J’Adore: Knitting Green and French Shepherd’s Pie

This is the second stop of the 10-day blog tour with contributing designers and essayists to Ann Budd's Knitting Green: Conversations and Planet Friendly Projects. Kristeen Griffin-Grimes is the designer of the Caterina Wrap (page 110), an asymetrical wrap knit  with a handspun yarn that was hand-dyed with walnut hulls. Here's Kristeen to tell us more about her pattern, and she shares with us a favorite recipe for French Shepherd's Pie– a great dish for last night's leftovers! 

Three sheep, one goat and a drop spindle–that's how my foray into the fiber world began. It was the 1970's and at the time I was fascinated with Navajo rug making, hand spinning and using plants as dye materials. We journeyed to Arizona to live and discover the new-age vortexes of planetary energy around Sedona (cue X-Files theme music, or perhaps, Enya).  It was just a pack-up-the-baby, toss-some-clothes-in-a-sack kind of lifestyle then, and I came of age during the heyday of back-to-the-land experimentation… but that's another story too lengthy for this little blog.  Just let it be said, I was and am green to the bone.

So, when my very esteemed editing friend, Ann Budd, asked me to participate in an upcoming book from Interweave, Knitting Green, I couldn't wait to get my hands on some yarn that had been naturally dyed and spun, especially by the venerable La Lana Wools, based near that same Southwest location that had enthralled me so many years past.  We had lived there in a van down by the river, near a magical place called Red Rock Crossing (this is a cause for much shared laughter amongst our children and anyone who has seen Chris Farley's " Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" bit on Saturday Night Live, will understand why it's so humorous to us).  Many years later and countless lost spindles along the way, it was satisfying to work with a material that took me back to that simpler (but not necessarily, easier) way of life… something I touch on in my essay, "Knitting Stone Age Style," in Ann's book.

The Caterina Wrap

The Caterina Wrap was named for my Great-Grandmother, Caterina Gianotti.   I designed this in as minimal a way as I could fathom, recalling faded photos I'd seen of her country-women in the hills of Northern Italy with the rustic, sheep-y shoulder coverings they had fashioned.  The result was almost a simple wrap with kimono sleeves; however, the construction was anything but traditional, using picked up stitches and grafting to fashion a seamless garment.  I hope those of you who've started it will enjoy the process. I'd love to see how this pattern is interpreted – perhaps, as a more refined version in an airy, silk/mohair or vibrant color.  Please do share your projects and thoughts on the essays!

Traveling in France as often as we do for our tours in the deep rural south, you can't help but notice a certain attention to reusing and recycling that is always in fashion, especially in the countryside. Born of Gallic frugality during two country-crushing World Wars and a mind-set bonded to le terroir, eco-consciousness and respect for the planet have been alive in the Republic for millennia.  It's a simple formula really — electricity and fuel are expensive, so walking, biking and public transport are the norm, as are line-dried clothes (every tiny apartment has a window festooned with last night's dainties) and leftovers (aka: les restes).   

This doesn't need to be promoted or even have a day of celebration, although the French enjoy celebrating anything, especially when it comes to the land. When I query our French friends about their minimal-waste way of life  — the response is always, c'est normal.  As we honor our home planet with Ann's thoughtfully edited book and enjoy the lovely designs in Knitting Green, I look forward to a time, as it is in France, when eco becomes normal.

Never one to say adieu without the mention of something culinary, I leave you with a recipe perfect for recycling and reusing – in this case last night's veggies and protein (meat, tofu, what have you).  It's a Franco-fied version of the British Isles' Shepherd's Pie – who's to say which came first – so today j'adore Knitting Green and Hachis Parmentier

Hachis Parmentier ~ French Shepherd's Pie

In 1800's France, Pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier championed the humble potato as a nutrient-rich solution to staving off famine…so merci, Dr Parmentier!

This dish is perfect after a night's repast of potatoes, some veggies on the side, and a dash of protein or even leftover stew.  You'll hardly have a thing to do if les restes is camping out in your fridge.

The Recipe

Set your oven at 400 degrees.  Brush an oven-proof 6-Cup casserole with olive oil or coat with soft butter.

About 2-3 cups or more leftover potatoes (steamed or mashed).  Or you could steam about 2-3# of potatoes cut in chunks if you have none.

Leftover poultry, beef, or vegetable protein (tofu or tempeh work very well), about 2 cups.

1/2 onion or medium shallot, minced

1 medium clove garlic, minced

2T butter or olive oil; more if needed

1/2 C white wine

2 eggs  

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped or 1- 15 oz can of organic tomatoes (whole or diced)

3 T of fresh parsley, chopped

2 t. fresh or (1/2 t. dry) thyme, or to taste

1/4-1/2 red pepper flakes

4 T crème fraîche (or sour cream)

2 cups leftover vegetables (other than beets) – corn, green beans, broccoli, kale, etc

1/4-1/2 C fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Sweet paprika for dusting top of casserole

Sauté onion or shallot in oil (or butter) until golden, add garlic and sauté till soft. Deglaze pan with wine, then add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes or until reduced by about a half.  Finish by stirring in 2T of crème fraîche, veggies, herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste; then pour into baking dish. 

Mash or rice potatoes until smooth; taste to correct for salt/pepper.  Beat eggs till frothy, stir in remaining crème fraîche, Parmesan cheese; then blend mixture into potatoes, whipping a bit, till light.

Spoon over veggie mixture, sprinkle top with paprika, and bake for 15-20 minutes, then finish under broiler for a lightly browned top, if desired.

Voilà, c'est fini! Bon Appetit et Bon Tricot!


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