June 21, 2011

Sure, I'll look cute... when I'm backlit!

Yesterday was my big man’s 11th birthday. I can hardly believe my Nembutal has gotten that old. And, like any neglectful dog mother, I forgot to make him wear a silly hat. I also let his big day pass with little fanfare… just new good for him food, which my junkfood-loving dog is not terribly happy with just yet. If he could speak English, I’m sure he’d say the only reason he ate it at all is because he’s starving. to. death. and we never feed him. (totally not true–the boys are on a diet and for the first times in their lives, a feeding schedule)

Sads. Pleasemommynomorepictures

This is the saddest looking dog I have ever known, especially in front of the camera.

If I refuse to look, will you not take a picture of me?

I mean, really. C’mon. Would it kill him to at least look at the camera? (possibly. I’m of the firm opinion that he does little to encourage me) You’d think I was in the business of dog torture to look at him. And I’m not–he should know after 11 years that I’m going to take the damn picture whether he wants me to or not, and if he would just cooperate, I would be done quicker.

June 18, 2011

Today was pretty great. Took the new lens to the Butterfly Garden, where my hubby caught some great shots — more on that later — and hit a kickass and unexpected farmer’s market in Pompano (at the Fiesta Flea Market), where we got a pineapple, cherries, 4 packages blackberries, broccolini, spinach, mushrooms, French green beans, asparagus and 20 mini peppers for $18. Exciting stuff!


Slow Dance, With Tomatoes

Tomato Jam, waiting for the crush

This is the kind of recipe that is not a recipe. More of a guideline. Serve slow-cooked tomatoes: crushed as a jam slathered on a burger or crostini; as-is as a finger food (my favorite!); chopped in a salad; tossed in with grains; or with a shot of good-quality olive oil as a pasta dressing.

Slow-Cooked Tomato Jam

Roma Tomatoes (as many as you have – I only happened to have 3 on this day)
3-5 cloves thick-sliced garlic
a sprinkling of ground cinnamon
a sprinkling of caraway seeds
Big pinch salt
Big pinch fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and arrange cut sides up in a single layer on a foil-wrapped baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, caraway, salt & pepper (or other herbs and/or spices if you are so inclined).

Roast for 2 hours until tomatoes collapse a little and are browning in spots. Flip over (skin side up) and roast an additional hour and a half until the skins are puckered and the tomatoes are falling apart.

If any should make it to a bowl, mash with a fork or potato masher to make jam or slice for salads and pasta.

If you’re like me, they may not make it that far.

Variations: You can make this jam with any tomato you have on hand–I have made with slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc., though my favorite is the Roma tomato for this particular application. You can also add brown sugar to the mix, swap the cinnamon for nutmeg, etc. This can really be dressed a thousand different ways depending on what you happen to have on hand when you notice your tomatoes are almost past their shelf life.

Slow Dance, With Tomatoes on Punk Domestics

June 16, 2011

There's just something about seeing that iconic gold box that never fails to bring a smile to my face 🙂

It’s good to see that design still means something to a legacy brand that engenders generations of rabid fans.

AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens

We finally got the 105mm f/2.8G lens–I see much more macro in my future (and without macro filters!) and possibly more portrait work, since the clarity on this baby is frickin amazing. Maybe I’ll even break down and let my DH get me a ring flash. Eventually. (hold your horses, there, DH)

And here’s Darth Vader, taken from about 2 feet away (from sitting on the bed to looking at the nightstand). And yes, I see the alarming amount of dust on my nightstand, too.

Darth looks pretty badass, even as a Lego

Summer Kickoff… with Sausage–Charcutepalooza Challenge #6

Kickoff to Summer

Wait, what? Didn’t I just make sausage a couple of weeks ago? I did, but that was starter sausage. This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was to make sausage level 2, or stuffed sausage. We opted for the hot Italian sausage on page 122 of Ruhlman’s book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

The process for stuffed sausage started the same as for patty sausage: cut the meat in chunks, season, CHILL, stuff into the grinder feed tube and grind, grind, grind (CHILL). Stuffed sausage employs an extra little attachment for the Kitchenaid (the sausage stuffer tube), and some sort of casing to hold the sausage. We opted for natural hog intestine casing from Eastman Outdoors.

The casings came packed in salt, and didn’t smell as unpleasant as I had been warned. I expected huge stinkiness (and apparently I had a matching look on my face upon opening the package), but the smell wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t nothing, but I’m pretty darn smell sensitive and it didn’t make my stomach turn. Almost, but not quite, and I was ready for it too.

The casings need to be split up into individual lengths (carefully. They came tied in a knot) and soaked for half an hour to overnight to rehydrate. Then, run water through once to open them up and get to stuffing.

Luscious Links

I went a little too timid with the spicing for our sausage, because I wasn’t quite sure Hungarian hot paprika is in relationship to sausage. I’ve managed to render at least one dish just about unpalatable with the stuff, and as such, I had too light a hand and things never really got spicy enough. Good, but not quite that kick in the back of the throat we enjoy from a nice spicy sausage.

Piles of Sausage

The texture was decent in our sausage, if a bit on the grainy side in the middle in some spots, and our links are full of air pockets and uneven, but this was all in all a good experience. Our butcher’s fresh Italian sausage is still much better, but ours is at least better than name brand store bought sausage can hope to be. And, it features real pig, a few herbs & spices, and nothing else. I have a feeling we’ll be branching out into quite the little sausage-making operation over the coming months (kielbasa!!!!!)

For our next round of sausage, we will be breaking the meat up into small batches to grind and storing them in the freezer until just about frozen before grinding. My DH (Darling Husband, aka the grind master) and I have a sneaking suspicion that grinding will go much faster and stuffing will be much easier if we get our meat even colder, especially when the auger in the grinder gets hot from use and the meat wants to smear all over the place.

We have eaten about half of our Italian sausage since its creation, and we just haven’t been able to get past one of our summer staples, Italian sausage dogs with a fresh ear of corn, some form of low fat chip or pretzels. This is our go-to I can’t be bothered-to-think-of-anything-else summer dish, and we love it. Maybe we will get around to doing something more exciting with our sausage with the next half.

This Sunday Pork Ragout recipe from Food52 looks awesome.

Summer Kickoff… with Sausage on Punk Domestics