Category: Watercolors

Review: Kolibri Series 333 Miniature Brushes

I recently purchased this brush set called Kolibri Series 333 from ArtNebulaPH for detail painting. I bought it specifically because I wanted to try a different look for the little food sketches I include in my Hobonichi Cousin’s weekly spread. I was pretty happy with the little sketches but these are really just quick drawings that aren’t too detailed. They’re what I call my daily writing/art ritual, something I did to get my mind focused on one thing for a few moments before I logged in for work. I’ve been doing these little sketches for about a year and a half already and I was hoping to change it. I had in mind the little food illustrations in cute washi tapes–more like paintings than quick sketches–but I knew I needed smaller brushes for that. I’m really happy that I purchased these miniature brushes. They really made adding little details to the paintings a lot easier.

I picked the set that has red sable brushes rather than the synthetic ones, since I will be using these for watercolors. The set has a #4 flat brush, and 2, 0, 5/0 round brushes. The brushes that I use most are the 0 and 5/0. I like that they can load more water than I expected them to; enough to make painting small things comfortable enough without  having to dip the brush in water too often. At first I thought the brushes would fray often and not hold their points but after just a few minutes of using it, I got used to the pace of how often I should dip, and the brushes really held their points so well.

I think the brushes are really easy to hold and they’re a joy to work with. They pick up water easily and it’s easy to lay them down and control the strokes. I’ve had a lot of fun layering these small food paintings. The brushes don’t dump too much water unintentionally either, they’re really easy to control. The 5/0 brush can lay down really fine lines, finer than the finest fineliner I have (say that 10 times, fast).

I think I can go smaller with the paintings, too. Maybe I’ll try that this weekend. So far I’ve only used them on illustrations that fit the daily columns on the Hobonichi Cousin’s weekly spread.

I need a lot of practice and a lighter hand on the pigments, but overall I’m happy with the results. I  need to work on it some more to achieve the look that I’m hoping for, but I feel I’m on the right track. These little paintings are so cute, they look even better in person. The little details are just so much fun to look at. These detail brushes give really great value for money. I’m very happy with them.

Good Bread Day

Today’s journal entry is about having a “good bread day”. I’m not a consistent baker yet, probably because I don’t have a lot of time to practice these past few months. Last Saturday my bake was on point, though.

I realize now what I had been reading in baking tutorials. You gotta get out of the time-bound mindset, like kneading your bread a certain number of minutes and a certain number of times. What works better is to really “listen” to your dough or to observe when it’s ready.

My dough last Saturday felt like fluffy, elastic marshmallow that grows steadily when left alone. I committed the texture and feel to memory so that I can recognize it again next time, then popped the dough-babies in the oven and prepared myself to enjoy my favorite part about baking–the minutes that follow, when the scent of freshly baked bread fills the house. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of that moment.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, “baking bread” was in my to-learn list along with pen turning and pottery. I think it’s important to remain curious about the world around you, enough to want to learn new things. I think I’ll practice more so that I’ll be consistent with my output before I learn something new, though.

Edible Shrooms

Today’s entry in my food journal is actually just a test page. I bought a set of Kolibri miniature details brushes from Art Nebula PH (click here for the link to the product page). I bought these specifically to add little details to my food journal entries. I’m still getting used to them  but I’m pleasantly surprised that they hold a point nicely and they load more water than I thought they would. I tried miniature brushes before (synthetic hair) but it was frustrating because they wouldn’t load enough water and it was hard to control the amount laid down on paper. I really enjoyed these Kolibri brushes, though. It’s easy to control the water laid down on paper and the points can make hairline-thin strokes. I think they would be really fun to use on my journals.

Mamale / Balitobong

Today’s food journal entry is about locally-caught wild threadfin salmon. I bought salmon steak sets from my friend’s food  business last week. Salmon is my favorite fish, and I was delighted that she was selling them with her homemade rub and herbed butter using herbs from her own garden. I was surprised when she said that the salmon was locally-caught.

I honestly did not even know that there are locally-caught wild salmon in the Philippines. Apparently they’re not very common and they’re locally called Mamale or Balitobong.

I tried the homemade rub that came with the steak set, let it sit for a few minutes. I pan-fried the fish on a cast iron skillet using a bit of olive oil and butter. Just three minutes on one side and another minute and a half on the other side. I finished it off with their herbed butter and added some dill from my own herb garden.

I must say that the color of the salmon is more vibrant than store-bought, farmed salmon. The flesh is also more flavorful, very soft and juicy. Like it has more oil. It was really delicious.

I’ll pair it with pasta next time.

A Pandemic Food Fad

A bit of a late entry, this one was written back in March. I scoured my phone for photos of the actual dish I cooked but I deleted it already, bummer. Anyway, there has been a lot of food trends online during the pandemic and this one was the only trend that I was interested in trying. It involved baking a dish of cherry tomatoes, a block of feta cheese, and garlic. Then tossing some pasta in it.

I tried the original recipe first, making sure to use Greek feta cheese made with sheep’s milk. The result was quite delicious, but I thought it could be improved.

To make the recipe mine, I made garlic confit and used the garlic-infused olive oil on the tomatoes and feta cheese. I mashed a good amount of the garlic confit into the cheese, added chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, before I tossed in some fusilli pasta and pasta water. Then I topped it with some butter-fried salmon. That really hit the spot.

The Path to Better Bread

Today’s journal entry is about the process of learning about baking country-style bread and how understanding each step is better than following a recipe closely.

