Monday, November 28, 2011


After a week of staring into a computer screen, emceeing events, and escorting people, all I wanted to do was relax and have a solo self-care evening. In addition to doing some culinary exploring, I sat down to turn my latest J.Crew catalog into a set of paper ornaments to string up in my apartment for the holidays. It felt really good to do something tactile and soothing to repeat the symmetrical origami pleats.

At first I was going todo what Katrina, of the clever and lovely Pugly Pixel blog, did with one of her catalogs. But I really have no use for tiny (albeit awfully cute) envelopes (though they'd be great centered on plain cardstock to dress up a gift card). And the catalog paper is awfully thin. Yes, paper balloons was the way forward for me.


Et voila. I especially like the one made of the ballet flats and sequin tank tops.

There was a stack of obsolete A4 memo paper pads at work; I added some red lines with a Sharpie and started folding. Result: candy cane origami balloons! I'm not done yet, but these are quick enough to bust out in between my little activities at home (making coffee, checking mail, tidying).  Other blogs suggest popping these guys onto a string of twinkle lights, but I don't think I will this year.  I hope to string them up by week's end.

candy canes

What a fun, simple, and recyclable way to dress up my little apartment.  And who knows?  They may stay up a bit longer than regular ol' Christmas decor... How is your holiday decorating going?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eggplant + Daikon


I'm not much a fan of eggplant but the bunches of them at the Japanese farmer's stall at my weekly market proved irresistible.  I went home and started looking for recipes, opting for this one just because I already had all but one of the ingredients. Didn't turn out so bad, but was more savory than I would have liked; I could've used more eggplant (note to self: "one large aubergine," as called for by the recipe, equals at least three of the long, skinny Japanese ones)...or less miso.  Not bad for a first go, though.  And even better after I added a bit of tofu.

I have been happy to find daikon back at market and stewed some up to go along with my eggplant. It's a very easy recipe that yields good results; I always make some extra for The Goo, who loves it.

daikon[daikon, stewing]

Stewed Daikon (my approximate recipe)

Daikon radish
Kombu (dried seaweed)
Katsuobushi (flakes or granules)
1 tsp Soy sauce
2 Tbs Mirin

Boil water and add a roughly 4" x 4" square of kombu; add a handful of katsuobushi flakes (or about 1/2 tsp granules); let boil a few moments and remove konbu and katsuobushi.

Cut and peel daikon; cut into 1" thick coins.  Halve, third, or quarter as you like (I cut smaller for The Goo). Add one layer to pot of stock, bring to a boil.

Mix soy sauce and mirin and stir into pot; simmer, covered, for the next 15-20 minutes, until daikon becomes translucent.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


dads pilot FO[dad's pen]

My dad doesn't even remember how he got this pen, but my brother and I remember it from our childhood. Cleaning out an old desk a few years ago, I chanced upon and claimed it. But it was full of dried up, crusty ink. Even after buying a new converter nothing would come out of the feed. Frustrated, I put it aside, where it stayed for a good year or more.

A few months ago I brought the old fountain pen to a shop and had it professionally cleaned. The shop owner told me that even he had trouble, it was entirely clogged. He also told me that the entire tip of the nib was missing, giving it a small, flat edge a bit like a calligraphy pen.

[pilot fp cap + nib]

I did some research on what type of pen I had; the only markings on it are the brand name, Pilot, on the cap, and "14k" and "pilot" on the nib. A quick browse through eBay put the pen in the 1970s-1980s range, which is about right. I didn't see any with the decorative design on the cap like my pen has and am left to wonder about that.

Now that the pen's in working condition, I've been on a kick to play around with it and also to do more research into purchasing a fine pen for myself. It's harder for a lefty like me, for whom holding the pen tilted to the left results in "pushing" instead of "pulling" the ink from the feed. Even with this pen, sometimes I have to write with it "up-side down," where the feed is over the nib instead of vice-versa.

My research has opened up to me the world of pen, ink, and paper blogs, which I find fascinating.  I am appreciating the passion and detail with which these bloggers write their reviews and experiences with such a variety of writing implements.  My pen-related vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, as is my knowledge of the same.  Perhaps I'll find my perfect left-handed fountain pen sooner rather than later after all.  The search is on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It took me about five years to read Heat in its entirety: JY lent t to me while in culinary school, and I retuned it a few months ago--3 years after his return! Yikes. Though the time it took me to read belies the fact, I really enjoyed the book. Not being a cook or "foodie" by any stretch of the imagination, I nevertheless appreciated the insight into kitchen hierarchy and Buford's humorous, self-deprecating tone.

The things I read about in Heat seemed so far off that I didn't make the connection between the names of places in the book to the names of places on my Italy itinerary until we were there and chatting with Dr. Bob, the trip organizer, on the first night in Florence. Turns out we were going to Panzano, and going to eat at Dario's restaurant. Whoa!

We had some time to stroll around the town before dinner so many of us visited Dario's butcher shop. It was wild: wine for everyone, which Dario himself poured from a large bottle in one hand to a stack of glasses held in his other hand. One side of his shop is more like a buffet: a spread of fresh bread and Chianti butter, various meats, peppers and jellies for sale, and an iron cow, divided into cuts. Through the window in the refrigerator door were visible huge hanging cuts of beef. On a cutting board in front of his meat counter was a cutting board on which stood an herb-stuffed roast and pepper jelly. Dario was both entertaining and serving customers; it was wild.

[cheers in the butcher shop]

[rosemary + bread]

[Dario's spread]

[stuffed meat + pepper jelly]

[got beef?]

The scene was no less calm at his restaurant, Solociccia ("Only Meat").  D and I (late for having strolled around the town a bit more) were separated from our group by the ginormous butcher block that held the night's portion of meat for the entire restaurant, about 50 people. We sat with a young Italian couple, celebrating thee second anniversary (her English was really good; turns out she's studied for a while at UCLA); a couple of gals from Belgium; and some Canadians and Americans further down the table. Turns out some of the staff was international, too, having corme to apprentice with a master (as had Buford). By the end of the night the grappa was free flowing and everyone was friends.

[beef sushi]

[only meat]

[medium rare]

My favorite was the first course, a tartar described as, "beef sushi." I'd never eaten raw beef before and was a bit wary, but it was infused with herbs and olive oil and was surprisingly delicious. The Chianti butter--lard with salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary--was served alongside baked potatoes instead of spread on bread as in the butcher shop, and was infinitely more enjoyable when melted in the warm potato flesh. To top it off we had olive oil bread and espresso (I didn't touch the grappa).

It was a pretty awesome meal. I enjoyed the showmanship of the experience and the great taste of all that meat. But I've been back three weeks and still haven't had any beef.