viola studio mobiles

Discovery Monday

12 December 2011

Once again, I have an assortment of tidbits from my wayward travels on the web, gathered up for you like a motley bouquet. It’s not the freshest – I save my little bits over months – but I love having my collection of treasures here so I can always find them again.

I was amazed by this fantastic Saveur video for how to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds. Break a head of garlic into cloves, throw it all into a mixing bowl, invert another bowl over to cover, and shake it all like a big maraca. And voila, lots of naked garlic cloves and a pile of papery garlic peel. For garlic-intensive cooking (kimchee, anyone?), this is a life-changer.

When flying into San Francisco, I’ve always wondered what those colored pools are along the edges of the San Francisco Bay. The Kitchn gives a tour of Cargill’s sea salt pools and explains the mystery of the bright colors.

From the Los Angeles Times, I loved this inside look at the LA Times test kitchen and chef Nancy Silverton on great salad making, who explains why I rarely get a good salad at a restaurant (the salad station is low-priority trainee territory).

For healthful salad inspiration in this season of richness, check out Salad Pride, a blog by an Italian in London named David Bez, who just concluded a year of posting a new salad every day. Italians know how to treat their vegetables, and David’s colorful daily combinations (grapefruit, olives, rocket (arugula); butternut squash, mozzarella, baby spinach; sausage, lentils, red cabbage; roast chicken, raisins, corriander couscous) are a world away from token salads made from wilted bagged lettuce and gloppy bottled dressings. This is food with respect.

For soup season, I am excited to try this roasted pumpkin coconut soup from Faith Durand at The Kitchn. Faith also highlights this excellent past tutorial on how to make soup from almost anything.

I’m loving the genius recipes feature at Food52, because so often what makes these recipes genius is their staggering simplicity. I’m intrigued by Paul Bertolli’s recipe for cauliflower soup, which is not much more than cauliflower and water. Bertolli has headed up the kitchens at Chez Panisse and Oliveto, so if he says magic can be made from cauliflower and water, I’m willing to believe it.

Even more astounding is Mexican food expert Diana Kennedy’s absurdly minimalist recipe for carnitas – pork, salt and water. The pork softens as it slowly braises in water, then when the water cooks off it crisps in its own fat. Brilliant.

And of course there’s Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter, which Food52 calls “the most famous tomato sauce on the internet.” I’ve made the sauce for years from Marcella’s book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, but I haven’t wanted to write about it here since it’s all over the blogosphere already. But if you haven’t tried it, you must. Canned tomatoes simmered with butter and halved onion. Remove onion and toss with hot pasta. Creamy tomato perfection, it’s a no-fuss meal for this busy season.

I never thought to make Thai sweet chili dipping sauce at home, but She Simmers makes it look so easy. The Kitchn highlighted it as an unusual homemade holiday gift, but I think I’ll have to try it for myself first.

I only have patience to make rolled cookies once a year. This holiday, the kids and I are trying the best cut-out sugar cookies, again from Faith at the Kitchn. With vanilla, lemon and almond extract, these are sugar cookies designed for good eating as much as good decorating, and people say the dough works like a dream.

* * *

And for anyone curious about the adorable mobiles in the picture, I spotted these amazing creations made from repurposed materials at Winterfair, an annual arts and crafts show in Columbus that I’ve attended the last couple of years with my mother- and sisters-in-law.

I’m a minimalist at heart (but with four kids, not in practice), so I’m never a big buyer at Winterfair. But I couldn’t resist wandering into Viola Studio‘s booth. I lingered and left, but later I had to go back. Look at this craftsmanship.

Viola makes dolls of all colors, each individually designed and charmingly dressed.

And dapper boys too.

These animals are phenomenal.

Every item is handmade by the lovely Viola, originally from Poland, who traveled to Ohio from Colorado with her equally lovely Columbus-native husband. Viola looks just like her dolls, sweet and stylish.

I could not let go of these incredibly soft and huggable creations. But most remarkably they all have personality, reflecting Viola’s exceptional artistry. Despite my chinese-grandma sticker shock, I am delighted not just to have found toys my children will treasure forever but to have supported an artist I admire. Viola’s work makes me realize that toys can have soul, and how few of them do.

To see more of her creations, visit Viola’s Etsy store online.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherry 12 December 2011 at 10:19 am

Love this post! Love the dolls! I haven’t gone through all of the links yet, but will. Hope you have a wonderful holiday, Lil! xoxo

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Joanna 12 December 2011 at 11:08 am

That Marcella Hazan sauce is the best!

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casey 17 December 2011 at 11:40 am

Lil, love the blog posts… I am going to try the pumpkin soup! yum!!! happy happy holidays, love casey 🙂

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