Saturday, November 30, 2013

Through Vincent's eyes

The many self portraits of Vincent Van Gogh.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wicked good turkey sandwich

Got leftovers? Me too. I think I might enjoy a leftover turkey sandwich more than the actual Thanksgiving meal, and I'm absolutely certain that everyone's idea of the perfect leftover turkey sandwich is quite different. What's your style? Should it be with cranberry sauce or without?… On white, wheat or rye?… Toasted?… Grilled?… Warm and open-faced with gravy? … Avocado-cheese-tomato-sprouts?! OK, I'll stop—I know the list could go on and on. One of my favorite turkey sandwiches is actually pretty ordinary, with just whole grain bread, a slathering of Hellman's mayo, and maybe some Boston bibb lettuce. But another one of my favorite turkey sandwiches is with the ingredients you see above, made with cranberry pecan bread, cranberry mustard, goat cheese, a few extra pecans for crunch, and some arugula leaves. Wicked good sandwich!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Color inspiration—cranberries

Inspired by… beautiful cranberries. 
Look at all those passionate colors!

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sweet + sizzled

These pillowy sweet potato gnocchi are packed with fiber and beta carotene, which kinda sorta almost makes up for the fact that they've been anointed with a maple cinnamon brown butter sauce with sizzled sage leaves. Get the recipe by Giada DeLaurentis here. Dan made this yummy treat, and I helped by forming the gnocchi. We had a little production line going—he formed the small dough balls and put them on a sheet tray, while I rolled them each over my palm against a wooden ridged pasta cutter. Those ridges are essential to catch all that delicious sauce with!

The gnocchi would have perfectly good on its own, but we had it with a rosemary, apple cider brined pork loin roast with a Calvados, apple, onion sauceand a green salad with apple cider vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy birthday, Wild Thing!

Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, has a birthday today—it's fifty years old! I'm a huge fan of the book, and even have a Spanish version of it. I love his unique and whimsical illustrations and inspiring story-telling. Sendak passed on last year, but his stories will live on forever to delight kids and grown ups who are kids at heart… like me!

Also, I really like the colors Sendak used in this illustration!

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wild about Wilde, #7

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.
—Oscar Wilde

+ + + 

This is another in my series of Oscar Wilde witticisms. In my humble opinion, O.W. was one of the cleverest men in literature. Loved him! Click on the red Wild about Wilde label below to read more Wilde witticisms.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Crazy colorful

I really like these three crazy colorful images together. Their bright and happy colors makes me smile. From the top is Matisse's La Gerbe cutout painting, Sarah Midda's striped French sketchbook cover, and a piece of Mexican Otomi embroidered fabric.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Old school with attitude

For some inexplicable reason I was craving a good old fashioned salad with ranch dressing last week, so I whipped up a batch of dressing using this buttermilk ranch dressing recipe from Mark Bittman. To the creamy mix I added in a chopped blend of the last of the fresh herbs from my garden—chives, dill, tarragon, parsley. The only other additions I made to Bittman's recipe were a dash of lemon to brighten it, and a smidge of horseradish sauce for some attitude. I spooned the dressing over a combo of romaine and iceberg lettuces, and then to guild the humble lily, I added more fresh herbs on top. Iceberg lettuce gets a bad rap for having poor nutritional content, but I think it's sweet, tasty and really stands up to an old school creamy dressing like this.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Golden and luminous

styled as Frederic Leighton's Flaming June

Oh seriously, is this not perfection? Grace Coddington, creative genius for Vogue magazine, and Annie Leibowitz, photography genius for Vogue, have done it again. They have placed beautiful actress Jessica Chastain smack dab into iconic paintings in the December issue of Vogue. As soon as I saw the cover I knew exactly what they were up to. The creative duo styled Ms. Chastain in scenes that pay homage to several famous paintings, including classics by Frederick Leighton, Gustav Klimpt, and Vincent Van Gogh. The cover photo, where JC is all golden and luminous while swathed in a flowing, squash blossom colored Olivier Theyskens dress, is my absolute favorite. Here are some other faves from the issue. Read more in depth details here. Genius, and very well done. 

