Monday, September 30, 2013

Vertical pear salad

This year's aforementioned pear harvest bounty has left me with no other option that to have a pear salad week—five very different salads using pears. You just can't buy pears that are this ripe, this juicy and this sweet from the market, and they are so abundant that I've had to come up with creative ways to use them all. I am particularly proud to say that our pears are 100 percent organic too. 

I'm going to kick off the week with a scrumptious vertical pear salad made with frisee and arugula greens, candied pecans, and Gorgonzola cheese. The dressing was made with pecan oil, champagne vinegar, minced shallots, a smidge of maple mustard, tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper. Sweet, salty, and sassy.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Three handstanding gymnasts

Inspired by... Three Handstanding Gymnasts, by Mark Beard, 1956.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gorgeous portrait—Andreé Putman

This stunning portrait of stylish Frenchwoman Andrée Putman (December 23, 1925 – January 19, 2013) intruiges me because she looks somewhat androgynous, though she was very chic and feminine, and certainly the epitome of modern simplicity. This photo—made by Annie Leibowitz—was an ad for the Gap stores showcasing the white button down shirt. Andrée was a piano virtuoso, interior designer, but mostly she was a free spirit! Read more about her life here and about Putman designs here.
“I loathe pompous luxury.
I take interest in the essential, the framework,
the basic elements of things.”

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fried zucchini blossoms

Here are crispy fiori di zucca fritte—fried zucchini blossoms with a warm, gooey cheese filling. Delizioso! As a bonus two of the blossoms had baby zucchini on them. Click here to see how I make them.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The kiss

You must remember this 
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh 
The fundamental things apply 
As time goes by.  

—Louis Armstrong

For a wedding present—twenty years ago today—
Dan and I gave each other a beautiful replica 
of Rodin's "The Kiss" sculpture.

Click here to see more famous kisses in history.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gold leaf

This little golden wisteria leaf is a reminder that autumn is here for certain. A trailblazing leader with zillions more to follow. The maple leaves will change from their verdant summer color to riotous shades of yellow, orange and red, that release and float quietly to terra firma below. Photo by DC

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Poire française tarte

What do do with all those pears? Bake a poire française tarte, oui? I made this French pear tart for my aunt Margie's 90th birthday party on Sunday. Officially that makes her my oldest relative, and certainly the oldest person I know!

To make this tart I made Martha Stewart's pâte brisée pie crust, then the rest is sort of a creation of my own. I rolled out the dough and put it into tart shell—this one just happened to be a long rectangular one. Then I spread about 1/3 cup of almond butter on the bottom of the tart shell (I sometimes use almond paste). I roasted around 1/3 of a cup of slivered almonds and sprinkled a layer of them on the almond butter. In a bowl, I mixed 1 tbsp, flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. I peeled the pears,  (around 5 small ones or 3 large ones) then sliced them (you can also just half or quarter them) then I coated the pears in the flour and sugar mixture. Next, I arranged the pears in a herringbone pattern but arrange your pears however you wish. I sprinkled more almonds down the center, then dabbed with about 2 tbsp butter, and baked for 40-45 minutes in a 350° oven. When I removed the tart, I brushed with a glaze of apricot preserves and dark rum. I like to serve the tart with a delectable swirl of caramel sauce. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pear harvest

Like the tomatoes, the pears on my two espaliered pear trees seem to ripen all at once. It was a good year for them—the bees must have been very busy pollinating this past spring! One arm of one of the trees (see below) had close to a dozen pears on them. This time of year some of the pears ripen and drop to the ground, where the chipmunks and squirrels enjoy them, but there's over 50 pears this year so I have more than enough to share with them. I try to pick them in succession so we have an rotating bowl of ripening pears. Click to see the espaliered pear trees throughout the seasons. 


Espaliered pear tree

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cherubs + cabbages

A plump cherub stands among giant ornamental cabbages and a trio of neatly clipped boxwood plants at the corner of our shed. Behind is a criss-crossed espaliered ivy trellis. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Northwood #2

With today being the last full day of summer, it is time to end our weekly Saturday Sippers feature. We might slip one in here or there, but don't count on the weekly appearances... until next summer anyway!

