Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea
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Lots of words to start with; the pictures come later!

You'll notice the place has changed again.  I tried to keep it mostly the same color scheme. but I've ditched the garden background for a few reasons--although I did feel it was pretty perfect for my summertime posts!

First, I didn't like how long the page took to load.  I don't know if your connection is as slow as mine, but I didn't want to burden you all with a long wait for the stupid stuff to load.  I've actually stopped reading a couple of "big-time" blogs because all their gadgets and goozles slowed them down so much.

The other reason I made the change was because I added a "static page" to my blog, as you can see in the tabs above.  I've had several new readers pop in, and although I feel like everyone here knows me, it's been awhile since I've explained myself.  So if you want a little bit of background on where I'm coming from, or might be headed, check out the "About This Blog" tab.   (I'm also considering adding another tab soon...stay tuned!)

Oh, and I was also really annoyed at the way Rosie was sprawled across the edges at the top of the page, so I took the opportunity to give her a little trim.


Miss Chef has finished up her first week of teaching, and I thought I'd let you know how it went.  As far as I can tell, very well!  Being a bit older than a typical new teacher, and having listened to my teaching stories for the past decade, I think she had a very solid idea of what kind of instructor she wanted to be, how she wanted to relate to her students, and how she wanted to manage her classroom.

Frankly, I'm a little jealous.

The course she's teaching--basic skills, or "Fundamentals of Cooking"--is a first-quarter, multi-section core course.  Which means that the syllabus, lesson plans, tests and quizzes are all standardized across the course.  The first day is largely devoted to a lengthy review of the lengthy syllabus.  Sounds boring, but keep in mind, there are a lot of important policies regarding uniforms, safety, sanitation, equipment and so on.

It was during this first class that Miss Chef laid out her standards for the students.  She gave them a long list of why they shouldn't go into a culinary career: poor pay, long hours, missed holidays, obstacles to relationships, degrading physical environment.  Of course, she also explained what she finds addictively rewarding: creative control, freedom from a desk, playing with fire and knives, late-night adrenaline rushes, and doing something you are passionate about.  Nevertheless, one student went straight to the department chair after class, and dropped out of the program!

The Chair then went to see Miss Chef for a little light chastisement, but every other instructor privately cheered her on.  Miss Chef's Cool Quotient just went up a notch.  Look, if that student couldn't handle a stern lecture that wasn't directed specifically at her, she really couldn't handle the job.  Miss Chef saved her a lot of time and money.

As great a story as that was, Miss Chef found herself completely overwhelmed by Tuesday night.  Between the restaurant in the morning and her five-hour classes three nights running, preparation time is scant.  Teaching a new course for the first time (especially when you don't have the freaking textbook for the first week--sound familiar??) is one of the most stressful and frustrating experiences of a lifetime.  Doing it as a second job?  That's a stacked deck.

So I am very, very proud of Miss Chef for keeping her head on straight and being a forthright, honest and fair teacher.  She does care about her students, she cares about doing a good job for them and herself, and she wants to learn how to do this job right.  She's going to end up at least as good a teacher as I ever was, and possibly better.


As for me, I'm still trying to use my newly freed time wisely.  I haven't done tai chi again--in fact, I should be doing it right now, instead of blogging!  I have however, stepped up my walks with Rosie.  Instead of the leisurely sniff-and-pee stroll we usually take, I've been trying to maintain a fast-paced stride, enough to keep up with Rosie's trot.  I can't do it for long, but I've also been adding a few short jogs into our routine.  And I do mean "short!"  Like, from here to the next bridge short.  But I am raising my heart rate, and getting used to soaking myself in a good sweat.

Now, if you really knew me, your jaw would be in your lap now.  Why?  Three words: I hate running.  I find it uncomfortable and boring.  In my foolish youth, I did join my middle-school track team.  But once we started practice, I quickly decided to do field events, simply to avoid the extra running required of the track members.  Instead of communing with my body and challenging myself when I run, I just generally think "When will it be over?"

I'm taking a slightly different approach to this running I'm doing now, though.  Remember when you were a kid and ran just for fun?  Because the energy was absolutely bursting from your fingers and toes?  I want to run that way again.  I want to be able to frolic like a spring foal, without worrying about twisting an ankle.  I want to be able to play with Rosie or my nephews across a lawn or park, and not be self-conscious about running out of breath or getting a side stitch.

So, Liz, before you get all excited, I'm not going to be training for a 5k, and might not even bother to buy running shoes.  I might never even make it all the way around the pond at one go.  But I will stop thinking of running as my own personal torture.


'Mater season is kicking into the next gear in our garden.  We still haven't gotten flooded, but I think what we're going to get is a long, long season of handfuls of tomatoes every week.  Which is definitely going to test the depths of my desire for fresh tomatoes.  I wish they'd mostly ripen together, so we could can the suckers and then enjoy the occasional salad as the season wanes.

But this is more the speed of our river of 'maters.  This is about two days' worth:

You'll notice the basil in the foreground and the jalapeno to the left?  I spent Wednesday night in the kitchen, cooking up tomato-heavy dishes for Miss Chef and myself.

First up is our go-to recipe for disparate ingredients: pasta.  I splurged on a $3.75 bag of imported pasta, and added a bunch of free ingredients: cherry tomatoes, basil, broccoli my parents had brought from a friends' garden, and some sundried-tomato and olive goat cheese Miss Chef had brought home from the farm.  I ate it warm, but it's a good cold pasta, too.

I thought the San Pelligrino was appropriate.  This orange-flavored drink is reminiscent of Orangina, but a bit lighter.  It's way more expensive than soda, but we can buy it by the case at Restaurant Depot, which helps.

After I enjoyed my lovely dinner, I turned to the "regular" beefsteak tomatoes.  First, I cored and chopped them up.

