Saturday, March 30, 2013

Brass bunnies

I pull out these darling little brass bunnies every Easter and fill their baskets with whatever I have around. This year, instead of using flowers, I used beautiful beet leaves, baby carrots and plump radishes. Wouldn't Peter Rabbit approve? Photo, Diane Carnevale

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pinzimonio with bagna càuda

Primavera on a plate!

In Italian, pinzimonio translates to crudités, and Bagna càuda translates to hot dip.  It's made by making a brown butter, then adding olive oil, garlic, anchovies (just a little bit, so it's not fishy, just salty) and, in some regions of Italy, milk or cream. Think of it as an Italian fondue, served communal style where people reach in and help themselves to whatever they fancy. I used purple cauliflower, sugar snap peas, carrots, red beets, yellow and green patty pan squash, and mini zucchini—all served raw except for the beets, which I roasted first. Bagna càuda originated in Italy's Piedmont region, and is traditionally served in the fall, but it sure seems perfect with colorful spring veggies! Click here to see another platter of colorful veggies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fresh lettuce!

I brought home some mixed lettuce plants from a local nursery and potted them up. I'm tickled pink at the thought of picking fresh lettuce for my next salad.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coming out party

photos, Diane Carnevale

A mix of wild and brown rice, mushrooms, onions and pecans would make a fine stuffing for a turkey, but it's spring, and I'm not thinking about roasting turkeys. Besides, I like the idea of liberating the delectable mélange and enjoying it on its own—sans bird. It's like a stuffing "coming out" party. Plus, this gave me a super opportunity to use some of that pecan oil I recently bought. A drizzle of it on top made it really lusssscccious.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gorgeous portrait—Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingwaythe man, the myth, the legend, was a man's man if ever there was one. Look at him in this portrait—sturdy in his rugged fisherman's sweater, with a piercing gaze. He lived life large and hard, and the wrinkles on his face map out the journeys of his life for all of us to see—from Paris, Italy, Africa, Spain, Cuba, and Key West, Florida to Ketchum, Idaho... as a fisherman, wild game hunter, and keen observer of details. Hemingway wrote about what he knew, and the way he effortlessly strung words together in his very own Hemingway style of writing is enough to make any aspiring writer hang up his typewriter. He died by his own hand in the very month I was born, in July of 1961. Some of his literary masterpieces include The Sun also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The old Man and the Sea, to name just a few. Here is a nicely done Hemingway website dedicated to his journeys and his style.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, 
then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you,
 for Paris is a moveable feast.

Click on label below to see other gorgeous portraits!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Roasted acorn squash salad

photos, Diane Carnevale

Roasted acorn squash, sweetened with a mix of maple syrup and ground coriander, is a nice counterpoint to a robust and salty blue cheese in this salad. Along with these strong flavors is delicate frisée lettuce, and for a pop of brightness I sprinkled scarlet pomegranate seeds on top. I also drizzled some super flavorful acorn squash seed oil, an unusual ingredient which is ark in color and rich with earthy and nutty flavors. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Peeking though

photo, Dan Ryan

Here is a lovely purple crocus blossom, peeking up though the snow.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring snow, a gardener's friend

Our sunken garden looks very beautiful covered in a glorious blanket of snow. I never mind snow, in fact I love it. My Uncle Elmer always called snow "winter's fertilizer" or "poor man's fertilizer" because it pulls nitrogen down from the atmosphere and deposits it on the soil—especially this late in the snow season (which in this case is early spring!) when the soil has started to soften. Plus a blanket of snow protects the plants from the cold. So that's why I love the snow--it's actually doing some good for the gardens! See more of our winter garden photos here, and read about the history of our sunken garden here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Raw root veggie carpaccio salad

photos, Diane Carnevale

This crazy salad is an explosion of colors! Finding striped Choiggia beets at the market inspired me to make a shaved raw root veggie salad with orange vinaigrette to show off their beautiful stripes. I used all kinds and colors of root veg, including yellow, red, and the aforementioned striped beets, orange, purple and yellow carrots, parsnips, fennel, celery root, and radishes. I shaved them on the thinnest setting of my mandolin, then tumbled them in a bowl with chopped mint, fennel fronds, and a spicy orange vinaigrette (made with orange and lemon juice, olive oil, diced shallots, salt, pepper, and a generous sprinkle of chili pepper flakes). After plating, I added some chunks of goat cheese and roasted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds). The texture, colors and flavors were crazy good, like a rainbow! Click here to see a similar shaved root salad that I made last year.

