First Sign of Life From My Summer Garden: Zucchini Blossoms

A few days ago I spotted these beautiful blossoms emerging from my zucchini plants. After some online research, I learned that these are the “male” blossoms, and do not have a zucchine at the base. The “female” blossoms will have a zucchine growing at the base, but presently I only have males in my garden.

What is the best way to eat these? Fried, of course. I used this beer batter recipe from Judy Witts Francini’s blog, Over a Tuscan Stove.

Super simple: mix 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 tea. salt, and one 12oz can beer. Whisk it until blended. I placed a small piece of fresh mozzarella in each blossom (pick them in the morning when they are open, remove the little pollen bud in the center, then let sit out for an hour or so and they will close up.), coated them in the batter and gently placed them in the hot vegetable oil. Just fry until they are nicely golden, then place on a paper towel and dust with coarse sea salt.

Let them cool before eating. I suggest eating them with a knife and fork, ensuring it will cool enough when cut. The water content of the mozzarella will make the center quite hot. I had a ton of extra batter after I finished frying the blossoms, so I cut some zucchini and fried those up too!

Posted in Cooking, Look n' Cook | 2 Comments

A Sicilian in the Kitchen

Luis’ friend Veronica generously came over and prepared the Sicilian classic, Pasta alla Norma for us in our kitchen. She is from Catania, Sicily, and learned this dish by watching her mother cook it numerous times. My memories of Catania include the bustling fish market with fish heads and organs everywhere, and having to pay a guy 1 euro to “watch our car” which was just parking legally in the street.¬†We didn’t really have much choice. We also ate lots of wonderful dishes with eggplant, swordfish, pine nuts and currants. I have since made Pasta alla Norma for myself, but I did pick up some useful tips by watching Veronica. The first thing I learned was I had been using not nearly enough oil…

Veronica started by browning the cubes of eggplant in a lot of vegetable oil (olive oil imparts too much flavor on the eggplant) and then placing the cooked pieces on paper towl while frying the rest of the eggplant.

For the tomato sauce, she warmed up some olive oil and dropped in a couple of whole garlic cloves. Then added one large can of whole cherry tomatoes. Let it all simmer gently, and take a wooden spoon to break up some of the tomatoes. Add about one teaspoon of sugar, and some salt and pepper. Let this simmer while the eggplant is cooking (fish out the garlic cloves before dressing the pasta).

Boil pasta in generously salted water until al dente (subtract 2 minutes off the cooking time printed on the box. When that time has arrived, taste pasta and taste every 30 seconds until al dente. In Italy you will still see a tiny bit of uncooked pasta in the core when you bite into it.)

Drain the pasta, put in back in the pot you boiled it in, stir in some tomato sauce, just enough to coat it, not swim in it. Stir in some of the cooked eggplant, shredded fresh basil and grated ricotta salata. Plate in pasta bowls, and top with more eggplant and cheese. In a pinch,  parmesan or fresh mozzarella are good substitutes.

Buon appetito!

A strict recipe isn’t necessary for a pasta like this, but here are some amount guidelines if you ned them:

1 pound pasta

1 large eggplant or 2 medium

1 28oz can cherry tomatoes (or chopped Italian tomatoes)

approx. 3/4 cups grated ricotta salata

4-5 basil leaves

2-3 cloves garlic

 

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Friends, Italian, Look n' Cook | 2 Comments

St. Paddy’s Quilt

Here is my latest quilt creation I will call my St. Paddy’s Day Quilt. My fave fabric store Sew Modern had a sale on St. Patrick’s Day with all green fabric 20% off. I have been wanting to make this quilt from prolific quilter Elizabeth Hartman’s blog, so I decided to stick while the iron is hot and load up on green fabric and whip up this quilt. The rainy day was conducive to staying indoors sewing, so I spent the better part of the day doing the cutting and piecing. It was a little tough getting everything to line up perfectly so I did the best I could. Sometimes the quilting can cover up little flaws.

I quilted overlapping straight lines on the green parts, and tried my hand at a free-motion pebble design on the green. The free motion quilting sure takes a bit of time to get the hang of, and I look forward to trying out different designs down the road.

Posted in Sewing | 1 Comment

My New Favorite Pizza

This pizza is a combination of ideas and tricks. The initial inspiration is from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza cookbook. I made her delicious pizza with sausage, scallions and whipped cream (yes, whipped cream. It melts and creates a nice creamy sauce). The other inspiration is the classic pasta dish with sausage and broccoli rabe. Such a lovely combination. Earlier in the week, I made Ina Garten’s sausage stuffed mushrooms. I cut those in quarters, put them on the pizza with whipped cream, fontina, scallions and blanched broccoli rabe.¬†

The great thing about pizza, pasta and risotto, is that you may easily take what you have on hand in the refrigerator and pantry and make something wonderful.

Posted in Cooking | 5 Comments

First Big Quilt Finished!

I started this quilt back in December. I used a design from the book Block Party. I made 25 12″x12″ blocks. The blocks are strips of patterned fabric with the grey used as the backround. This modern style of quilting can be a bit improvisational and free form. I was able to cut and sew the strips without much measuring and planning, as long as I cut down the finished block to 12″x12.” Then I sewed 5 blocks together on the sides, until I ended up with 5 long panels, then sewed those together.

I took the grey fabric, and pieced it to some of the pink fabric and a couple of the prints to form a simple back piece. I quilted sort of a corner/right angle design. This part was a little harder than I thought it would be. It is a little difficult not to zone out with stitching these lines – it is important to use the previous line as a guide so the next one does not get wavy or too far from the previous one. Next time I will use the chalk to draw more lines as a guide. The more I look at this quilt, the more I prefer the backside! It was fun to make though, and the size was a challange, but now I feel confidant that I am ready for a queen size quilt!

Posted in Sewing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bottega Louie

How pretty are those macaroons? That is the first thing you notice when walking into the giant restaurant/bar/cafe/bakery that is Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles. I have been reading about this place for a long time, and finally had the opportunity to go the other day. All the breads and pastries are so beautiful, only to be outdone by those boxes! I never thought boxes would excite me, but looks at these heavyweight beauties!

We shared a salad of arugula, boccacini (mini fresh mozzarella balls), and cherry tomatoes. It was so good (and I was so hungry), I forgot to take a photo. Here is our burrata, rapini and prosciutto pizza, which was excellent.

I love the iced tea set up. Simple syrup instead of granulated sugar, and a selection of citrus. I used the orange in my tea and the lemon in the water. They offer free sparkling or still water, so no paying $7 for a bottle of Pelligrino.

Here are my ($10 worth) macaroons in their pretty little box. The macaroons were great, but I really just wanted the box. It now holds my sewing scissors and rotary cutter! I will certainly go back the next time I am downtown. I will opt to sit in the bar/cafe area rather than the formal dining room because the dining room was very loud. There are many menu items I will like to try: portobello fries, clams casino, arancini, grilled octopus…

Posted in Restaurants | 3 Comments

Latest Baby Quilt

Here is the latest baby quilt I made for my friend’s baby, due in March. It is a girl, and I thought this group of fabrics were feminine and a little more sophisticated than your typical baby prints. I think I have enough of this pattern and will try out a new pattern with the next one.

Posted in Sewing | 2 Comments