Thursday, December 04, 2008

Catching Up

I've been plugging along on my Green Blanket, not that it's interesting enough for another photo right away. I had a vague thought of knitting washcloths as Christmas gifts and giving them along with fancy soap, so I looked up a few patterns. I was intrigued by this Octagonal Crest-of-the-Wave Washcloth and decided to try it with some Bernat Organic Cotton KnitPastis had sent me along with some fancy soap (see where I got my idea?). It was an easy enough pattern, and pleasant to knit. Mine curls and doesn't lie flat the way the picture with the pattern does. Blocking might fix that, but blocking a washcloth seems absurd to me. I also should have cut off the last wave pattern, since I used the thicker yarn and bigger needles, but I forgot as I was doing the pattern. It's soft and attractive and bumpy enough, I think, to be a good washcloth. I'm thinking of using it as a facecloth since it's so large (the diameter is bigger than the space between my pinky and thumb when my hand is splayed). All in all, a nice quick knit. I can see why people knit them, and I think I'll enjoy mine. I may pick something less elaborate for actual gifts, though, or at least something that doesn't look as funny lying flat.

Pattern: See above
Yarn: Bernat Organic Cotton in color 43244, a nice spring green, just about one skein (I have a bit left)
Needles: Size 6 dpns and 16" circular (at this size, it was pretty cramped at the end, but I couldn't find my 24")
Notes: See above.

Reading: Hmmm. Lots. It's been a while since I posted. Head to On My Bookshelf for my reviews. I'd been reading Christmas-themed mysteries, which are really fun!

Writing: Nothing but addressing Christmas card envelopes :-)

Cooking: I have been inspired, let me tell you. One night, I decided to make pasta (not that this is unusual for me). I wanted something that could come together quickly, and I had roasted vegetables in mind. I decided to do something different from my usual, toss-chopped-veggies-in-olive-oil-and-roast method. I had eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers on hand for this purpose, but I ended up deciding to do a puree, and the zucchini didn't fit my new plan. You can roast the eggplant and peppers together, and let the peppers steam while the eggplant finishes roasting. By then, the oven should be hot enough for the garlic. I made the veggies a couple of hours before I was ready to make dinner, so they were cool by the time I pureed. You could prepare the puree a day ahead and refrigerate until you're ready to make the sauce. I happened to have fresh mozzarella on hand, which was lovely, but goat cheese pairs nicely with roasted vegetables. The basil adds a nice touch, but I could eat this sauce plain with a spoon, so don't worry if you haven't any on hand.

A note to eggplant-haters: eggplant can be rubbery and/or bitter if prepared wrong. I think 95% of eggplant-haters have never had it well-prepared. Roasted eggplant is completely different, mellow and earthy and a bit sweet. I've converted many eggplant-haters to the joys of the purple vegetable by serving it roasted.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

1 pound rigatoni
2 medium eggplants
2 red bell peppers
1 head garlic
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 oz. goat cheese or fresh mozzarella, sliced
fresh basil, chopped

1. Roast the eggplants: Preheat the broiler. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil about 15 minutes, or until skin is charred. Turn 180 degrees and broil 15 minutes more. Skin should be blackened. Let cool. Trim ends and remove skin (it should peel off easily). Set aside in colander to drain excess liquid.

2. Cut peppers in half, discarding stem, seeds, and membranes. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and broil until skin is blackened (don't jump the gun or skin will be hard to peel). Carefully transfer to a large baggie and let steam at least 15 minutes. Remove skin.

3. Preheat oven to 425. Remove outer papery skin from garlic, but do not peel or separate cloves. Wrap in foil and bake until soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, then squeeze out roasted cloves.

4. Heat tomatoes in a large saucepan. Add seasonings.

5. Place prepared eggplant, peppers, and garlic in a food processor or blender and puree until fairly smooth. Add to tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions and drain. Toss with sauce and serve with basil and cheese.

We had friends over for dinner, and I made Tuscan Chickpea Soup from the Cooking Light archives, Ciabatta from Cooking Light, a Fennel-Orange Salad with pomegranate seeds, and tartlets with goat cheese and Bosc pears. I knew what I was going for with the tartlets, but I didn't find an exact recipe I wanted to follow. I ended up using the crust recipe from here, but the filling wasn't exactly what I had in mind. And I wanted bigger tartlets, not the bite sized ones. I liked the approach here, but I wanted cardamon instead of cinnamon (I'm a bit obsessed with the cardamon-pear combo), and I wanted to use honey, mixed with the goat cheese to take off the tangy edge. Anyway, I was really pleased with what I ended up with. I think this would be a nice filling for filo squares pressed into mini-muffin tins, too. I was actually going for 6 tartlets, but found I had plenty of everything for 8.

Goat Cheese and Pear Tartlets With Honey and Pine Nuts

Note: I used 8 10-cm tartlet pans from Williams-Sonoma, and I found a Tupperware container that was slightly larger, and the perfect size for cutting out the circles.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream

Spray pans with nonstick spray, or grease liberally with butter. Mix flour and salt in processor with blade attachment. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons ice water and cream. Process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 30 minutes. Roll into a rectangle large enough for 8 tartlet crusts (I rolled mine out, cut out 6 crusts, then re-rolled the remaining dough for an additional 2 crusts). Cut out circles appropriate to your tartlet pans and press gently into pans.

10 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1 TBL honey, plus more for drizzling
3 Bosc pears, cored and diced (do not peel)
1 tsp cardamon
2 TBL pine nuts

Mix goat cheese with 1 TBL honey. Place in pastry (you may have a bit left over). Toss pears with cardamon, mound on top of goat cheese. Sprinkle with pine nuts and drizzle with honey. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned on edges and pine nuts are toasted. Cool in pans on wire rack before serving.

Makes 8 10-cm tartlets. (You could also use muffin tins, mini-muffin tins, or a large tart pan.)


YarnThrower said...

Excuse while I go get something to eat...

(Things on your blog always sound so yummy! -- You could write your own cookbook!)

KnitPastis said...

Your washcloth is really elegant looking.Yeah, it sounds silly to block a washcloth but it does do the job.
I wished you had cooking for me lately:) I haven't been feeling too well. Probably from not eating right lately. The veggies sound like heaven the way you made them!

PS. I too had a little problem with the chocolate on my caramels. On the blog. This batch turned out soft but sooo good. The next batch the chocolate turned dry looking but still didn't effect the taste. Any luck on your end?

Mary said...

That's funny, I've had good eggplant, just not good eggplant prepared by I usually only eat eggplant when we go out to eat somewhere decent :)
That tartlet looks excellent. As soon as my knee can bend enough to use a bike, I will deserve dessert again :)

Amy said...


Inspiring on all fronts. The washcloth looks nice and soft yet scrub-worthy. I think I'd use it as a face washcloth as well.

If I could take some vacation and just do only crafty/bakey things for, say, a full week - I'd take your blog and start going through every post, Being Allison and trying my hand at all the wonderful things you do.

I love the way you explain how you arrive at each idea to show it's not so much that a huge amount of premeditation is involved but rather an inventive spirit.

Plus skills, of course.

Plus raw materials, which you seem to have at hand always, and of the very tasty variety. I guess the premeditation comes at the market. Wintertime has made me feel bored in the produce section - I need to step it up!