Comma love

Most people who misuse punctuation marks these days choose to abuse apostrophes. You may have noticed the alarming explosion of misplaced apostrophes currently plaguing all forms writing.

Personally, I prefer to err on the side of commas. I think it’s because commas help me to slow down, give pause, consider: not a full stop, not an exclamation, just a pause for breath. That’s what a comma can do. However I am going to make an effort to use them more judiciously in future and I just removed one from this sentence.

Well begun is half done. Now about those parentheticals…

Gifts

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As I was stirring the filling for Pumpkin Pie this morning, I noted how many of the things I was using had been gifts from loved ones. For instance, the spoon I always use for this task was a wedding gift some thirty-odd years ago from a dear friend, who is still a dear friend to us.

Each time I bake this kind of pie I think of our friend with fondness as I dig in my utensil drawer for this homely wooden utensil with the hole in the center and burn mark on the handle that still does the best job of combining the viscous filling ingredients of this pie filling.

The spoon is showing its age, as we are, but still gets the job done, as we try to do. Over the years of use, its edges have softened so it fits better and better into the curve of the bowl to quickly find each remnant of un-amalgamated pumpkin and gently incorporate it without whipping in bubbles, anathema to Pumpkin Pie filling.

There’s a marriage metaphor in there, somewhere, but mostly gratitude for the many beautiful and useful gifts we’ve been given over the years and the dear people who gave them.

Hammered!

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Many times I’ve seen references to the technique of hammering with a regular carpenter’s hammer on bulky seams that threaten to put your sewing machine in a bind if you try to sew over them, typically in pants/jeans hems. Since the only hammer in my possession was an ancient, rusty and not very trusty hammer (loose head), I had never tried it. Also, I was not convinced it would help much.

Well, count me among the hammer crowd now! Thanks to Angela Wolf’s Craftsy class on Alterations, and the recent acquisition of a clean bookbinding hammer that promises to remain clean, I tried hammering the bulky seam of these softball pants I was altering for a friend. After lots of very empowering whacking at the seams, the cover stitch machine cruised right over those seams! Thanks Angela!

Salsification

Here are the ingredients for homemade salsa:

  • 8 roma tomatoes, stem ends removed
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 1 can Ortega mild green chiles
  • Celtic Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the tomatoes and peppers under the broiler until skins are nicely charred on both sides.  This takes about 10 minutes per side.  Then, toss all ingredients into the food processor:

Whirl away!

And there you have your salsa!  I like using the roma style tomatoes, but they do make a very thick salsa that thickens more when refrigerated until you think you have made tomato aspic instead of salsa.  Just stir and allow to warm to room temperature to return to salsa consistency or warm in the microwave.  Not hot enough for you?  I use small doses of cayenne pepper to remedy that but you can also substitute hot chile peppers for the mild ones or add hot peppers of any kind at any point.  If you are a hot pepper fan, you will know how best to add them and what kind you like.  This salsa has a nice amount of heat from the onions and I am not a fan of hot peppers so I don’t invite them to my salsa party.

Soupy day

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It’s very chilly and rainy here today so soup is absolutely necessary.  This is my famous Minestrone Soup, or as some like to call it, Vegetable Stew.  It’s one of those recipes that is like the Pirate Code, more like guidelines rather than a strict set of rules.  I’ve got more than a few recipes like that.

Here’s how this one goes:

In a large stockpot, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil and sweat some garlic, celery and onion for a few minutes in the oil until everything is nice and fragrant but not browning yet.  Then add an 8 oz. can each of tomato sauce, garbanzo beans and kidney beans plus a 15 oz. can of diced or ready-cut tomatoes and 8 cups of water.  Turn the stove to high and bring to a boil.  Add 2 teaspoons salt,  1-2 teaspoons basil, one teaspoon oregano, 2 bay leaves and 1/4 cup pearl barley.  Reduce to a strong simmer, cover loosely and simmer for at least a good hour, longer is better.   Add more water if it’s getting too thick because you haven’t even started adding the things that make it even thicker.

Add 1-2 diced carrots, 4-6 small diced red potatoes with the skins left on and some cut green beans.  Return to simmer and cook these added vegetables another 45 minutes or so and feel free at this point to add whatever vegetables you think belong in a good Minestrone and leave out the green beans if you hate them.  Just be aware that some vegetables absorb liquid from your soup and some release liquid into your soup and know which are which.  Make adjustments to the liquid ratio if you feel they are needed.  Adding water or increasing the heat and/or cooking time are your controls.

Add 1/2 – 3/4 cup pasta of your choice, I like orrechiette or broken fettucine or small egg noodles or small rotini.  You choose.  When the soup returns to a boil, add some greens like shredded cabbage or spinach or chopped chard.  I’ve settled on spinach because I can buy it in a bag already cleaned and throw it in without washing or chopping or anything.Watch the soup as it simmers now because it will stick and burn if it boils to hard.  Add water if you like it thinner.  Cook it longer with the lid ajar if you like it thicker.  Hope you made or bought some fresh bread to go with this soup.

Editorial comment on that bagged spinach:  I do not eat it raw at home or in restaurants, only well-cooked.  If I was dedicated to the consumption of raw spinach, I would learn how to grow it and only eat my own homegrown spinach raw.  E. Coli and Salmonella are getting everywhere, but that’s another post.