food

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.

an evening in June

Some random observations on light and the weather: Yesterday afternoon, mare's tails clouds streaked the sky, often a sign of changing weather. Today, I came home to laundry blown across the garden. It's still light outside right now, and getting close to bedtime. Outside the window I can see the wind still pushing the tree branches around. We brought the rabbits into the garden today; it was such a delight watching them explore, and entirely worth the effort of wrangling them into harnesses. I've been incredibly lucky in the past few weeks- while I've been working overtime, Jer has gotten into the habit of cooking dinner. The best part (aside from being fed) is that he's discovered he likes cooking. This week, though my schedule has gone back to normal, he's kept cooking, leaving me more time to clean and putter.

There were fledgling crows in the courtyard at my work in the beginning of June, first one and then two, sitting tucked away in the ornamental currant bushes by the library. Their parents kept an eye on them from the metal twirls of a statue and the high beams, cawing at people who got too close, and occasionally swooping in to scare off some unsuspecting wanderer or deliver morsels of food. They stuck around for about a week and then were gone, testing flight on city streets or in the park.

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things missed

I keep thinking of things that I meant to write about after I’ve posted for the day. Yesterday I forgot to mention that I heated up marmalade without the rind-y bits as a substitute for apricot glaze, to brush over the tarts when they come out of the oven, and I toasted sliced almonds to scatter on top. How, moving back to Victoria we psyched ourselves up for days or even weeks of rain and it has been unexpectedly sunny.

When I was lying in bed on Thursday morning, I kept drifting off and I dreamt of kitchens, a car I couldn’t start, and catching then releasing broken butterflies.

Yesterday was J’s birthday and I wasn’t at all ready for it. I got out of bed early and made him a mouse card, and there was a trip to Lee Valley and the frangipane tarts, but I would have liked to have made it more special. When it’s my birthday he lavishes me with gifts and sweet plans.

At work, even though I feel I'm trying no more or less than before, it would seem my efforts are paying off; I was told that I'm on track. I got off work early this afternoon, but had to wait for J and the car to come at my usual time. I sat and ate a small and excellent rejected quiche and part of a strawberry rhubarb galette from work. There was a bunch of tulips that I wanted to buy across the street, but I had just enough change for cilantro for the rabbits.

We have a second set of keys for the car now, so now I also have a key. It feels symbolic for now being able to drive it and capably drive standard.

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A delicious blur of pastries and studio time

Friday morning deserves mentioning simply because it was the last day of my uninterrupted art month. It required strong Oso coffee and a breakfast bun made by the gorgeous Rew (toasted croissant, scrambled egg, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, melted cheddar and Antoinette's Salt Spring dip). I went down to the old brick building that was Ellison's grain mill and is now Ellison's Market, a general store for the health-foodie, gardener, pet owner and tea lover, to get cat kibble and vegetables. Usually I bring home a little food each day but working at home has meant the fridge running low, very low in between town days.

The rest of the day was a blur of silkscreening and sewing.

Oooh, I wish I could write that every day. The rest of the day was a blur of silkscreening and sewing. Yes.

I am happy to report there is a giant vat of walnut dye on my stovetop with a duvet cover transitioning through various shades of coffee over the weekend. With the lid on, it really smells okay.

Somehow during the afternoon I gained the audacity to finally print a few years worth of  "poetry" which will make its way onto a screen and then merge with the leaves and birds on my fabrics.

All in all, it was a successful last day to my art month. I have loved my freedom immensely and will seek out more in the spring. For now I'll squeeze my hemming and printing and various processing into the hidden moments between work and dinner and sleep.

Saturday was something else entirely. It was the birthday of wonderful Cor, and was fittingly devoted to baked goods. Wise girl that she is, she requested that all her guests bring pie. To start off the day on the right foot, I whipped up some raspberry peach chocolate muffins using a blend of prairie grown ancient grains, and coffee of course. Then I traipsed through the drizzly rain to Cor's house and we talked baking over some more coffee and then we made a sour cherry-black cherry pie and an apple cake, drank cherry juice and flipped through recipes. Then the pies and celebrators began to arrive and we feasted. True to style, it was a glorious spread. Particularly of note was Gavin's "Kootenay Lime Pie" which seemed to be a particularly excellent rendition of traditional key lime pie.

