Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cape light

Here are more photos snapped by Dan and me on Cape Cod last week. 
That Cape light is intense!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A taste of New England

photo, Diane Carnevale

Recently we had a lovely visit from a very dynamic Canadian couple whom we met in Italy last year.  We had a yummy lunch featuring (mostly) local foods, all made in Massachusetts, or at least New England. We started off with some refreshing Cape Codders (vodka and cranberry juice), Cape Cod potato chips, and lobster tails with butter. Then we progressed to Dan's killer batch of clam chowdah, along with a baby spinach and blueberry salad with a lemony blueberry vinaigrette. For dessert we had a mini apple tasting, which included various varieties from Russell Orchards in Ipswich, apple cider, a sweet apple tartlet and slices of cheddar cheese (sadly, not sharp, but hey, it was local!) I lost track of the various wines, beers (Ipswich Ales, Harpoon IPA pale ale), Champagne, and limoncello that we had, but the main thing was that the company was the best! Love you Christina and Mark!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Amazing shades of blue

We spent a few days on the Cape, playing in the sun and sand by day, 
and howling at the waxing harvest moon at night. The intense shades 
of blues were absolutely ah-maaaz-ing under the dazzling sunshine!

photos, Diane Carnevale

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Got Zucchini?!

They're still growing in the garden! Best bargain for a little pot, besides those tomatoes of course. What's great about zucchini, is that you can eat them raw or cooked, in either sweet or savory recipes, and you can even fry up and eat their gorgeous blossoms.

This zucchini walnut bread is made with heart-healthy canola oil and walnuts, and I also swap out some of the flour with unprocessed bran and ground flax seed, so it's fiber rich.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marvelous Marvis

This is my new favorite toothpaste, and even though it doesn't end in a vowel, it's Italian, as you can see by all the Italian writing on the back of the label. I like that it's minty without that harsh bite that toothpastes like Crest have, and it's creamy and leaves your teeth feeling really clean and smooth. This is serious business people! I've never seen it in stores, but you can find it on Amazon in several  flavors. It's so good it'll make you start speaking with Italian superlatives!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pesto tortellini appie

Need a quick appetizer? Skewer cheese tortellini, swathed in classic pesto Genovese, and little grape tomatoes, and ecco, instant party food. I'm not a huge fan of those other pestos, made with walnuts or arugula (insert the italian equivalent of the French term quelle horreor hereche orrore), and prefer the real deal, made with pine nuts, and basil. Italian Nonnas have been making pesto Genovese for centuries so you know it's good. You all probably have tons of basil in the garden, so go and harvest it, and make a batch of pesto. It'll keep in the freezer for months.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Think zinc

I am so in love with anything from Restoration Hardware, and was wildly delighted when their latest, um, catalog, arrived in my mailbox. The September Vogue has nothing on this catalog for girth and weight—it's the biggest catalog I've ever seen! When I flip through the pages of this pulp behemoth, I find myself singing "these are a few of my favorite things" from the Sound of Music. The gorgeous zinc outdoor objêts shown in the photo above make my heart sing, and my wallet shout, "not today dear," though I must confess to buying a few of them over the years when I've caught a good sale. I have also found similar zinc objêts at Homegoods. It's all about the drama daahling, so I always look for oversized pieces. If you are on a budget, you can also do wonders with zinc chalkboard paint for "the look."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The raspberry patch

From the French film Amalié

Although production is slowing down, we're still picking raspberries every day from our small backyard raspberry patch. The berries start to ripen in July and and go on and on until October, give or take a few weeks on either end. It's hard to believe it, but we pick about a quart a day of these ruby jewels from just three little plants during their peak! We enjoy the raspberries straight up, and freeze heaps for breakfast berry smoothies or refreshing vodka infused bramble smash drinks. Raspberries are packed with fiber, and also contain polyphenol antioxidants which promote cardiovascular health, woo hoo!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anna + Mary for brunch

photo, Dan Ryan

Farewell summer, and hello fall. As an ode to a most glorious summer, we had a deliciously decadent brunch last Sunday—the last Sunday of summer—which included eggs benedict, pommes Anna, fresh fruit, and Bloody Marys. Looking forward to soup season!

Friday, September 21, 2012

International book week!

I have it from a very good source that it's International Book Week, so here's something fun... Go and grab the book closest to you, turn to page 52, and post the 5th sentence as your comment here. I'll start with the first comment... Let's keep this one going people!

