The last of summer

fall coat

Autumn Coat 2013, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches

Today is sunny and warm but the forecast for the rest of the week is for cold weather, very cold, with rain and snow predicted.  My garden is unruly and overgrown as I hadn’t been able to do much over the summer with my bum hand.  I did put in tomato plants but a severe hail storm in June set them back.  They  recovered and I picked the last of them today along with a bit of basil and a handful of green beans.

 

Our friend Sally came for lunch last week and I decided to offer a last ode to summer.  I made a zucchini soup.

This is a recipe from Deborah Madison in her marvelous Local Flavors cook book.  I served the soup cold but it is equally delicious warm.  There is a mystery ingredient that makes it irresistible so read on…

First, roast a couple poblanos.  I do this over the open flame on my gas range but use whatever method you prefer.  Peel and seed them and chop into 1/2 inch squares.

poblanos and cilantro

Next, cut a medium sized zucchini, about 12-16 ounces, into 1/2 inch pieces.  Thinly slice a medium onion, red or yellow.  Chop the stems from a bunch of cilantro into small pieces; chop and set aside the leaves.

zucchini and onions

Saute the onion, zucchini, cilantro stems, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped mint, in 3 tablespoons safflower oil until onions are tender and zucchini limp, about ten minutes.

soup pot

Add the poblanos, 2 corn tortillas torn in pieces (the mystery ingredient), 5-6 cups water or chicken stock and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer until the veggies are soft then add the cilantro leaves.  Cool then puree in a blender.  Season to taste with salt and serve, hot or cold, with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a wedge of lime.

zucchini soup

With the soup I served a farro and fresh corn salad, combining summer and fall tastes.  The salad included roasted poblanos, cilantro and pine nuts.  The dressing is one I frequently use with grain salads ─ juice of a lime, a finely chopped clove of garlic, a teaspoon of ground cumin, a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, salt, olive oil.

farro salad

The soup and salad were accompanied by a baguette from the St. Vrain Market (highly recommended), an assortment of cheeses and a tomato and basil salad simply dressed with salt and olive oil.

lunch

So autumn is here and my cooking begins its seasonal change. Baking has taken a turn toward recipes I associate with the cold.  Lately I’ve made  date bars and ginger snaps.

For the date bars, pit and chop about 20 dates, enough to make 2 cups.

dates

Then make a batter with 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, 1/2 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the dates and 1 cup of broken walnuts. The dough will be stiff and thick.  Spread in a buttered 8 inch square pan and bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes until firm and brown.  Cool on a rack.

batter

Makes 16-25 depending on how you cut them.

date bars

We have changed our bedding to a down comforter and turned on the furnace.  Sad to see summer end with the Zweck’s farm stand now closed and my garden dry and about to be frosted.  I am ready, maybe, to be inspired by autumn and winter recipes.

Hot summer, cold soup

path (3)

Path 2001, oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches

In the last seven weeks four artists have come to stay with us and make prints at Shark’s Ink.  I wrote about Fred Stonehouse in my last post.  Claire Sherman arrived after Fred and made a lovely, large lithograph using  broad brushstrokes – a multilayered landscape, green and mysterious.  She had time to complete a second, small, exquisite image of a waterfall, again, abstracted with her painterly marks.

I had been struggling with severe carpal tunnel pain in my right hand, so by the time the next artist, Amy Ellingson, arrived, I was ready for surgery.  Amy and Bud worked on her first prints at Shark’s, two large lithos made from digital files and printed in many colors,  creating a labyrinth, a lattice, a map, with tunnels and windows of color. (This is a studio shot of one of the prints.)

amy's print

And I learned to cook using my left hand.  Not so hard if you must do it.  The doc said to  keep the dressing dry and clean and I tried but it’s not a pretty sight after a week in the kitchen.  Amy was most accommodating and helpful and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her over coffee and granola, drinking delicious wine at dinner on the porch, and talking of our lives.

Over the seven weeks, we had dinner parties, inviting friends to join us.  For several I made a simple starter, a cold cantaloupe soup.  Truly more than the sum of its parts, I devised the recipe after having had a similar soup years ago in Barcelona.

For four to six small servings, sauté half a medium sized onion, chopped, in two tablespoons of olive oil until tender and golden.

onions

Meanwhile, cut up a two pound cantaloupe and toss into the blender. Add the onion and whizz until perfectly smooth.

melon

Add salt to taste.  Chill well (I made this the day before) and serve in small cups with a drizzle of olive oil and something salty and crisp alongside – a hunk of focaccia or a home made cracker.  (Check out the new Search button in the side bar to find recipes in previous posts).

