Monday, April 30, 2012

Fiddle dee dee

"Fiddle dee dee," said Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind... three funny words. She was talking about war, but to me those words conjure up something else entirely. Fiddle head ferns unfurling in the spring are a wondrous sight. No doubt you've seen the fiddleheads at the markets and wondered what to do with them and how they taste, hmm? Well, to me they taste similar to asparagus, so I just swap out any recipe or idea that uses asparagus. Here, the fiddleheads have been blanched in water, sauteed with butter and lemon juice, placed on farfalle with a creamy cheese sauce, then garnished with grated parm-reg cheese, forsythia blossoms and chive oil. Now there's three more funny words one rarely hears together—farfalle, fiddleheads, and forsythia.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yellow magnolia

photo, Dan Ryan

It took years of coaxing to get our magnolia (Butterflies) tree to finally bloom, but it was worth the wait. The secret to my success, I think, is that I scratched superphosphate in the soil around the base if it each fall. We also had a very mild winter and warm early spring, so perhaps that added to the mix. Whatever the reason, I think the blossoms are beautiful.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vertical viewing—Cyrano de Bergerac

In wine tasting, there is a term called vertical tasting—sampling one wine varietal from the same producer from several vintages. So I call it Vertical Viewing when I watch and compare several different versions of films. It's great to really get into the storyline and compare the acting and the strengths and weaknesses of each film. A fine example of this movie obsession I have would be Cyrano de Bergerac. IMDB shows 16 different version of C.D.B., if you include TV productions, and (so far) I have seen 4 versions of the story:

—the 1945 version with Claude Dauphin
—the 1950 version with with José Ferrer
—the 1987 version (called Roxanne) with Steve Martin
—the 1990 French version with Gerard Depardeau

You get the idea, right? José and Gerard do the best jobs, IMHO, and also Kevin Kline and Joseph Feinnes have taken on this role, and both done smashing jobs.

We all know the basic story...Cyrano de Begerac helps an army officer woo Roxanne, the woman he actually loves. Cyrano is a soldier, musician, philosopher, poet, and fantastically witty, but best known for his enormous....gigantic...huge... um... nose! My favoroite bit in each film is right at the start, when Cyrano challenges a man to a duel, basically defending his big snozz. He describes the magnificence of his nose... well, read below and watch the video.

José Ferrer's Cyrano Nose Speech video (Click to watch)

Cyrano Roars...
What? How? You accuse me of absurdity? Small, my nose? Why Magnificent, my nose! You pug, you knob, you button-head. Know that I glory in this nose of mine, for a great nose indicate a great man genial, courteous, intellectual, virile, courageous as I am and such as you poor wretch will never dare to be, even in imagination.  Don't you realize that a nose like mine is both scepter and orb, a monument to my superiority? 

My nose is Gargantuan! You little Pig-snout, you tiny Monkey-Nostrils, you virtually invisible Pekinese-Puss. 
A great nose is the banner of a great man, a generous heart, a towering spirit, an expansive soul--such as I unmistakably am, and such as you dare not to dream of being, with your bilious weasel's eyes and no nose to keep them apart! 

With your face as lacking in all distinction, as lacking, I say, in interest, as lacking in pride, in imagination, in honesty, in lyricism, in a word, as lacking in nose as that other offensively bland expanse at the opposite end of your cringing spine, which I now remove from my sight by stringent application of my boot!

The dialog continues and turns into a sword fight. Good Swashbuckling indeed!

Click on "vertical viewing" label below for other vertical viewing suggestions!
Or click to read my vertical viewing posts of 
EmmaLove Affair A Christmas CarolAnna Karenina, and Shakespeare's Tempest!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Indian white peafowl

White peacocks are some kind of wonderful, aren't they?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sole en papillote avec des tomates et des olive

...also known as sole in parchment with tomatoes and olives. This quick cooking method uses the steam of sealed parchment paper and results in moist and delicately cooked fish every time. The addition of a few red pepper flakes makes this fish piquant in a capricious sort of way. On a piece of parchment paper, combine sole (or flounder) with a combination of bold Mediterranean flavors... tomatoes (I roast them first), kalamata olives, thinly sliced garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, thyme, and a dash of the aforementioned red pepper flakes. You can add a splash of vermouth or white wine, and sometimes I add capers too. Wrap and fold the parchment around the fish mélange and pop the package into a 425°F oven. In just 10 minutes the hot steam that forms cooks the fish to absolute perfection.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A fish tale

If I had a home by the sea I absolutely would have to own these adorable fishy pillows from the Wisteria catalog. Strong graphic prints always make a big splash.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Let them eat cake!