+ + +

"There's cold chicken inside," said Rat, "cold-tongue-cold-ham-cold-beef-pickled-onions-salad-french-bread-cress-and-widge-spotted-meat-ginger-beer-lemonade —

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Skulking Ardea Herodias

photos, Diane Carnevale

A magnificent Great Blue Heron was skulking around our 'hood this summer. I wonder if this was the same fella, seen on a nearby street. In any case, I hope he keeps away from our fish pond!

Look both ways before crossing the road...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

San Marzano tomatoes

Though they weren't grown on lime rich Italian soil, these San Marzano tomatoes grown in my backyard soil are still pretty fabulous. Suddenly they are so abundant that I've been roasting and freezing them for soup. Click here for my roasted tomato soup recipe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Avocado + crab salad

Crab or seafood salad and avocado drenched wth lemon are a match made in heaven. With the addition of buttery Pepperidge Farms butterfly crackers they become a delightful spring or summer lunch. I and also drizzled a chive oil around the plate. Finishing touch—nasturtium blossoms form the garden.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A dose of Shangri La

Sunny day... check!
Straw hat... check!
iPod filled with music... check!
Bain de Soleil... check!
Dishy reading material... check!
Chilled beverages... check!
Snacks... check!

Did you have that day of sun and sand yet? Summer is winding down quickly, so better get there soon. Beach days are extra nice this time of year because the crowds are thinner and the air is cooler. I live just a ten minute drive away from one of the prettiest beaches in Massachusetts—Crane Beach in Ipswich. It has four pristine miles of white sand, clear water, and over 5 miles of hiking trails in grassy dunes. I was there last week soaking up some rays and reading all about Doris Duke’s Shangi La in Hawaii. I was transported that day in so many different ways.

above photos, Diane Carnevale

The warm air.
The bright sun.
The flowers coming from everywhere.
The cold water like ice in the pool.
The shining fish in the water.
The people on boats fishing.
The beach way.
The people splashing in warm water.
The people surfing on the waves-it feels like flying through the air.
The birds flying in the air to their nests tweeting.
People playing.
The smooth wet sand.
The white seagulls.
The animals all around.
Summer is the best season of all.

by Jack, 3rd grade

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vertical viewing—Love Affair

Love Affair is another suggestion in my vertical viewing* series.

Love Affair is one of those nostalgic, old school films that require at least three hankies. There are three versions of the film that I know of—two called Love Affair, and one called An Affair to Remember. Puuhh-LEESE tell me you've seen one of these film adaptations already, yes? It's a good story, good enough to remake twice. All three of these adaptations are each very well done, and although I enjoy all the actors and the costuming in each I think the first two adaptations are the best. I love the piano theme song from the third film though. In all three films of this love story some details change, such as names, occupations, and locations, but the basic story is this:

An aimless playboy and a singer, each romantically attached to someone else, meet and fall in love on a journey far from home. They both agree that if the affection is real and true (and after they dump their respective partners of course), they would meet several months later in New York, at the top of the Empire State building. Well, the months pass, and on the appointed day, one of the lovers shows up, but the other has an unfortunate accident and is a no show. Has their love and destiny passed, or will they some day reunite? You'll just have to watch to find out. Here are the film versions:

The famous boat balcony scene from each film adaptation.

the 1939 version with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer
the 1957 version with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant
                                  (called An Affair to Remember)
the 1994 version with Annette Benning and Warren Beatty

In the meantime, watch the trailer from the 1994 version—the piano theme music is beautifully melancholic.

*Vertical viewing defined by me—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. 

Click on "vertical viewing" label below for other vertical viewing suggestions!

Or click to read my vertical viewing posts of EmmaAnna Karenina, 
A Christmas CarolCyrano de Bergerac and Shakespeare's Tempest!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Italian plums

Beautiful Italian plums are still in the markets.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Oh la laaa! A beautiful Provençal Pissaladièrecaramelized onions, anchovy, and olive tart—reminds me being in the south of France... sipping a chilled rosé wine after driving through miles of lavender fields. Well, ok, full disclosure: I have only been to Provençe once, and it was in late September when the second wave of lavender was waning... but the effect was there. Anyway, I just happened to have a preponderance of onions on hand, and it's way too early and hot to make French onion soup, so this just seemed like the right thing to make.

