Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hood issues

I've been knitting Mr Wonderful's "Bad Ass" hoodie sweater since last December (OK, not exclusively - I did work on some other projects as well). Now I'm finally almost finished, and I'm running into problems on the hood. I think I've found an actual error in the pattern.

The written pattern calls for you to have pick up the front, shoulder, and back stitches, with a total of 90 stitches on the needles. (I'm knitting the large size.) But going by the stitch counts in the chart, you actually need 92. That's not a big deal though; the larger issue is with the increases on the hood. We need to increase several times, and the placement of those increases on the chart means that every other row you'd be moving over your basketweave pattern another stitch, so it totally wouldn't line up. I'm about 5 rows into the hood now and it's really starting to look funky, so I'm planning on ripping it back out and starting the hood over again, with 92 stitches and the increases immediately before the center cable, rather than immediately after the smaller side (shoulder) cables. I think this will solve my problems.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato season

The best month of the year, as far as I'm concerned, is August. No, I don't love the scorching East Bay Area heat. But I do love the tomatoes, the glorious, sun-ripened, warm, sweet, misshapen globes of juicy multi-colored heirloom goodness. I love driving out to the family farm stand on the weekend and picking up a few pounds of tomatoes and then bringing them home and devouring them in a day or two, usually accompanied by some Hawaiian red sea salt & freshly ground pepper, a little extra-virgin olive oil, a bit of fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkling of basil leaves from my backyard herb garden.

This week, I picked up a bunch of rainbow-colored tomatoes and last night I made a lovely golden-hued shrimp gazpacho. It was very simple, and required only a few minutes of cooking (for the shrimp). The resulting soup was a delight, pureed to a nearly-smooth texture, and studded with luscious, curling pink shrimp.

Shrimp Gazpacho
1/4 c plus 1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
4-5 medium heirloom tomatoes, diced (approximately baseball- or softball-sized tomatoes, any variety you like; I'm guessing it was about 2 lb tomatoes)
1/2 English cucumber, seeded & diced
1/2 c diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small jar roasted bell peppers, chopped
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 c chicken stock
salt & pepper
fresh basil for garnish (optional)

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the shrimp. Season well with salt & pepper, and saute the shrimp just until they are opaque and curled up. Set shrimp aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the soup.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, bell peppers, vinegar and chicken stock to a food processor, and puree until nearly smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve soup topped with the shrimp, and fresh basil, if desired.

Note: You could also add some Tabasco or other hot sauce for a little heat, if you prefer that, but if your tomatoes are fresh and ripe, you'll want to let their flavor take center stage. Also, most gazpacho recipes call for tomato juice, but I didn't have any on hand and my tomatoes were wonderfully juicy on their own, so I just added the chicken stock to provide a bit more liquid. You could substitute tomato juice and omit the shrimp for a lovely vegetarian soup.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Attention local knitters!

Local knitters/crocheters/other fiber-y crafters may be interested to know that Alpaca Direct is doubling the size of their Brentwood store. The grand opening is set for September 1. Alpaca Direct will also offer classes in knitting, crocheting, spinning, and felting. Awesome!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Easy Peasy Paella

The other night I whipped up this very simple one-dish "paella" with pre-seasoned rice, some pantry-staple ingredients, and some shrimp & sausage. I didn't make it too spicy, and the kids actually liked it! You know, rather than just suffering through it, like they usually do if it's not pizza or chicken nuggets. ;-)

Easy Peasy Paella
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 cups diced sausage (I used 2 chicken/apple sausages to keep the heat factor low for the kids, but it would be great with chorizo or andouille)
1 diced red onion
1 diced red bell pepper
2 minced cloves garlic
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 pkg saffron rice
1 box (4 cups) chicken stock
1/2 lb peeled & deveined raw shrimp
1/2 c frozen peas
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Brown the sausage, then add the onion & bell pepper. Season with salt & pepper and saute until the veggies soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, smoked paprika and the stock, and bring to a boil. Pour in the seasoned rice, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low (just simmering) and cook for 20-25 minutes. When the rice is nearly done, add in the shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the peas are heated through. Stir in the parsley, double-check your seasonings, and serve.