I had an occasion to bake a cake from scratch recently, and made this lovely vanilla confection. Between the cake and the buttercream frosting, I used an appallingly obscene amount of butter, which is probably why it tasted so delicious! BTW, just for the record, Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake," or "Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.It was said 100 years before her by the wife of King Louis XIV, Marie-Thérèse

photos, Diane Carnevale & Dan ryan

Monday, April 23, 2012


photo, Diane Carnevale

Blossom, smile some sunshine
down my way lately, I've been lonesome.
Blossom, it's been much too long a day,
seems my dreams have frozen,
melt my cares away.

—James Taylor

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth day!

Graphic, Diane Carnevale

Is there an official Earth Day logo? I looked on the web and found many...some very clever, some way over thought, some not thought through enough. Below are some of the better logos I came across. In any case, I hope Earth Day reminds is to all start treating the world a little better. Compost, recycle, reuse, rethink.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Here is another painting I made of the Poggibonsi landscape around I Melograni del Chianti, the Tuscan villa we stayed at last fall. Beautiful lush vineyards and olive groves surround the property.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clam shacks

Right next door in Essex and Ipswich, MA, there are three very well known—OK, famous—clam shacks. Legend has it that the fried clam was invented in Essex at Woodman's— a jumping joint that packs a crowd all year long. It's really fun to go there and see families from say, Kansas, eating steamed lobster or clams for the very first time! J.T. Farnam's in Essex and the Clam Box in Ipswich are equally as popular, though for my money (and clams aren't cheap) I love Woodman's, but Farnahm's wins extra points because they also sell fried calamari, and not just the rings—they fry the tentacles too. Although Farnaham's is small, converted from a house, the view behind it is spectacular, with the still Atlantic ocean salt marshes that go on forever, and this old house to the right (below). Gotta have some of those tasty fried bivalves once a year, or even... biannually. 

photos, Diane Carnevale & Dan ryan

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gorgeous portrait—Cary Grant

I realized that all my "Gorgeous Portraits" posts on this blog (so far) have been women, but the guys are equally as gorgeous. Check out Cary Grant looking impossibly perfect with a beautiful tweed jacket and an ascot. I'll even forgive the cigg for this kind of perfection. Swoon. They just don't make movie stars (or tweed jackets) the way they used to.

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Maggie's cherry trees

Another spring tradition we have is to mark our calendar when our neighbor Maggie's cherry trees are in bloom—they are a glorious annual wonder!  With the warm temps we've had they are blooming a few weeks earlier than usual this year, but have stayed in bloom for a few weeks. The trees are special to Maggie, planted decades ago, and her partner Mark has lovingly pruned and cared for them. He's even potted up three new baby trees. When the early morning sun is rising the light shines behind the long dark branches, and ethereal pink blossoms float above... it's utterly magical. I painted a scene of these trees a few years ago, and I may have to paint another one this year before the blossoms all fade and float away with the spring breezes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Green with envy

photo, Diane Carnevale

Grapes, kiwi, blueberries, and green honeydew melon commingle to make a flavorful fruit salad. The dressing is a plain Greek yogurt that was sweetened with honey. Refreshing!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring rituals

In early April we plug in the fountain in our sunken garden and to celebrate this annual event, we also have a ritual to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. This year we drank Italian prosecco and nibbled on French scourtins cookies—sweet cookies made with dry cured olives. Let the season begin!

Read last year's post here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greek salad on a stick

In the summer I make Ina Garten's Greek panzanella salad—it's packed with flavors and is a meal in itself. I recently made an appetizer version of the salad for a party, with the ingredients skewered onto kabob sticks. The flavors are big, and the ingredients are everything you'd find in the big bowl version--Kalamata olives, feta cheese, purple onions, mini cucumbers, yellow peppers, freshly make bread croutons, and  small grape tomatoes. My kabobs were sans dressing, but you could drizzle a thick Greek dressing over them or have a small bowl of it for guests to dip into. Thinking outside of the box... Or in this case, the bowl!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kale lemonade

This is my new favorite way to get healthy green kale leaves and their antioxidants (vitamins A, C + K) into my system, and also a blast of fiber... green kale lemonade. It's really yummy—honest.

