October 24, 2012

Dirty Art Show?

One of my fellow Etsy Team Columbus leaders is an organizer for an event at local art space Wild Goose Creative which will feature a screening of Dirt! an acclaimed indie documentary, followed by a discussion forum, a root-vegetable cook-off, and a themed art show.

Get a sneak peak at the dirty art by Etsy Team Columbus artists, including my own work, over at this post I wrote for the ETC blog.

Close-up of part of "Grounded" a soil-centered macro illustration in graphite, watercolor, colored pencils and ink.

October 10, 2012

Columbus: Past, Present, and Future Features Local Authors, Artists

Casey McCarty with Columbus: Past, Present, and Future.  This month this title has broken into the top 100 of both the anthology and short story categories at Amazon.com.

It's 1898 and a patient at the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum knows the truth about an infamous London crime.   Will a young psychiatrist and his journalist friend expose the plot or become another loose end secured by the Fixer, a mercenary who has kept the dirty secrets of corrupt politicians for a decade?

You can find out in the short story version of my richly-researched historical fiction tale in the new anthology Columbus: Past, Present & Future.  This version only showcases the central plot, however, and readers can expect the full-length novel next year!

A perfect toast to Columbus’ bicentennial, the anthology offers fiction set in or around Columbus from 200 years in our past to 200 years in our future.  Part of our proceeds support the Columbus Historical Society in preserving our rich local heritage.  For my piece I scoured the local history sections of our metro libraries to provide accurate settings, down to the local pub my main characters frequent.  I continue to be amazed at just how much local history I knew nothing about. 

The cemetery of the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum, around which my story is set,  is open to the public today, as well as the nearby Training Institute of Central Ohio cemetery with its chilling “specimens” grave markers as well as hundreds simply engraved with patient numbers.  The Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum burned completely to the ground in its original incarnation, killing dozens.  Plagued with stories of primitive psychiatric treatments and deadly disease outbreaks, the rebuilt version was one of the largest in the region.  You don’t have to dig too deeply to find something interesting in our local history!

Columbus: Past, Present & Future  features 23 Ohio authors and original illustrative art and photography, with a forward written by Mayor Coleman.  It’s locally published and available at local boutiques, coffee shops, online, and as an eBook on Amazon.  This is a great way to support local writers and authors and celebrate in our bicentennial!

For more information about the publishing group, Columbus Creative Cooperative or to order, please visit HERE.

June 25, 2012

Polish-Asian Fusion!?

It must be recipe Monday, because I have another to share with you!  This was a blissful experiment that started by Googling "what to serve with kielbasa."  I had thawed a Polish kielbasa for dinner, but I was looking for something interesting to serve it with besides the ordinary potato or beans.  In scrolling through side dish suggestions I read the phrase "browned with brown sugar" and I stopped instantly... ideas!  The brown sugar instantly reminded me of the very ripe pineapple that's been living on my counter for several days (that I keep passing saying to myself, 'I really need to use this?').

But before I embarked on the main part of the dish, I wanted to make some of those long, skinny, crunchy breadsticks.  I used this recipe for Crisp Rosemary Breadsticks but scaled down the recipe to a serving size of 12, and then modified as necessary.  I required a bit more flour than the calculated ratio called for, and I also added more rosemary and a generous dash of paprika to the flour,  I brushed melted butter and sprinkled on parmesan cheese and some sea salt before baking.  The result was a lovely paprika-toned breadstick which was aromatic and flavorful.

While my dough was rising, I did the prep-work for the rest of the dish.   I had no brown sugar, so I called up one of my favorite unexpected sweeteners--dark molasses.  To substitute brown sugar, you can mix molasses with plain granulated sugar, stirring it up in a little bowl or ramekin until the sugar absorbs the molasses and it's more or less sugary not liquid. I used about a teaspoon of molasses and a couple tablespoons of sugar.  I prefer dark molasses for its unique and bold flavor, but light molasses will do as well.  To this sugary mixture, I added a generous portion of ground ginger, to taste, again mixing with a fork.

I prepped my pineapple, which was quite ripe and so very sweet and tender.  I chopped it finely after removing the core.  If you need help with this, there are many resources online, such as at this link from the Casual Kitchen.  Likewise, I sliced the thawed (already fully cooked) kielbasa and quartered the slices.  I removed any skin that was hanging off the pieces.  My dog appreciated that!

