Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Chopped!": Anchovy Parsley Pesto

My husband sometimes accuses me of watching too much Food Network, and it's true that since I became a devotee of "Chopped" and other shows where competitors have to cook something from a crazy assortment of ingredients, I've become much freer in the kitchen.  Rather than always following recipes, I'm now more likely to try and empty the fridge with whatever I can cobble together.  The results are not always impressive: poached egg on top of rice with Thai yellow curry sauce and tomato slices wasn't exactly a work of culinary genius, although it did get rid of the leftover rice and curry sauce.

Tonight, however, I managed something that I'm proud of.  A few days ago, I bought some anchovies at my local Italian deli:

I was hoping they would be like the lightly brined anchovies that I usually buy but couldn't find that day--those have a sweet saltiness that makes them tasty all on their own.  Instead, these anchovies were incredibly salty and impossible to eat.  What in the world was I going to do with them?

I'd never cooked with anchovies in my life, but I'd recently been making pasta tossed with a little rendered and crisped salt pork, along with olive oil and parmesan, and it occurred to me that the anchovies would do just as well as a source of saltiness.  Then I thought the slight bitterness of parsley would go well with the salty anchovies, and before I knew it, I came up with a plan for a pesto:

I didn't measure carefully, but I used about a cup of parsley, five or six anchovies,** maybe a 3" x 2" x 1" wedge of parmesan, about a quarter cup of pecans, one clove of garlic, and perhaps a third to a half cup of good olive oil.  Then I combined everything in the food processor:

The result was delicious!  I served it with bowtie pasta and sauteed asparagus, topped with a little lemon juice and some more grated parmesan:

The pesto also tasted great just spread on a piece of fresh bread.  I've since discovered that I'm not the first person to make pesto with anchovies (just google "anchovy pesto," and you'll see what I mean), but I still feel pretty good about my creation.

Bon appetit!

**Note on 3/24: If you try making this pesto yourself, you might want to cut back on the anchovies.  Although the pasta tasted great at the time, the salt pretty much blew out my tastebuds for the rest of the evening.  Admittedly, I kept trying small samples of the pesto without anything to buffer it, so maybe that's when I overdid it, but just keep your tolerance for salt in mind.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Echino playtime

About two weeks ago, I started playing with my Echino fabrics by making a couple of slightly wonky framed blocks in a simple log cabin style. Then I caught a nasty cold, which put me in bed for a week, except for the half-days when I absolutely had to drag myself to work. I finally felt up for some sewing this past weekend, and I made another ten blocks, for a total of a dozen:

I haven't planned my next step yet--after all, it's called improv piecing for a reason, right? One possibility would be to set the blocks in a close configuration, for a smaller wall quilt:

I'll probably end up starting with a more open arrangement, however. As I've mentioned before, I often develop quilts through an improvisational approach, in which I start with a few main design elements (in this case, the twelve blocks thus far), figure out a rough placement that offers some visual excitement, and then fill in the space left in between. Here's one possibility that I like:

Here's another, tighter option that's a little more regular and structured, but that still offers plenty of room for creative decisions:

As you can see with all three ideas thus far, I like that central aqua blue zig-zag in some form or another as a visual anchor. Whether it really needs to run all the way from top to bottom, I'm not so sure yet, but it will definitely be a feature of this quilt.

Finally, here's the wreckage left behind on my sewing table after just a few hours of piecing:

Happy sewing, everyone!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The real finish: WIP Wednesday

First of all, *SPOILER ALERT* ahead. If you don't want to know the answer to the anagram for "Drama Adorno," the title of my recently finished quilt, don't read to the end of this post.

Although I pronounced "Drama Adorno" finished a couple of weeks back, I've taken the time since then to block and steam the quilt thoroughly, and that has made an enormous difference in its appearance. Between the blocking, a proper hanging sleeve, and a new set of nails in the wall, "Drama Adorno" now hangs nicely without too much rippling in the borders. Here are a few of the photos I managed to take, thanks to a stretch of decent weather:

In terms of current sewing, I'm taking a little break from quilting in order to make some kimono silk zippered pouches for my Etsy shop:

Of course, I haven't forgotten quilts! I few weeks ago, I bought some bright and fun cotton-linen mix Echino fabrics, and more recently, I purchased a range of greens, blues, purples, and dark pinks in tropical and jewel tones to go with them. I also raided my stash, including some old favorites from the early 1990s when I first started quilting. Here's the palette I'm planning to work with--the Echinos are on the right-hand side, including the five polka dot fabrics:

Finally, for anyone still pondering my word puzzle, "Drama Adorno" is an anagram of "Madrona Road," in honor of the Madrona Road Challenge.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

VMQG-FVMQG travel swap: Part II

Back in January, I wrote about the items I made for my swap partner, as part of a travel-themed swap between the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and our local sister group, the Fraser Valley Modern Quilt Guild. I've been wanting to show off the wonderful items I received in return, but it's taken weeks for my free time to mesh with decent weather for photography. Finally, we have a beautiful, sunny day on a weekend when I'm not running around like mad (or rather, we had a bright, sunny morning--it's already starting to cloud up again), and I can share my swap partner L.'s wonderful work.

I gave L. a lot of leeway. Among other things, I mentioned that I always think black and white plus a bright color makes for a good combination, and that, to my surprise, I've found myself attracted to greens lately, as opposed to my usual favorite blues, purples, and reds. L. took those color ideas to heart, and at the January VMQG meeting, I received this awesome tote:

More than that, when I opened it up, I found practically an entire craft gallery of exciting goodies inside:

I had thought it would be nice to get a luggage tag or two, so I was completely floored by all that L. had done! The tote was filled with luggage tags, pouches, a travel sewing kit, and other prizes galore. I had also mentioned a weakness for gingko leaves, and L. made sure to incorporate a wonderful gingko leaf fabric into much of the loot, including this lovely little jewelry pouch:

I also particularly appreciated this portable sewing kit, cleverly made up as a wire-bound, fabric-covered book, which also included a special pocket for scissors and a handy pin-holder:

Belated thanks to you, L.! I'm completely thrilled the generous travel kit you made, and I'm looking forward to taking advantage of everything when I hit the road this spring!