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My first bruschetta…an insight into the whole Italian cooking thing

There is this scene in Julie & Julia where Julie Powell and her husband, Eric absolutely devour a platter of bruschetta (thanks to our new surround-sound speakers, we got to hear every smack and munch). I have seen this movie twice and both times have been so afflicted with visions of fresh bread, tomatoes and oil that I can hardly stand it!

True to form, I watched the movie last week and couldn’t get it [the bruschetta] out of my mind…so, feeling ever so French, I stopped for a baguette and some fresh herbs on the way home tonight and thought I’d just figure it out on my own. Note: recipes often stress me out–I envision hours of standing over the stove, dirtying hundreds of dishes, working myself up into a state, and coming up with something that my husband wishes would just have been ramen noodles, so I thought, “I won’t look up a recipe!” in the spirit of EZ saying “‘Well then, I’ll do it myself!’ said the little red hen.”

Ingredients:
1 baguette
light olive oil – I used the light kind that is good for sautéing and baking
3/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
3 cans tomatoes, drained – I used 1 15 oz. can diced, 1 10.5 oz can diced with green chilis, and 1 15 oz. can whole stewed (the idea is use whatever you’ve got!)
fresh basil, shredded (plus some extra for garnish)
fresh oregano, shredded
shredded mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese for garnish
plenty of butter – listen to Julia! “You can never have too much butter!”
salt and pepper to taste

Make the topping:
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a 10″ skillet and add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté lightly for about 5 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add all tomatoes; the diced go in as is, crush the whole tomatoes by hand as you add them to the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes to reduce some of the extra liquid, then add fresh basil and oregano to taste. I found that a little oregano goes a long way for me – the fresh kind is more pungent than the dried! Stir to mix thoroughly and reduce heat to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste.

Toast the baguette slices:
Slice the baguette to 1/2 inch slices and butter both sides of each slice. Place on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler for just about a minute or less – watch them! When the edges are light golden brown, turn (tongs are handy for this) and toast on the other side until edges are light golden brown. Keep in mind that they will go back under the broiler to melt the mozzarella, so don’t let them get too dark now.

toasty baguettes!

Remove from broiler and top one side with a little mozzarella cheese. Return to the broiler and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve the baguette toasts immediately and let your diners spoon warm bruschetta onto their bread! Keep extra shredded basil and parmesan cheese on hand for garnish!

bon appétit!

I must add that we had a little hearty burgundy with this and it turned out to be a divine, fresh, Springtime meal! It was 89 degrees in Philly today–too hot for meat or soup! I tend to enjoy “assemble your own” food, and I loved how we ate our dinner slow and savored it. The melted mozzarella underneath the sauce is delectable and using the can of tomato with chilis must have added some heat, which was unexpected but very welcome. I’m starting to get the whole idea of fresh, simple Italian cooking!

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Summer Lovin’….err, Stitchin’!

The summer grew wings after we got home from vacation, and I have been busy with fibrous experiments, both wearable and edible…

Project #1, simple sundress, modded from Heather Ross’s Mendocino Sundress pattern available for free here. I used Heather’s instructions and watched the demonstration on Martha Stewart a couple of times to catch all the tips on using elastic thread for the smocking. It is fairly easy, and I only had to take out my bobbin chamber once to get a nasty bit of stretchy thread out ;o), I think the most important thing to know is that you mustn’t stretch the elastic thread as you wind it onto the bobbin by hand. Ready for my big confession? I didn’t go to Kinko’s to have the pattern blown up and printed, as is suggested in the pattern instructions. I just looked at the dress shape in its PDF file and gave it my best shot, free-hand (avec ruler/yardstick/tape measure). I knew I wanted it about knee-length anyway, so I didn’t want to pay for paper I wouldn’t even use. Confession #2: I skipped the pocket. I love pockets as much as the next reluctant, purse-bound female, so I thought about it, but decided not to mess with it on my first sewing rodeo. Enough groveling, here are the pics.

dressy dress dress

simple sundress

comfy!

I actually love it! The fabric is a cotton from the $1 shelf at Wal-Mart in 2007 when my husband, then fiancé, bought me my sewing machine and some fabric to play with. It is very light and airy, and was an incredibly gratifying project!

Project #2, the one-yard skirt tutorial from grosgrain’s lovely and inspiring blog, found here. I am an extreme novice sewer, so having a skirt in only 20 minutes is not something I am concerned with. In fact, I’m certain that if I were to make a skirt in 20 minutes, it would involve duct tape or rubber bands, possibly both. But this skirt seemed awfully cute and thrifty at only 1 yard, so I was game! Note: there is a casual mention toward the end of the tutorial that this skirt is best for a size 2 – 8 and since I do not yet fall into that category, I found that the full width of the skirt did much more to make me look like a pot-bellied bear in a dirndl than look as cute as the sample pics, but I was undeterred! I just pinned it where it looked okay and chopped off the rest of the bulk! And it worked great! I have an elastic-band, semi-straight skirt that I wore to the grad student picnic the following evening [no one asked if it was ‘home-made’…SUCCESS!]. So the moral of the story is for those above size 8, try it, but don’t be afraid to change it a bit. Three cheers for Grosgrain!

less-than-a-yard skirt!

Project #3, Remodel Thy Pants! From a hodge-podge of tutorials found in a google search, this handy toot emerged as a winner. This was a lot of fun. I chose a pair of aging, Old Navy work pants that I once wore for waitressing, and after an afternoon of carefree laundering [“just throw it in there!”] turned into high-waters. No longer! I love this clever little trick, and my favorite shorty-short tweed slacks are soon to follow.

highwaters no more!

closer detail of the piecework:

quick and dirty approach to seams

Project #4, Slapdash Skirt, started out as the basic straight skirt from Sew What! Skirts by Francesca Denhartog & Carole Ann Camp, but I soon discovered that after I attached my side zip and pinned the skirt around my [most ample] hips, it was the furthest thing from flattering that you or I could imagine. This is no fault of the book…I’m sure I went wrong somewhere in the pattern-drafting stage. In any case, I applied the pants-theory [Remodel Thy Skirt!] and stitched in triangles of fabric on the sides to kinda, sorta form an a-line. I’ve been wearing it a lot, so I think it worked!

a line

slapdash

On to the knitting!

When we visited Nashville, my mom took me to a proverbial palace of yarns and treated me to 5 skeins of Aslan Trends Artesanal in the lagoon colorway. I love this yarn–it’s the slightest bit wabi-sabi considering the long alpaca hairs that protrude from the knitting and the many and varied bits of straw rustically spun into the fibers.

This sweater is called Plume and features a gentle cowl and belled sleeves, both knit in brioche stitch. The construction is top-down, raglan with a K1, P2 ribbing at the lower body edge. The cowl is tacked down with mattress stitch to keep it from undulating in the autumn breezes, and I’m very pleased with it, in terms of fit and style. I made the scoop neck a touch low [math has never been my strong suit], and now have to find a little camisole that will work for unders.

hurry up, Fall!

mapping the sleeve

And finally, the edible fiber comes in the shape of the granola recipe I tried today. I avoid buying granola at the store because it’s expensive and overly sugary, but in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which I love, I discovered this delightful stuff…

yum!

It’s delicious and smells so good baking. And couldn’t be easier, my version is…6 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup of sliced almonds, dash salt, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 cup raisins, stir up and bake all minus the raisins for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees (stir a few times so it all gets a chance to crisp), then cool on a rack and stir in the raisins. Once it reaches room temperature, you’re ready to eat! In fact, I think it’s time for some right now ❤