styled as Félix Vallotton's Le Retour de la Mer

styled as Gustav Klimpt's Portrait of Ria Munk III

styled as Vincent Van Gogh's La Mousmé 

styled as René Magritte's La Robe du Soir 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stuffed patty pan squash

Patty pan squash are good sautéed whole, quartered or sliced when they are small, but when they get a little bigger, such as the ones shown here, they are perfect for stuffing with anything your imagination can come up with. To make these I cut the top off of the patty pan squashes, hollowed out the inside with a melon baller, stuffed them with a mix of cooked quinoa, sautéed onion and summer squash, grated carrot, arugula, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, then I put the cap back on and baked in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Foggy morning

Balmy nighttime temps made for a beautiful foggy morning recently in our back yard, before the hard frost zapped all those pretty rose buds. Feathery plumes of ornamental grasses, Knockout roses, and Alaskan Weeping Cedars look dreamy and ethereal.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gorgeous portrait—John Wayne

Holy smokes, can you even believe this is John Wayne? What a handsome devil. Most of us remember him as "The Duke," a man's man, and more specifically, a tough, old cowboy ("well I tell ya Missey..." ), but this angelic face is quite beautiful. I haven't seen many of his cowboy and Indian films (or sagebrush and saddle!) except for The Searchers and a few other of those classic films like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. I loved him The Green Berets, but it's not a light and fluffy film and a tough one to revisit.

My favorite John Wayne film, one that I've seen very often, is The Quiet Man, set in Ireland and co-starring the sassy and fiery Maureen O'Hara. Wayne's character is Sean Thornton, an American ex boxer who returns to his family's land and falls for Ms. O'Hara. (Fun fact: When Dan and I visited Ireland, we bought Aran sweaters at the same Galway shop that provided the custom costumes for The Quiet Man.) Wayne always seemed to have a warmth and genuine spirit in his roles, and never more so than in The Quiet Man.

“Courage is being scared to death, 
but saddling up anyway.” 

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Primary colors

Red–yellow–blue... the primary colors of the color wheel. This simple salad is one of my favorite combos. It's made with garnet pomegranate seeds, golden mangoes, and indigo blueberries, and the recipe is from British Kitchen Goddess Nigella Lawson.  All that sweetness is balanced with a judicious squeeze of mouth puckering lime juice. So good to look at and so rich in antioxidants. Sometimes it's the simple things... 

Click on the 'fruit salads' label below 
to see more crazy fruit salad combos.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Porcelain berry vine

I made this quick watercolor sketch of our porcelain berry vine... the vine that we just chopped down to three feet. It grows like mad all season and really needs to be shown who's the boss. Isn't the color of those turquoise and purple berries astonishing?! I may transplant it next season to another spot where it can grow wild and free. Or maybe not. Read more about our porcelain berry vine in a post from a few years ago by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

French pizza

This French pizza was cooked quickly in a scorching 550° oven, so the crust was über crispy. So what makes it French? It has a smear of crème fraîche, which adds a super creamy feel, especially when it melts and commingles with Gruyere cheese. It's also made with lightly caramelized onions that were cooked slowly in, umm... bacon fat, and big dices of Canadian bacon, so it's doubly smokey and trés luscious. Although it includes these sweet caramelized onions, the pizza should not be confused with a French Pissaladière, which is a savory tart made with caramelized onions, anchovy, and olives. Click here to see one I made in the summer of 2012. The link also shows how to caramelized onions. Vegetarians, just skip the bacon fat and ham and shake in a dash of liquid smoke to get that rich, smokey flavor

Here's how to make it: Flatten your pizza dough out thin, into 8-10 in rounds—use a rolling pin if it helps you. Then spread a thick layer of crème fraîche on the dough, add caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, diced canadian bacon, and salt and pepper.