Enrique Chagoya is here this week and as it’s been very hot, we have had salads for lunch.  I read about a new salad dressing and had tried it out on Amy (we liked it) – made with feta and buttermilk.

Mash 2-4 ounces of feta, the kind that comes in a water bath.  Add 1/3 cup buttermilk, a minced, mashed clove of garlic, a couple tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, the zest of a small lemon and juice from half of it, and, if you like, some olive oil to thin the mix.

salad with feta dressing

Most of my salads don’t need a recipe but rely on what’s in the fridge. I depend on a stock of wonderful vegetables from Zweck’s farm and tidbits leftover from dinner.  Today’s salad featured smoked trout accompanied by green beans, tomatoes, avocado, black beans dressed with olive oil, cumin, chile flakes, mint, and a few slices of a delicious Colorado peach.

smoked trout salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer eggplant

The Handstand 1987

The Handstand 1987, pastel on paper, 30 x 41 inches

Artist Fred Stonehouse has been with us for the last ten days, making three wonderful prints.  He enjoys food and cooking so with Fred as an appreciative guest, I have felt free to cook whatever inspires me.Fred and Bud

 

The summer heat means summer veggies ─ cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant ─ are available at Zweck’s farmstand.  I cannot resist the glossy black Asian eggplant or the fat, round Italian variety. We have had grilled eggplant, soba noodles with eggplant and mango, and eggplant risotto.

eggplant

For Grilled  Eggplant, I rub the halved vegetable with lemon juice, then marinate all day in this:

Combine 1/4 cup shoyu, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup sherry, a couple of cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped, some grated ginger.

marinating

At dinner time, grill over a hot fire until tender, turning once.  Serve with any grilled meat or fish or simply with a bowl of rice and a salad.

grilled eggplant

Soba Salad is a little more complicated.  This recipe is based on one in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  Sauté a large, cubed globe or Asian eggplant in a three tablespoons of safflower oil until browned and tender. Add oil if necessary.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.

saute eggplant

Cook 7-8 ounces of soba noodles in boiling water until tender, about 6-8 minutes.  Watch the pot as it tends to boil over.  Blow on the rising water or add a bit of cool water to prevent an overflow.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside to dry.

Chop a peeled mango into 1-inch pieces, slice half a small red or sweet onion into thin rings, and prepare the dressing.

ingredients

For the dressing,  combine 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the zest of a lime and its juice, and two cloves of garlic, grated.

mango and dressing

Toss the noodles with the mango, onion, eggplant and dressing.  Add a big handful of chopped basil and one of chopped cilantro.

soba salad

This Eggplant Risotto is also based on an Ottolenghi recipe.

Burn a large globe eggplant until the skin chars and the flesh is tender.  I do this right on my gas burner.  You could use the broiler or a gas grill but the stove top is the easiest.  It gives the eggplant just the right smoky flavor. Peel away the burnt skin and chop the flesh into 1-inch pieces.

burnt

In 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sauté a medium onion, chopped small, then add a garlic clove, smashed and chopped.  Add a cup of Arborio rice and cook for several minutes, stirring.  Add a 1/2 cup white wine and cook until it is almost evaporated.  Start adding hot vegetable or a light chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice is almost tender.

risotto ingredients

Add the eggplant, the grated zest of a lemon, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup grated parmesan.  Stir in a handful of slivered basil leaves.  Serve with additional parmesan on the table.  Buon appetito and happy summer!

risotto2

Summer Sunday Supper

Ars Longa

Ars Longa 1998, oil on canvas, 40 x 48 inches  (Don Ed Hardy and Bud)

On these warm summer days I plan meals that can be prepared in the cool of the morning and served with little fuss.  And with the heat, cold soups are perfect to anchor a supper menu.

We are traveling to San Francisco this week to help celebrate the opening of Don Ed Hardy’s retrospective exhibition at the deYoung Museum so I needed to clean out my fridge.  I had beets from Zwecks’ farm and couldn’t bear to waste them so decided to make a beet soup.

I first made this  with a Walla Walla onion given to me by my friend Sue Macdougall, who grew upon a ranch near Walla Walla and orders the onions each year.  I didn’t have one today so I used a red onion.