Striped Chioggia beets

P.S. For those of you who are local to Boston's North Shore, 
I got the Chioggia beets at Vidalias in Beverly Farms, MA. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fish + colcannon

photo, Diane Carnevale

Remember that rustic Irish potato dish I made on St. Patricks Day—the colcannon? I used some of the leftovers for this fancy fish creation. The bottom layer is a bed of colcannon (I pulled out the diced ham pieces), then there's a piece of haddock that was rubbed with horseradish, and then coated (in flour, egg wash, and a mix of panko crumbs and flour) and sautéed in peanut oil. On top of the fish are frizzled leeks, some wiry fried rice noodles, and a few chives. The stack is surrounded by lemony chive oil. There you go—from rustic to fancy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring at last!

photo, Diane Carnevale

A bouquet of sunny ranunculus flowers look right at home against the orange wall in my bathroom. There may still be snow outside, but the calendar definitely says spring—at last!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Into the woods

click to enlarge

I painted this (from a photo we took on Halibut Point State Park in Rockport, MA) in fun, spring colors. Picture walking down a shady, tree covered path, dappled with sunlight peeking through the leaves onto the ground below. A few steps beyond is a huge granite quarry, long filled with water, and beyond that are the crashing waves of the Atlantic on a rocky shoreline. Scroll down below to see the painting in progress...

...from the first sketch...

... to the final painting.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Early riser

photo, Diane Carnevale

I have a mass planting of a zillion crocus bulbs in my Japanese maple grove that pop up every year around this time, depending on the severity of the winter. (read more about my crocus patch from a post last March here.) It's magical to see all the colors in bloom on a sunny, late winter or early spring day. The visual symphony starts with one early riser—always a yellow one. This trail blazer—a single string instrument—is soon joined by other other colored bulbs, other members of the orchestra. First, more strings—more yellow crocuses, then the wind instruments, the horns come blasting in regal purple ombré, and finally, the drums beat loudly for the crescendo. It's a beautiful performance every year, and it always starts with just one... early... riser.

photos, Dan Ryan

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A bit o' the old Blarney

Aren't we all just a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's day? Dan, who really is mostly Irish, is making his annual batch of Irish Stew the Bailey—a hearty "blonde" lamb stew made with hunks of veggies. I also made a small batch of colcannonwhich is a warm Irish cabbage and potato dish—essentially an Irish verson of what Brit's call bubble & squeak. Tradition calls for the colcannon to be served with a little well of butter in the center, so why would I mess with tradition?
(Click here to see what I did with the leftovers!)

Dan's lamb stew, the colcannon, and a slab of Blarney Castle cheese will be a nice bit o' the Blarney for our St. Patrick's day dinner. We've also got a few pints of Bottingtons ale in the ice box. We started the day with some ultra smokey Irish back bacon, hash browns, sauté of mushrooms (very British isles), and in a wildly decadent move, put some Bailey's Irish cream in our coffees! I mean, why wouldn't we have Irish cream in our coffee on St. Patrick's day?! I don't even drink coffee, but made an exception today. In our defense, it was late morning. After a day of rich foods and a serious nod to the humble spud, it'll be good to get back to greens, beans and berries tomorrow.

Irish Stew the Bailey

prepping for the colcannon

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Letting go

SOLD x 2!

I said goodbye to two of my paintings this week; one from my Ipswich Marsh series, and one of a path through a Nantucket sand dune. I packaged them up and shipped them off to their new owner! It's always a little bit sad letting go of something that I created. I undergo an undefinable sort of experience during the painting process—a calming focus and meditation—and part of my soul goes into each painting. But then I always smile when I think of them in their new homes, giving people pleasure, which in turn inspires me to keep painting!

Ipswich Marsh 11

 Nantucket Path

Friday, March 15, 2013

Color Inspiration—pussy willows

Come on spring!
Pussy willows are at the markets now, 
which is a sure sign of spring!

