fff aug 26

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on August 26, 2016

George planning his next adventure

I can’t seem to catch up because here is another Friday and I haven’t made any online visits. How are you all? Are you counting your blessings? Here are my five for the week:

1. A friend came by to rehearse some music with roomie. They asked me to join in and it was such a wonderful time of singing together and learning harmonies to new music.

2. After weeks of high 90s (F), we are headed for a few days of “below average temperatures” said the weatherman. Ahhhh.

3. A month of being grounded seems to have paid off: George has been coming home promptly for afternoon naps and thus has regained his outside privileges.

4. I’m loving having electronic access to my local libraries.

5. Roomie has a promising interview next week — the first in ages.

What’s brought you some smiles this week?

fff aug 19

Posted in edibles, five faves friday by nikkipolani on August 19, 2016

Here in SoCal where temperatures stay blistery well into October, it’s still mid-summer. So it feels a bit strange to see kids on sidewalks again, heading to school. In any case, a good time for a look back over the week with Susanne’s Friday Faves.

1. I’m always wary when I see mounds of temptingly beautiful stone fruit at the grocery store, having been disappointed by mealy blandness too many times. This summer, it seems like peaches have been over-achieving. From oversized ones from the office (my company provides fruit for employees) to smaller ones at the store to a box of 12 from Trader Joe’s — all have been not only sweet, but full of rich luscious peachy flavor.

2. More projects crossed off the list. While I watered and fed the plants, roomie cleaned and rubbed mineral oil into our teak patio chairs and bench. A friend came to help chop up thinnings from the hedge and tree.

3. I’ve had some mysterious muscle soreness in my left forearm. The chiropractor (who makes house calls!) was coming by for an appointment with roomie and worked on my arm a bit first. So good to have timely help.

4. My Mom asked me to make a pan of lemon bars for a birthday celebration at her office. Mom is a great cook, but baking completely unravels her. I hadn’t tested any gluten-free versions, so I bought a bag of wheat flour and made my standard recipe, but with a dollop of coconut flavoring. Turns out that hint of coconut had all her co-workers requesting the recipe. I’ve got my eye on this GF version to try soon.

5. Some miscellaneous sweetness: newsy notes from friends, looking out the window while working from home, update from my aunt that my uncle is recovering well from his surgery, safety for roomie’s family as they travel for a nephew’s wedding, local libraries that have ebooks and eaudiobooks.

Hope you have some sweetness in your day.

Following is the standard wheat flour recipe: Start with a mix of 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 cup softened butter. Combine until crumbly and press into a 9×13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350ºF but don’t let the dough brown. Meanwhile, using a mixer, beat together 4 eggs and 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice. Then add 1-1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and 1 teaspoon baking powder to the egg mixture and blend until slightly frothy. Optional: add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavor. Once the crust layer is done baking, pour the egg/flour mixture over the top and bake another 25 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing.

chicon for dinner

Posted in edibles by nikkipolani on August 16, 2016

When roomie is in the mood for some Belgian food, she makes chicon. This is shorthand for Belgian endive halved and steamed, wrapped in ham, swaddled in a cheese sauce, baked until cheese is toasty, then served next to potatoes. The photo below is from a meal roomie shared with a dear and long time friend while they were in Belgium a few weeks ago.
Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 6.34.14 PM

Not having had chicon when I visited Belgium many moons ago, I usually leave it to roomie to make. For tonight’s dinner, I took a few shortcuts given how few (and small) chicon I had purchased, originally intending them to add crunch to a salad.

Instead of steaming them, I seared them (with a drop of that garlicky olive oil from poaching) and wrapped them in some black forest ham. This is a 1.5 quart casserole and I’ve got six halves snugged in a row.

And instead of boiling these tiny “Dutch baby” potatoes, I halved them and seared them while I made the cheese sauce. They’ll cook the rest of the way in the oven.

Did you know you can swap out wheat flour for rice flour and the béchamel turns out fine? It’s one of the rare cases in which rice flour can be substituted one-to-one for wheat flour without any problems. I used a heaping tablespoon of butter and stirred in a heaping tablespoon of rice flour. Then about a cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon onion salt, a twist or two of ground pepper, and about three ounces of cheddar-Gruyère cheese.

Potato halves are wedged in around the edges and then cheese sauce is poured over top.

This small pan is baked uncovered at 350F for around 40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown on top. A cozy two-serving dinner with the tang of chicon, salty ham, and almost nutty aroma of Gruyère. And roomie-approved.

fff aug 12

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on August 12, 2016

This week’s five faves are all about projects. Getting things crossed off the list is always a fave.

1. Between roomie and me, we collected eight bags of clothes and one of household stuff to go to the Goodwill. Funny how tidier closets feel like less clutter on the mind, too.