There's something about maple syrup that conjures up cold autumn mornings and flapjacks or baked acorn squash with sweet maple syrup drizzled on top, and so we wanted to choose a libation with maple syrup. The Northwood #2 drink is from the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine. It's an excellent drink, tested out severl times over the past few years, but it makes us very curious about the Northwood #1!


2 oz. gold rum
1 oz. brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup 
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
ice cubes
2 thinly sliced apple halves

Combine first 5 ingredients in cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frosty cold. Strain into 2 coupe or martini glasses. Garnish with apple slice.

Makes two mapley drinks!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Four-legged Masterpieces

Pet 'parents' will do anything for their pets. Really. Anything. Like dishing out around $1000-$3000 to have them immortalized on canvas. I'm not usually one for pet portraits, but these heirloom oil paintings are real masterpieces. Rover as a King? Daisy as a Queen? Fido as a Russian emperor? You know your Ginger is a Princess! Connecticut-based artist Valerie Leonard will anthropomorphize your pet in classical portrait fashion to live through the ages. Hey, your pet is worth it, right? Too bad I only have goldfish.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Color inspiration—beets

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stuffed tomatoes

Got tomatoes? What are you going to do with those giant ones? How about making stuffed tomatoes!? You can stuff them with something cold (meaning don't bake), like chicken salad. Even better though, stuff with something warm. Just hollow out and fill the tomatoes with some good stuff, then bake until warmed through and the insides just start to bubble—about 10-15 minutes in a 400° oven, or on a hot grill with the cover closed for 10 minutes or so. Serve your stuffed tomatoes with a salad echoing the same flavors that were put into the tomato. See the rough recipes below for some ideas of what to make with the avalanche of tomatoes ripening in your back yard.

Provençal style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with Panko breadcrumbs and minced garlic sautéed in butter and olive oil, grated Gruyere or swiss cheese, a little bit of herbs de Provençe or just parsley, salt and pepper. Grated zucchini would work with this too. (photo shown above)

Greek style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with an orzo salad of lemon zest and oil, crumbled feta cheese, kalamata olives, baby spinach leaves, salt and pepper. Slices or crumbles of Alfresco brand spinach and feta chicken sausage would be great with this. Alternatively you could stuff with a cooked lemony white rice instead of the orzo.

New England succotash style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with cooked corn (boiled or grilled), slices of uncooked red or orange bell pepper, chopped fresh basil, red onions, grated cheddar cheese, lima beans (or peas), lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Diced zucchini would work in this tomato.

Italian style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with cooked Italian farro, Italian parsley,  grated cheese (any of a mix of Fontina, Romano, Parmesan or Mozzarella), salt and pepper (a fennel seed infused chicken sausage would be great with this). Alternatively, a white bean salad made with lemon juice, olive oil,  and fried sage leaves would pair well.

Spanish style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with cooked Spanish rice infused with pimenton (smoked paprika), a crumbled slice of bacon, red onion, pignoli nuts, salt and pepper Alfresco brand chorizo chicken sausage would be great with this. Perhaps a shaving of Manchego cheese as well.

Tex-Mex style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with cooked black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, scallions and cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper. Slices or crumbles of Alfresco brand jalepeño chicken sausage would be great with this.

Moroccan style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with cooked cous-cous, sauté of onion, dried apricots, raisins, cinnamon, turmeric, honey, dash of chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper. If you happen to have Moroccan preserved lemons, this would be a lovely flavor chopped and added in. Top with crushed pistachio nuts or almonds.

Lebonese style stuffed tomatoes—Stuff with prepared tabbouleh, which is a salad of bulgar wheat, cucumbers, red onion, mint, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can add some feta cheese as well.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Johnny Appleseed

Here is another in a series 
of our weekly Saturday Sippers!

The dog days of summer are over—for the most part anyhow— and summer is quickly slipping away. This time of year the sun is lower, the days are shorter, Canadian geese fly overhead and the garden is a sad jumble of weeds. In our cars we vacillate between heat in the morning and air conditioning in the afternoon, as the temperatures dip at night and climb during the day. You can smell autumn just around the corner... next week, in fact. It's great apple picking weather, and so our Saturday Sipper this week pays homage to the humble apple in a seasonally appropriate libation—The Johnny Appleseed. We're using spiced apple cider and French Calvados—apple brandy—which I keep in my pantry for baking apple tarts.