First I steamed the beets until tender.

beets

I sauteed half an onion, chopped, and two stalks of celery in two tablespoons of olive oil then added the steamed, peeled beets cut into chunks, a handful of dill from my garden and four cups of water.

ingredients

This gently simmered, partially covered,  until the veggies were soft.  I cooled the soup for a bit before whizzing in the blender until perfectly smooth.  I tasted for salt and was amazed, as I am each time I prepare this, at the luxurious velvety texture.  Into jars and then the fridge to chill until dinner time.

cooling

 

Served with a dollop of Greek yogurt, a dusting of minced cilantro, and avocado toast topped with smoked trout along side.  A simple supper before our travels.

supper

 

Birthdays and Baking for a Wedding

The Dragon Wall 1989

The Dragon Wall 1989, oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches

Bud and Zoë have birthdays one day apart and we often celebrate together. This year we spent several days in Saratoga, Wyoming, soaking in the hot springs, hiking and searching for good food.

encampment river trail

The route to Saratoga is round-about and we chose to travel via Laramie and the Snowy Range where my family had spent part of our summer vacations when I was growing up.  I had not been there in many years.  I packed a lunch to eat on the way.  The usual Wyoming wind was chilly and we ate quickly at a sunny picnic table ─  a quinoa salad, asparagus, and almond macaroons.  Roseanne has been baking a delicious cracker and I made a batch to accompany our salads. We ate them with hunks of cheddar.

cracker ingredients

Roseanne’s Crackers

Combine 1 cup spelt flour, 1/4 cup pepitas, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt.  Stir in 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup grated parmesan (optional).  This makes a wet dough but it  is easy to roll out. 

dough

Divide in two and roll each piece very thinly, say 1/8 inch, between sheets of parchment.  Lightly score the dough (I use my serrated roller) and slide the bottom parchment on to a baking sheet.  Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm.  Cool then break apart on the score lines.

baked

We had begun our long weekend of celebration with a wedding.  Evan, an artist and Bud’s printing assistant, and his partner, Alanna, got married in a sweet ceremony at an historic ranch/park in Longmont, looking out over a small lake with the Front Range rising to the west. The weather in early June can be iffy but on the day, the sun shone and the dramatic gathering clouds held off from emptying with rain showers until late.

Evan2

 

I was pleased that Evan and Alanna had asked me to bake cookies for dessert. They chose three recipes ─ Cappuccino Coins,  Ginger Hearts, and Evan’s favorite,  Almond Macaroons.  The Ginger Hearts are a dough I usually form as a log, then cut the cookies into coins.  Alanna requested hearts instead and they were perfect.  The recipe is here ─  Book Release.  I mixed the dough in my Cuisinart so the candied ginger would be well chopped, making it easy to cut out the hearts.  Roll the dough out thin, 1/8 inch, between sheets of parchment, then cut into the desired shapes ─ hearts, moons, flowers.  Bake until firm and lightly browned, 10 – 12 minutes.

hearts

The Almond Macaroon recipe is a favorite from Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest.  Simple, delicious and, ta-da,  gluten-free.

Lightly toast 1 cup almonds.  When cool, pulse them in the food processor with 3/4 cups sugar until finely ground.  Add 2 large egg whites, (to make 1/3 cup), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, a pinch of salt.  Drop teaspoonsful onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375° for 12 minutes until firm and lightly browned.

Evan asked if I needed platters for the cookies but we had a surprise plan.  Bud made beautiful boxes from discarded Ana Maria Hernando proofs.

cookie boxes

After the ceremony, dinner and a bit of dancing we hiked up the hill to our car, hurrying as we watched the dramatic, stormy sky about to break into lightening and thunder, rain and wind.

sky

 

 

 

 

Mind the Gluten

Beehive Michael winks

Dinner at the Beehive 2002, charcoal on paper, 22 x 28 inches

 

Yvonne Jacquette completed a lovely print with Bud during her two week stay in May. I enjoyed her company and her stories of living in Manhattan as a young woman, where she socialized with Elaine deKooning, Edwin Denby, Nell Blaine, and Alex Katz amongst others.  She makes astute and entertaining observations about the work and lives of artists.

p

Yvonne Jacquette, The River at Belfast, Maine, color lithograph

 

My cooking in those weeks changed a bit as Yvonne requires a gluten-free diet.  I  researched recipes and concocted delicious crackers and muffins made without wheat.  We all enjoyed these baked goods, probably because they use almond flour. Here’s the recipe for crackers from Against the Grain by Danielle Walker:

 

In the food processor combine 1 cup almond flour, 2 tablespoons raisins, 2 teaspoons sunflower seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Whizz until thoroughly combined then add 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds and pulse once until roughly chopped. 

cracker doughcut dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

Form into a ball and roll between sheets of parchment until 1/8 inch thick. Use a serrated cutter, pizza cutter or a knife to score into 1 inch squares. 