In a blender I put a big handful of kale leaves (stems removed) along with the zest and juice of half of a lemon, half of a green granny smith apple, half of a frozen, peeled kiwi (or some green grapes), a tablespoon of zested ginger root (which I keep in the freezer) and about a half cup or so of water, then I blitz it all up really well. Finally, I also add in a teaspoon or so of chia seeds that are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which helps raise our HDL (the good cholesterol) and also adds killer fiber. This kale lemonade really does taste like a sweet, lemony lemonade!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Assisi landscape

I painted this landscape for a friend who visited Assisi in Tuscany, and connected to the beautiful, peaceful serenity and spiritualism there. The building in the foreground is of the Basilica of St. Francis—the patron saint of animals. Happy birthday Liah!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sargent's Spanish dancer

Gesture drawings—a few quickly, but carefully sketched lines—can speak volumes. John Singer Sargent's sketch for his Spanish Dancer, an oil study for the main figure in his El Jaleo, is powerful indeed. Look at those gorgeous lines! The passion and drama of this exotic Gypsy dancer shine through each suggestive, genius of scribbles, and it's really nice to see the artist's thought process. In his final painting, Sargent chose an interesting arm positions, the closest of which really make you take a second closer look. Sargent painted the dancer again in El Jaleo  (the name of a Spanish dance), where he shows a restrained color palette, dramatic film noir lighting, and a splash of red color on the right. John Singer Sargent has always been one of my favorite painters—love these works from his trip through Spain in 1879, and I also love his Venetian paintings sketches. Both the sketch and El Jaleo hang in Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sole with a lemon beurre blanc sauce

photo, Diane Carnevale

Love lemon and butter. Combined here into a lemony beurre blanc sauce, and alongside a chive oil, it elevates a modest piece of sautéed sole into something ridiculously sublime. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

That old black magic

Black magic elephant ears are an absolute must in my chocolate garden! The plants are somewhat pricy to purchase at around fifteen dollars each—and that's if you can even find them—so most years I buy and plant the tubers myself. Hard to believe that the little clumps grows into the gorgeously seductive, large black leaves, which catch the wind and also add movement in the garden. Other plants in my chocolate garden include black Sambucus elderberry, black hollyhock, black pansies, and black mondo grass. The dark foliage pops against the lime green creeping jenny and lime green hostas in the garden also. Seek out and plant these elephant ears in your garden this summer—you won't be disappointed!

Monday, April 9, 2012

French macarons

photo, Diane Carnevale 

I am way behind on trends in the bakery world, but finally got around to making some French macarons for a family Easter gathering. They were were fun to make, and for a first crack at them they came out okay, but certainly far from Parisian bakery sublime. They tasted light and pillowy and the Swiss merengue buttercream filling was delightfully silky. There are so many recipes on the web, but in the end, I went with the Martha Stewart recipe. Sweeeeet!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ukrainian Easter eggs

graphic, Diane Carnevale

The intricately colored eggs if the Ukraine, Polish and Russian cultures have always intrigued me. Growing up, my Polish neighbor Manya once showed me how to make them using a stylus (a kistka), beeswax, and a candle. It was all so exotic ad mysterious. The wax is applied to cover each layer of color and then the egg is dyed, and the process is repeated to get layers and layers of complex and colorful patterns on each egg. It's a delicate, process, taking time. patience and a steady hand, resulting in a rich and vibrant piece of art. See more details here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The color fuchsia!

Inspired by... the color fuchsia.

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wicked tuna!

graphic, Diane Carnevale

First it was the king crab, then it was lobster, and now it's tuna. There's a new reality series on the Nat Geo channel called Wicked Tuna—the latest of these dangerous fishing genre shows. I wasn't very interested in the crab or the lobster shows, but to me the cool thing about the tuna series is that the fisherman leave out of nearby Gloucester, MA. Ages ago I spent a few summers on a lovely part of Gloucester called Eastern Point, so I can relate to the location... and the Boston accent! The show is interesting and illustrates how cut-throat and competitive tuna fishing is. It's a hard living. My only complaint about the show is that those fisherman swear—a lot. I think I might have to start playing the drinking game while watching the show, and sip my wine every time someone drops the F-bomb!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tuscan white bean salad