For the caramelized onions
¼ cup good olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2-3 pounds yellow onions, halved lengthwise and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 cloves minced garlic 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
generous pinches of kosher salt + black pepper 
For the topping, heat the olive oil in a very large saute pan and slowly cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are limp and sweet, but not too browned.

For the Pissaladière
1 rectangle of buttery puff pastry
12 to 18 anchovy fillets (you can skip this if you don't like)
12 oil-cured olives, preferably French!
flour for dusting parchment paper/baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and very lightly dust with flour. Unfold the puff pastry dough onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Carefully fold about 1-inch of the dough over to create a raised edge on each side.

Spread the onions evenly onto the puff pastry inside the raised edges. Arrange the anchovies and olives on top in a criss-cross pattern with olives at the intersections, brush the edge of the dough with olive oil, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Transfer the pissaladière to a large cutting board by picking up the parchment paper, and cut into squares. Don't forget that chilled rosé wine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chocolate and strawberry tarts

The "Two Fat Ladies," those adorable British chefs, once said that "they breed the flavor out of strawberries these days." Agreed. So I was tickled pink to still find fabulously ripe Canadian strawberries at the market, and couldn't resist making some mini sized tarts. I only made 2, so I didn't use a proper recipe, just a little of this and that. This is a riff on a strawberry tart that I once saw Jennifer, of the the aforementioned 2FL's, make; click here for their full recipe. I had some buttery pâté brisseé shells in the freezer (doesn't everyone?!), so I blind baked them, painted them with melted chocolate, then filled with a mix of cream cheese, sugar, a teeny splash of vanilla, and whipped cream. (I think a  mascarpone cheese would work well too.) Finally, I put those juicy red jewels on top. If these were for company I would have brushed a glaze on top, the way French patisseries do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer corn

Only a few weeks left to enjoy local summer corn!
This is a corn bin at Marini Farms in Ipswich. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dog Days are Over

It's been a long, hot summer, and finally... the cooler weather is here. It's a good time to listen and watch this funky, spiritual song by Florence and the Machine called Dog Days are Over.  (click!) Throughout the video, which is set in a whitewashed room, singer Florence Welch is wearing full body white makeup and various costumes. She sings along with a series of go-go dangers, tribal looking drummers, and a gospel choir. The scenes are like pagan rituals, and this unusual song slowly builds to a visual crescendo. We should all dance like this when the dog days of summer are over.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Counting down

Eleven... more... days... of... summer! It's September 10th, and I just saw a commercial on TV for Boston's Nutcracker Ballet. Just sayin.' No really, I am just saying that you ought to get out there and do all that stuff you wanted to do this summer bur never got around to doing. Go for a bike ride, take a swim at the beach, or a hike in the woods. Paint your toenails pink! Dig in the garden! Just do it. Call in sick. I won't tell, promise. The clock is ticking, and the Nutcracker is watching you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Teriyaki beef salad

There always seems to be a bit of leftover something or other in the fridge during grilling season—a chicken paillard, an ear of corn, or a half of a piece of steak—and it usually ends up being the star of a salad. For example, this leftover piece of grilled steak was completely reinvented. I sliced it into thin strips, glazed it with sweet teriyaki sauce, tossed it over baby spinach, colorful peppers, pea pods, radishes and onions, and finally, I sprinkled it with sesame seeds.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Starry Night

Inspired by... Vincent Van Gogh's starry night


This is one of my favorite paintings, and most certainly one of
my favorite artists. Below are paintings, collages or mosiacs, 
inspired by VVG's Starry Night. 

Collaborative clay project by young students

artist unknown

by Evelyn Spatz

Mosiac made from glass marbles, artist unknown

student work, using tempura paint

van gogh starry night crackers Van Gogh Masterpieces Recreated with Spices and Snacks
made using salt, spices, crumbled snacks, and food coloring, by Kelly McCollam

Korean artist Lee Kyu Hak wraps colorful bits of newspaper and magazines around pieces of Styrofoam to recreate Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic works, such as, ‘Starry Night.’

by Korean artist Lee Kyu Hak 
mixed-media mosaic, using wrapped bits of newspaper and magazines 

Using over 7,000 dominos, by artist Flippycat

tattoo, artist unknown

pastel by Gay Athri

quilled paper, artist unknown

Fabric collage, artist unknown

digital paintings, artist unknown

diorama made from marshmallow Peeps, by MaryLea Harris

by Jacqueline Turner

made by yard, young student work, artist unknown

by Peter Max

artist unknown

If you send me your Starry Night, I will post it here too!