You can easily see the three varieties we have.  From left to right, they are green zebra, black prince and nepal.  Every single one grown from local seed.  Boo-yah!

Oh my god, I'm such a dork.

Anyway, I chopped up an onion, a couple cloves of garlic and a big bunch of cilantro, tossed it all together and finished it off with....darn, no limes.  Ok, I finished off with some lemon juice.  And voila!  Salsa.

Only, not really.  What I had actually made was pico de gallo.  You might be familiar with it as that chopped-tomato garnish on your burrito especial at Casita de Mamita, or wherever.  I, however, am familiar with it as the reason I haven't been able to finish my lunch the past two days, because I keep stuffing myself with tortilla chips and pico de gallo as an appetizer.

Good thing I ended up with a quart of it!


Hey, cooking fans, you know how to chiffonade basil, right?  What's that?  Some of you aren't so sure?  Well, here, let me show you.  It's an incredibly easy and useful technique, especially if you love basil as much as I do.  And not only can you use it with other large-leaf herbs, like sage, but you can also impress people by adding "a chiffonade of basil" to your lemonade.

First, pick all the leaves off your basil.

This, incidentally, is a great job for your trusty kitchen assistant, especially if they are of the child variety.

Next, stack up five to seven leaves (or so), making sure to have the biggest leaf on the bottom.

Notice I've oriented them all the same way--I'm right-handed, so I put the stems to my left.  I don't know if the pros care that much, but I figure I'll take whatever advantage I can get.

Now starting on the long side, roll the leaves up as tightly as you can into a tube shape.

This always reminds me of rolling a cigarette, which is an odd association for a non-smoker.

Keeping a firm grip on that sucker so it doesn't unroll, position it "seam"-side down on your cutting board.  Chop in narrow strips the length of your cigarette tube.

Notice I'm holding the stems in my left hand; it seems the best way for me to keep it together.

And that's it!  You now have a lovely fluffy chiffonade to add to pasta, salads, lemonade, rice...or a simple mozzeralla and tomato salad.  Because I don't know about you, but I need all the tomato recipes I can get my hands on.

Oh, and if you're unsure of the pronunciation, it's pretty much what it looks like: shiff-oh-nahd.

Bon app├ętit!


  1. It's official. I have tomato envy. Yours look fabulously fresh and homegrown! I love tomatoes straight from the garden. Yum.

    I'm with you on running, it's boring. I can only do the treadmill with the tv on. But for the record, what I do is not exactly running it's more like walking really fast-- part of the time :-)

    Hope you have a great weekend.

  2. I also have tomato envy; I am growing plenty but something keeps eating them..those photo's look so good I cannot wait to be able to get back to my FF at a more reasonable hour so I could actually cook..I am starving for real food lately!

  3. MMM - it's a good thing I ate breakfast today! Otherwise I'd be licking the monitor.... And, OK, you've taught me some things.

    Nancy in Iowa

  4. The blog! hehe! Perfect for a gardener of your caliber for sure. Seriously, though, the blog looks nice and I love that photo of Rosie. Makes me feel as if I'm laying in the grass with her nose to nose.

    That salad is making me salivate. Mmmmmm!

    And I love pico de gallo. It's a staple here in New Mexico and during the summer, a bowl of tortiall chips and some pico de gallo and that's a wonderfully simple, refreshing and satisfying meal. Yum!


    word verification: stinge

    If I had bowl of pico de gallo, I'd be a stinge and keep it all to myself. haha!

  5. Oh! And please tell me if any of my gadgets and goozles are slowing you down when you visit my blog, k?


  6. I just popped by to thank you for your visit to Mucky Boots! I'm glad you came because it led me here, and there's so much to see (and drool over)! The first of our tomatoes are just starting to turn colour, and your pictures are making me look forward even more for that first bowl of pasta with pesto and fresh tomatoes!

  7. I love the new look of your blog! I hope mine doesn't have too many things on it making it too long to load. If it does please let me know!

    I am beyond tomato envy, I did not plant a garden at all this year and now I really regret it. I love coming to your blog though and getting lots of good garden ideas for next year!

    Good for Ms Chef! Sounds like she has her hands full between her regular career and now teaching too but it also sounds like she is a great teacher. She did her students a huge favor by being honest with them about both the good and the bad of a career as a chef.

    I published a long over due post today you should check out. Sorry it took me so long to say thank you on my blog, I have been meaning too for awhile!

  8. LOVE the story about Miss Chef and the student. That is classic!!

    Running- I was totally getting excited! And then laughed out loud when I saw my name! Ha!

    And I can't wait to try my hand at chiffonading basil...

  9. Had to come back and tell you- I did it!! I made beets this evening and I chiffondaled a fresh little herbal bouquet of basil, hot n spicy basil, and lemon balm.

    NOM NOM NOM! And it smelled DIVINE as I chopped!!!

  10. Lisa & Jennifer (and everybody else): the blogs that I've stopped reading I stopped reading a year or more ago. They weren't "friend" blogs written by people I felt I knew.

    Mom L & Liz: I like knowing I'm not just "preaching to the choir." I'd hate it if nobody learned anything at all here. :)

  11. Just discovered your blog and am loving it!!

  12. Hi there! I tried to respond back to your comment on my blog via e-mail, but I see you are one of the mysterious people who don't give out your e-mail address. I am now constructing an exotic back story as to why this is....

    Anyway, I'll leave the message here concerning waking up at night thinking about things:

    We might be sisters! I do the same thing. Sometimes I wake with the urgent thought that my son has not been reading enough and that goes into guilt which then goes into a plan of action. Oh, it takes all night....

    Thanks for coming by!

  13. mmmm. Your tomatoes made me drool.


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