Celebrate with MONET

Author’s Note: Before we get to the Food, I want to thank Couleur Nature for sharing their incredibly lovely French tablelinens as backdrop for Monet’s Food. I remember seeing their tablecloths for the first time some 15 years ago. Before I could Cook, let alone make Cassoulet! I was “antiquing” with my grandmother, Mima, in Pasadena. (She loved “Good Design.”) There was a vendor selling beautiful old platters but I fell hard for the cheery, obviously well-made tablecloth beneath.  We went back and forth until finally I convinced her to sell me her tablecloth. I use it most weeks still. What I love about Couleur Nature is not just the daily beauty they bring to my kitchen, but the memory of my grandmother. Shopping with me in the sunshine… Mima died two years ago this Spring. And I think of her every time I unfurl that gorgeous cloth onto my kitchen table. It’s been a real honor working with Couleur Nature again on this article.

When I started writing about Artists & Food last year, I had no idea I’d find a real thread of similarity across history. First with Frida and her Recipes, Robert Townsend (L.A. based & awesome) and with Monet. Three Artists who could not be more different if they tried. But each one living a purposeful aesthetic. An intentional way of being. Of creating.

Life Lived Beautifully. And Intentionally… The Parlor at Giverny.

For Monet, the second half of Life was ripe with the celebrations and deliciousness denied him in the first half. Giverny provided important sanctuary. Space to grow as a newly blended family with Alice Hoschede, Monet’s second wife, after Camille sadly died from cancer. Giverny was an oasis of seemingly “wild” waves of color — vibrantly lush! — in every direction.  Lilac shadows and dappled sunlight. Fragrant, blooming flowers, tranquil pond, and VERY organized, kitchen garden. Not an inch wasted. Giverny was a carefully structured orchestra of year-round care, grounds maintenance, and painting schedules.

Alice & Claude Monet’s restored Kitchen. Alice died in 1911 and Blanche, her daughter, took over as mistress of Giverny. When Monet died in 1926, the house continued for family and dwindling chorus of artists and friends until WWI devoured Europe. September 1940, on the brink of WWII, Blanche “wrote to Count Matternich asking him to protect the house. An official notice was pinned to the door, stating “This is Monet’s House. Forbidden to the forces of occupation.” Blanche lasted until June the following year before closing Giverny. It’s said cook Marguerite handed over her apron here in this kichen, leaving sadly in a red truck. For it was over. And Giverny deserted.

Domestic harmony being paramount for Monet, mealtimes ran like clockwork: three multi-course meals cooked by Maguerite (from scratch) per day. Fresh cut flowers in every room. Alice at the helm intentionally crafting an elegant, creatively “Artsy” Lifestyle while simultaneously protecting now-famous Monet’s privacy… and satiating his hunger. Monet built three studios at Giverny and painted every morning and late afternoon, allowing only Alice in and later, Blanche, his stepdaughter. Alice would meal-plan the week ahead or embroider while Monet painted. I love that visual… Two people so in love with each other, food and art! With daily meals,  acts of seasonal celebration.

One of Monet’s many food paintings.  Monet painted abundant scenes in courtyards, parks, picnics, and sweet family moments through his entire career… even if early reality was cold, hungry, and impoverished.

For Monet reveled in the appetizing! Bragging that he “ate the weight of three men” per meal. Insisting on a beautiful table (even when times were lean). After reading countless pages these past eight months, surviving Giverny recipes boast early “Farm to Table” fare that had to be flavorful but never fussy.  Alice and Monet, both born upper middle class, understood that domestic beauty was vital but always appear effortless. Monet insisting on eating well in celebration of season, family, and finally, financial success as Artist.

Shellfish was a true delicacy. Giverny initially boasted no Ice Box, making safe storage of these beauties difficult! Shellfish served was always a cause for Celebration! Miyagi Oysters shown here on La Mer Tablecloth from Couleur Nature.

Out of all the recipes I’ve read, these are some of my favorites — partly because they are unfussy, delicious, and easily switched up. I want to share them with you and hope you make them too for your loved ones!

Celebrating each other as the Monet/Hoschedes so often did.

 

SMOKED SALMON SPREAD ON BAGUETTE WITH CHIVES & THYME

Smoked Salmon on Toasted Baguette. Dean snuck one before I started photographing and kept saying “oh these are good!” while I worked! Shown here on Couleur Nature’s stunning Scalloped Marble Platter, Cherry Blossom tablecloth, and Grasse napkins. (I never match).