Transfer paper to baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15 – 20 minutes until set and golden.  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes then carefully break apart.

crackers

It’s not difficult to prepare meals without wheat/gluten but after Yvonne’s departure I was ready for a good dose of  bread.  I made pizza.

dough

I mixed the dough and set it to rise first thing in the morning.  A long, cool rise makes for a flavorful, chewy crust.

Proof 1 teaspoon of dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.  Add 1/3 plus 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Then stir in 2 cups unbleached flour (I put a tablespoon of wheat germ in the cup before measuring the flour), 1 teaspoon salt.  Combine into a moist dough and then knead until smooth.  Place in an oiled bowl and let rise until supper time.  Punch down when necessary.

risen dough

I prepared the toppings in advance so they would be at room temperature when I used them on the pizza ─ sauteed onions and red peppers, a hot Italian chicken sausage.  I used the cheese I had in the fridge including the end of a piece of Brie, Catamount, Mexican Quesadilla and parmesan, making about 1 1/2 cups.

After flattening the dough and stretching it into an oval on a piece of parchment set on my peel, I scattered on half the cheese followed by a simple tomato sauce ─ a small tin of fire roasted tomatoes cooked  with garlic, sauteed in olive oil, until thickened. Then I spread the onions and peppers across the pizza, dotted it with the precooked sausage  and topped with the rest of the cheese.  I slid the pizza onto a preheated pizza steel in a  500° oven and baked for about 12 minutes.

pizza

 

 

Straw Dog Farm

Bubbles-Mimi

Bubbles 2010, oil on board, 16 x 12 inches

My sister Mimi lives and gardens on Straw Dog Farm in central Missouri.  I spent last week with her as she recovered from a hip replacement.  Her home is a simple structure she and her late husband, Ron, built 37 years ago. There is a lot to look at, inside and out.  Wide plank floors, framed paintings and drawings, books, dried herbs, garden views from every window.

iris

Mimi lives lightly on the land, growing much of her food and masses of native plants, recycling, and reusing.  She makes soap, puts up the vegetables, herbs, and fruits she grows, and the meat her neighbors share with her.  She heats and cooks with wood.

Mimi

For the week I was the cook and general helper with Mimi ready to guide me (or boss me around) from her easy chair.  I learned to make cook fires in her wonderful wood-burning stove, adding large logs for heat in the evening when I finished preparing a meal (the weather was mostly cool and rainy).

 

cook stove

I practiced tai chi in her gardens, under a redbud tree and near lovely spring flowering native plants. And of course, we had many long conversations about life and aging and our family.  We remember events from our shared childhood differently, one of us often saying, ‘no, that never happened, not that way’.

path

blooms

Every day I picked lettuce from the cold frames, parsley, tarragon, chives and sorrel in the culinary garden and asparagus growing in a long bed heavily mulched with straw.

culinary garden

We ate well, as Mimi has excellent stocks of home canned goods,  a freezer full of baked goods and those gardens.  We had steel cut oats with raisins and her home made Greek yogurt, stuffed sweet potatoes, and slow-cooked pork tacos with just picked cilantro and Mimi’s flour tortillas.  She rolls these very thin and then, over a good hot fire, cooks them for just a moment right on the stove top.

pork tacos

One day, she suggested I prepare an asparagus and tarragon soup, a new combination for me.  And so good.  This week I made another pot with the asparagus I had brought home in my suitcase.

ingredients

First I sauteed 1/2 an onion, diced, and a chopped carrot, in a tablespoon butter and one of olive oil.  I added a diced small potato, a pound and a half of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, the tips set aside for the garnish, and the stalks from a couple sprigs of tarragon, saving the leaves to top the soup.

ingredients 2

I added a quart of chicken stock and let the soup simmer until the veggies were soft.  Pureed it in the blender and reheated with the asparagus tips.  Sprinkled on chopped tarragon to serve.

asparagus soup

What a pleasure to help my sister and experience a beautiful spring on the farm.

weigela hedge