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Archive for July, 2011

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Soon I will stop apologizing about my poor quality photos. You know, as soon as I either get better lighting in my apartment (especially the kitchen) or get a new camera. Hopefully the latter. But for now, sorry for these blurry, yellowy photos. They do not do this tasty dish justice. Hopefully the images won’t prevent you from trying to make these fritters, because they are delicious.

As I mentioned in the post about the dinner I hosted, I made artichoke fritters from Tyler Florence’s, Dinner at My Place. The recipe in the book includes a simple and lovely batter, along with not entirely clear instructions for taking whole artichokes and turning them into slices of raw artichoke heart. Let’s just say that while the artichoke fritters were tasty, I did not skillfully butcher the artichokes. And it felt like a waste to have to discard all those lovely fresh leaves, but I don’t think there is a way to avoid it with the recipe.

After making the dish, I had a lot of batter left over. I wasn’t sure whether it would keep, but it seemed worth a try. A couple days later, we got our first zucchini of the summer in our CSA share, and I decided to try making zucchini fritters. Unlike the artichoke version, this iteration was super simple and came together in no time. The batter was a tad dry after sitting in the fridge, so I added a splash of hard cider, sliced up the zucchini, and heated some canola oil on the stove.

frying up

Then it was simply a matter of dipping the slices in batter, dropping them in the oil, flipping them once, and cooking until both sides were lovely and golden brown.

ready for nomming

I put them on paper towels layered over a brown paper bag to drain, salted them, and they were ready to eat. And I pretty much ate a bunch of them for dinner that night. They were good plain, but they were wonderful with a bit of malt vinegar or balsamic cream (a mixture that has not actual cream but consists of reduced balsamic vinegar and grape must.)

zucchini fritters, two ways

I am away from home for the weekend, so I can’t post the recipe for the batter at the moment. I will try to remember to add it when I get home, so you folks can make all sorts of battered, fried, tasty items (or you can buy the cookbook, which has lots of lovely photos and mouth-watering recipes.) I plan to try this batter with a number of other items, fish, more veggies, and even squash blossoms, if I can get my hands on some.

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dinner in the back yard
I really like entertaining. I love the challenge of figuring out a menu that fits my skills, the food preferences of my guests, and the season. It makes me happy when friends are gathered around happily chowing down and chatting away. There’s that wonderful alchemy that happens when you combine good food and good company, and that is what I hope for in a dinner party.

This weekend that’s exactly what I got. I hadn’t had people over for a meal in ages. Seriously, I think it had been many months. Yikes! I definitely hope to host dinner parties much more frequently in the months ahead. I often host casual dinner gatherings; we might even eat in the living room with plates on our laps. But this time, maybe because it had been so long since I worked the hostessing mojo, I just couldn’t resist putting a little more polish on the evening. So I set up an improvised table (a long piece of plywood over two small tables) in the tiny outdoor space behind my apartment) and decorated it with pink hydrangeas and real linens. It was simple and elegant without being formal. And a heck of a lot cooler than sitting inside that evening!

Summer Sunday dinner menu

That’s what we had for dinner. I didn’t take pictures of the appetizer, artichoke fritters from Tyler Florence’s Dinner at My Place, we ate in the kitchen before sitting down to dinner. They were labor intensive, but tasty. What you see on the plate there is a salad of fennel, green beans, and radishes, pork tenderloin with fresh cherry and chile salsa, and grits with garlic scapes and goat cheese. Everything turned out well, but I was most proud of the pork, since I rarely cook meat. That cherry salsa was a sweet-savory delight, and it was also lovely over the Finnish frying cheese that I grilled for the vegetarian in the group.

peach and almond trifle

For dessert we had a trifle with peaches, almond sponge cake, and whipped cream. I had intended to have an amaretto flavored custard in the trifle, but I totally failed in the process of making the custard and it didn’t seem necessary enough to warrant using another 9 eggs. The trifle was yummy without it, but one of these days I am going to make custard, darn it!

I had a blast cooking for a few of my friends, and I hope I’ll have more of these dinner party menus to post soon.