2 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla syrup (this has vanilla beans in it)
a squeeze of a lemon wedge
2-3 oz. Calvados apple brandy
a crisp apple and cinnamon sticks for garnish

Put cider and all the ingredients except for the Calvados into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let steep for 30 minutes or so. Strain and chill. To make drinks, put ice into two glasses, add an ounce (or a splash more!) of Calvados into each glass, and then add the spiced cider. Garnish with sliced apples and cinnamon sticks. 

Makes two apple-icious cocktails!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The color coral!

Inspired by... the color coral.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken

Saveur magazine has the most intriguing articles. Some of their food stories are so well written that the writer's longing and aching nostalgia for the food he or she once experienced is palpable. Reading the Iraqi chicken story was like that for me. It was the memory of a young soldier stationed in a camp on the the Iraq-Kuwait border in the yearly days of the war. The food choices for her in those early war days were bland MREs, or exploring some local food options, which is how she happened to find this flavorful Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken (Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar). Read the story by Felicia Campbell here. Here is the list of spices you'll need: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole black peppercorns, cardamom pods, dried chiles de árbol, allspice berries, whole cloves, dried rose hips, curry powder, ground cinnamon, ground sumac, ground ginger, nutmeg, fenugreek, garlic cloves… Phew.

The story was touching and prompted us to gather up all 15 of the seeds and spices that went into this Middle Eastern chicken masterpiece. I actually had them all except for the sumac, but I'm not sure how many people actually have things like cardamom seeds and fenugreek in their pantry. And I only had the dried rose hips for a Turkish doughnuts with rose hip syrup recipe that I've yet to make. Back to the chicken...We ground up all the spices and made the dry rub and grilled the butterflied whole chicken. The aroma was exotic and heavenly, and reminded us a little of a Jamaican jerk chicken. We served it with a yellow saffron rice, and a cucumber, tomato and onion salad, which is similar to Indian salads that we've made before. Give this recipe a try for something slightly exotic.

We started the meal with lemony hummus and pita chips.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dark 'n' Stormy

Here is another in a series 
of our weekly Saturday Sippers!

Cricket anyone? This popular drink from Bermuda has been a favorite of Dan's all summer long. The dark  'n'  stormy cocktail conjures up images of grown-up men in Bermuda shorts, jackets and ties... playing cricket! Well you don't need to be wearing Bermuda shorts to enjoy this gingery concoction, but you DO need to use Gosling's brand dark rum!

1 can of Gosling's ginger beer
2-3 oz. Gosling's black seal rum
2 wedges or wheels of lime

Yup, this is an easy one to mix. Put ice in two glasses, add ginger beer between the two glasses, then pour the dark rum on top so it slowly sinks down into the glass in a most tempestuous and dramatic way. Squeeze the lime in. It should look like a menacing storm brewing.

Makes two tempestuous dark + stormys !

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tomato tart with nine herbs

So what's the difference between a tomato pizza, a tomato focaccia and a tomato tart? The rules seem sketchy to me, but here is how I break it down; Pizzas are made with dough of course, and so are focaccias, except the dough is much thicker on a focaccia, and you wouldn't put a red sauce on a focaccia (although you would put sliced tomatoes!) And pizzas and focaccias use Italian cheeses, such as mozzarella. parm reg, romano, fontina, assiago, etc. I think tomato tarts are made with either puff pastry or a buttery pie type of dough, and they tend to use any kind of cheese, either the aforementioned Italian kinds, or non Italian kinds or combos, such as swiss, gruyere, cheddar, etc. Confusing, I know.  There are also tomato pies, but we won't even go there. That's how I sort it all out in my world anyhow. I could have it all wrong.

