Friday, June 29, 2012

grilled corn

photo, Dan Ryan

These grilled corn, red onions, and, Monterey Jack stuffed jalepeños
paired nicely with grilled tequila-lime chicken breasts. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blueberry, lemon spinach salad

Blueberries and lemons such are a natural together in sweet desserts, but they're pretty rockin' in a green salad too. Here I've paired blueberries with baby spinach and a quick lemon, shallot and olive oil vinaigrette, and you could even jazz it up further with goat or blue cheese and almonds or walnuts.

photos, Diane Carnevale

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Art in the garden

photo, Diane Carnevale

I sometimes fantasize about being able to have a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in my yard (sigh) but until then I have these cool glass balls (Japanese fishing floats) clustered and strewn about in the garden and pond. The largest one here, which I bought at an antique store in nearby Essex, MA, is about 12 inches in diameter. Directly to the left of this area is the fish pond that has several other green balls floating in it. Sometimes 'the Freds' (our goldfish) like to hang out underneath them for a bit of shade and protection. They give the garden character!

photos, Diane Carnevale

Monday, June 25, 2012

A taste of Morocco

This flavorful black lentil and carrot ribbon salad recipe uses all sorts of Moroccan flavors... cumin, cinnamon, coriander, orange juice, honey, mint and cilantro. It is from Martha's Whole Living magazine and I am so happy I found it because it's really tasty. I omitted the anise seeds from the original recipe by Sarah Britton, and I think it works fine as a cold salad too... think summer picnic!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Strawberries, spinach + goat cheese

Berry production in the strawberry patch is quickly winding down, so it's time to use them up while I can. A nice pairing is to mix them with baby spinach and arugula greens, onions, goat cheese, and a poppy seed dressing. I tend to make most of my salad dressings because they are generally filled with so much 'yuck,' but this is one that I buy and recommend—Marie's brand (which you can find refrigerated in the produce section).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yellow jackets

photo, Diane Carnevale

The bees are busy too, and not just the honey bees. We have all sorts of beneficial bees and wasps doing their thing in the yard. Here a yellow jacket wasp takes a sip from a small birdbath that I keep on the side steps. Do you see it? Look closely, it's just above the yellow flowers. Chipmunks also sip from this little watering hole.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tin roof, rusted!

The birds are very busy this summer, zipping back and forth through the yard like intrepid bombardiers. It's delightful to see a family of wrens nesting in our little tin roofed bird house. From dawn till dusk mamma wren comes home with nibbles, and the baby birds do a whole lot of squawking to get their share of worms, or bugs, or whatever it is that wrens eat. If you know the song Love Shack by the B-52s, then I don't need to explain the title to this post.

photos, Diane Carnevale

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summertime... and the living is easy

photo, Diane Carnevale

Summer is here! Welcome to long, hot, carefree days filled with sunshine, fresh air, bare feet in the grass or on the beach, picnics, armloads of vine-ripened tomatoes, string beans, sweet berries and sunflowers—all picked from your garden of course, bbqs, clam bakes, birds, bees, juicy watermelons dripping down your arms, and yes, even the fish are jumpin.' Then there's the starry nights with cool drinks and fireflies to keep company... enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


It's been a fabulous spring here on Boston's north shore, and our garden has flourished with the magnificent weather. Here, in our sunken garden, the pachysandra is abundant and lush. And so, on this last full day of spring, I say farewell to what was a truly luscious spring season, and say hello to summer!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Purple petunias

photo, Diane Carnevale

These petunias, in delicious shades of purple, 
look like an abstract painting. Hmmm...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Broccoli stem salad

photo, Diane Carnevale

The inspiration for this plate was an Asian broccoli salad that I saw Ina Garten make once, using lots of garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes and soy sauce. I used only the stems of the broccoli, which I shaved into beautiful shapes using a mandolin, then I quickly blanched and shocked them to keep their vibrant color. I slowly simmered slivers of garlic in olive oil, then spooned the oil over the broccoli, and added crushed red chili peppers and lemon juice. The red pepper rings on top are the mini sweet peppers, not the hot kind. Nice crunchy salad!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


photo, Dan Ryan

Sitting in our pea gravel allée at the base of a London Plane tree, are six shiny silver pétanque balls and a red 'jack,' ready for a stirring game of pétanque. A cold glass of anise-flavored Pernod is optional, but highly recommended, oui?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beet and goat cheese mousse salad

Here is the casual cousin of the more formal beet and goat cheese stacked Napoleans. Beets are so earthy, and combining them with a goat or blue cheese is the way that I like them best. Here, I whizzed the honey and thyme infused roasted beets with goat cheese, cream cheese, and lemon thyme, then molded it. I plated the mousse onto a bed of arugula, baby Romaine lettuce leaves and various pink flower petals from the garden. Looks ravishing and tastes sublime.  The beet mousse recipe has all the flavors of this classic stacked Napolean beet and goat cheese salad. 

