Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rock lobsters!

It's not summer without at least one clam bake or lobster feast, and we enjoyed one on Sunday. My twin brother's son Devin—a 15-year old with a few lobster traps off the coast of their seaside home—supplied us with about a dozen 'bugs,' which we cracked open and consumed overlooking the ocean as the sun set and the moon rose. It was a classic, quintessential summer scene. Along with the lobsters we also had steamers, Mom's panzanella salad (with blue cheese) and my charred corn salad... and lots of napkins! I like lobster best in the simplest way—cooked in salt water and shamelessly drenched in butter... preferably with champagne or a nice Pouilly-Fuissé. Is there anything better?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Classic cheese soufflé

I had fellow Leo Julia Child over for brunch today (my birthday) by way of her classic cheese soufflé. By the time I snapped this photo the glorious puff had deflated, but it doesn't matter, the fluff was still there. It's hard to believe that just a few simple ingredients can be transformed into such an ethereal, pillowy masterpiece. We had Prosecco with peach juice (Bellini!), some smokey Irish style back bacon, and fruit. Divine decadence. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Croissant and berries

Chocolate croissant and über ripe strawberries 
make a decadent summer breakfast.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Merriment & jollification!

Standing at around 2 1/2 feet each, these three gnomes are obviously up to some serious mischief. I caught them traipsing under our hemlock trees, and I'm quite certain that they are coming home from a long night of merriment and jollification. Wouldn't you if you were a garden gnome? I like a bit of whimsy here and there in the garden to show that I don't take things too seriously, and also, they make me smile whenever I see them. The playful gnomes have the right idea.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fresh focaccia

More a flat Italian bread than a pizza, this colorful focaccia was made with various tomatoes, some grated parm cheese, olive oil, and loads of fresh herbs from the garden. How summery (and easy) is that? 

See a similar tomato tart here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sweet corn fritters

Sweet summer corn is ripe and abundant at local farm stands, so I whipped up a batch of fritters using this corn fritter recipe, which is light on flour and big on flavor. The raw kernals were actually popping in the pan! Sunflower sprouts and petals add interesting textures.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jeremiah was a bullfrog!

I am pleased to introduce Jeremiah and Jemima to the world (above and below). I bought these two darling pollywogs back in the end of May when they were teeny-weenie little things with long tails and no arms or legs yet. They stayed underwater, and at one point I thought I'd somehow lost them both, but this week I spotted one, and then the other one, sunning happily on a hyacinth pad, waiting patiently for a tasty bug to fly by to eat. I can't decide which is more cute—saying pollywog or saying tadpole—but in any case, before they had leap-worthy legs (and arms) and oxygen breathing lungs, I just called them "the Jers," in the same manner that I call all my goldfish "the Freds." Jer is short for Jeremiah, who as we all know from the Three Dog Night song, was a bullfrog. But now that the Jers are all grow up and proper amphibians, I suppose I should start calling them by their full names. Or maybe not. Joy to the world...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brie + truffle honey bruschetta

We first had this treat last fall in Italy (in a little town called Greve in Chianti) and it quickly became a favorite of ours. The word bruschetta (pronounced bru-sket-ta) is from the Italian verb bruscare—to toast or burn—and this is the base to this luscious combo... a simple piece of toasted Tuscan bread. The chef placed a slice of Brie on top of the warm bruschetta, which melted in a snap in a wood oven, then he drizzled sweet black truffle honey on top. The aroma... the flavors... molto delizioso! Simple ingredients, but complex flavors. If you aren't going to Italy any time soon, and can't find a jar of Italian black truffle honey at your local gourmet grocery store, you can buy it on Amazon here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Figs in a blanket

Sublime slices of salty Parma proscuitto are a perfect match with sweet figs, and made even better topped with a chiffonade of basil. Try this instead of the typical cantaloupe and proscuitto combo.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I saw these little birdies, I thought they'd like a nest.
They've been flying around all day, and really need a rest.
Andie Jaye

This precious bird's nest of a common house sparrow was in our privet hedge. I even recognize the raw materials they used to build it—fallen branches from our hemlock tree and dried ornamental grass. The sparrows love this particular hedgerow, and chitter-chatter in there all day long, discussing whatever it is that bird's discuss. It's a bird version of coffee klatch! Good worm patch?... Lack of rain?... Raspberries ripening in the neighbor's yard? Whatever it is they are saying, they say it cheerily and it always makes me smile. This week I've noticed the birds picking up bits of dried grass, building nests for their second round of babies. 

by Wenham artist Sandy Belock Phippen

by Keith Taylor

by Lorena Pugh

by Dino Rhinaldi 

by Albert Durer Lucas

by Susanna Pantas 

 by Roxanne  

by Elissa Della-Piana  

You may also like my Bird's Nest painting

Friday, July 20, 2012

Triple feature—Matters of the heart

Hopefully by now you've read about my quirky vertical viewings of films habit, where I watch and compare 3 different film adaptations of the same film. No? Click to see my Cyrano de Bergerac, Shakespeare's Tempest, and Jane Austen's Emma posts on this blog. It's really fun.