I think I've hit on a new technique for parents. You see, I ate nothing but baked goods all day and around seven o'clock was struck with a strong urge to eat salad. Hefty winter greens salad comprised of rainbow chard and lacatino kale, the kale "massaged" as I have been couseled (impatiently, however, so it was more of rough toussle). The intense greenness of the greens were balanced by sliced carrot, chopped roasted almonds and cubed rocky mountain cheddar. I like to make salad in my favorite metal mixing bowl, whisking the dressing in the bottom (olive and flax oils, crushed garlic, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, tamari, maple syrup, grainy mustard, tumeric, marjoram, poultry seasoning and pepper). When it's just me eating the salad, which it generally is around here, Jeremy's reaction to kale being to give it to the mice, I will sometimes (read: yesterday, often) eat it out of the giant silver bowl. I will say in my defense, that it's an excellent bowl, handy for not spilling salad when vigorously tossing it, also handy for washing dishes in, with the added benefit of chiming charmingly when clanged into something.

Working with light, and a house show

I would like to catch up with myself, my real person studio self, on this blog before I begin what might be called printing week. Last week was the week of screens.

Here is where I was on Thursday:

After a less than productive day in (or out) of the studio, I am reminded of my options. Dishes, for instance, or futzing about on this blog. I spent all day waiting for my screens to dry.

On Friday, a few things happened. The screens dried. I nervously set in motion my rickety light table set up and hoped for the best.

Incredibly, it worked!!!! I have always found getting my screens perfect to be nerve racking and difficult, and hadn't attempted it at home until now. It went flawlessly, with some of my most detailed screens rinsing out best of all.

A quick overview of the process:

Screens have beeen cleaned, then coated with light sensitive photo emulsion (I used Macdermid Autosol 8000), then left to dry in a dark space. When they were dry and non-tacky to the touch, I covered the windows in the spaces I was working in so I had just enough light to see what I was doing and put one screen at a time in a garbage bag, to transport them across the slightly lit hallway. I used a combination of books, or foam, or other screens (most of my screens are different sizes), covered in white paper, to completely fill the inside of the screen, so there was no space underneath. I grabbed my transparancy with the corresponding number to the one I had marked on my screen, and laid it on top, then placed a thick sheet of glass on top of that, and turned on my photobulb (a BBA photoflood) which was um cleverly rigged with a pie plate and latched onto a kitchen stool, on a suitcase. This set up has inspired my partner to draw up a design for a solid, adjustable light table and stand.

I let the light do its magic for ten or so minutes, and then again in the semi-dark, removed the glass and transparancy and stuffed the screen back in the garbage bag so as to not expose the area where the image was. Next, outside, back to the garden hose, in the rain, with gumboots. I turned the hose on full and (taking the screen out of the bag) sprayed the front and back of the screen. I continued to spray the back until my image was nice and clear, all the unwanted emulsion gone. Then, I let it dry and voila, I have 19 new screens to print with. I am thrilled, and relieved.

Friday evening brought with it excitement of another type. We had a house concert.

It is so nice to have talented musicians in one's living room.

One of the nicest audiences ever filled the house, and our cats wove their way through everyone, getting pats.

Here are the folks we were lucky enough to have over for a night of "Swoon Tunes"

Susu Robin http://www.myspace.com/susurobin

Will Klatte Spoken Word

Kindredheart http://soundcloud.com/kindredheart http://kindredheart1.bandcamp.com/

Daniel Bloom http://soundcloud.com/wreninthethicket

What fun! Beautiful music, beautiful people, and all put together by the lovely La Marie of Kindredheart.

Also very enjoyable this weekend was a bike ride in the beautiful fall woods. The wet roots weren't  scary like I thought they might be. We ended up only going for a short ride as the logging road to the trail we wanted to go down was already under far too much snow!

This cozy, drizzly weekend was finished off nicely wih an afternoon of baking apple cinnamon swirl bread and making homemade pasta with good friends, and a few board games. Lovely.

Now, silkscreening!