Roast the beets
Preheat oven to 375° F.  Scrub three medium beet roots. Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and a dollop of honey and three lemon thyme sprigs before sealing. Place foil packs on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until cooked through—45-55 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 15 minutes before opening foil packs, then open packs and let beets cool for 10 minutes more before handling. They can get hot.

Make the mouse
Toughly chop and place the 3 beets into a food processor with 2/3 cup goat cheese and 1/3 cup cream cheese. The measurements can vary, this recipe does not have to be precise. Add in the leaves from 1 fresh lemon thyme sprig, juice of 1/4 orange, 1 tsp. honey, and salt and pepper. Wiz until smooth and creamy but still somewhat thick. Taste and adjust to your liking. Place mixture into molds of your choice lined with oil and plastic wrap for easy removal. A custard cup is a nice size—about 1/4 cup each. Chill for 3-4 hours or overnight. 

French vinaigrette dressing

2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
4 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. minced shallots
Salt and pepper

Shake like mad in a lidded mason jar until emulsified.

Assemble the salad
Unmold the beet and goat cheese mousse onto your salad of your choice (I like arugula or baby romaine leaf mixture). Dress and garnish as you wish. I used a simple French vinaigrette and then placed on flowers from the garden. You can also roast 1-2 extra beets and serve slices of the beets on top of this this salad, or serve shaved raw beet slices. Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on your mold size and fullness.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Art in the Barn, 2012

Autumn flush

I have three paintings in the annual Essex County Greenbelt Association's 'Art in the Barn' show, including the two shown here. The group is this three days only—today, Saturday and Sunday, and there's loads of paintings, pottery, jewelry, and sculpture to oogle at and buy. This organization is "...the region’s most effective champion of land conservation, working to conserve the farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes of Essex County," so any art that you buy supports beautiful open spaces of the North Shore. Click here to view more of my paintings on my website.

Fox Hollow

Blushing Haystacks

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Home grown strawberries

photo, Dan Ryan

We have a great crop of strawberries this year! There's nothing like picking these bright red jewels from your garden—so juicy and sweet. The chipmunks think so too, but hopefully there's enough for all of us to share. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kale and butternut squash salad

This kale salad was mad delicious! On top of the quickly sautéed kale leaves, I added crispy pancetta, pecans, and sweet roasted butternut squash. I have also added crumbles of blue cheese to this warm salad combination. Why wait until autumn for a meal like this?—it's great on a cool spring evening too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


photo, Dan Ryan

I finally got some roses in the garden again. For years I had some fussy floribunda roses which always seemed to be riddled with Japanese beetles (or some other garden curse), in spite of our grub-free lawn. Besides, I decided that I didn't want any prickly things in my long flower border anymore. And then... we made a new bed for a lilac tree. Well, surely I needed some color in there after the lilacs faded, right? I was at Lowe's and was absolutely smitten, knocked out even, by an entire table of these pink Knockout roses in full bloom, so home they came with me. Fingers crossed that they aren't prone to Japanese beetles!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gorgeous portrait—Greta Garbo

What a face—and what a star. Born in Stockholm, Sweden 1905, Greta Lovisa Gustafsson became Greta Garbo, an actress and ultimately, the Swedish Sphinx. My favorite Greta Garbo films are Ninotchka, Queen Christina, Camille, Conquest, Anna Karenina and Grand Hotel. She set the record straight when when declared "I never said" 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be left alone.' " There is a whole world of difference.

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The color indigo!

Inspired by... the color indigo.

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

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Watermelon starburst

Love these small little watermelons. A great sweet and salty appetizer using them is to combine cubed watermelon and feta cheese. I've made them in a formal plated salad, served them on skewers (click for link), and this is one more serving idea—bursting out of the watermelon rind.

photos, Diane Carnevale

Friday, June 8, 2012

New obsession... Pinterest!

Recently I've wasted a colossal amount of time exploring and 'pinning' images on Pinterest—a virtual pinboard. Serendipity is just a few mouse clicks away as you feast your eyes on myriad images, and you pin and hoard them into categories called 'boards.' Thankfully it was a rainy week here in the Boston area, which has kept me away from my garden chores anyhow, but seriously, I need a family intervention and a 12-step program. As an artist and designer I am inspired by everything visual (That explains all of my books and magazines mom!) and I tend to see the world by colors, textures, typography, etc. I was attracted to Pinterest as a tool to help me organize all that visual, virtual stuff on my computer (and BTW, George Carlin would surely poke fun at virtual stuff, were he still alive), but I seem to be slightly derailed and sidetracked with my quasi OCD and ADD tendencies. You can have a peek at my 'boards' (sample above) by clicking here—For the most part I have arranged them all by color. But please know that if you are like me, Pinterest is ridiculously, obsessively, and compulsively addicting! Consider yourself warned.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Citrusy cole slaw

The kind of cole slaw I like best is made with a non mayo citrusy dressing that helps keep the cabbage and carrots crunchy. Here's the link to the recipe—my interpretation follows it very closely, only adding in citrus zest, swapping out grapeseed oil for the vegetable oil, and occasionally using carrot-orange juice if I have some on hand. It's super nice on a hot summer day when you don't want to have heavy mayo or sour cream. Keep a batch of the dressing in your fridge for a hot summer stretch—it'll last for a week or so—and add it to your sliced cabbage and carrots just before serving.

