Bread and Lemon Zest

What about bread and lemon zest?  Well, I’ve been baking bread lately from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  And the zest is a little tip I got from Bon Appetit magazine.

Look! It's pretty!

First of all, I got Artisan Bread from the library to test it out.  I was very impressed, so I bought it. I found that it really is just a few minutes that you spend before putting a loaf of fresh bread on the table.  You don’t have to make bread every day.  Rather, you mix up a very easy dough and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Then you tear off a hunk of dough, smooth it out, pop it in the oven and voila! Fresh bread with dinner tonight!  The dough will keep in the fridge for weeks, so if you only feel like doing this on the weekend you can. This is a photo of my third loaf (and only my first boule–the others were baguettes), so I know my technique will improve.  I’m not a fan of gimmicks, such as, just say, claiming to make bread in five minutes, but this isn’t a gimmick!  It really works. This bread cookbook is well worth the money.

Now on to the zest:  I have sooo many lemons right now, and my second little tip is one I found in Bon Appetit magazine at some point, but I’d never tried it out.  Here’s what Dana Sturgis, test kitchen director, says in the magazine: “When a recipe calls for lemon juice, don’t waste all that great zest!  Before I squeeze a lemon, I use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove thin strips of zest.  I let the strips air-dry for a day or two, then store them in a jar at room temp until I want to crumble them into rices, stews, or cooked fruit.

Denuded lemons and their zest

Zest after aging

When I need ‘fresh’ zest, I just soak the strips in cold water for an hour, and they’re as perky as the day I peeled them off.”  Due to the plethora of lemons and the plethora of guilt I feel for not using every last one, I was thrilled to find this little tip.

Ready for storage

And I have to say, it works well!  I used a sharp chef’s knife to very finely mince the shards of peel, and it was easy, quick, and guilt free!

Homemade bread and preserved lemon zest…we’re just so thrifty!


The R&B Cure

Post-holiday letdown maybe?   Perhaps a teensy bit of a holiday spending hangover?  Not sure.  But I’ve been a little blue, and we all know what that means:  I need some music.

On the whole, I don’t listen to a whole lot of R&B.  I tend more to electronic music, with a little bit of this and that thrown in.  But for some reason, I had a yen for some R&B. Something mellow and sing-alongable, but still dance-aroundable.   Most of these songs were on my iPod already, so I assembled what I had (so thrifty!), and only downloaded about four of them from Amazon.  I know that some of these songs aren’t strictly R&B–there’s some funk, some rap, some soul.  But for the most part it’s got a generally R&B-ish flavor.  I must say, it is an excellent playlist. Enjoy!

On Broadway:  George Benson

Be Happy:  Mary J. Blige

What’s Going On:  Marvin Gaye

Dont’ You Worry ’bout a Thing:  Stevie Wonder

Strawberry Letter 23:  Brothers Johnson

Lovely Day:  Bill Withers

Take Off Your Cool:  Andre 3000 and Norah Jones

September:  Earth Wind & Fire

Old Songs:  Betty Wright

Honey Please Can’t Ya See:  Barry White

Just Friends:  Amy Winehouse

Turn Your Love Around:  George Benson

Let’s Stay Together:  Al Green

Mercy Mercy Me:  Marvin Gaye

Forget Me Nots:  Patrice Rushen

In the Middle of the Game:  Betty Wright

You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine:  Lou Rawls

Back and Forth:  Cameo

He Can Only Hold Her:  Amy Winehouse

Just the Two of Us:  Grover Washington and Bill Withers

Give Me the Night:  George Benson

Nothin’ On You:  Bruno Mars

The Tears of a Clown:  Smokey Robinson

We’re in this Love Together:  Al Jarreau

You Take My Heart Away:  DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford

Fantasy:  Earth Wind & Fire

Across 110th Street:   Bobby Womack

My Cherie Amour:  Stevie Wonder

I feel so much better already!

New Old Furniture

Every day I get an email from that site My Habit, which is an offshoot of Amazon.  It sells high-end clothing, furniture, and household goods at great prices.  But I find it dismaying that so many of these items are still made in China.  Like this very cool little acrylic end table, normally $1300, and on sale for $330 (woo-hoo!), but made in China!  I could go to Ross and get cool little tables that are made in  China and cost about $40.  So I’m annoyed.  What I’ve been doing instead is haunting eBay and a very fun store in Fairfield called The Trading Post. It’s got a fair amount of junk , but if you look around a bit, there is a lot of really beautiful old furniture. And it’s huge!  I can get lost in there for ages.

Her tail is blurry 'cause it's always wagging!

I feel like old furniture that isn’t officially antique (isn’t antique supposed to be 100 years old?), that shows that it has been well loved and is now hanging out in a used furniture store, is kind of the shelter dog of the furniture world.  Perfectly good, an excellent addition to the family, but just needs someone to take a chance on it.  (And speaking of shelter dogs, our new baby is such a sweetheart.  So gentle, so loving,  always wagging, and there was only that one time where she jumped up on the coffee table and pranced across….)

At The Trading Post last spring I found a little old solid mahogany bookcase for the upstairs hallway and it still had the sticker on the back from a San Francisco furniture store from many years past.  Then this past summer, we needed a new dresser.  As you well know, finances ain’t what they used to be.  So since I absolutely, unequivocally refuse to buy anything from Ikea (no–don’t get me started.  I’ll rant and also perhaps rave.), I went to the Trading Post again and found a very nice dresser.  It was tired and scratched, but it was solid wood and it was not much more than $100.  Sold!  I loaded it up in the back of my little wagon and brought it home.  The picture at left is not the exact dresser–I forgot to take a snap (remember when people like your grandparents called photographs “snaps”?) before we made it pretty, but this is very close to how it looked.  So anyway, we (the royal “we”) removed the ugly old hardware and then gave it a good sanding.  The drawers smelled a bit musty, so I put little bowls of bleach in each drawer then closed the drawers and left it for a few days (a Martha Stewart tip).  Problem solved.  We then painted it a semi-gloss white, put on new hardware, and called it good.  It looks great.

In October, I went on the Solano County surplus auction site and found all sorts of interesting things (filing cabinets, bookshelves, stretchers, gun holsters…).  Most interesting of all, however, was a chair from the 1950s, solid walnut, built by a company from North Carolina called Boling.  And then at the beginning of December I saw two more of these chairs on the same site.  Needless to say, all three have been adopted into our home. They are hard wooden chairs, but they are somehow very, very comfortable.  So of course, once I had the three chairs, one in the living room and the other two in the family room, the pair needed a table to go with them.  I went to eBay and looked and looked for a small wooden table, preferably dropleaf, to go with them.  Well, if it wasn’t “pick-up only” in Pennsylvania, it was $90 shipping, so that didn’t work.  No surprise, I went to The Trading Post and found exactly the table I was looking for.  It’s a little dropleaf occasional table, probably from the 1940s, priced very reasonably, and it goes perfectly with my Boling chairs.  No, the woods don’t match (the table is maple), but they are an excellent complement to each other. The picture shows the table with one leaf up and one down, and it is just perfect!

While buying old furniture won’t make more jobs in furniture factories, it will support local, small, non-chain businesses, which I can’t advocate strongly enough.  So I got new (to me) furniture at an extremely doable price, and I didn’t buy the Chinese-made…umm…crap that we are deluged with and will probably end up in the landfill before too long.  I certainly can’t imagine any furniture from Ikea or Target lasting more than about five years, let alone 70.  In the future, what on earth will antique stores sell?

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