After a day spent working hard in the garden, a dry martini is just what the doc ordered! The kind I like best is made with orange Stoli vodka — love that fresh citrus blast. Even better, we drink them out of the Nick & Nora martini glasses that Santa left under the tree this year.
In case you don't know who Nick and Nora Charles are, they are the married main characters of The Thin Man series of films from the 1930s. He's a former detective and she's rich and sassy; William Powell and Myrna Loy play the roles to perfection as they get into all sorts of trouble and twice as much fun solving crimes in their own inimitable way. (I've read that Johnny Depp wants to do a remake of the original. My two-word plea: Don't. Please.) Nick and Nora provide witty entertainment in a way that is wholly adult but always all class and no crass. They have an ultra-adorable dog too. And boy, could they drink their Martinis!
Ever see those bags of fifteen bean soups at the market? All those bright and colorful beans were hard to resist, so I gave them a try. Here's the mix; lima beans, pink pinto beans, navy, beans, cannelini beans, black beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, white beans, pink beans, lentils, split yellow and green peas, and black-eyd peas... Phew! It comes with a smokey ham flavor packet, but toss that and make your own stock with a ham hock or ham bone instead. Be warned that once you cook all those colorful beans they turn a monochromatic shade of belch. I mean it was really visually unappealing. I brightened the soup up with carrots, a half a butternut squash, and parsley. Kale would have been be a nice addition too.
The Freds are up and at 'em for the season! Our goldfish (all four are named Fred) made it through their first winter outside in the pond with the protection of a mesh screen that keep raccoons and blue herons from making a quick snack out of them. While they "slept" the winter away, they had this funny routine of lining up in a row while they dreamed of summer days. You can read more about the Freds here and here!
I'm in the process of giving the pachysandra in our sunken garden a spring haircut. Over about eight year's time, the pachysandra strands had gotten so long and wiry that I'd have to trim it back in late summer when it covered the cobblestone edging. It's nice working there with the trickle of the fountain, but the process is torture on my lower back! So far I've only done one quadrant, and it doesn't look beautiful, but it's for its own good.
For years Tazo teas have had the most beautiful package design. I loved the exotic, visually tribal groove of their tea products which always made me feel as though I was sitting with a chief in some remote village in Asia, having a cuppa. In those days, their motto was "The Tao of Tazo." I loved the typography, the crosshairs in the "o,"the kitchy language, and the teas came in a rainbow of colors. Their website was so creative and interactive that it blew my mind. So imagine my surprise recently when I saw that Tazo redesigned their site and packaging! Sure it's a cleaner design now, but I mourn the loss of the old design which had tons of character. Now their packaging seems a bit generic.
This colorful salad has just a few ingredients—thinly shaved carrots, golden beets and fennel, crumbled goat cheese, and sprinkles of pomegranate seeds. The dressing is made with olive oil, honey, lime, chili pepper flakes, diced shallots, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Love when the creamy cheese combines with the dressing.
I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
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This is another in my series of Oscar Wilde witticisms. In my humble opinion, O.W. was one of the cleverest men in literature. Loved him! Click on the red Wild about Wilde label below to read more Wilde witticisms.
I am embracing these raw and rainy April days as a good opportunity to flip through some art magazines one last time before recycling them. The British published Apollomagazine is the one that I adore the most. Filled with visual inspiration and international art news, it cover all genres of art—from modern to ancient art and everything in between. Decorative plasterwork in Ireland... Bonze collections... Modern British art... Hidden mysteries in John Van Dyke paintings.... It's all in there. And it's on super thick paper stock with scrumptious ads. And since these mags are way too gorgeous to just toss in the recycle bin, I always pass them on to an eagerly receptive artist friend, who will hopefully pass them on again... And so on...
April is the cruelest month, or so wrote T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land. I think April is the most enchanting month, with the renaissance of sleeping beauties of the garden. And April always reminds me of one of my most favorite films—Enchanted April. Gorgeously filmed, the film is a great character study of four weary London women, and eventually some of their spouses, who are on holiday in a chateau on a remote Italian island. Just what one needs in April! Each woman is searching for their own idea of bliss—searching, hiding, retreating—and the wonder and magic happens.
