Friday, January 29, 2016

LAW 73: In the octopus' garden

Well, It has taken me a while to get around to this post, but, this is a fabulous dinner that we had over the weekend while we were hunkered down waiting for winter storm Jonas to blow himself off.

Yes, playing with your food is good!

Octopus is without a doubt right up there as a contender for the top mollusk in the taste category. I love it grilled, as sushi and after this past weekend, i especially like it braised in it's own juices. Do you mind if i say OMG!

Never too many onions or garlic!

As you may know from other posts we live on a boat on the upper end of the Chesapeake bay. Octopus is not commonly taken for people food out of the bay. So when Mungo and i want to eat octopus we need to special order it. Luckily we have cultivated a good working relationship with the manager of the sea food department at our local, independently owned grocery store. Justin will get us anything that we as for. He has gotten us  octopus more than once.

all curled up and ready to cook

So we had this 4 pound  sweetie sitting in the freezer. We decided that our snowed in weekend would be the perfect time to feast on said mr. octopus. So, our fave way to have has octopus is grill, not likely to happen with 2 + feet of snow looking to fall over the weekend.

After serious consultation with Dr. Google i determined that braising said octopus in it's own juices would be the way to go. Well, it isn't quite just in its own juices but…..

Yes, i added no liquids, this is the result of an hour's braising

Octopus laid over a generous bed of onion and garlic, topped with about a cup of green, pitted olives, braised for about two hours. Oh man, ocean in a bowl! After determining that the octopus was fork tender i pulled it out and let it cool enough to cut up into chunks. So at this point you want to reduce the liquid to about two cups than add waxy potatoes that are cut up to the same size of the octopus, cook until the potatoes are tender, garnish with fresh herbs of your choice, parsley, cilantro and hit it up with a little fresh lemon juice. Heaven in a bowl. Cooked this way octopus has the taste and texture of spiny lobster, another of my favorites. yum yum.

Fork tender and ready to cut up, once it's cool

FYI if you are buying whole octopus for this dish, just cut off and discard the head, you are really not losing anything. Serve this is a shallow bowl with really good crust bread, and a mineral rich greek wine.
Excellant recommendation from our good friends at Midway

ready to eat!

Oh so Bon Appetite.

more later,

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

LAW 72: Another new handmade book

Over the last week i finally finished another of the handmade paper books. This one is the largest so far, measuring 6 x 9 x 3", substantially larger than the first two; they measure in the 4 x 5 x 2" range. For this one i used full size sheets of paper for my signatures. The first two utilized half sheets. so as you can imagine this last project ate up a huge chunk of my remaining paper. I actually only have enough half sheets left for one more book. I will have to wait for warmer weather to start making paper again.

Newest book, Emergent

Living in a 'tiny houseboat' very definitely limits what i can do in my studio. Making paper is one of those things that just doesn't happen onboard. It's wet, it's messy, it takes up way too much space; so i will spend part of my studio time during the warm months building up a stock of hand made paper for book making here on board during the long cold gray months of winter. Luckily there is a lot of space 'on the hard' here. Fellow slip mates find the process interesting to watch; although i inevitably get the, 'why make your own paper? it's so cheap to buy!' Well, hey, i say, i really, really like making stuff.

Front detail of Emergent, this was a funky piece of costume jewelry that fell apart

These three books are made completely of recycled materials. The only thing i buy new for them is the binding material. For the first two books of this series i used 1/8" ribbon. I have always like used ribbon as a binding material, but the flat stuff can be a real pain in the you know what to work with, as it twists and mostly refuses to lie flat. Coaxing it into flat submission takes time, and raises the frustration level in an unfortunate fashion. Sigh! For the larger book i felt that the 1/8" ribbon did not look heavy enough to support the binding.  I decided to use 1.5 mm rat tail. Since it is round i would not have the issue of 'twisting' that occurs with the flat ribbon. Alas. Of course the 1.5 mm rat tail was to fat to fit any of the binding needles i was using. This of course necessitated yet another trip to the store to get a larger eyed blunt needle with then had to be forced into the appropriate curve. Good thing that Mungo is a blacksmith.

Binding view of Emergent, see how pretty the rat tail is?

