Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bad (Pasta) Romance

...Give me Reason, but don’t give me Choice, I’ll just make the same mistake again....”
--James Blunt, Same Mistake
A beautifully heartbreaking song about a relationship filled with pain and sorrow, in which I face the Ishbel shawl.  I’m frogging her for the last time and setting the beautiful Verb yarn aside for another project.  It’s a relationship in which we count points against each other in daily battles and never triumph.  Farewell, beautiful shawl, we were never meant to be.
My second triple-cable sock in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga yarn is steaming along, and will be my Vegas weekend vacation knitting.  It seems to speed along so fast when I’m counting repeats, that there will, in a blink, be only the interminable heel flap before the exquisite delight of heel-turning and the blind run through the foot to the Dance of the Toe Graft.  I love heels and toes.  They’re delicate bits of magic and math and physics.  Suddenly vertical stitches are horizontal! End of a tube? Shazzam--No SEAM!!!  The knitting runs over the edge and just keeps running right back to the heel! MAGIC, I TELL YOU!!!  And **I** can do it! 
It’s a new relationship, a new outlook, a new conquest!
As in knitting, so with cooking.  A work mate, a lovely, funny Israeli girl, is leaving. Her husband’s contract job is ending here so they are heading home after two and a half years.  We bid farewell to her with a potluck after work Sunday afternoon which, as you may imagine, at a spice shop is a pretty smashing shindig.  I was making Mac & Cheese, using jack cheese, chipotle, chili flakes, bacon and brown rice penne.  
I seem to know a growing number of Gluten-Free people, and have been noting the growing number of Gluten-Free products on the market.  So I read up and asked around and bought the Hodgson Mill Brown Rice Penne.  Usually, in a dish like this where you will have a secondary cooking stage, you pull the pasta a couple minutes early, when it is just pre-al dente.  Due to a kitchen snafu, I left it in 3 minutes past when I would have drained it.
Huge mistake.  In the colander, it appeared quite pale and overly inflated.  But I was determined to stay on schedule, and found I somehow had run through my entire back stock of pasta (stupidstupidstupid).  So I popped it in the pot to heat-dry and added the butter, then the liquid.  I knew then disaster loomed, but I charged ahead, straight into a relationship I knew was troubled in the first go-round.  I stirred and noticed some tube breakage. I added the cheese.  Like consecrating a terrible affair with a trashy wedding and kids.  Just throwing in all the binders and valuables knowing full well the end was nigh and it was gonna be ugly.
The pasta disintegrated with every stir.  Disintegrated.  To the molecular level. I shouted, derided, accused, to no avail.  So I threw the pirate spatula down and walked away.  Divorced of the entire venture.
A couple of minutes later, I decided to try dating again.  I reached for my purple Cuisinart Thunderstick.  
If you don’t have a stick blender, go buy one for about $30 or $40 at Sur La Table, Amazon, or somewhere and do it quick-like.  Anything that seems like a dauntingly large task or unsalvageable situation because it would require the use and cleaning of a blender or multiple batches in the food processor suddenly, like a good therapist, becomes easily dealt with when faced with a Stick.  It goes straight into any pot, pan or dish your food already occupies and deals with it.
So I plugged him in and plunged into a new relationship.  With Cheese and Bacon Soup.  Turns out, once you blend all that milk, eggs, spices and cheese with the pasta; then add more milk and the bacon, what you get is perfect soup.  The rice pasta and butter that were the base of the Mac & Cheese turned into a roux and the rest became the cheesy, bacon-y goodness.  Thick, rich, savory, spicy bacon-y goodness. 
I know this is gonna seem weird and all, but since I took my new date to a work ‘do and he didn't drink all the beer and dance on the counter singing  Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy loudly to himself, I will share my unconventional new boyfriend with you here.  I state in the directions to add milk until the soup reaches desired consistency, and I like a nice thick cheese soup.  So I add the buttermilk, then add whole milk until it’s as loose as I want it.  Just what you want in a good partner, right?
Ingredients
4 ounces ANY brown rice pasta
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
4 ounces evaporated milk
6 ounces buttermilk
12-16 ounces whole milk
2 Tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1teaspoon dry mustard
1teaspoon Chipotle powder
1.5 teaspoon Chili Flakes
2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
2 teaspoon Onion Powder
10 ounces Monterrey Jack, shredded
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
Directions
1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta 12 minutes and drain. It will look pale and bloated, like a bad ex. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

2. Whisk together the eggs, add evaporated milk, 2 ounces buttermilk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and spices. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. 

3. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

4. Apply stick blender, adding first 4 ounces buttermilk, then whole milk until soup is desired consistency.

5. Stir in bacon, or crumble on top, as desired.

I'm sure you can see the attraction, and this time All *I* Need Is Love--and Bacon.  Bon Appetite!
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Monday, July 11, 2011

CALL ME ISHBEL

This winter, after two years of knitting, I met Ysolda Teague.  She is a certified cutie-pie Scottish pixie and prolific designer, who was just releasing her second small book of patterns in January.  I was in Long Beach for TNNA with the Knitmore Girls and filling in booth time with Abstract Fiber--a cheap, flimsy fa├žade for entry to the fabulous National Needle Arts Association convention.
The night before the convention opened, the equally fabulous Unwind yarn store in Burbank, CA held their anniversary party, complete with the awesome Ravelry geniuses, roughly a hundred fantastic knitters and Ysolde.  She was sporting a gorgeous red lace-pattern cardigan with little blue and white vintage bakelite buttons.  Due to the fact we had set out just that morning at Bum-Crack-’O-Dawn and just arrived in SoCal, I was conversationally stupid.  As an aside, we had just arrived home, in the same circs, a week later, when we rolled up to A Verb For Keeping Warm’s Open House party for their new space and I saw her again and was again basically a drooling smunchkin.
For the record, Ysolda, I have been meaning to tell you for six months that your books are lovely, your designs range from pretty to achingly adorable.  I made the Icing Swirl hat twice and it was fun and easy, and as I have a mysteriously slippery head all  I had to do was a bit more to the decrease band in the back to keep the sucker on me ol’ scone.
HOWEVER.  I got soooo excited about the book that I took it back to Verb the next next week, full of exuberance, bouncing all over Adrienne for yarn to make my very first shawl, your Ishbel.  I wanted anything at all in the best colorway name EVAR--TRANSNATIONAL FURY!!!  It’s a red-coral-ly color on their Metamorphosis yarn--a Superwash Merino/Silk blend in Sport weight, and I LOVE it!  So I scrambled home, got my needles, swatched and started.  The promise of wispy beauty floated through my mind....

ishbel-2-150x150

The pattern starts with stockinette and a bit of eyelet, easy-peasy.  Then comes The Charts.  I smacked straight into it and went stupid.  I’ve done charts--I have!!!  Socks, an actual chevron lace scarf from two-ply handspun as a sample for a shop, I’ve done this, but I fritzed.  So I complained and whined for months.  Like a brat.  Like a baby.  I gave up all my power to the stupid Charts. 
So for Tour de Fleece, I decided I was a Hand Cycler, and plowed straight through my Citron in Huckleberry Knits Silk & Silver down to the ruffle and beaded cast-off (to be enjoyed later--really, I’m relishing it, it’s my reward for the following); then jumped into the Ishbel, which I frogged, Ribbity-Ribbity, right back to the ball.  Zippity straight through the StSt, Zippity Doo Dah. 
Helloooooo Vine Chart A.  Okay, Read it through, employ New Secret Weapon:  Office Depot here in San Jose on Blossom Hill across from Oakridge Mall (in case you can’t find anywhere else, cuz this is AWESOME) has--drumroll---4X6 SuperSticky GRAPH PAPER STICKY NOTES.  Each line, including pattern repeat within each line, can be written out tidily then crossed off as I complete each section.  Voy-OLA!!  Okay, I’m actually getting through this, and I’m not saying a WORD--not a damn word --to anyone about this.  I get to 4 rows (WS purl row) out of 8, and all seems well, then count, and something’s wrong. I try every method I can think of to count, double count, start at the middle and compare stitches to the end, then start at the ends and move in and CANNOT FIND THE SCREW-UP!
Hours lost trying to fix, tinking back one row, seeming to get the correct count, everything seeming stable.....
I’ve been varying stages of near-total gray-hair-ness from age 22, and I swear this made me ginger then even grayer all over again in one afternoon.  I feel like I took every precaution, like I faced a fear with my patented 3-prong approach:  Read the books, Consult the experts, then Make Stuff Up.  I read the pattern and deconstructed it according to suggestions from more experienced knitters, then acquired tools and made up a system.  Attack!!  
This is, as the Knitmores say, When Knitting Attacked.  So, I have two questions:


1.  RE: My Citron shawl-- It ends with a stockinette ruffle, but a couple of people mentioned they used a garter stitch to keep it from curling.  Any opinions?


2.  Ishbel, My Great Pink Whale:  Should I keep going? Should I tink back to the stockinette and make another run at it? Maybe I was overly confident in taking a break for the night at that purl row 4 and jinxed it?  Or should I just take it apart, ball it up and harpoon it repeatedly?
“Call Me Ishbel...Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul... and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to Knitting as soon as I can.”--Moby Knit


I'm at a block and no hat will be safe.  Or shawl, come to think of it.  If knitting my own drives me to the verge of madness, why not just start stealing yours?  Help me now and keep me on the curb!

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