2. We also took some steps towards a re-upholstery project: taking measurements, getting rough estimates, and scouting out fabric options. Well, and considering alternatives, too, like a straight replacement.
Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 6.52.50 PM

3. I’ve taken a few days off work to attend to the garden chores that always pile up: cutting out dead canes, feeding, trimming, weeding. George and Wimsey observed from a safe distance, though George seems to have reached his watching-grass-grow-limit.

4. I’ve also tackled the backlog of sewing odds and ends: fixing tears, hemming, re-attaching buttons.

5. Banking stuff also got attended to: accounts sorted, bill pays arranged, details noted. Boring stuff, but it pleases me to have it done.

Hope you have some pleasing to enjoy this weekend!

olive oil poached ahi

Posted in edibles, Uncategorized by nikkipolani on August 8, 2016

I’d heard about “poaching” fish in olive oil before but wasn’t sure what the point was. Seemed like crazy use of oil. My co-worker who loves to fish had generously brought several steaks of ahi and I wanted to venture beyond pan-searing. So I looked up olive oil poaching again and came across this video that not only taught the technique, Chef John explained the point: tender, succulent, never-dry fish. I was on board.

First step, bring the fish to room temperature. Next, using a pan that will be a snug fit the amount of fish you have, pour in about an inch of olive oil. The snug fit will mean less wasted oil. Before turning on the heat, crush two to three cloves of garlic and drop into the oil. Add a few sprigs of thyme and about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Turn the heat to medium high and wait for the bubbles to begin at the edges of the aromatics.

Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Gently add the ahi steaks and spoon some hot oil over the top if they aren’t submerged. Cook for five minutes until the outside begins to turn white and opaque. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

In a casserole or glass container, place the ahi steaks and pour over all the oil from the pot, including the garlic, thyme, and pepper flakes. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the oil and cover. Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, bring your container of fish in oil to nearly room temperature — this may take an hour or so. Tuna is ready to eat! I served slices sprinkled with sea salt over a bed of lettuce. Using a few tablespoons of the olive oil, I fried some onions for topping and dressed the salad in a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Can you tell how moist and tender this tuna is? It’s not at all oily tasting and has gently taken on the infused flavors.

My fisherman friend loves nothing more than photos of the meals we make when we use the fish he catches. When I texted him a snap of this meal, he said now I was just showing off. Yeah, it looks and tastes amazing, but the effort is pretty minimal. If you eat fish, I hope you’ll give it a try.

p.s., I’m not sure what I’ll do with the remaining oil, but it tastes fine in vinaigrette. For now the left over fish is in the oil in the refrigerator.

fff aug 5

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on August 5, 2016

House projects – sky’s the limit. Bank account – not so much.

Aside from being a rather expensive start to August, it’s been a good week. Roomie and I have been supporting the local service economy: the roofer, the plumber, and the termite man have visited. The mechanic and contractor are on the calendar. Let’s think of happier things, shall we?

1. Roomie and I needed to rearrange our utility closet for better, um, utility when I decided to tackle the photo albums and boxes also stored there. Back in the day, I often got double prints (or more for sharing) when photographing projects. Sorting through the big books reduced five of them to a few stacks in boxes. Negatives got tossed, even those cute 110 strips from my first camera, a Kodak Ektralite. A fun and useful project.

2. Seedlings thriving in the middle of summer make me smile. These are two-week-old zinnias. There are some cosmos seeds coming up, too.

3. My Dad’s cataract surgery went well. Mom reports that Dad hasn’t been a particularly good patient, but at least he had good doctor and nurses.

4. Roomie brought home from Brussels a jar of tomato tapenade and tasty recipe from her friend. With some adjustments to make it gluten-free, we shared a lovely meal with her parents. Here’s the recipe: Pound four chicken breasts or thighs to an even 1/2 inch thickness and dredge in a mixture of cornstarch (1/2 cup), salt (1 teaspoon), and pepper. If serving over pasta, cook that now. Otherwise, shred (I use this tool) 4 yellow crook-neck squash or zucchini and pan fry in a bit of butter until squash is softened. Meanwhile, fry chicken pieces in several tablespoons of olive oil until done and set aside. In the same pan, add 1/2 cup chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in 4 ounces tomato tapenade or sliced pimento peppers and 1/2 cup cream and return to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Cook on low, stirring, until Parmesan melts and sauce looks cohesive. Serve chicken over pasta or vegetables and top with sauce.

5. My fisherman co-worker brought me more mahi mahi and ahi from his recent catch, the latter I tried olive oil poaching with thyme, garlic, and pepper flakes for an amazing delicate texture.

BONUS: I had a great time at our company’s volunteer project — assembling planter boxes and a garden tool shed for a local school. It was a ton of fun working alongside the kids, teaching girls to use power tools.


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