Those of you who are experienced book makers will completely understand the frustration i experienced when i tore two signatures as i was binding them. It is all to easy to apply to much force as you are binding; even when using commercially produced paper. Triple that, or more, when using paper you made yourself. It after all is a limited, precious commodity. Since this paper was composed of recycled, mostly junk mail and packaging, it was very soft to start with. I had saved back enough full sized sheets to make two new signatures. So i prepped them, and bound them into the book, went ahead and attached the back cover. Sigh. They just didn't look right. Not quite the right size. So, i reluctantly unbound the book and took them out. Double sigh! Re-attached the back cover and although the book is not a 'fat' as i planned, i think that it is still a beautiful object.

Looking into the book

So hand made paper, and papier mache covers, with a beautiful antiqued painted patina. All the objects in the cutouts come from jewelry of mine that fell apart at some point in its life. Yes, i do indeed save just about everything, After all, you never know when you will be able to use it.

All hand made, all recycled materials

Oh ya, all of these books and more are available for sale. Just check with me about pricing. I also will consider commissions.

Keep making art, stay warm.

More later,

Saturday, January 23, 2016

LAW 71: Snow with your wind anyone?

Well we have survived day/night one of Winter storm Jonas, aka Snowmaggedon part deux. We did have to get up once last night to readjust one of our spring lines. The work boat is completely filled with snow, urk i am glad that it is not my job to bail her out. So far everything is fine here, albeit a little chilly. The docks are fairly clear of snow, courtesy of the wind, which does not feel as strong as predicated(not that i'm complaining mind you). Still, we are getting blown about a bit.

I found the way the ice is forming in the fairway interesting. It looks like large, albino lily pads.
looking out towards the hard

Another day of snow, supposed to get another 10" over the course of the day. If you are in the snow zone, stay inside, stay warm and drink heavily, in moderation.

More later,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

LAW 70: Homemade crackers anyone?

We've been eating out of the freezer for the last couple of days. Brrr! It's been very cold, and four days until i get paid(it really does suck getting paid once a month), so….. when i decided to make fish chowder for supper the other night i was only momentarily flummoxed by the lack of crackers, oyster crackers specifically. After all isn't that what Dr. Google is for? Bingo! A very simple looking recipe popped up immediately courtesy of serious It was very simple to make, although my crackers didn't puff up the way i felt they should have. This was probably due to a not hot enough oven. If you don't know; Mungo and i cook on a kerosene Butterfly stove top for which we purchased a small box reflector oven. Ahem, can i say temperature control is always an issue? Why yes i can. But i digress.

Oh ya, don't forget to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper

With my typical disregard for scrupulously following any ingredient list i went ahead and substituted the ingredients i had on hand: whole wheat flour for all purpose white flour, salted butter for the unsalted the recipe called for. I mean, really, butter without salt? Tres boring. Ya ya, i know. So the upshot, crackers that weren't quite as puffy as i would have liked. They were also surprisingly sweet, and just a little to salty. Next time i will cut the salt to 1/2 tsp, and probably omit the sugar completely. It is only there to feed the sugar addiction that most of Americans have. It's not like its feeding a yeast.

Really, there were more than this

So, the recipe as written:
1 cup flour (your choice, but remember, whole grains are so much better for you)
1 tsp each, salt, sugar, baking powder. Mix all dry ingredients together. ADD 2 Tbls cold butter, cut up into little pieces. Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. ADD 1/3 cup of cold water. Once more, use your fingers to mix and knead the ingredients into a smooth ball. Don't over work. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 375. Generously flour your work surface, divide your dough into workable portions. Roll out to 1/8" thickness and cut in what ever shape you wish in the 1/2" range. Bake for about 15 minutes, the bottoms will start to color. Turn off heat, open oven door part way and allow to cool in oven. The crackers will continue to crisp up during the cool down period.

Since my oven is a baby one i only baked about half of what the recipe made and refrigerated the rest. You could easily cut the recipe in half as well. Mungo and i ate up what i made, and would have eaten more, so this was a good strategy. Oh ya, the fish chowder was really yummy too.

Yummy fish chowder, Cod to be exact

More later,
Bon appetite

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

LAW 69: Twelve leaves to go.

Well, i guess the Green man might be done sometime in February. Sigh! I had to move my embroidery hoop today, after finishing yet another large oak leaf.  The good news is, i am over half done. The bad news is i have twelve leaves left to do. Ten of the twelve are yup, you guessed it, large oak leaves. That translates into at least 24 more days of work; that's before finishing off the edge, cutting the background out, and installing any needed hardware. Second sigh. I am beginning to think i am crazy. Oh well, it will be a spectacular piece, i think.

sigh 12 leaves to go

More later,

LAW 68: Sunday supper; Chicken Tortilla soup

Chicken Tortilla soup is one of the easiest winter soups to put together Its semi-homemade status allows the chef to pull it together in about 30 minutes; providing of course that you have cooked chicken and chicken stock already prepared. Alright, so not so….but it can easily be done out of the cupboard.

ingredients ready to go

The only drawback to using all the prepared product is you lose control of the sodium content, which if you are using commercial chicken stock, canned re-fried beans and store salsa can be way beyond healthy.  Regardless it is very yummy, and was a hit for supper on Sunday.