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I really like how this outfit turned out. It’s all about the details, since the basis of the outfit is just khakis and a knit top. But once I put on my awesome batik belt (bought years ago when I was living in Dallas), orange medallion earrings, and orange and brown patterned bangle, I felt like I looked really pulled together. And I got to pull out my green loafers, which I haven’t worn in a while. Also, welcome to my incredibly bright green kitchen. No, I didn’t pick the color, but it has grown on me.

Details: Top: Ann Taylor Loft, thrifted. Pants: Bass. Belt: World Market. Bangle: thrifted. Earrings: Burlington Coat Factory. Shoes: Land’s End for Sears, clearance.

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I had an idyllic day today. From start to finish, it was fun and relaxing, full of moments that made me smile.

As I often do on a weekend morning, I started the day with coffee and a pastry at my favorite local bakery. Then I took a walk and grabbed some bargains at a couple yard sales.

Next I headed to the Esplanade to meet my friend, S, who had agreed to take me sailing. It was a hot, sunny day, so it was comfortable and beautiful out on the water. We chatted as we sailed over the sparkling water and past landmarks. Such a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

our sail

great day for sailing

skyline from the water

rudders in a row

sail storage

After our sail, I headed over to Beacon Hill and did some browsing, and a little actual shopping. I stopped for a late lunch at The Paramount, then wandered in the Public Garden a bit. Check out the swan and its eggs in the nest!

swan nest with eggs!

At that point, I had a hankering for ice cream, and I lucked out. A Mr. Frosty soft-serve truck was parked right by the bus stop, so I grabbed a cone before heading home. Since then, I’ve been puttering online, doing laundry, and watching the baseball game.  Hooray for summer!

 

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I got to visit my parents in St. Louis after my conference trip to Chicago.  The timing was good, as my dad had just had surgery, so I was able to visit him, while my mom worked.  Most of the visit was spent just hanging out with my parents, but Mom and I did take some time to check out the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of Mom’s favorite places. I generally get out to visit my folks in the winter, so it was nice to be there at a time when the garden was in full bloom.  It really is an impressive place, with lots of different styles of garden, beautifully executed.  It is free for residents of St. Louis county and very reasonably priced for the rest of us.  Honestly, they must do a lot of fund-raising, because the quality is way above what one would expect for the admission price, especially once you see the number of Chihuly pieces the Garden acquired permanently after the exhibition of his work there several years ago.  Those glass installations are not cheap.

Mom and I started in the Climatron, a domed glass greenhouse filled with an amazing variety of stunning tropical plants.

I wish I had taken the photo above with Mom in it, because those plants are enormous!  The blooms were over her head.

See?  More Chihuly.  Mom and I liked the flamingo-like shapes of these, and they really glowed in their pool of sunlight.

And it wasn’t only the colorful things that caught our eyes.

I am guessing this plant is either carnivorous, and catches insects in these hanging pods or that they are for capturing water, with the prickly bits to keep critters from stealing the liquid.

Isn’t it amazing how much variety is in our world?  I love that there are always so many new things to see and wonder about! Anyway, after the Climatron, we wandered to Tower Grove House, which was originally the country home of the Garden’s creator, Henry Shaw.  It’s odd to think of it as a country house, when today the Botanical Garden is surrounded by city neighborhoods.

Of course, it’s easy to forget the city in the immediate surroundings of the house, such as the lovely formal garden, based on Shaw’s original design.

Next we headed to the expansive Japanese Garden.  While I tend to love showy, colorful landscapes, I was struck by the serene and ordered layout in this section.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

There were some flowers, of course, including irises, a favorite of mine.

And we got to feed lots of koi, whose colors and patterns were nearly as beautiful as the plants and flowers (though the photos don’t do them justice, due to the jostling for food.)

It was a hot day, so Mom and I were flagging by that point.  But on our way back to the Garden entrance we wandered through one of the rose gardens and the Orangerie, and enjoyed yet another Chihuly installation.

Really we only saw a portion of what the Garden has to offer.  There were several sections we didn’t see, so you could probably spend the better part of a day here.  Yet another jewel in St. Louis’s cultural crown.

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