mojo?

Have you seen mine? Because I’ve had a hard time finding it lately in the knitting/spinning/blogging department. (Also, the dissertation department.) But you know what? I’m newly resolved not to let it bother me. I’m sure it will come back; after all, this space is dear to me.

But enough of that. Want to see what I’ve been up to this week?

Swimming. (Suit drying on the porch.)

Eating. (More specifically, eating tomatoes: in tarts, broiled on bread with cheese, and straight from the cutting board.)

Picking flowers. (And putting them all over the house.)

Lounging with Boh.

And today? Well, today I’m taking Saturday seriously. I slept in, made pancakes, read for pleasure, and frolicked a bit with Boh. I even put on my swimsuit in order to encourage the sun to come out. See?

Still rainy, but it might clear up enough for me to take a quick dip.

I’m also macerating blueberries on the kitchen counter. Later today, they’ll become this blueberry crumble. (Berries courtesy of Laura.)

I don’t have any new pictures to share of my Whisper cardigan, but I have been knitting on it. Photographic evidence soon. Happy weekend!

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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.

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…

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!)

canning/cowling.

On Wednesday night, I blanched, peeled, and cored about a gallon and a half of paste tomatoes. And then I went to bed, more tired from the start of the semester than from the hour and a half of tomato labor! Thursday morning, before I put the water on for coffee, I filled my canning pot, gathered together some jars and lids, and set to sterilizing. 4 quarts and 2 pints of tomatoes had been raw-packed and processed (45 mins in the water bath, according to the scanned cookbook page my parents sent me, complete with my mom’s tiny, perfect notations about the number of tomatoes that fit in a pint or quart jar — love it) by mid-morning. I’m hoping to do this again next week if there are still tomatoes to pick when I head out to the farm on Tuesday.

I’ve also been cowling, which is how I’m referring (aloud, to no one in particular) to the act of knitting the cowl portion of idlewood. I am in love with the way this fabric feels and drapes in this gauge. I think I’ve got about ten inches, so I’m about two-thirds of the way there. If I can finish a book this morning, I’m going to let myself watch last night’s episode of Project Runway and do some cowling. Happy Friday!