As a note Sunday suppers are almost always for four; and there are almost never leftovers. So keep that in mind when you are looking at my ingredients list, and adjust accordingly.

I had poached three fairly large chicken thighs(my favorite piece of the chicken), so i had a nice rich homemade chicken broth and chicken. Olive oil is my go to choice for sautéing. I used two smallish yellow onions for this soup, three cloves of garlic, and a stalk of celery. These were sautéed until they were tender. For aromatics i used fresh whole cumin seeds, a diced, seeded jalapeño. some fresh ground black pepper, good Mexican oregano and some thyme. Note, no added salt. In went two cans of fat free re-fried beans, most of a jar of a decent, fairly spicy salsa, about a quart of chicken stock, the shredded chicken, and a 16 ounce bag of frozen sweet corn. See what i mean? Easy peasy!  Right before serving stir in about four ounces of grated, sharp Cheddar cheese. Earlier i had toasted up some homemade tortilla strips. I usually garnish this with lime quarters, fresh cilantro, and diced avocado. Couldn't find an avocado remotely near ripe, oh well. As you can see, yummy.

Here's to us, good friends, good food!

Usually we have Sunday supper up in the slip holders lounge, our galley table really isn't big enough for four,  Chris and Shannon have a lovely picnic table on the stern deck. Not at all practical in chilly winter weather. The lounge was out this weekend due to a lack of electricity. So we crowded around our table for two and had a cozy winter's soup supper.

More later,
Bon appetite!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

LAW 67: Everything's better with bacon, part two; or Bacon Sprouts forever

Bacon Sprouts?! Bacon Sprouts you say? What the ….. are Bacon Sprouts? Well i was wondering the same thing one evening when Mungo and i stumbled across a Youtube video from the BBQ Pit Boys, titled Bacon Sprouts. We fell in love with the idea  of Brussel Sprouts wrapped in bacon, and have been entertaining our foodie friends with tales of Bacon Sprouts ever since. We finally got around to making them last night, after we were accidentally 'gifted' with a package of said sprouts(but that's another story).

Bacon Sprouts are, according to the BBQ Pit Boys supposed to be grilled over indirect heat. Alas, it was supposed to snow last night; besides which we were out of charcoal, so… i reasoned that there really wasn't all that much difference between grilling and oven roasting. It worked pretty well, although, as you can see, clean up will be a major chore. I really was thinking that i should line the pan with foil. Sigh…..

Note to self, line the pan! It will be a b…. to clean


Clean and trim your sprouts, being careful to leave enough of the stem end to hold the sprouts together. Blanch them briefly in boiling, unsalted water. Blanching time will depend on freshness and size of the sprouts. The video we saw recommended around 12 minutes, which i thought was excessive.  I blanched ours for about one minute and don't think that was quite enough. So, maybe three??? Drain, and allow to cool enough that you can handle them. They should still be a little warm though. For each Brussel Sprout allow half a slice of good quality bacon. We used an apple smoked bacon from Eckrich. The first couple of sprouts were a little difficult to wrap, but i got the hang of it and it was smooth sailing after that. It helps if the sprouts are still warm, and the bacon is more or less at room temperature. If you sort of stretch the bacon by gently stroking it(tee hee) it will wrap around the sprout more easily. You sort of wrap it around than cross it over. Tuck the lose end underneath. Surprisingly there is no need to pin the bacon. It will 'shrink to fit' as it cooks.

Blanching insures the bright green remains through cooking

Place the wrapped sprouts on a rack over a pan that you have lined with foil.  Right before you pop them into the oven, which has been pre-heated to the vicinity of 450 degrees glaze them with maple syrup. Oh yea!

Note the pools of maple syrup 

The Bacon Sprouts will need to cook for about a half hour. I took them out and re-glazed them at about the 15 minute mark. The BBQ Pit Boys recommended dipping them in your favorite sauce. I thought that that sounded like gilding the lily, but wish i had, as i felt that they needed a touch of hot/savory. Still and all, they were very yummy, and yes, i will definitely make them again.  I suspect that i will make a spicy, savory maple sauce, adding some hots and maybe garlic. hmmmm. We had four Bacon Sprouts a piece, along with some roasted Acorn squash. Altogether a very yummy, quite good for winter eve's meal. After all, every things better with bacon.

