Swiss darning

Swiss darning is like this. You can use it to fill in holes in a knit while still retaining stretch, unlike “sewn” (regular) darning.

A few months ago, I found a cashmere Loro Piana sweater and a felted wool hat in the trash. To those of you with offended sensibilities, they weren’t deep in the trash, they were in a little paper shopping bag beside the trash. Although I like dumpster diving, I’m not up for rummaging through gross stuff. I mostly look for things on the top or left out on purpose (i.e. the person knows they are too good to get rid of but doesn’t want them anymore).

It seemed that the sweater had been thrown out because of a few holes – totally fixable, of course!

Too small for me.
First attempt, on the sleeve. Gauge is too large.
Second attempt, on the shoulder. Much better! This is probably as good as it gets on machine knits. (Hand knit items have a larger gauge that’s easier to work with.)

I’m going to give this sweater to sibling C. I hope it gets a lot of good use in its second life!

Quilted pajama top for sibling C

My sibling C is perpetually cold. She needed a new winter pajama top and requested that it be quilted, so I threw this together (it’s so much faster to make items for other people – I care much less about getting them perfect).

The pattern was made based on the previous pajama top (which I also made. It was based on commercial pajamas). Amazingly, we already had all the necessary materials. It took about a week to make, I think.

For future me, you already have a pajama top pattern! No need to make another 😭

Batting was sandwiched between the lining and outside. Sibling C did the actual quilting (by hand), I cut the pieces and sewed the garment together. The batting is smaller so that it doesn’t make the seams bulky.
Pink cotton flannel for lining, cotton batting for fluff, cotton plaid for the outside. The flannel and plaid were both previously purchased from creative reuse stores.
Hand-quilting.
The quilting gives a bit of a muscle-man effect… 💪
The original top had darts on the back. Those didn’t turn out well with the extra-thick quilted fabric. I’d remove the darts and make the back piece a bit narrower next time.

Overall, it turned out really well! C says it is super warm. It is nicely color-coordinated and I even got some of the stripes to line up!

Sicilian sun-dried zucchini salad

A recipe I found when trying to determine if this dish, a favorite from Mandola’s in Austin, is a Thing or not. It is.

Slice zucchini (or other summer squash) thinly. Salt and let sit until a lot of water has come out of the zucchini.

Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Dehydrate until leathery but still pliable. Currently I’m using my stove’s pilot lights to dehydrate.
Stirfry with garlic, basil, mint, pepper, and chili pepper. Add lots of olive oil to make a dressing.

Tips:

  • If you don’t have a dehydrator or ever-burning pilot light, you can dehydrate the zucchini in the oven at a very low temperature or outside if it’s hot. Be careful of squirrels!
  • If your dehydrator/heat source is powerful enough, you don’t need to salt the zucchini beforehand. Add salt to the dressing at the end instead.
  • To make shelf-stable zucchini for later use, dry the zucchini until very dry, thin, and crunchy. Before stirfrying, rehydrate slightly by soaking in water for 5 minutes until pliable.

Dried radish

Our stove has ever-burning pilot lights that I like to use so that the energy’s not wasted. They’re good for drying plates really fast, fermenting yoghurt, and dehydrating food!

1 radish, before and after drying
Maangchi’s recipe for mumullaengi-muchim using the dried radish

New plants

With the hotter summer weather, a lot of my pea plants died 🙁 The two that survived aren’t doing so well and are likely to die in the next week – we’re having a bit of a heat wave here.

We ate a pea! We had an additional 20 peas, but I saved them as seed to plant next year.

I’ve been looking for veggies that like hot weather. Some old sweet potatoes sprouted a bunch, so we planted those. And my mom sent some seeds to try out! We’ve got basil, shiso, and melon (from sibling C’s garden). I’m excited to see how they do!

The sweet potatoes are growing vigorously! Dead peas against the window.

We have a teensy garden

Our front windows are quite sunny – they face southwest – so I’d hoped to be able to grow some veggies. I planted lots of things, cilantro, peas (for pea shoots), various greens. Peas are the only thing that really took off, and (amazingly, considering they’re inside) actually made peas!

Various seeds from sibling C’s collection!
Pea shoots, with some small crucifer sprouts in between.
Pea flowers!

We got a handful of pods from the peas. Maybe I’ll save them to plant next year?

I also have a houseplant (Aglaonema) that I got for free! from work. It’s doing well. I might expand the houseplant collection. Ferns sound nice 🙂 It’s also possible to grow some tropical and more unusual foods indoors (see Growing Tasty Tropical Plants). I’m considering figs.

Sichuan boiled fish (Shui Zhu Yu, 水煮鱼)

This turned out really well! Dare I say restaurant-quality?