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 cups total goat cheese, creme fraiche, plain yogurt
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Lemon
  • About 1/4 lb Smoked Salmon Slices
  • 1 Baguette or French Bread

This dish is a perfect appetizer or light dinner! It takes minutes to prepare and pairs beautifully with chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Champagne. Monet thought Veuve Clicquot the best and ordered it often for Alice.

In one bowl, mix well 1-1.5 cups goat cheese and creme fraiche with a splash of plain yogurt or half-and-half. Wash and chop fresh thyme and chives to taste. Zest or finely chop lemon peel and mix in  (I use a vegetable peeler and peel three strips before chopping.) Salt/fresh ground pepper. (A wooden spoon works best.)

Next, coarse chop about 1/4 lbs smoked salmon slices and mix into the cheese mix. I do add a splash of fresh lemon juice.

Slice & toast French bread or Baguette and spread salmon on each. Arrange on this pretty platter and dust with more chopped chives.

 

MONET SCRAMBLE

Our New Favorite. Perfect for brunch or easy night in! Served fireside on Gingham Two-Toned Napkins and Marble Platter with Bistro Glasses and Grasse Napkins.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 Eggs
  • 2-3 slices Prosciutto (hand torn bite-sized)
  • 1 Shallot (chopped)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2-1 red Tomato (seeds drained and rough chopped)
  • 3 Asparagus (woody part discarded, cut bite-sized)iitake or Morel Mushrooms (for prep: read below)
  • Fresh Chives
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Butter

Marguerite’s Note: Really, there are too many variations of this beauty to try. For us? I “Sonoma-fied” Marguerite’s hand written recipe but kept her Mushroom Secret: And that is to trim the bottom. Cut the stems off entirely and finely slice or dice them. Then, halve or quarter the caps. She thought this preserved the texture of the mushrooms but boosted flavor. After making this scramble three times in the last week? I’ve converted.

Warm a non-stick frying pan (I worship my Lagostina non-stick (thanks to FeedFeed) and my All Clad omelette pan found at Sur La Table!). Melt two tablespoons of butter and add Asparagus. Once aromatic, add Garlic, Shallots and torn Proscuitto. Let Asparagus soften and Prosciutto crisp up a bit. (Add more butter if necessary). Add the chopped chives, salt and fresh cracked pepper (& mix) just before the cheese! Some 30 seconds later? Turn heat way down and add the eggs. Slowly scramble the eggs so they remain soft. Top with more chives and serve immediately with a crisp green salad.

Monet adored light-red wines such as Grenache with this dish. Idle Cellars (my friend Ben) makes some of the finest Grenache in the new world and pairs beautifully. We opted for a warm fire and our cold 2014 Annadel Sauvignon Blanc. Served here on Grasse & Gingham Napkins with Bistro glasses and marble circle.

CHEESE PLATTER WITH PARMA CANTALOUPE BITES

Living on a Vineyard has some perks. One of them is sundown with friends, great wine, and eating Monet’s favorite cheeses! Served here next to our Merlot Blocks on Cherry Blossom Tablecloth and assorted marble platters with Pink & Green Bistro Glasses thanks to Couleur Nature! Roses fresh cut from the garden behind me.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of 1 Melon (Canteloupe here but any neutral Melon will work)
  • Thinly sliced Prosciutto or Parma Ham
  • 1/2 wheel Camembert
  • Artisan Goat Cheese with Herbs (We like Skyhill Farms from Napa or Laura Chanel)
  • 1 Slice Blue with good marbling
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1-2 Sprigs fresh Mint
  • 1 bottle Veuve Clicquot (Monet favored Veuve above all else and enjoyed it with family at Christmas and every special occasion!)
  • 1 bottle chilled white wine (enjoyed with our Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Toothpicks (the cuter the better)

Easy to assemble! Arrange cheeses on chilled platter.

Next cube canteloupe. Fold bite-sized prosciutto/ham and top with fresh mint leaf. Spear the trio and place on platter. Lightly drizzle with high-quality balsamic vinaigrette. Serve immediately or wait awhile… Chilled marble platters keep everything fresh.