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced shallot 
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, zest it first (carrot-orange juice is better!) 
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, zest it first
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

photos, Diane Carnevale

See another 'mayo free' slaw recipe here
that combines tahini and orange.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Five Freds are back!

photo, Diane Carnevale

I'm talking about the goldfish in our pond—all named Fred—not the latest boy band. See my post from last May here (One fish, two fish, Fred fish, blue fish...) where I mention that the last batch of Freds were a tasty snack for a blue heron. Yikes!... nature is rough! Hope these Freds don't meet the same unfortunate fate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chocolate truffles

Ever make homemade chocolate ganache truffles? They take a little time to make, but they melt in your mouth like buttah. I was invited to a garden party last weekend and made a batch, and also built a nest for them by dipping bamboo sprigs into chocolate, then placing some pansies here and there. Very organic and garden-partyish... and insanely decadent.

Ingredients for truffles
10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp butter, sliced into thin pieces
pinch of cinnamon and fleur de sel (sea salt), optional

to coat truffles
1 large 3.5 oz bar milk chocolate
1 cup cocoa powder


To make truffles
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk gently until chocolate has melted. Add the butter gently whisk some more until melted. Once the butter is incorporated the ganache should be smooth and glassy. You can add the cinnamon and sea salt now if you wish. Taste. Set the truffle mixture in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.

Remove the ganache from the fridge, and use a melon baller tool to scoop spoonfuls of the ganache mixture from the bowl to form the truffles. Place truffles on waxed cookie sheet as you go along. Taste. Once all the truffles have been formed, place in fridge to chill, then prepare to coat them in milk chocolate and dust with cocoa powder.

Melt the milk chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler, and meanwhile put the cocoa powder into another bowl. Pick up one truffle at a time, dip partway into the melted chocolate, then roll in the truffle in the palms of your hands to coat. Drop the truffle into the cocoa powder, roll around to coat, then remove with a fork and place on another waxed cookie sheet. Taste. Yes, it takes time and it's a very messy business—you can use latex gloves. Store in an air tight container. Don't forget to taste as you make these!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The face that launched...

... a thousand(+) postage stamps... and paper currency... and all manner of hodge-podgey, knick-knacky, kitschy tchotchkes. It's crazy the amount of QEII stuff there is out there in the world. Love the colorful stamps though.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Got Hats?

Queen Elizabeth does... Lots of em!! She certainly keeps her royal milliner busy. Love how each topper matches her impeccably tailored dresses. So what happens to all of those previously worn hats? Apparently it's a hidden royal secret, but for more details you can read a story of the Queen of Hats here. I am hoping that some day there will be a Queen Elizabeth hat museum to see all of these chapeaus. I've compiled 132 of Queen Elizabeth's lids from over the years, including scarves, turbans, and yes, imperial crowns! 

Click to enlarge!

God Save the Queen...('s hats)!

Programming note: BBC America has live Jubilee coverage today (Sunday, June 3)
 until 1 p.m. Eastern. For Comcast viewers in the Boston area, it's Channel 241.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee

Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth prints

It's all about the Queen this weekend (!)... in the British Isles anyway. Queen Elizabeth is the last of her kind, and IMHO the epitome of understated class and refinement. For that reason, and even if you aren't a royal watcher, I think we are all lucky to experience this landmark event. Known for her fabulously bright and cheery dresses with matching chapeaus ("to be better visible to her subjects," she says), I love that she can don a Barbour jacket to ride and shoot like a true country gal too—a ladies version of "a man's man," if you know what I mean. I think she is adorable. More on those famous hats tomorrow.  For now, it's tea time!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Foo Dogs

A large, flowing sea of hakonechloa 'all gold' grass surrounds one of a pair of Chinese Foo Dogs that sit guard at the base of a teak moongate, separating our Japanese tree and sunken gardens. The carved granite Foo Dogs were a spectacularly awesome surprise gift from Dan several years ago. The threatening appearance of their faces give the idea that they guard against evil spirits, and in Chinese culture these statues are often placed to guard imperial palaces, tombs, and Buddhist temples, etc. The correct name of these Chinese statues, which actually have the appearance of lions, is Shishi—or imperial guardian stone lions, but the name has been Westernized somehow to just Foo Dogs. Lost in translation much? The Foo Dogs are often displayed in a male female pair—the male plays with a ball that symbolizes the Earth, while the female holds a cub—awwww. Back to the spectacular  hakonechloa grass—it took about 5 years for this grass to spread from a 1 gallon pot to this size mass of golden spears, which reminds me of a feather boa that Zsa Zsa Gabor might have worn!