Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Murals

I joined older daughter and her fiancé for the last part of their vacation.  We visited his parents in their lovely new home in a suburb of Detroit.  We toured Belle Isle where you can see Canada on the left and Detroit on the right, had a burger and a Fat Tire beer at a local joint called Little Tony’s in the Grosse Pointe section, attended a Tigers game during which Austin Jackson got traded and immediately yanked from the game (seriously, can't the guy at least finish the game?) and visited his mom’s old stomping grounds.

The highlight of the trip was an outing to the Detroit Institute of Art, home of The Detroit Industry fresco by Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.  During the Depression, the Director of the Museum, William Valentiner, was so smitten with the mural Rivera painted for San Francisco’s Pacific Stock Exchange, that he commissioned him to paint the walls of the DIA’s Garden Court.  Edsel Ford funded the project which took Rivera two years to complete, 1932-1933.  There are legends around the perimeter of the Garden Court tiles that name each section of this striking piece. 

As I have written before, I am a Human Resources professional and wanted to visit this magnificent work symbolizing a hardworking labor force for quite some time.  As I walked into the massive gallery, I was awe struck, seriously rendered speechless by this vibrant and colossal work.  I was afraid to look away for fear I would miss a detail, a face.  I stood in the middle of the expansive room and spun around — twirled in delight — several times to appreciate the piece in the order it was intended.  I particularly noticed the eyes of one worker, carefully scrutinizing his task behind a pair of early 20th century spectacles and the hands of another, strong, large, purposeful, ready for the work of the day.

You can read more about the Murals here.

In another room, I spotted a Modigliani and I was over the moon. 

Then there was the John Singer Sergeant.  

In Detroit, there has been discussion about auctioning this stunning collection to help the city climb out of its current circumstance.  Some things, like art, surely transcend fiscal policy; art teaches people to hope, to escape the ordinary and enter the world the artist created.  I was was not at the DIA that day.  I was — all at once — in a bustling factory, on a French countryside, in an Italian villa, and sitting in an aristocrat’s parlor.   To sell this collection to revive city services would be a travesty and short-sighted indeed, no matter how altruistic the motive.  People need a reason to visit, a destination within a destination, to more than a building.  

We drove home through beautiful western PA and thought about a detour to see a covered bridge in Clearfield County but it was a little bit out of the way so a covered bridge tour to Lancaster County is in my future.  We saw a tin can tourist in a sweet airstream trailer...made me jealous!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Figs With Pomegranate Molasses

I’m walking through Whole Foods the other day and I see a huge display of figs.  I stop dead in my tracks and notice the sign….three containers of figs for ten bucks. 

3 for $10!!

One container, two containers, three containers go directly in the cart.  

Even the checkout guy commented “Gee, you must like figs.”

I had a mission, but I didn’t tell him that.  I just politely smiled and said yes.

Tis the season for figs…they are one of Architect’s favorite things so I gave her a container and with two containers left, I had the perfect excuse to make these little gems I saw posted in the NYTimes:

Grilled Figs with Pomegranate Molasses. Yum.

I scanned the ingredients in the recipe and, to my surprise and delight, I had every one in my pantry, even the pomegranate molasses, courtesy of Singer who gave each dinner mate a bottle when she had to order FOUR from to make a recipe.

I did have to buy the you just read.

Grilling brings out the natural sweetness of fruit.  The sugars concentrate to produce the most perfect caramelized, jammy glaze.  But, take care not to overcook these little dainties, because, if you do, they will get mushy.  I used my stovetop grill pan but you can take advantage of a hot barbecue grill by threading the figs on a skewer before grilling.

You can serve these warm, as a first course, complemented with the cool creaminess of goat cheese crumbles or as a chilled dessert served with ricotta, mascarpone cheese or yogurt.  A drizzle of honey would be nice too. 

Grilled Figs with Pomegranate Molasses
New York Times, July 7, 2014

12 large or 18 medium-size ripe but firm fresh figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Goat cheese, mascarpone, ricotta or Greek yogurt

1. Prepare a hot or medium-hot grill or heat a grill pan to medium-hot. Cut figs in half.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add figs to the bowl and gently toss until they are thoroughly coated.
3. Place on grill or grill pan flat side down. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until grill marks appear. Turn over using tongs or a spatula and grill for another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side.
4. Remove to a platter or sheet pan and brush each fig on the cut side with pomegranate molasses.
5. Plate the grilled figs and serve with the goat cheese, mascarone, ricotta or Greek yogurt.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Tomato Stacks

Despite the introductory traffic-related rant, this post is about eggplant.

