Archive for the 'Photo essay' Category

Cooking with cauliflower

February 25th, 2012

A photo essay

On a whim, I picked up some romanesco (broccoli or cauliflower, depending on who you ask) at the farmer’s market last week, largely because it’s visually interesting.

Once Matt and I got home, I hit the web in search of recipes featuring romanesco, and came up with a Jamie Oliver recipe for baked stuffed pasta.   Now, I don’t know about you, but around here, we don’t stuff pasta.   Too.   Much.   Work.   We do, however, love Jamie Oliver, who is also responsible for my favorite bean dish, so I decided to give the recipe a shot, substituting whatever pasta we had on hand (happened to be orecchetti and elbow macaroni) for the pasta shells.   And that’s what we did, and it was delicious.

It was also time-consuming.   The recipe calls for boiling the veggies, and then pan-cooking them for an additional 20 minutes, as “overcooking the vegetables not only intensifies their flavor but gives you the texture that you need for this recipe.”   What I didn’t realize until halfway though the 20 minutes of additional cooking was that the “texture” to which Jamie Oliver refers is mashed — this is a pasta stuffing.   Dur.

Thing is, though, I wasn’t making stuffed pasta.   So the texture part is irrelevant to me.   And there’s a much easier way to intensify flavors that doesn’t involve multiple steps (or multiple pans) — roasting.

Armed with this new plan, Matt and I bought more romanesco at the farmer’s market today.   After chopping,

I mixed up some olive oil flavored with garlic, anchovies, thyme, and chili powder   (hey, I was dubious the first time, too, but it was Jamie Oliver’s idea, and he usually has good ones), coated the florets with the oil, and popped them in the oven to roast.

While the veggies roasted, I cooked the pasta and whipped up a white sauce.   The recipe calls for mixing creme fraiche with cheese and a bit of water to make “a really quick and easy white sauce.”   Creme fraiche is relatively difficult to find around here (and is pretty expensive, to boot), so after some discussion, Matt and I settled on a substitute — Mornay sauce made with buttermilk.   We figured buttermilk would add the tang you’d otherwise get from creme fraiche, and Mornay sauce is just a Béchemel (white sauce) with cheese.   Et voilà!

Although not super-quick, our solution has the advantage of being super-cheap, since we got a carton of buttermilk for $2, and we made two batches of sauce with it.   I grated the cheese first (about half a cup of Parmesan, and I use the good stuff exclusively),

then started the sauce with about a tablespoon of butter

and added about a tablespoon of flour to make a roux.

After a few minutes of cooking (to eliminate the raw flour taste), I added two cups of buttermilk.

After that, it’s whisk, whisk, whisk, and then whisk some more.   It takes about ten minutes for the sauce to thicken up.

(Using the olive wood whisk you bought in Paris is recommended, but not required.)

When the sauce thickens up, the heat goes down, the cheese goes in, and there’s more whisking to combine and melt the cheese.

Sauce made, it’s time to assemble the casserole.   First up is a can of tomato sauce.

Next in is the mixture of pasta and romanesco, topped with a layer of basil.

The Mornay sauce goes on top,

followed by a layer of mozzarella and a wee bit more Parm,

and then it’s into the oven for you, my tasty!   (350 ° for about 30 minutes; I had to put it under the broiler for a few to brown the cheese)

And what was Matt doing while I was doing all this cooking, you ask?


Sixteen percent

May 16th, 2010

A photo essay

Last week, as Matt and I purchased fava beans at the farmer’s market, the woman working at the stall suggested we come back next week, when, she said, she’d have garbanzo beans.

So we did.


I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I don’t think it was this.   However, we set about stripping the bean pods from the stalks.


Matt and I decided the stalks looked something like peas, although rather fuzzier.

bean stalk

When we were done, the stalks looked about the same, but we had a bowl full (well, full-ish) of pods.

bowl o beans

The pods hold, for the most part, one bean each; we found a few with two beans and exactly two pods with three.   The pods are also surprisingly filthy; Matt and I both had to wash the dirt caked off our fingertips a few times, but the beans themselves taste fantastic.   They taste a great deal like peas — sweet, a tiny bit starchy, but lovely.

bean close up

We used them in a veggie braise for dinner tonight, replacing a portion of the peas and fava beans.   Yummy, though not nearly as attractive as peas — they look like little green brains, and eating them makes me feel vaguely like a zombie.

shelled beans

Also, we got 16% yield, by weight, for 45 minutes of what I would definitely classify as “hella shelling.”   (Thanks, Emily.)   Nonetheless, I suspect we’ll be back for more next week.