A lemony Tuscan bean salad is one of my favorites! In this one I used cannellini beans, kalamata olives, grated carrot, diced red pepper (or sometimes tomatoes), purple onions, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil. I combined these ingredients, then right before serving I mixed in some peppery arugula leaves. If you opt to skip the arugula do add in some parsley leaves for color and nutrients. I served it on one of my Tuscan hunting scene plates. Sadly I don't know the artist of the plates, but certainly the scene reminds me of Benozzo Gozzoli's Procession of the Magi at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Horses of the Fountain of Neptune

This painting was inspired by a photo I took last September of the Fountain of Neptune, located in Florence's Piazza Della Signoria. If you've never been to Florence, this is the same piazza that has a copy of Michaelangelo's David. In this fountain, the magnificent marble sea horses are emerging from the water, and Neptune—the Roman God of the sea who is surrounded by water nymphs that represent Tuscan naval victories—is the main focus of the centerpiece above. But because I really wanted the focus to be on the horses, I painted only a suggestion of Neptune and the nymphs. The fountain was created by Bartolomeo Ammannati and was commissioned by Francesco de'Medici for his wedding in December of 1565 with Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria. One other interesting fact—Neptune's figure was made to resemble Cosimo de'Medici. Powerful stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Signs of spring!

photo, Diane Carnevale

There's no stopping spring now! The crocuses have come and gone, but the daffs and forsythia are in full bloom, and all manner of green foliage is popping up from the garden. These darling little Tête-à-Tête Daffodils are great in small garden areas. Plant the bulbs in the fall or from pots bought in spring. Below, our Wickwar Flame heathers are turning from their winter red color to orange, and eventually they will turn lime green for the summer. The spring peppers are still peeping, the grass is greening up, I smelled a skunk the other night, my neighbor's cherry trees are starting to bloom, and we have a Tom Turkey in the yard gobbling away, trying to attract a mate...all signs of spring! 

photo, Dan Ryan

Click to see photos of this heather in winter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Orange and blueberry salad

Sliced oranges and blueberries are a great combo, but this sweet and savory fruit salad is not for breakfast because it has shallots in it. I made the dressing using crushed blueberries, shallots, oil, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper, and garnished with mint. This would also be great over a bed of baby spinach greens.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foolery shines everywhere!

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb 
like the sun, it shines everywhere.
~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Enjoy this collection I have gathered of 
jesters, harlequins, jokers, and fools. —DC

Stańczyk, by Jan Matejko c 1514

Farnos the Red Nose, by Jacques Callot (c. 1592-1635)
Russian woodcut with watercolors

Print by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Victorian Jester, color print, artist unknown

Jester, by Jeff Hall

File:Harlequin - Paul Cézanne.JPG
Harlequin, by Paul Cézanne

A fool facing left; bust-length figure, resting his chin on his right hand; 
wearing a chain with a large medallion; a fly on his fool's cap. 
1568  Print made by Hans Hanberg 1568

Acrobat and Young Harlequin, by Pablo Picasso

 Jester, by James Butler, at Stratford upon Avon, UK

The head of Harlequin, by Pablo Picasso

The Fool By Heinrich Vogtherr, 1513-1568

Dreary Harlequin, by Spiros Dmitriy

After Pieter Jansz Date 1638-1678

Portrait- of a seated jester (Sebastian de Morra), by Diego Velázquez

Portrait of a Harlequin
Portrait of a Harlequin, by Pablo Picasso

Joker playing card

Harlequin by Myra Evans


Harlequin Seated in Cafe, by Pablo Picasso

Maurice Masques et bouffons  Arlecchino 1671

Jesters from a 13th Century manuscript

Pierrot and Harlequin, by Philipe Mercier

Pierrot Court jester, artist unknown

vintage playing card jester

Fool tarot card

Print made by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Tarot Card, the Fool

A fool trying to hatch an empty egg, after Pieter Bruegel the elder; 
drinking from a glass, a fool's bauble seen through the hole of the egg. 
1569 Pen and brown ink

Bronze Jester, by Pablo Picasso

Farnos and Pigasya
Farnos and Pigasya, the red-nosed drunks, by Jacques Callot (c. 1592-1635)
Russian woodcut with watercolors

Two Fools of Carnival, artist unknown

Pierrot, by Pablo Picasso

Print by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Vintage playing card joker

Friends In Council, by John Dawson Watson