I promise.  Please read on.

I work in Wilmington, Delaware.

This 495 bridge closure thing has been quite a treat, adding at least 20-30 minutes to my commute to and from work each day.  If there’s an accident, it’s even more eventful.

And painful.  

Even the POTUS is concerned (maybe Joe is whispering in his ear because Delaware is, after all, his home state).  Himself visited the First State disaster this week to tour the damage and repair progress and to talk up his highway infrastructure improvement initiative.  

That gives you an idea of what a colossal mess this has been and will continue to be until Labor Day.  Just in time to handle beach-related traffic…that weekend.

But, the bright spot is that on Wednesday and Fridays in the summer, there is a farmers market very close to my office and that is where I saw these beauties:
Those aubergine things, those are eggplants and the globe-shaped variety are Kamo eggplants.  The absolutely delightful woman from the farm told us that the skin of this variety is not as thick or bitter as regular eggplant so there is no need to peel the skin prior to cooking.   Like other eggplants, they are quite porous and this allows them to easily absorb the flavors of the ingredients with which they are prepared, releasing many layers of tastiness and texture.

As I was chatting with my co-worker about what to make with this jewel, she told me about the eggplant stacks she enjoyed at a nearby restaurant.  Well now, that sounds quite delicious AND would also look amazing plated.  Plus, my Mom, Sister, Uncle and Daughters were coming for Sunday dinner, and I suspected they would really like them!  A quick search revealed several recipes for the stacked lovelies and, like many other recipes, I tweaked it a bit to make it my own.

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Tomato Stacks
Adapted from Food Network

1 Kamo eggplant, unpeeled and sliced (you should get about 6-8 slices, depending on the thickness)
1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, scrambled with some milk, salt and pepper
3 large tomatoes, sliced
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil for brushing and frying
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place the breadcrumbs and egg mixture in two separate bowls.  Dip the eggplant, one slice at a time, into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs.  Drizzle a frying pan with some olive oil over a medium heat and when hot, fry the slices until golden brown on each side.  
Place the browned slices on a baking sheet.  Next, slice the tomatoes and arrange them in a single layer on another baking sheet, brush the tomatoes with some olive oil, garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Bake the eggplant slices and the tomatoes for 12-15 minutes (until the tomatoes are soft and slightly browned on the edges).  Let the eggplant and tomato slices cool so you can handle them.  

To make the stacks, place an eggplant slice on a plate, then a tomato slice, next a mozzarella slice, then another tomato slice.  Top with a basil leaf.  Enjoy!

In these parts, we wait all year for Jersey tomatoes and I made this recipe with the purple beauty you see right up there, juicy, delicious Jersey tomatoes, basil from my garden, and mozzarella from the Whole Foods store.  We also enjoyed a cheese tray, chai cupcakes and beer...what could be better, except to share it all with family. More photos from our gathering:

The gorgeous photos are courtesy of my sister at Love, Kate Photography…..visit and like her Facebook page here!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta

We had dinner at Foodie’s house this past week. 

It was my turn to cook but I had a massive leak in a stack pipe that needed to be repaired.  When my Irish contractor opened the walls, I did get a glimpse of my kitchen in days gone by!   We won’t say anymore about this mishap except that Foodie agreed to cook.

Good thing.  My house was a mess.

She made Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta featuring yellow squash.  As we were sitting eating dinner, Architect told us about the lovely squash she has growing her garden.  She explained that she would throw the seeds of squashes past in the compost pile and, what do you know, one day she saw a squash vine develop along with a distinctive and beautiful squash blossom flower.  A few little squashes followed that seemingly grow at the clip of 1/2 inch per day!   Feisty little buggers.

Anyway, the dainty and delicate flowers that escort squash into summer are also edible. The  blossoms are often served fried in a simple batter, but can be stuffed with fresh, creamy cheeses like ricotta or goat cheese and herbs then drizzled with some honey and lemon.  You can also bake the blossoms if you don’t like deep frying.  There are some nice squash blossom recipes on-line too.