Two sides of the coin

August 11th, 2008

Tails: Philip is obnoxious.

Philip woke us up yesterday morning at 4:30.   We were in Ukiah; Matt’s parents put the cat food in the garage to keep it (and the cat) away from the boys.   The garage door wasn’t quite shut, and we think the dogs heard someone head into the garage for a snack; we’re not quite sure, as we were asleep.   What we heard was the dogs barreling into the kitchen and some frenzied vocalizations.   Matt stumbled into the kitchen, broke up the commotion, and we all went back to sleep.

For two hours.   By 6:30, Philip was making such a jerk of himself, pacing and whining and being generally bratty, we got up and went for a walk, muttering about what a pain he is.

Heads: Philip is fearless.

While in Ukiah, we took advantage of Matt’s parent’s canoe.   We wanted to see if it was possible to canoe with the dogs.   So we headed up to a nearby lake with the canoe, both dogs, and a wagon-load of gear.   First, we located a likely launch point.

The slope was manageable, the distance from the car was short.   The only drawback was the number of geese, which we thought might set off the dog’s prey drive.

Not so much.   The dogs ignored the geese.   They also ignored the canoe, blowing right past it to sit in the lake (in Henry’s case) and to sniff about (in Philip’s).

Eventually, it was canoe time.   We couldn’t get the dogs to climb into the canoe on their own, so Matt hoisted Philip in.   He wasn’t thrilled when he was on his feet — too slippery.   Then he fell down, and once he was down, he was just fine.

Matt hopped in, and off they went.

They stayed close to the shore at first.   Matt paddled.   Philip looked at birds.

Henry supervised proceedings from the shore.

To get Philip out, we tipped the boat somewhat, and he hopped out on his own.   Matt then tried putting Henry in.

Henry was clearly terrified and miserable, however.   He had his tail between his legs, he was lip licking (a sign of stress) and wouldn’t take treats.   Since our aim was not to traumatize him, we pulled him out, put Philip back in, and this time, I took him out.

I didn’t have much luck controlling the canoe, though, so I brought it back in (actually, I think Matt dragged me in) and Matt headed back out.

Since it was pretty clear that Philip wasn’t going to tip the canoe, as we’d originally feared, they went further out this time.   Henry and I watched from shore.

Although Henry didn’t want to go out on the canoe, he didn’t want to be left behind, either.   He sat in the water near the shore and whined until Matt and Philip came back.

Unlike Henry, Philip felt so comfortable in the canoe, he declined to exit.

He napped in the canoe while we hung out on shore for an hour or so.

The outing has proved a few things to us.   One: Two dogs can fit in a 16′ canoe.   Two: The dogs are unlikely to tip the canoe.   We just might start looking for a canoe of our own.

The Chico farmer’s market

June 19th, 2008

A photo essay

Thursday nights in Chico see a farmer’s market which appears, from the crush of humanity there, to be a Very Big Deal around here. Aside from the usual produce-type things, there were craft-type things, live music, a bouncehouse, and food. Lots and lots of food. My particular favorite was this:

I wandered around, taking pictures of things that caught my eye. Some were of things you’d expect at a farmer’s market, like produce.

Or flowers.

(There were a lot of flowers.)

Maybe you wouldn’t even be too surprised to see cacti.

I wasn’t, however, quite expecting this:

It wasn’t so much the presence of politics in the market, or even the political message, that caught my eye. It was mostly the fact that the political message was conveyed via rebus.

I had a (raspberry) shaved ice and a chicken tamale (though not at the same time) and headed back to the dorm. On the way, I stopped by the creek, which is one of my favorite things here, and finally managed a picture with me in it.

Unfortunately for me, it’s humid today, so sitting creekside wasn’t particularly pleasant. Now I’m back in my dorm room, listening to a baseball game (the stadium is just outside), enjoying air conditioning, and reveling in the fact that I have only one more night in the dorm bed . . . except for the four nights I’ll spend in one next week.

On the bright side, I think I’ll go back to the market next week, too.

I swear I won’t be planting anything else

June 8th, 2008

A time-discontinuous photo essay

(Until next year.)

For one thing, I’m completely out of room.