Here's to bacon, eat well, and enjoy!
More later,

Monday, January 11, 2016

LAW 66:Between a third and a half

Wow, just finished another four leaves on my GreenMan piece. It feels as if i have been working on it forever! It looks to me that i am somewhere around a third complete with the embroidery, than of course it is time to finish it off. Sigh…

Green Man, still in process

outside leaves are all wired, the background will be cut away

The weather turned cold as promised last night. We, however, did have a beautiful sunset. The light was perfect "golden time", mellow and very photo friendly.

Looking north off the bow of the boat

We did not have a Sunday Supper last night. Chris and Shannon had a work related party. I did however want to share a yummy variation on the traditional Shepard's Pie. Shepard's Pie as you likely know is usually topped with mashed potatoes. This is undeniably excellent, yummy comfort food. It is good to think outside of the box on occasion. This version is topped with mashed pureed Cauliflower, one of my favorite variations. The rest of this is pretty traditional, a pound of organic, grass fed ground beef (Yea Aldi's!), lots of sautéed onion and garlic. Carrots and celery. All of this lightly cooked, with a little added moisture, seasoned with fresh ground pepper, a little red pepper flakes, oregano and thyme, than layered; meat, veggies than topped with the mashed cauliflower. I usually grate a little fresh nutmeg on the cauliflower. You can stop there, but i usually sprinkle the mash with a mixture of bread crumbs and grated cheese. Top with paprika and bake for about a half hour at 350. This will serve four.

Shepard's Pie half covered with mashed cauliflower

Shepard's Pie is a good all around use up all that stuff in the frig/freezer dish. Although it is traditionally made with ground beef, lamb would be just as good, and provide a change of spicing You could veer off into a middle eastern sort of palate. I've never tried it, but i bet this would be yummy with a lima bean puree as the topper, especially seasoned with a little rosemary, lemon, and lots of garlic. Hmmmm.

Just out of the oven, ready to eat

Stay warm, and eat well
More later,

Sunday, January 10, 2016

LAW 65: What, you don't believe in global warming?

So today is January 10th. It was 61 degrees at eleven o'clock this morning. What? you say, Morgainne did you move to northwest Florida? Or perhaps Bahama? No folks, this Baltimore, hon!

This is low tide, yes the docks will be under water

We  almost never have south winds during the winter months, but the wind is at gale force out of the south south west. We're really rockin and rollin here on the Floating Empire. i'm pretty sure that high tide tonight will be over the docks. usually we are climbing up the ladder to get off the boat during the winter months.

Oh ya, it will be 26 degrees tonight. Brrr! Time to re-light the karo heater. Sigh. Still in all it has been a very mild winter.
Cat in sunbeam, well dud!

And of course, no blog entry is complete without the obligatory portrait of the cat. We continue to be amazed that anyone would give away such a great cat. But we are happy the fools did, because now this great cat lives with us.

Here's looking at you kid

More later,

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

LAW 64: SUNDAY SUPPERS; Everything's better with bacon, right?

 Well, of course it is! Actually, pork, in almost all of it's myriad manifestations is one of my favorite meats. Yum Yum, the other white meat! Not to mention it wins hands down in the cost per servings sweepstakes. But i digress. Of course.

Bacon. Bacon in all of it's smoky, salty, fatty goodness features heavily in peasant foods of all seasons and sorts, but it truly comes into it's own during the cold dark winter months. I mean, bacon and eggs for breakfast, bacon ice cream. No, i've never tried that, but….. digression again.

okay, it's the cassoulet from Christmas Eve

Some time during this past summer, Mungo and i started regularly sharing Sunday suppers with our new live aboard friends, Chris and Shannon. We both adore cooking for other people, sharing the bounty of the garden and grocery with friends is one of the best things. Good food, good friends, good conversation, and of course, good wine, well of course! Now, especially since the weather has turned, well, winter-like, Sunday supper is one of the few social occasions here at the marina. I mean, who really wants to hang out, outside, under the Drinking Tree when its 20 degrees out? Or one the boat, most of which are on the hard, so social time is at a premium. That's okay, summer is over, the parties are done and it is after all time to rest, recuperate and recharge. Spring is just around the corner, and the wheel turns.