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How about another type of film viewing? Instead of a vertical viewing, how about a double feature... or even better, how about a triple feature? It could refer to a common theme in the title alone (for example, films with the word heart in it), or be common in theme (for example, baseball films such as Field of Dreams, the Natural, and Moneyball ). Hopefully you are getting ideas for your own Triple Features. These days, with Netflix and instant downloading of films, these flicks are just a click away.

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To start, I will use the first example, film titles with the words heart in them. The three films I chose all portray amazing character studies, and each film captured my heart in three different ways.

The Hasty Heart — made in 1949, starring Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal and Richard Todd
We're in Burma in 1945, and the war is over! A Scottish soldier, Corporal Lachlan "Lachie" MacLachlan (Richard Todd) is at a M.A.S.H. unit with other recovering wounded soldiers for surgery to his back. Unknown to Lachie, he is dying from kidney failure and has only a few weeks to live. Nurse Sister Margaret Parker (Patricia Neal) and the other five remaining soldiers in her ward have been asked by the hospital commander to befriend Lachie, who is a very proud man who wants no help or friendship from anyone. Slowly however, relationships are formed and Lachie begins to appreciate his new M.A.S.H. friends, something he has never had with anyone. He's a tough nut to crack, but if you are like me, you'll be swelling up with tears by the end of the film.
Dear Heart — made in 1964, starring Glenn Ford, Geraldine Page and Angela Landsbury
Single and alone, Evie (played delightfully well by Geraldine Fitzgerald) arrives in New York for the annual Postmasters' convention. Also staying at her hotel is a womanizing salesman (played by Glenn Ford) who has just become engaged. Their paths cross and although her quirky ways annoy the salesman, their time together is simply enchanting. 

Any Human Heart — made in 2010, starring Jim Broadbent, Matthew McFadden, and many others
Jim Broadbent superbly portrays a novelist starting out in 1920s Paris. We follow him back and forth and in flashbacks to '50s New York and '80s London. During his extraordinary life, he meets Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. As the writer comes to the end of his life, his recalled memories and nostalgia will no doubt bring tears to your eyes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I don't even drink coffee, but once or twice a summer I do enjoy an iced coffee. I make them with fat free half and half, so to me it's like a low calorie version of a coffee ice cream frappe. Can't sip it though—on hot summer days these drinks go down quickly!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Szechuan buckwheat noodles

The temperature and the dew point are still both brutally high, so I'm eating mainly cold meals these days. There’s a lot of flavor and crunch in these spicy Szechuan noodles. The recipe initially came from The Barefoot Contessa, but I have altered it so much I feel I can call it my own. For this batch, I used julienned pea pods, carrots, yellow peppers (normally I’d use red peppers too, but I was out of them), and sliced scallions. Sometimes I add grated cabbage too, and I always add cilantro and a sprinkle of sesame seeds at the very end.

Szechuan Dressing
4 minced cloves of garlic
1/3 cup grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp canola oil infused with Szechuan pepper, then strained
1 tsp Sriracha pepper chili paste, or however hot you like it
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
the zest and juice of half a lime
1/4 cup water or chicken broth, if you like,
to make it more viscous
(this makes way more dressing than you will need
to serve 2, but will last in your fridge for weeks)

Approx 4 oz of buckwheat soba noodles (a generous serving for 2 people) boiled for 3-4 minutes, then rinsed to remove gummy starchiness. Drain noodles well.

1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 carrot, julienned, grated, or thinly sliced
8-10 pea pods, julienned or whole
4 scallions, julienned or sliced diagonally
Sprigs of cilantro
1 tsp sesame seeds or crushed peanuts

You can play with all the quantities of noodles, dressing and veggies, and vary the veggie choices to your liking. Consider adding cabbage, squash, broccoli, broccoli slaw, etc.

Mix all the prepped dressing ingredients and place in a jar with a lid.

Place your cooked soba noodles in a large bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat, about 1/3 of a cup is good for 4 oz of noodles. Then add your fave veggies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro at the very end and serve.

NOTE: you can mise en place all you vegetables in advance, but don't mix with noodles until close to serving time to keep them crunchy.

all photos, Diane Carnevale

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fifty shades of gr...

...een. Lots of green! I found these unusual ferns and gleefully added them to my moss and fern trough, along with my heart's tongue and fishtail ferns, and other more common ones. The top fern, called a sweat fern, has a beautiful filigree lace pattern in shades of green, icy blue and capricious bits of copperish orange on the new growth. Love it! It reminds me of an icy frost pattern on a wintery window pane. The bottom fern, identified so far, has long, menacing arms like a wild octopus. Unlike my other ferns, I think these are zoned for a warmer climate than I live in, so I'll need to winter these two inside. But if I am successful, I hope to have these unusual ferns for years to come.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Greek orzo salad