After my sun-shade musings of yesterday, I got to thinking. On the north side of my house (the sunny side), there’s still room for a few more barrels. On the south side of my house (the shady side), my tomatoes are enjoying morning sun and afternoon shade. I read somewhere that sites that receive morning sun are considered part shade. Tomatoes prefer full sun, like the full sun available on the north side of the house (where there’s still a little bit of space).

Rather than moving the (heavy, heavy, heavy) barrels from south to north, Matt and I are welcoming new arrivals.

That’s a total of four more tomato plants, divided between two barrels.

Adding in more plants required a little bit of problem solving. The number one problem is water. The north side of the house is the driveway. These barrels are sitting on concrete, in full sun, with extra heat reflected from the fence. Thus, we’ve had trouble keeping the squash from drying out. Copious watering, however, brought its own problems:

Water and soil are running out of the (numerous) drainage holes we drilled. In addition to the water loss, I object to the fact that the barrel is, essentially, bleeding compost tea.

We had two solutions to this problem. Solution, part 1: Drill fewer holes (two, rather than six) and cover the holes with wire mesh screen.

Solution, part 2: Create gravity-fed drip irrigation systems.

You see, the only water faucet in the backyard is on the west side of the house, and it’s closer to the south side than the north side. It’s easy enough to drag the hose around to the original barrels, but it’s a pain to get it to the north side. Besides, a rapid influx of water causes the drainage woes previously described. Thus, I suggested and Matt devised a reservoir-based drip irrigation system.

First, Matt took an old water bottle and drilled a hole in the cap.

He threaded 1/4″ drip tubing ($3 for 50 feet) through the hole, and secured it in place with hot glue.

Attached to the lid’s tubing is a valve ($1.40), to adjust the flow of water. After the valve comes a t-joint ($0.25), to allow for watering multiple plants. At each end are emitters ($0.60 each), again adjustable.

To hang the contraption, Matt made a handle out of twine.

The handle hangs the bottle from the chain-link fence using s-hooks from Ikea we already had in our kitchen. The bottle is filled from the top (formerly the bottom of the bottle), where Matt cut a hole.

The hole is big enough to accommodate our funnel, to facilitate adding water to the reservoir (formerly known as a water bottle).

And then, voila! Drip irrigation!

Here’s hoping the new irrigation systems put an end to the water-runoff-wilt cycle the squash have been enduring all week.

This week in the Miyasaki-Renquist kitchen

February 25th, 2008

A photo essay

More accurately, this should be titled “Last week in the Miyasaki-Renquist kitchen,” but   you know how these things go.   Anyway. . .

It all starts with veggie stock. Assorted aromatics and flavor components, plus chicken fat skimmed off last week’s chicken soup to brown the veggies.

stock fixings

Everything goes into our dutch oven (Matt’s favorite pot) with water to simmer for a while.

stock simmers

When done, the house smells lovely (and is warm). We have many potential uses for the stock; this week, the plan is to split it. Half goes into into risotto:


Loosely, the risotto is this one, plus some toasted pine nuts.   The remainder of the stock, thinned with water, becomes the base for soup.

kale-chorizo soup

I promise the soup (Portugese greens soup, or caldo verde, with Spanish chorizo and kale, from the Joy of Cooking), tastes better than it looks.   It’s just that chorizo is really, really oily.

What’s next?   Risotto cakes from leftover risotto, perhaps.   And maybe a kale and potato gratin.   Definitely more vegetable stock.   Stay tuned!

Greyhounds do not like baths

January 27th, 2008

A photo essay

Sometimes, life is good. You get to cuddle with your dogs.

Matt and Philip cuddle

Other times, it’s been raining for a week, you could rent out your backyard as a mud-wrestling pit, and the dogs are filthy. It’s bath time.

Baths are not exactly a greyhound’s favorite thing. Consequently, as Matt set up the bathtub, collecting dog towels and a non-slip mat for the floor, Philip took the hint and ensconced himself in the living room. Between the two of us, Matt at the collar and me propelling the hind quarters, we get him into the bathroom. To get him into the bath, however, required a bit more effort.

putting Philip in the tub

Once in the tub, however, Philip resigns himself to his fate.

Philip in tub

Matt washed him and washed him, then washed him some more. Philip mostly stares stoically into space, resignation punctuated by the occasional reproachful look.

washing Philip

In the meantime, Henry, who knows what’s coming next, wanders in. We’re not sure if it’s to commiserate or gloat.