Cook it quickly in a preheated, 550° oven for just 8-10 minutes (preferably on a pizza stone if you have one), until it starts to brown and bubble. Slice and enjoy. It's great with a big salad with autumn fruit in it, like pears or apples.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Color Inspiration—ornamental grass

These are the waning, wheat colored stalks of our miscanthus giganteus sinensis plants—giant ornamental grass. See those subtle shades of pink hiding in there? Gorgeous.

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

View from the hill

Dan took these breathtaking photos from Castle Hill on the Crane Estate this weekend. Are we not lucky to live on this beautiful North Shore of Boston? Such magnificence! The Trustees of Reservations have been busy on a three-year restoration of the trees lining the grand allée that rolls down to the sea. When we were married at Castle Hill in 1993 the old Norway spruces then were well over 30 feet tall, but old age and strong winds had made them look ragged, so they chopped them all down and planted new ones. The photo above is the section of trees that is closest to the ocean. The statue is one of the last of a line of them that flack easy side of the allée.

Below is the view of Crane's beach—
on the right of the grand allée. 
The ocean is almost a cobalt blue!

Below is the backside view on the drive up to Castle Hill, overlooking Fox Creek, which winds through the marsh like a serpent.

Below, leaves covering steps in 
one of the Italian Garden.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bathing, Marblehead 1897

Today I was perusing through the "By the Sea" book I bought at the Maurice Prendergast show this summer in Maine. I am still absolutely smitten by his paintings, like this one—watercolor and graphite pencil on paper.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Color Inspiration—salt marsh grass

This New England Salt marsh grass, deep green in summer, is so tall that it's fallen over so just the tips are left to blow in the breeze. It changes to flaming orange in the fall, then a sort of tan-brown in the winter.

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The color celadon

Inspired by... the color celadon.

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hail and farewell—Charlie Trotter

Charlie Trotter 1959—2013

I learned so much from Charlie Trotter's Kitchen Sessions show on PBS. He was a passionate culinary trailblazer and transformed ingredients into gorgeous culinary masterpieces with precision and panache! Read more about Charlie's life and career here. Hope he's up there somewhere sipping champagne with Julia and Escoffier.

Cuisine is only about making foods taste the
 way they are supposed to taste.
—Charlie Trotter

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alsatian onion tart

Once upon a time—before we had a house—we used to take amazing long trips to Europe. One such trip was in 1996 when we took a three-week tour of France, Germany and Austria. We still travel of course, but usually limit the time to two weeks, which I can't complain about! In those days of exploration and discovery we traveled simply, enjoyed the little things, and anything was possible. A picnic of local bread, cheese and fruits and wine on the grounds of a French chateau? Priceless. We made many precious memories driving our rented car from Paris to the Loire Valley and Alsace, then to Germany in the Mosel region and along the Rhine river, then over the German Alps to the Austrian Alps to Salzsburg and Vienna. We explored vineyards, chateaus, castles and of course, fabulous food and wine.

We first tasted an onion tart in on a warm autumn day in Colmar in the Alsace region of France, at a restaurant with tables right on the edge of a canal. Flowing heaps of colorful geraniums spilled over windowsills of enchanting homes and reflected on the river water as we drank our Riesling wine in cute green wine glasses. In those languid days, the air was always buttered with sunshine and anticipation, as it was on this particular day, when the waiter brought a warm onion tart for me and a charcuterie plate for Dan. Both were delectably memorable. When I got home from the trip I searched for an Alsatian onion tart recipe to make and I came across the one shown here. It's perfect with a salad made with apples because the tart and sweet flavor profiles balance perfectly with the rich tart. I dress the salad with my favorite autumn apple cider vinaigrette. I make this Alsatian onion tart just once a year, always in the autumn, and preferably on a warm day where we can sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy it—and reminisce about that warm autumn day in Alsace.

The canal in Colmar, France

Slowly brown the onions.

I put fresh thyme into the pie crust 
and blind-baked it before filling.

And voilà—Alsatian onion tart!