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Moroccan roasted carrot salad

Purple, yellow and orange baby carrots inspired me to make to make a warm root salad with Moroccan flavors. The salad is a riff on a Jamie Oliver carrot salad recipe, but I've changed a few things. I made the orange dressing as written, infusing it with fresh thyme leaves, chili peppers, and cumin, etc., but then I zigged instead of zagged. I added roasted baby purple pearl onions, swapped in feta cheese instead of the yogurt in his recipe, and added pumpkin seeds for a nice crunch intead of the charred ciabatta that Jamie uses. Diced avocado added a creamy element, and finally, it was all tumbled together with some baby arugula.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Four + twenty blackbirds

photo, Diane Carnevale

One sure harbinger of spring is when the red-winged blackbirds arrive. Four and twenty blackbirds, if not more, were extraordinarily happy that I put out some sunflower seeds after a snow storm last weekend. They were going crazy, and looked striking against the white blanket of snow. The blackbirds have a curious squawk, and can't be missed. Read about the history of the children's nursery rhyme and song "Sing a song of sixpence" here, where cooks did strange things with blackbirds, like "bake" them into pies to delight kings!

Sing a song of sixpence 
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Painted once, stolen twice

This magnificent painting was recovered in Serbia yesterday, after being stolen not once but twice in the last 17 years! Rembrandt's Portrait of the Father, a haunting painting in sultry, earthy colors, is estimated to be worth around $3.5 million. The 17th-century Dutch master created it in 1630 (that's 1630!!), and it was last stolen in 2006. I hope when I get to the other side I can tell Rembrandt how popular—financially and sentimentally—his paintings are worth these days. Let's hope these rotten thrives can leave this one alone for a while. A long while.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Les scourtins aux olives

French scourtrin cookies are a strange dichotomy—sweet, yet savory, salty, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Those aren't chocolate chips you're seeing, they're dry cured olives. Okay, buttery shortbread cookies with salty olives might not be for everyone, but I urge you to try them once. They are so easy to make, freeze well, and are trés bon with cocktails.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spectacular shades of red

Inspired by... winter heathers.

Our hillside of heathers are interesting in any season, but they are a special treat in the dead of winter when the foliage of these (Calluna Vulgaris) Wickwar Flame plants—usually lime green in the summer—turn these spectacular shades of red. Dan and I both have that North Atlantic Irish-Irish-English-Scottish heritage, so we just connect to these quirky plants. We were inspired by seeing them planted en masse on Irish hillsides during a trip there one year. Those beautiful sweeping, colorful hillsides took our breath away! We settled for a little hill on one side of our driveway. See more of our heather plants here and here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Currently coveting...

all images from Restoration Hardware

... that French look from Restoration Hardware. Confession: I am having a love affair with all things with that distressed French look from RH. I bought this Roman capital (above) about 6 months ago. Seriously, it was love at first sight. And then I bought this Swan's neck architectural pediment (below) around Christmastime. Love them both with their sultry, latte colors and easy rustic, yet formal style.

And... If I could afford it—and my house was bigger—
I'd simply have to have this enormous, carved wood mirror

And of course my windows would have to be 
swathed in these belgian linen drapes.

Heck, I'd buy this entire living room if could afford it. Gorgeous, oui

A girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Roasted + toasted

This Thai red lentil curry soup was made with roasted carrots, sautéed onions, and garnished with cilantro and toasted coconut. Love it when the carrots get all crispy and sweet and start to blacken a bit. Somehow it reminds me of a charred marshmallow. Having said that, the soup seemed a little on the sweet side, so I cut it with a judicious squeeze of lime. 

Here's how to make it. Relax, it's a soup, and you really don't need to measure anything. Trust your intuition! Roast a few carrots, dice when cool, and set aside. Sauté a diced onion, then add Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, chicken broth, and salt and pepper to your taste. Stir the pot, then add lentils and cook until it all comes to a boil, then simmer for only 5-10 more minutes. The lentils will keep cooking after you turn off the heat, and you don't want mushy lentils, now do you? Stir in the diced carrots, and voilà!... or however you say voilà in Thailand. Garnish with cilantro leaves and the aforementioned toasted coconut... Lime is optional. For a similar lentil soup groove, check out the Indian curry lentil soup  made last year.