Here is a tomato tart that's made with a store bought all butter puff pastry, three colorful types of tomatoes—fresh from the garden—and nine, count em, nine herbs! Here's how I made it: I sautéed some minced garlic in olive oil for about a minute, turned off the heat and let it sit for a few more minutes to infuse the olive oil, then I brushed it all on the tart dough which was  rolled out on  cookie sheet pan. Then I spread a layer of whipped cream cheese and sprinkled a blend of grated cheddar and Monteray jack cheese on top. (This unusual cheese combo that, when cooked, blends with the tomato juices and makes a creamy, tomatoey, béchamel type sauce.) Then I added sliced tomatoes and red onions, sprinkled with salt and pepper, drizzled olive oil on top, and baked for 25 minutes in a 400° oven. After removing the tart from the oven, I sprinkled the nine different chopped herbs on top. I used parsley, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, sage, basil, and chives. I especially like the rosemary and lemon thyme, so I use lots of those two herbs. Whether you call this a pizza, a focaccia or a tart, this is flakey, golden brown, and summer-lush! ... crisp, cheesy, herby and tomatoey!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tomato palooza!

Got tomatoes? WHAM! All of a sudden the tomatoes are ripening like crazy in the garden. Don't you wish they'd start to ripen in June so we'd have a steady supply all summer, instead of this rainbow avalanche of them in August and September? We all bought and planted them with tender loving care, staked them and tied them up with old nylons, pinched them, watered them, fertilized them, picked green worms off them, and now they are ripening and it's finally time to harvest and eat them.

So many tomatoes, so many possibilities—gazpachos, warm stuffed tomatoes, cold stuffed tomatoes tomato and whole grain saladsBLT sandwiches, tomato terrines, roasted tomato soups, tomato and mozz salads, and scrumptious tomato focaccias and tomato tarts. Phew, let tomato palooza begin!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gorgeous portrait—Kirk Douglas

Isn't this so sweet? Tough guy Kirk Douglas, looking gentler, older, and meeker, with a gardenia blossom tucked behind his ear. I've been a fan of the dimple on his chin and his films since forever. Born in 1916 New York as Issur Danielovitch to Russian Jewish immigrants, he made nearly 100 films during his long career, including these favorites of mine: Ace in the Hole, A Letter to Three Wives, and The Bad and the Beautiful. My very, very favorite character he portrayed was a tempestuous Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life. Oh, and how about Kirk in Sparticus?! ..."I am Sparticus!" He looked killer in those lace-up sandals. In 1996 Kirk suffered a stoke but seems to keep active. I hope makes it to 100!

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, VF

One of my favorite mags, Vanity Fair, turns 100 today! Sort of. The very first issue hit the newsstands on this day in 1913, then it had a twenty year run, followed by a forty-year hiatus (yup, absent from the Forties through the the Seventies), until it triumphantly returned in 1983. Dizzying, isn't it? So technically that makes the magazine only thirty years old, but what the heck, right? In any case, I love the juicy bits in the magazine—the fashion, pop culture, scandelous stories from classic old Hollywood, Dominic Dunne, (I miss him!), Christopher Hitchens ( I miss him too!), photos by Annie Leibovitz and Mario Testino (both geniuses behind the camera), and so on and so on. The first thing I do when the mag arrives in the mail is go straight to the back page to read the Proust Questionnaire!

The very first issue of VF on the left, and Kate Upton 
in a recreation of the cover on the right.

 “In an age when nothing seems to last - 
not convictions, not even cities -
 a centennial... makes me marvel at the 
simple fact of longevity.”

current VF editor, Graydon Carter 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The art of the schmear

Ok, I finally did it—I made the mortadella smear crostini. When I first saw this recipe in Saveur magazine I was slightly horrified because I very rarely eat cold cuts from the deli, especially ones that aren't nitrite or nitrate free. But I admit that I was intrigued by this recipe too, because it was elegantly presented in a rustic sort of way. I also thought 'hey, people eat deviled ham and liverwurst'... And it's sort of like that. And so the adventurous gastronome in me prevailed!

Let me break it down for you. This is a purée of mortadella (an Italian bologna that you've probably had in an Italian sub, and which you can easily find at any deli) mixed with whipped cream and other good stuff so it becomes light and fluffy, like a mousse. In fact, think of this as a Italian pâté. Then the pillowy mousse mixture is smeared onto a crusty piece of bread, topped with crushed pistachio nuts, and drizzled with a sweet, thick, balsamic vinegar glaze. Wow! I know it sounds weird, but it all balances beautifully... crusty, unctuous, sweet and slightly tart. Ridiculously good. See more recipes using this smear here, where it's stuffed into a ravioli. So be adventurous too, this is a fun appetizer!