Henry contemplates his doom

Eventually, Philip’s bath draws to a close. Matt does a preliminary towel-off, lets him out. . .

Philip gets out

. . . and then finishes the job.

drying Philip

And then, lickety-split, while Matt cleans out the bathtub drain. . .

hair in the drain

. . . Henry hops in. He does this so fast that I can’t get the picture I really want, which is one of Henry placing himself in the bathtub. Instead, I get this.

Henry in tub

Can you see that he’s still wearing his collar? That’s the only evidence I have that he got in by himself. He’s still wearing his coat, too, but the picture doesn’t show it.

Matt gives Henry his bath.

washing Henry

In the meantime, Philip consoles himself by getting up on the bed.

Philip on bed

Clean but not dry, Henry gets out; again, he’s too fast for me to get a decent picture.

Henry gets out

Unlike Philip, who merely dries his muzzle frantically before ensconcing himself on the bed, Henry favors marking the end of a bath with a good play session.

Henry plays

He likes to end these sessions with a good run outside. Based on the current state of the yard, allowing this would more than undo any good work of the bath, so we got smart and blocked the door. Eventually, Henry settled down on the bed with Philip.

post-bath dogs on bed

They’re drying off now, and the odor of wet dog is receding somewhat. It’s hard to type, though, because Philip is licking my hand.

Would you like some pie with that?

December 21st, 2007

A (mini) photo essay

The kids at my school on the student council came up with a novel idea for this year’s pre-vacation rally. As a fund-raiser for the Make-A-Wish foundation, they sold tickets allowing students to throw whipped cream pies at teachers.

Why did I volunteer? Pick one:

A. I have “sucker” tattooed on my forehead.
B. I didn’t want to disappoint the student council kids (see A, above)

So I dutifully took my kids to the assembly, supervised their seating arrangements, and, along with the other volunteers, donned the garbage bag smock and shower cap thoughtfully provided by the student council.

ready to go

The first round wasn’t so bad. Predictably, the principal suffered more than I.

first round

On the second round, however, someone (several someones, really) decided I was far too clean.

second round

The student council graciously handed ’round moist towelletes. . . until they ran out. I made do with some paper towels. One student, apparently deciding my need was greater than hers, offered me her hair tie. I accepted.

cleaning up

You know what’s sticky? Whipped cream.

Sasquatch watch

September 6th, 2007

A (mini) photo essay

While Kevin, Matt and I were watching TV, we heard a knock at the door.   It was our neighbor.   A piece of our mail was delivered to him.   He gave Matt this:

the envelope

The envelope contained a missive.

the letter

The contents turned out to be as follows:

the message

Can’t read it?   Here’s a transcript, spelling and grammar as originally penned.


Send me soks.   Lef feet 30 inchus, write rite oder feet 33 1/2 inchus.

Send to:

Humboat Redwud Forst.

Luv you dogs.   Yum.   Yum.

Matt v. Winebottle

August 27th, 2007

Or: Why everyone should use *^&%ing cork
A photo essay

Matt has been coveting a glass of wine for a day or two now. Two days ago (not pictured), he attempted to open the bottle. The corkscrew handle came off, leaving a gigantic metal spiral in the plastic “cork,” and no leverage to remove it. Matt gave up.

Score: Wine bottle 1, Matt 0

Tonight, Matt tried again. With the corkscrew spiral still lodged in the “cork,” he tried first a small drill bit:

small drill bit

and then a large one.

large drill bit

Hoping the “cork” was loosened, he attempted to pry it out.

prying the cork

To no avail. Several unsuccessful rounds of drilling and prying later, he switched tactics, instead trying to jam the “cork” inside the bottle. This proved effective. . .


. . . if somewhat explosive.

wine spots

The counter was a mess,

the battleground

but the real problem was the wine, which now had a “cork” (complete with metal screw) floating around, along with plastic shavings. Yum. Matt devised a solution.

preparing for filtering

The solution eliminated unpalatable elements from the wine.


It was definitely a good idea.

the filtrate

Before tasting could commence, however, a dilemma remained. Matt generally re-stoppers wine bottles with their corks. This wine bottle, however, had swallowed the “cork.” We made alternate arrangements.


Finally, Matt could taste the wine he’d been working for during the past quarter of an hour.

the reward!

“You know what would be funny?” I asked, rhetorically. “If you didn’t like the wine.”

the reaction


What do you think; do we call this a draw?

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