For me these sorts of salads always work as long as I have the following elements: crunchy (the shaved raw fennel and pumpkin seeds), salty (the feta cheese), sweet (the oranges and the vinaigrette) and spicy (the chili pepper in the vinaigrette). Creamy also makes a nice element, as in a nice soft cheese such as a young goat or blue cheese. I made the vinagrette with a honey orange reduction, blood orange olive oil, champagne vinegar, dried fennel seeds, chili pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Finally, I added fennel fronds and orange zest.
Minty pea soup shooters with salty, crunchy prosciutto crisps.
1 cup peas— fresh or frozen
1 can chicken broth (scant 2 cups)
1 scallion, roughly chopped, white and green parts
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
big handful of fresh mint
dash of freshly cracked pepper
dash of salt if needed
This is a 10 minute soup! Bring chicken broth to a boil in saucepan, then add peas, scallions and butter, and cook for 3 minutes. Pour into a blender, add the mint, creme fraiche, and pepper, then cover and process until pureed. Taste and add salt if needed. Pour into little shot glasses. Garnish with prosciutto crisp, which you make by laying each strip on baking on a sheet pan, then baking in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.
Farewell to the Queen of Prep,Lilly Pulitzer, who passed away Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida, at the age of 81. Her prints are not for the timid, but I've been a Lilly fan for decades and have been wearing this pink and green Lilly scarf all spring with my new pink coat. I've often said that it's impossible for me to have a bad day when wearing Lilly, because wearing her clothes gives me more than a good attitude—they give me a good Lilly-tude!!! So farewell Lilly—hope that wherever you are it's splashed with all the tropical colors of the rainbow that you painted your (and our) world(s) with. Rest in pink peace!
Life's a party, dress like it!
Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.
Maker's Mark, that is! We cracked open the whiskey last night to make the appropriate cocktail for the new season of Mad Men. Don Draper's drink of choice is an Old Fashioned, though usually he drinks a straight shot with an ice cube garnish. Dan puts a spin on a combo of the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan cocktails,which we've since named it the "Dan-hattan." Here's how we make it; Along with the MM Whiskey, we add an aggressive hit of blood orange bitters, a splash of maraschino cherry juice to sweeten it (learned that trick from our neighbor Maggie!), a dash of soda water, lemon slices, orange slices, and maraschino cherries. A dash, a splash and a sip and we were in retro bliss. We also made some old school nibbles like deviled eggs and 'chip and dip' (Remember Peter and Trudy Campbell's and their 'chip and dip' bowl wedding present?)! See our Mad Men post from last year herefor more retro fun.
Gorgeous, yes? This salad is a combo of shaved golden beets, roasted and quartered golden beets, blue cheese, golden delicious apples, frisée lettuce, proscuitto crisps, vanilla bean candied kumquats, yellow viola blossoms,pistachio seeds, and finally, a vanilla honey and orange vinaigrette. I know! ... Lots of textures, flavors and colors going on in this golden beet salad, but all are in perfect harmony.
This beautiful book shows the magical paintings of four legendary artists; Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. Inside Wondrous Strange you'll find swashbucklers, pirates, soldiers, and all sorts of mysterious, fantastical and romantic images. If you enjoy paintings, you'll adore this wondrously strange book. On the cover, shown above, is Lighthouse, by Jamie Wyeth.
This is a scrumptious twist on a salad with croutons. A garlicky pita cracker bowl* is filled with tender greens of mâché, frisée, baby romaine, pickled red onions, julienned striped chioggia beets, chives, and a bright lemon vinaigrette. Give the pita bowl a good whack with your fork to shatter it open to find the treasures inside... shaved medallions of those beautiful striped beets along with nuggets of creamy Boursin cheese. Endless possibilities on this one; next time I will try it with chicken salad inside. It's a fun idea for a spring brunch or luncheon.
photos, Diane Carnevale
*Want to know how I made the pita cracker bowl? I brushed both sides of a mini pita with olive oil and garlic powder and a sprinkle of sea salt. I cut a hole in the middle of one side and inverted it onto an egg cup (just the right size!), pulled the pita open to a pufffed bowl shape, then baked @ 350° until crisp—about 10 minutes. Voilá!
Huge, puffy clouds drift over the wiry frame of our wild wisteria covered pergola. In a few months it will be an explosion of lavender colored blossoms, which will make the honey bees happy. I'll keep you posted on the progress.