Do try this dish.  It is simple, delicious and just perfect for a relaxed summer evening.

Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta

1 pound of spaghetti or fettuccine
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
2 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 container of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
8 oz of sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste (red pepper flakes would add some zip!)
Juice of one lemon
Lemon zest
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pasta water
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
6 basil leaves, slivered
Note: Peas or asparagus would be nice in this dish too.

Cook the pasta.  Reserve about one cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, add two swirls of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over low heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and sauté for two minutes, then add the tomatoes, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Raise heat to medium high; cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the lemon, lemon zest, cream, and some Parmesan cheese and cook until the cream is heated through and thickens a bit, just a couple of minutes.   Put the pasta in a large bowl, add the vegetable mixture and toss. You can loosen it up a bit with the pasta water.  Grate some more fresh Parmesan cheese on top, add the basil and serve.

A lovely and chilled bottle of Anderra Sauvignon Blanc was perfect with this dish with its citrus, rose blossom-infused and grassy notes….very flavorful, crisp, and fresh.

For dessert, Foodie served pan seared peaches with amaretto.  The sugar in the amaretto turned into the most delectable syrup that she drizzled over the peaches and vanilla ice cream before serving.  Simply decadent and divine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chia Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

I am a creature of habit.  

I have a cup of coffee every morning and one of three breakfast selections.  I take the dog for a walk and sometimes I do something really radical like change the route to spice things up for her. 

Dogs like new smells and don’t give a damn about human idiosyncrasies.

I have an exercise routine and schedule and I regularly record my workouts and what I eat in  Sometimes the Ap chides me and reminds me that “if every day were like today you’d weigh 3000 pounds.”  This little prod used to bother me but now I simply readjust and get back on track realizing that bad eating days are sometimes good for the soul.

And really yummy.

In my view, if we deprive ourselves of everything we enjoy, then life is just one more chore and who needs or wants a 24/7 chore, right? 

Anyway, to keep my occasional debauchery and periodic overindulgences in check and to remind me to log-in to the tool every day, I also follow on Facebook.  They post motivational articles and healthy recipes and recently, this little jewel appeared in my feed:

Notice my comment.  

And, hell yes, I did make them. 

And, hell yes, they are delicious.

Make them! Please.

A few years ago, I did not know a chia seed from a chia pet, let alone know how completely good the seeds are for you.  Coincidently, and in case you are wondering, these healthy chia seeds are the same chia seeds used to grow those “ch-ch-ch-chia pet” plants popularized in the 1980’s!

I liked the bald guy one….it reminded me of someone I used to work for.

There is a notion that chia seeds help you lose weight by expanding your stomach making you feel full so, theoretically, you’ll eat less.  Both scientifically, and in my humble and non-scientific opinion, the jury is still out on that assertion....anything that makes my stomach expand can’t be a good thing.  In moderation, the tiny black seeds really are healthy for you.

Chia means strength and they are indeed energy boosters thanks to healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. They are an unprocessed, whole grain food but are easily absorbed by the body.  They have a nutty flavor and are typically sprinkled on cereal or yogurt or added to drinks and baked goods, such as with these breakfast bars.

Chia Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

1½ Tablespoons chia seeds
¼ cup Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used 1% milk and a splash of vanilla extract)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
¾ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped dates (I used crainsins)
¼ cup dark chocolate chunks or carob chips
1 Tablespoon creamy almond butter
large pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, stir together the chia seeds and almond milk and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, or until the chia seeds have created a nice gel-like consistency. Pour the chia seed gel into a medium sized mixing bowl and add in the mashed bananas, oats, coconut, almond butter and cinnamon until well combined. Gently stir in the dates and chocolate chunks. Scoop out dough (about 1-2 tablespoons worth) onto a baking stone or a greased cookie sheet and use a fork to press the dough down a little to make more of a cookie shape. You should get about 15 cookies. Place in oven and bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookies have browned a tiny bit.  Cool and enjoy.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 cookie Calories: 79 Fat: 4g Carbohydrates: 12g Sugar: 6g Fiber: 2g Protein: 2g