We put inedible whole spices in a tea strainer so that we don’t have to fish the spices out later, kinda like a bouquet garni.

Fish and Marinade

  • 1 lb fish fillets, thinly sliced (white fish, such as tilapia, catfish, cod, flounder, carp, etc)
  • 0-3/4 tsp salt (less if your doubanjiang and douchi are really salty)
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper (white preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch or other refined cooking starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, etc)
  • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine (substitute with sake or sherry)
  • 1 egg white (optional, not really sure what this is even supposed to do, we didn’t use it)

Broth

  • ~3 cups broth or water
  • Oil
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp doubanjiang
  • 2 tsp fermented black beans (douchi)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp Sichuan chili flakes (optional, depending on desired spiciness)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (optional, depending on desired saltiness)

Veggies (12-16 oz total)

  • Soybean sprouts
  • Napa cabbage, cut into squares or strips
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumber, cut into sticks
  • Celery, cut into sticks
  • Whatever else you want!

Garnishes

  • 2 Tbsp chili oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorn powder or oil concentrate
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Sesame seeds
  1. Marinate fish for 30 min in cornstarch, cooking wine, salt, and pepper.
  2. Fry the ginger, garlic, douchi, doubanjiang, star anise, cardamom, and chili flakes in oil for a minute or so. Add broth or water. Taste for saltiness before adding soy sauce.
  3. Boil each veggie one at a time in broth. Once done, remove all of that veggie to the serving dish. Lastly, do the same with the fish, being careful to avoid breaking the slices.
  4. Move fish and broth to serving dish. Top with garnishes.

Chili oil

We use up chili oil really fast, so we thought it’d be more cost effective to make our own batch. Past chili oil attempts haven’t turned out particularly well (basically red oil that doesn’t taste like anything…), but I did more research this time 🙂

This recipe combines various online chili oil recipes plus everything on the ingredients list of the last commercial chili oil we bought (Blank Slate Kitchen has great chili oil). We get our Sichuan spices from Mala Market.

  • 1/2 cup Sichuan chili flakes (spicy Korean chili flakes is an okay substitute)
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (substitute with any or all of: whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves)
  • 1 tsp freshly toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorn powder (or 1 Tbsp toasted whole peppercorns)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced thickly
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot (substitute with green or white onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooking oil (peanut, canola, avocado, etc)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  1. Put chili flakes, five spice, peppercorn powder, and salt in a heat-proof jar.
  2. Fry shallot, garlic, ginger, and any whole spices (cloves, etc) in cooking oil until crispy. Remove the ginger and any whole spices. Heat oil to 275°F. Pour into the jar of chili flakes – they should sizzle.
  3. Cool to room temp. Add sesame oil. Store in fridge for maximum shelf life.
  4. When the oil is gone, you can reuse the sediment (chili flakes, etc). Just pour more hot oil into the jar.

You can add other delicious things to your oil, like fermented black beans (douchi) or peanuts or sesame seeds.

A Sichuan-adjacent tofu-mushroom dish

This is our take on this recipe, which is the author’s take on a restaurant beef/tripe dish (apparently mushrooms have a similar texture). The final dish, with tofu included, is similar to mapo tofu.

Recipe

  • Oil
  • Salt
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms
  • 1 container soft tofu (optional; if using double all following amounts)
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (or 3/4 tsp fennel seeds and 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground into a powder + 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
  • 1/4 cup shaoxing cooking wine (substitute with sake or sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 2 Tbsp chili oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 handful peanuts, crushed
  • 1 handful chopped cilantro

Cook mushrooms in oil. Salt lightly and add all ingredients tofu through soy sauce. Cook until sauce is reduced and thickened somewhat. Remove from heat and add garnishes (celery through cilantro). Eat hot or cold.

Chicken adobo

This is a popular Filipino dish. I’ve never had it before, but J has fond memories of it. We actually have a Filipino cookbook, The Filipino Cookbook by Miki Garcia, so we used that recipe.

Recipe

  • 2.5 lb chicken pieces (preferably skin-on)
  • Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cane, apple cider, or rice vinegar (or white vinegar diluted with water)
  • 1 cup soy sauce

Sauté chicken and garlic in oil until browned. Add everything except the onion and simmer until chicken is done (about 30 min). Add the onion and cook 5 min more.

I would describe the original dish as “aggressively tart”, to quote Cook’s Illustrated, and the chicken overcooked and chalky, so this version makes some changes. Originally, you were supposed to marinate the chicken overnight, include lime juice, and cook the chicken longer.

I might even decrease the cooking time more. You’re supposed to braise the chicken to make it tender, but we don’t have much success at that in general. Maybe this is one for a slow cooker.