Thursday, July 30, 2009

Having a Ball

Ok, so I went to another concert in the park yesterday. It was a glorious evening, not too hot, not chilly. There was no rain to soak the grass (and therefor my blanket). Since it was just me, I only took the blanket and some food. And a bottle of wine. I made a salad of roasted corn and grape tomatoes, this time with chives. And of course, pesto. I brought a book so I could relax and read while enjoying the music. Not too far from me was a couple with a few kids. About 30 minutes before the music started the kids (boys) were running around giving themselves noogies while shouting "NOOGIES!". I think perhaps they were unclear on the concept. Shortly after that a small group of people set up camp behind that family. That family was joined by a couple more adults and a couple more kids as well. Then four more adults and a kid. Then one more adult and about three kids. The people who had sat behind them moved so the family could have more room. That family kept growing. And someone brought hula-hoops. By this time there were sooo many people they were standing right next to my blanket. So close in fact, that in order to get past the standing adults, the kids were running on my blanket. Then the music started. And. They. Did. Not. Shut. Up. The adults in the group all moved to one area and chatted away while the kids started to hula-hoop. Right next to my head. Those folks that moved earlier suggested I might want to do the same. I very much agreed and they helped me do so! It was so kind of them! I offered them some of my pesto and salad, but they had brought their own feast and declined. Not five minutes after I moved, the guy in the kind group got whacked in the head by a hula-hoop. Twice.
I wish I could tell you about the music, what little I heard sounded like the score to a really good movie. The kind with sweeping scenes of fantastic vistas. But so much of the music was drowned out by yelling kids and yammering adults. Once again it bothers me that what is most memorable about last nights experience (other than the fantastically helpful, thoughtful group) is the sheer inconsiderateness of the family group. A concert is not the place to hold a family reunion. There are other people there who have come to hear the music. I don't think I'll go alone again. I'll go with someone or a group and let them pick the spot since I seem to have rotten luck at it.

In other news, my ice cream ball came in today!!! And yes, it has been christened. I made Strawberry-Orange sorbet. And it was great! It only takes about 30 minutes plus whatever time blending your ingredients before putting them in the ball's canister. I'm gonna make real ice cream this weekend.
Also planned for the weekend, pizzelles. To be formed into little cups to hold the ice cream. I also plan on making french fries (finally gonna use that fry daddy) and then spraying those with truffle oil. I figure I'll use every gadget I own this weekend.
One of these days I plan on making a meal where nearly every aspect is made from scratch. Veggies with an onion dip, the dip being made from sour cream and onions and parmesan. Pasta (by hand) with a pesto cream sauce (no surprise). And either sorbet or ice cream. If I got really adventurous (and planned ahead, waaaaay ahead) I could make bacon vodka and make bloody marys with it. No, the morph into Martha is as yet incomplete. But I'll keep you posted.

--Little Bird can't picnic alone anymore

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hey Pesto!

So it's been sorta busy around here lately. My step-sister was in town, and there has been more walking, and farmers markets, and pesto.
About two weeks ago I decided to make pesto. The hard way. With a mortar and pestle. Using an entire bundle of basil from the farmers market. It should be known that nearly every stall at the market has a different sized bundle of basil. I found the biggest, for the best price. This yields about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of pesto. And takes over an hour to make. I am now making the stuff at least twice a week because my step-father likes it so much. I think he may cry when the farmers markets close for the season. That or he's gonna have to learn how to grow basil in an apartment, because I will surely kill any plant I try to grow.
The foods prepared over the past two weeks have been: Fennel, green bean, and roasted potato salad, pesto, Tex-Mex chicken salad, pesto, mixed green salad with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, pesto, caprese with pesto instead of basil (that one was just for me and was spectacular), Salsa, bean dip, yogurt dip, and more pesto.
I picked up a new cooking magazine when I went to the new Whole Foods up in the Lincoln Park area. And have made four of the recipes so far. And there are at least twenty more that look like something my family would like. The magazine is awesome and I want a subscription! It's Fresh, from Fine Cooking, and appears to be a "best of" type deal.
But what else is amazing is the new Whole Foods! It is beautiful. I never thought I would ever refer to a grocery store as beautiful, but Oh My God is it ever! If you live in Chicago you must go experience it. There is a BAR in the grocery store. There is a cafe AND a wine gazebo. The store is huge, the cheese department alone is bigger than most store's entire dairy departments. Go, just go. You'll see what I mean.
Tomorrow I will be preparing a picnic that will include a new bean dip recipe, that salad with the sun-dried tomatoes, bread, and caprese made with pesto. I love summer and the opportunity it affords me to cook with FRESH ingredients!


One bundle basil
One - two cloves garlic
Parmesan- Pecorino Romano blend cheese (grated)
Pine nuts (raw)
Olive oil

Start with just a few leaves a little of each of the rest ingredients if using a mortar and pestle. Smoosh it all until smooth and bright green. Keep adding bits of everything until the bowl is too full to work. Keep putting the excess in a container off to the side until all basil is used. Then put it all back in the mortar and smoosh it around some more to really blend it together.
I can't really give you exact measurements, but the finished product should be bright green with darker flecks. Just keep at it 'til it looks and tastes the way you want it to. You can add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste as well.
Now you can also make this in a food processor. That pretty much just entails putting all the ingredients into the machine and pressing "Puree". Pesto can be frozen for up to about two months. But tastes best if used immediately. And it's even better when simply used as a spread for bread. My step-father practically eats it with a spoon, by itself.

--Little Bird eats fresh

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't Read If Easily Disgusted

So, last week I had a medical scare. It turned out to be nothing of great significance, but was disturbing before I went to the doctor. It started out with a lump on the back of my neck, just inside the hairline. This was on say Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday it erupted. It oozed. I apologize if you've just eaten. It continued in this vein for a couple of days. Sunday Mama Bird looked at it (again) and the two of us had a discussion on the possible reasons for the ickiness. I thought it might have been an exploded tumor (it's happened before) or a spider bite from a venomous spider (also happened before). Mama Bird thought it was ringworm. We discussed the possible places I could have come across the last two. Monday I noticed that I now had a growing lump lower on my neck, in the back. I went on-line again and figured that my lymph nodes were swollen. The posterior cervical lymph nodes to be exact. So Tuesday morning I called my doctors office and spoke with whoever it is that answers the phone there. I made clear that if MY doctor was unavailable, I would be MORE than happy to see whoever else that might be there. I also told him the three things we thought it may have been. According to him, at the time of the call my doctors day was full, but he'd ask if I could see someone else. Not even twenty minutes later I got a call informing me that my regular doctor would be able to see me 45 minutes later. So I walked over to her office. Yes, I can turn this into a loooonnnggg story. Good news: the prognosis is none of the three choices. It turns out to be a decidedly unhappy hair follicle. Really unhappy. The bad news: I am currently taking clindamycin four times a day, 300 milligrams each time. I have to wake up at 2 am in order to do this. And I can't lie down for at least a half hour after taking it. I read the side effects and was not terribly worried, but didn't know why I couldn't lie down for half an hour. I looked on-line again. I found a site where people were telling their horror stories. I haven't had any of the most noted side effects, but then I have been obsessively good about the half hour rule. Even for the 2 am dose. And that seems to be making the difference.
That's really about it for this week. Oh yeah, I've started bike riding again. Not that that has anything to do with anything.

--Little Bird is on a schedule