The more I understand about the process, the more I could edit it and get better results. You can’t really follow every recipe down to the scheduling because different kinds of flour will have different characteristics. There are so many variables involved aside from that; like the temperature, and the strength of your sourdough starter among others. The best recipes I’ve tried are those that encourage you to get your cues from the smell, appearance, and texture of the starter and your dough. There’s so much more to learn and I’m enjoying the baby steps that I’m taking.

I think that more than eating the bread that I make, I enjoy the learning part of it more. I consider myself a lifelong learner, which is what I enjoy most about reading. If anything piques my interest enough, I would probably attempt to learn it by myself. Michael Pollan’s books have been very influential for me because he has a way of translating his  intellectual curiosity into a set of organized ideas which he tests on his own and shares with others in a very accessible language. I was encouraged by the fact that he was also the kind of person who struggles with following a recipe, but understanding the process every step of the way helped so much more than any recipe could.

While the pandemic is raging outside, I guess it brings me comfort that I can focus my energy and attention on something useful and beautiful.

The Sourdough Project

Yesterday’s food journal entry was about starting to learn  how to make sourdough bread. It has always  been a secret dream of mine to learn how to bake bread. Not cakes or brownies or pies…bread. I’ve just always been so intimidated by the thought of it that I always found a reason to put it off. Reading Michael Pollan’s books encouraged me to dream again. It would be a shame to not learn something new just because I felt intimidated by the process. At the very least, it would be an educational experience. So yeah, that’s my birthday gift to myself, since September is my birth month. I made a list of things I would need to get started and bought them all.

I bought a nice 5qt dutch oven through a seller I met at a cast iron enthusiasts group on Facebook and it was delivered last Monday. Really heavy piece of cookware but I can already see that it’s a great investment. Besides, I got it for a great price. The kitchen scale I ordered was delivered yesterday. Everything else will be delivered in the next few days. I didn’t want to go out to  buy supplies so I bought everything from local sellers online.

I guess learning how to bake bread is part of my commitment to my household that I will be more circumspect about what we eat. Bread from grocery stores are cheap and readily available but they’re also hardly bread anymore. All the good stuff from the flour had been removed mechanically or chemically and some nutrients individually added  back chemically. They’re over-processed and already has a lot of ingredients that traditionally aren’t used to make bread. That’s the major reason why I want to learn how to make bread. The other reason is because I hope that I can learn to make something with my hands that connects me to real food culture. Not something we outsourced to large corporations but something actually done by hands, lovingly and with great effort.

Before I decided to try my hand at making bread, I’ve already stopped buying commercialized loaves. This whole quarantine period, the bread we’ve been eating at home came from friends who make them. Homemade bread may  be more expensive but they’re more delicious and a lot healthier than the factory-made ones.

I hope the whole wheat I ordered gets delivered today, I see that it’s already out for delivery. I’m eager to try and get my starter going.

Plantita

My recent journal entries are about little choices that help us eat healthier at home. Because of the pandemic, my family and I haven’t eaten out since late February, which translates to more home cooked meals. It’s definitely more labor intensive and takes a lot of planning, plus buying more groceries or having them delivered. I’ve never cooked so much in my entire life. I think that’s great, though. We do still support our favorite restaurants, but it’s easier to avoid eating outside when you’re rarely outside. People have a lot of time to cook these days and learn new things. The effort we give with thinking about what to cook inevitably results to giving our food more careful thought.

I bought several plants a few weeks ago because I’ve always wanted to have my own herb garden. Not all of them are flourishing, though. The curly parsley’s so hard to raise, the leaves are so delicate. As usual, the basil plants are the easiest to raise. I’ve propagated new plants a couple of times already. I’ll have a lot of them soon enough. I have a new plant that came in the mail today, a pot of chives. Yum. I already trimmed the leaves to prevent transplant shock. My favorite is my dill plant, though. It’s so lush and it’s getting quite big. Also, wow that plant is delicious. I put it in omelette and pasta sauce, etc., it’s so yummy. Having more herbs to use in cooking just makes everything more flavorful. I’m enjoying it a lot.

The Magic of Fermentation

I finished reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked several days ago. This journal entry was written over a week ago. It’s about the section of the book devoted to fermentation and how this little magic of nature does wonders to our body. I particularly enjoyed the section about cheese. Of course I had to order kimchi right away (good thing one of my friends is selling it an had some in stock) and I thought I’d start with something basic…kimchi fried rice. Now my husband doesn’t want to eat spam any other way. The kimchi was delicious, and knowing that it introduced friendly bacteria in my stomach’s ecosystem is a lovely bonus.

Maiale al Latte

Today’s journal entry is about a dish I cooked yesterday called Maiale al Latte, pork  braised in milk. I read about this in Michael Pollan’s book, “Cooked”, in the chapter that talks about braising and what actually happens during this cooking process. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first because the traditional  bolognese style of this dish only has three ingredients, and pork isn’t exactly my favorite meat. I followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe because I wanted to see what the least amount of ingredients would taste like. I like how Michael Pollan broke down the different steps of  braising meat in his book and described how this affects the taste. Browning the meat in a bit of butter starts the Maillard reaction or caramelizing the proteins and fats. Gently braising the meat, with only the bottom part submerged in milk coaxes out the flavors from the pork and infuses it into the slowly forming curds while the top part continues to caramelize slowly. The fats are rendered further and incorporated into the meat and broth and the meat becomes very tender over the next few hours. So tender that they’re falling off the bone.

It was so easy to make, but it takes a long time to cook. In fact, time is the fourth ingredient that one can’t afford to scrimp on. The resulting dish was really amazing. I’d love to cook this again soon.