love this, and wear it all the time. I really should cast on another…

the forecast.

The farmers at the CSA I belong to send out an email with the week’s “veggie forecast.” This week’s report suggested that the nights are getting cooler, and that a lot of the crops available for picking will likely last only until the first frost…which might be here sooner than we think. So, yesterday, instead of knitting sleeves as a break from my reading, I decided to spend an extra hour at the farm. I gathered at least 15 quarts of paste tomatoes, a canvas bag full of green beans, and a few handfuls of tomatillos for salsa — all in addition to the week’s share (onions, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, salad mix, basil, parsley, potatoes, leeks).

Looks like that veggie forecast has turned into a bit of a rooster forecast — I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend! (Preserving. I just saw a recipe for tomato jam that looks pretty yummy, I’d love to can a few more quarts of tomatoes for the shelf, and I can always use more dilly beans…)

Also, I couldn’t help myself. I picked a huge armful of zinnias — the fields are still practically overflowing with them. Yesterday was the first farm day that felt like fall, and the cooler temperatures made it much easier for me to linger in the rows of herbs, flowers, and veggies.

I had about a quart of handpicked paste tomatoes that had ripened nicely in the fridge yesterday, and the plan was to make a small pot of sauce. I actually finished the book I had set out to read yesterday, so I decided to do something more elaborate — homemade noodles. This was the first time I’ve ever hand-cut noodles to a fettucine-ish width, and boy, do I need some more practice. Despite their irregularities, the noodles were delicious. We ate them immediately, with some homemade sauce. (And I didn’t even think to take a picture. My stomach was too excited about dinner.)

I do, however, have some non-pajama action shots of my textured shawl to share.

This is slightly too scratchy to be worn super close to my neck, but draped a bit more loosely, it adds a nice amount of warmth. It is also perfect to wrap around my shoulders while curled up on the couch. This will certainly be in my rotation of warm things this fall and winter — and I think it might look really nice with my Kerrera! Extra motivation to start those sleeves later today…

WIP smart.

Sorry about that. I can’t help myself. (Seriously. Last week I taught a section on Marco Polo, and it was all I could do to not begin class with: Maaaaarcoooo! And yes, you’re right. I do not work on 12th-century China. The class I’m TAing covers a lot of ground.)

Anyway, back to knitting. This weekend, I took a mini-vacation to my friend K’s apartment. She had minor surgery on Friday, so Boh and I went to keep her company and help her with things that are tough to do one-handed. (You know, like open those child-proof pill bottles.) She’d certainly have managed without us, but I think our plan was more fun. I tell you all of this to explain that on Thursday night, I found myself deliberating not over what books to pack, but over what knitting to bring with me. The weather has turned fall-like, and as such, I’ve been in a sweater-knitting mood. And then, while digging for my notions bag, I came upon my (rather embarrassing) pile of unfinished cozy sweaters (which even includes a neglected, and thus totally unhelpful test-knit). As soon as I touched the Ultra Alpaca fabric of my Kerrera, I knew that was the sweater that would be coming with me.

I discovered that I was a lot further along than I remembered, and this weekend I knit the reverse stockinette portion of the back and both fronts. This morning I did the three needle bind off to seam the shoulders, and slipped it on to get a sense for the fit. So far, I am very happy. (I decided to do the bind-off on the right side, as I’m not sure the pattern suggested which way to do it. I figured the raised, but clean, seam on the outside would make the sweater sit more comfortably on my shoulders, and mirror/echo the fake side seams on the body. The wrong side looks really great — an invisible seam — and I was probably supposed to do this the other way, but I think I like the choice I made.) You can’t see the shoulder seams in this pictures, but since I’m knitting this as part of a relaxed KAL, (Hi, Mick and Laura!) maybe this info will come in handy.

Next up? Sleeves! (Actually, a big pile of reading first, then the sleeves.)

FO: textured shawl recipe.

I pulled the pins out of my blocking textured shawl recipe shawl this morning while waiting for the coffee water to be ready to add to my french press. I have no idea what is going on in that last picture — consider it an example of this rooster, bleary-eyed and pre-coffee. Silly. So, this is lovely. I used every last inch of my 257 yards of green/blue handspun from friends’ folly farm (well, and a yard and a half of Rowan felted tweed). I followed the recipe, but applied the mods used by sketchbook on ravelry, which makes for a wider, shallower shawl. The finished product does have the drape I was hoping for, and it is solidly shawlette size. (Victory!) The mohair content is a little scratchy, but I’m hoping to tame that a bit with use, or just wear it draped more loosely around my neck, rather than wrapped tight. It feels good to have this off the needles, and I really enjoyed knitting it.

I do think I’ll make another out of something solid, super soft, and with great stitch definition to really highlight the texture of this shawl. And next time, I won’t put this project in the bag I take everywhere. I can’t explain it, but most of the time, the project that actually goes everywhere with me rarely gets worked on. Sure, I’ll pull it out when unexpected things happen and I have to wait in line or something, but mostly, I think my bag is officially a black hole when it comes to knitting projects. Okay, coffee is ready. And as you can tell from that picture, I need it.

rowan to the rescue.

As you can see, I’ve been knitting away on the textured shawl this week. And last night, after a lovely late night beer and knitting date, I realized that I was getting very close to the end of my handspun. This morning, with my coffee, I knit a few more rows, and then gambled (poorly) about whether I’d have enough to bind off on the right side. This is a photo of the gamble, alongside my proposed solution. (Remember the sweater I frogged awhile back?) I made it halfway through the bind-off row when I ran out. Luckily, even though the Rowan Felted Tweed stands out against the backdrop of the textured shawl in this photo, one strand, on the edge of half the shawl, blends right in. I spit-spliced and continued binding off, and then raced against the clock to soak the shawl and pin it out before power-walking to campus to teach section this morning.

I stretched it out as much as I could, though the cast on edge is a bit tight, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the whole thing relaxes into a cozy, comfy, drape-y shawl.

And now I have a few food pictures to share from the week. (Yep, no transition. Sorry about that.)

Last weekend I made a pan’s worth of eggplant parmesan using a big, beautiful farm eggplant. It was awesome. And last Friday (I think) I made gazpacho.

This was so good. Exactly what I needed on a very sticky day. Here’s the recipe. We ate it with toast and cream cheese, and it hit the spot. I will definitely be making this the next time I have a handful of super ripe, juicy tomatoes.

Happy almost weekend! (And if you’re on the East Coast, happy arrival-of-weather-that-is-suitable-for-knitwear!)

routine?

Well, I certainly don’t feel like I’m settling into a routine, but it seems like the photos I pulled off my phone and camera this week suggest otherwise. I picked up my textured shawl again, and it is really moving. I’m still unsure about this — hoping it blocks bigger and drapes better — but I love the depth in the greens and blues. A little more reading, another row or two, and then it will most certainly be bedtime for this rooster.

peaches.

I headed to my parents’ house this morning to spend my Labor Day weekend Saturday canning peaches with my mom. Twenty-nine jars (and several hours) later, we’re done. And very excited to reward ourselves with some home-canned peaches in light syrup for breakfast tomorrow. Happy long weekend, everyone!