But back to bacon. We shared the first Sunday supper of the year this weekend. Everyone kind of looked at me as if i was from Mars when i announced the menu; Black-eyed peas and greens. After all, Mungo and Chris are both Southern boys, and Shannon, well, she's from Texas. Shouldn't they all like Hoppin' John? Besides, it's traditional good luck food for New Years. I admit, I've never really had Hoppin' John that i really liked, but that was not going to stop me. The concept is sound, and i figured that i could do this. It's simply a matter of great ingredients, thoughtful spicing, attentive cooking, and of course bacon. Do you sense a theme here?

No tabby cat was added to the Hoppin' John

I don't think that i really did anything that different from what cooks all over the south have done for many years, except: pretty much cook everything separately. My biggest complaint about traditionally done Hoppin' John is the throw it all into the pot and cook it altogether nature of the dish. The bacon becomes limp, merely smoky tasting pieces of fat and the overall taste is muddled and earthy. Earthy not in a good way. Okay, like making a great ratatouille the way i prepared the black-eyed peas did take a little more effort.

So, to  make great Hoppin' John, start by frying the bacon until it is crisp, at least one piece per person you're serving, and of course one for the pot, oops, that's for the cook and her helper. Remove and drain, in the rendered bacon fat brown whatever other pork product you might be using, think somewhere in the half pound amount; i particularly like using either fresh ham hocks (not smoked) or cubed pork shoulder. Brown it well, don't be fussy, don't keep turning it. You want it to be really nice and crispy brown. Set a timer if you have to. Aim for about 4 minutes on the first side, maybe 3 on the second. Don't trim the fat, you'll get rid of it later. Take the meat out, drain most of the rendered fat out. Please don't throw it away, put it in a clean glass jar and save.

No, no tree fungus either, but it's pretty

Turn the heat down to about medium and throw in the onions, a bunch, at least two, coarsely chopped or sliced, and sauté until soft, add bunches of chopped garlic, don't be shy, everyone will be eating it after all. Add your seasonings now, lots of fresh ground black pepper, about a tsp of whole cumin seeds, a bay leaf, and either a seeded and chopped jalapeño pepper, or dried chili flakes to taste. Add back the pork, not bacon, and cover with a low sodium stock, feel free to use either chicken(traditional) or beef. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for at least an hour. Longer is okay. Keep an eye on your stock levels and add as needed. Go ahead and throw in a whole carrot and celery when you add the meat, you can fish it out later, and it will add a nice, sweet sort of layer to the taste. When your meat is tender fish out the ham hocks and let them cool enough to handle, take out and discard the carrot and celery now to. Then add your black-eyed peas. Either pre-cooked dried ones, or frozen, never canned.  I used two one pound bags of frozen peas, and cooked them for about a half hour with the rest of the ingredients except the bacon. We'll get to that, soon i promise. When the peas are nice and done, creamy, but not mush,y you are ready for the finishing touches. I like to take a couple of cups of the peas and puree them(stick blenders are awesome). Check your seasoning. It is unlikely that you will need salt, but who knows. Remember, the bacon isn't in there yet! Just before you are ready to serve crumble up the bacon and finally stir it in. One last check on seasoning, does it need a little more sharpness? Add a splash of pepper vinegar. Need just a touch of sweetness? Grate a touch of fresh nutmeg into it. Garnish with some fresh parsley, serve and wait for the compliments and good luck to roll in. I served five people with this, along with greens. People were looking for more, always a good sign.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

LAW 63: Happy New Year

Well, it has been a vacation of sorts. the holidays as we all know seem to suck all the extra time we have, as well as adding unwanted pounds and inches to our waistlines. I have however been busy in the studio, working away on a variety of projects, some of which will take some time to finish. December continued to be extremely mild, albeit very gray and gloomy. That alone makes it difficult to work in the studio as i really like to work with natural light as much as possible.
looking toward the bridge Christmas sunset

We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with our friends Chris and Shannon, roast duck, oh yum yum yum! Spent Christmas day with other good friends. dinner and company was very worth it, traffic and weather sucked to the utmost, with two really bad accidents on the way home. Boxing Day the weather was nice enough to go out on the boat with friends. Yea, no such thing as global warming, right!

So, here's the second fairy painting, which i did finish last year, that always sounds so long ago, even though…. and after working steadily since before Thanksgiving i have finally finished the inner circle of leaves around the GreenMan's face.
Willow Fairy

I fully intend to be more active on the food blog front, i have been entirely ignoring OnBoard Cooking; it's not as if there haven't been very yummy meals to talk about.
GreenMan inner ring

More later,