Next, I sliced some serrano peppers to punch up the heat on this otherwise sweet dish.  I like it spicy, so I kept most of the seeds with them.  The serranos we grew this year possibly cross-pollinated with a hotter pepper, and so they are really, really hot.  If you use a hot pepper, don't forget to clean your cutting board (and your hands) really well, lest you transfer that flavor to other things (or rub your eyes! Ouch!).

I collected some thyme, mint, and parsley from the garden, rinsed and chopped it (reserving a bit for garnish).

Think about your timing for a moment.  I knew I was making some tri-colored rotini to go with the kielbasa mix, so I knew it would be several minutes to boil water and about 7 more to cook al dente.  The breadsticks would have to rise 45 minutes then bake 20-25 minutes.  I like to have my prepped ingredients ready and waiting for me (cooking show style!) so I don't run into unexpected delays.  I start on the thing that is going to be most time consuming (obviously) which is usually a bread item, and do my prep work while that's rising.

To heat up the kielbasa, I fired up the cast-iron skillet with a little olive oil to medium-high.  Into a hot pan, I added the kielbasa, pineapple (only a couple handfuls of the chopped pineapple), and molasses-sugar-ginger mix.  These hit the hot pan and wonderful things started to happen:  the pineapple caramelizes, the sugar & molasses "melt" and everything releases a wonderful aroma and browns a bit.  I immediately turned the heat to the lowest setting, and added the peppers and toasted sesame.  The mix can sit on low for a pretty long time in the cast-iron skillet, with occasional stirring.  This helps bring out the pepper and the subtle flavors of the ginger and sesame, and prevents the pineapple and sugars from scorching. Don't add the chopped herbs until you're within 5 minutes or so of serving, because you don't want them to loose color and become totally limp.

When the pasta is al dente, drain, and add to the skillet with the rest of the goodies, and stir gently to avoid breaking up your pasta.  The pan sauce that's been forming with the meat and pineapple juices will be all you need to wet the pasta.  Add any more herbs, salt, sesame, or pepper to taste.  Plate and garnish, and enjoy!

Don't let the gingery sweet warmth of the essentially grilled pineapple fool you--right behind that first Hawaiian-pizza-reminiscent bite comes the spicy heat!  And how often do you get to pair Polish with Asian-inspired ingredients?

Garden Fresh Eats

 Our urban garden is already producing an abundance of fresh romaine and artisan lettuces, many herbs, peas, and peppers.  We are anxiously awaiting the ripening of the dozens upon dozens of green tomatoes and tomatillos of numerous types, broccoli, celery, summer squash, cucumber, and strawberries, but for now, all the fixings of a good fresh salad are still available.

Something about the summer heat makes cool salads all the more appealing.  My daughter and I like to walk along the garden, large colander in hand, picking out some lettuce and fresh herbs.  Ideally, it's best to harvest in the cool early morning or evening, but if I'm picking mid-day in the heat, I only take whatever I want to eat just-then for ultimate freshness and to disrupt the plant as little as possible.  I rinse the greens in cold water immediately, to help perk up heat-wilted lettuce leaves, then tear up the lettuce and basil leaves, mixing the fresh leafy herbs right in with the lettuce.  For this salad I used basil and lemon thyme.

I like to add fresh herbs right in with the greens because it's a great flavorful addition, and I don't have to add more calorie-filled options to get a complex flavor.  I also added some orange and yellow sweet peppers, sliced grape tomatoes, and a spoonful of feta, with a drizzle of Greek vinaigrette.  Instead of croutons or a slice of bread, I used a warm, crispy tortilla bowl.

These are so easy to make and they really jazz up a simple salad!  For even more flavor, you can use specialty tortillas like whole wheat, spinach, or roasted red pepper.  Preheat your oven to 425, and preheat a couple ceramic or oven-safe bowls or ramekins placed upside down on a cookie tray.  Brush your tortillas on both sides with a little bit of olive oil, and sprinkle on a spice of choice (I used paprika) and a pinch of salt.  When your oven and ramekins are pre-heated, brush the top (the bottom of the bowls) with a little olive oil and lay your tortillas over them, gently shaping them around the bowls, pinching here and there to secure the bowl shape.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden crispy brown.  Let them cool a bit, then gently pull them off the ramekins.  Wait until you're ready to eat to fill with the greens, as you don't want the salad to wilt with the heat of the tortillas.