You know you don't want to cook dinner when it's 100 degrees out, but if you prep ahead and have some cooked orzo pasta in the fridge (boiled in the early morning when it's cooler), this Greek orzo salad is a breeze to pull together. When you are ready to assemble, add lemon olive oil, lemon zest and juice, sliced radishes, diced celery, diced red onions, parsley, feta cheese, kalamata olives, salt, pepper, and whatever else strikes your fancy. I've added in grated carrots and grape tomato halves to this, and it's also great made with whole grains like Italian farro or pearled barley. Stay cool!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day dinner!

a sun dappled dinner table 

Dining with friends on a summer night is our idea of the the perfect evening, and since today was Bastille Day, it was a good excuse to make an outrageous French meal! The night was warm—perhaps a little too warm—but the conversation and variety of libations flowed freely. The meal, shared with our neighbors Mark & Maggie, included our annual indulgence of French fries cooked in rendered duck fat, and spicy mussels in white wine, a trés fab combo. (See our mussel dinner from last year here.)

Bastille Day Dinner

Lillet & Perrier with a twist of orange
foie gras & champagne geleé toasts
Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé wine from Aix en Provence
beet & herbed goat cheese Napoleon with mixed baby greens 
and walnuts, with an orange walnut dressing
French Rosé wine, Stella Artois beer
mussels in herbed white wine, 
potatoes cooked in duck fat
St. Hilaire French sparkling wine
assortment of French cheeses & fresh & dried fruits
Chateau Villefranche Sauternes
lavender honey Crème brûlée & spun sugar

All photos by Dan Ryan

Vive la France!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fairy garden

I've never actually seen a fairy, but I am certain that there's a whole troupe of them in our yard because... in a remote corner of our garden, tucked below some branches, hidden beneath the dawn redwood tree, there's an elaborate, enchanting fairy house! Fairies aren't the best builders, but nevertheless, they do an impressive job collecting various things from the garden—feathers, acorns, wisteria pods, clam shells, grasses and branches and leaves, and of course, all manner of flowers.  They've used these elements to make a swing, a bathtub, a table and chairs, a ladder leading up the second floor of their A-frame hut (they could fly, but sometimes they like to use ladders anyway), a fairy ring to dance around, a firepit, a big, long banquet table with chairs, and pathways leading hither and yon. They are busy little fairies. It's delightful, and their house changes with the seasons. Sometimes I find broken bits of their gossamer wings on branches, after they have snagged them there. Don't worry, fairies grow back wings instantly if that happens. You may not even know it, but I bet you have a fairy garden in your yard too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The color yellow!

Inspired by... the color yellow.

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer ripe

These are the type of simple summer breakfasts that I dream about in the dead of winter. How lovely it is to be barefoot outside in a shady nook of the garden, nibbling on the ripest fruits that the season has to offer. Here are raspberries, apricots, a crusty ficelle—a thin baguette which translates to string in French—and a semi-aged Boucheron goat cheese. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012


The following is an excerpt from a delightful Boston Globe 
editorial from a few years ago.

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It is high summer now, a season in its prime. The Fourth of July afterglow lingers, making these midmonth days in the middle month of summer as luscious as a perfect plum.
The plums are perfect, too, as are the peaches, nectarines, and berries. How far one has come from the barren winter months of nothing but bananas in the cereal bowl. It is fruit madness now, and the Cheerios are barely visible beneath the load.
July is a banquet for the eyes as well, with day lilies splashing gold and yellow along the roadsides, roses covering the trellises, and hydrangea and delphinium exploding in blues so deep they look painted.
A person wants to stay right here in sensory overload and can almost believe that time might be hanging suspended - a bit like a Ferris wheel car at the top of the arc, swinging ever so gently as the rider surveys what seems like the whole rich, green world.
There is, after all, hardly a hint of change in the sweet, languid magic of the days. The light still lingers on toward 9 p.m., and there are almost no advertisements screaming "Back to school!" The catalogues are not flashing pumpkins on their covers, and the stores are still selling bathing suits.
Juuuuuu-lyyyyyyy. The word begs to be stretched, savored, and made to last forever. And right now in this big, slow rocking chair of time, that can seem possible.
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So grab a good book, a cold drink, 
a shady hammock and enjoy these lovely summer days.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sweet sea treasures

That's not a colorful collection of frosty sea glass, gathered by the edge of the sea on hot summer day... it's actually edible sea glass candy that I made... in shades of turquoise, blue and green. Essentially it's sugar and water that's been boiled, colored, then flavored with mint. The dull opaque effect is from a coating of powdered sugar, but you could also leave the "glass" shiny. Here’s the recipe—you’ll need a candy thermometer. It was a huge hit with both kids and grownups at the 4th of July party I went to this week. Click here to see a batch I made in July of 2013.

photos, Diane Carnevale

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hawaiian punch

How about a nice Hawaiian punch? Pieces of cold chicken mixed with sweet pineapple, crunchy red peppers, pea pods, cilantro and macadamia nuts make a tropical summer salad. You can even sprinkle some shaved coconut on it. I use Trader Joe's sweet chili sauce to dress this salad—it's sweet and sassy!