Sunset in the Vineyard, here at the historic Annadel Estate Winery, May 2017

 

MONET & SEAFOOD

Monet had a special place in his heart for fish. In fact, he painted 22 separate paintings along a particular stretch of coastline between Dieppe and Varengeville-sur-Mer. When visiting, Monet stayed at the Hotel La Terrasse where Fruits de la Mer is the house specialty. This “dish” remained a family favorite and was highly prized. Giverny was built before refrigeration so Alice & Monet splurged on this luxury only a few times a year, mostly Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve… In the meantime, Monet enlarged the initially small pond at Giverny and stocked it with fish for eating.

Dean could wait no more to dive into this gorgeous feast! Fresh, wild caught crab, oysters, shrimp and lobster paired beautifully with our 2015 Los Chamizal Vineyards Chardonnay atop Couleur Nature’s new La Mer tablecloth! Dipping sauces set in totally darling painted Aero Ceramic BowlsBistro glasses come in many colors… Chuck Williams selected this style of glass when he first brought back French cookware to America and opened the first Williams Sonoma here in Sonoma. Chuck thought they were practical, good for water, juice or wines, and were pretty. I could not agree more! Thrilled they now come in these beautiful colors at Couleur Nature!

Ingredients:

  • Assortment of fresh, preferably wild-caught fish. Monet loved mussels and clams, oysters, lobster and crab. My kids love all things prawn and I didn’t have the mental energy for mussels and clams so we went easy with oysters and a lobster tail (all to grill) as well as two crabs.
  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Tartar Sauce
  • Cocktail Suace

Shallot Vinaigrette if you do oysters: Chop 1 garlic and 1 shallot. Marinate in rice vinegar and squeeze a bit of hot sauce and fresh lemon into the thin mixture. (Keep it more vinegar than sauce.)

Chill platter in refrigerator. Arrange fresh greens artfully and place shellfish in a pretty pattern.  Garnish with fresh cut lemons.  I like putting bay shrimp in a separate small bowl (they look prettier.) And serve to great cheering of your guests!

 

Bibliography:

Monet’s Palate Cookbook, The Artist & His Kitchen Garden At Giverny, Aileen Bordman & Derek Fell

Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet, Claire Jones (1989 ed.)

Art History, Vol. 2, Marilyn Stokstad

The Art Book, Phaidon

Food With The Famous, Jane Grigson (1979 ed.)

Monet Foundation at Giverny

ROBERT TOWNSEND: Artist Kitchens

FREE COLOR T.V.

Candy Hearts, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. (Sold but a personal favorite).

One perk as a painter, is genuinely appreciating other Artists. And sometimes, becoming really good friends. Robert Townsend is just such a person: stunning Painter — in a League of his own! — and solid family friend.  The fact he’s now a famed painter is just too fun.

I met Rob back in 2004 opening night of “Icons,” his very first solo show. I was a young professional working for the Mayor of L.A. and Rob, a Longshoreman in Long Beach.  Working in a shipyard at night and teaching himself to paint by day. Through books, exhibitions, and museums, Rob mined within a shockingly fine talent for colorfully painting vintage Americana.

Fun Pack, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. Altamira Gallery

Fast forward 10 years, and Life finds Rob and I earnestly still pursuing our dreams.  I make wine and paint in Sonoma and Rob thrives quietly as much sought after Artist, working long months on a single canvas, in Downtown Los Angeles. Remembering to hike and eat the end of most days. We’re still fast friends; it’s been a true joy watching him rise from sweetly awkward new painter to still-humble Star.


Reflections & Rivers, Robert Townsend, Oil.

From pinwheels to chipped neon signs, rusting trucks and forgotten roadside diners, Rob brilliantly catches the mystique and vibrancy of mid-century America. All that cheery, post-war optimism! Cautiously muted with nostalgic sadness for what’s been lost. On a personal note, I especially love his kitchen and food related works. I cook facing a trio of colorful confections he painted for Anni when she was born. It makes our kitchen happy.

Grand Canyon, Robert Townsend, Oil. Hanging in our Dining Room.

NOW. To me? As Rob’s friend and cheerleader, his newfound love for “Helen” is the stuff of Legend.

Helen was a mid-century, Indiana housewife. A woman who loved a good time, backyard barbecues and long road trips across 1960s America. Though Helen died long ago, Rob breaths life back into this huggable woman through a twist of fate — he found an old Kodak slide of Helen from one of her many trips and painted her. Finding his maternal muse in the process — or at least a favorite Aunt.

“Just Kay & Patty,” Robert Townsend, Oil… Rob first called Helen (on Left) “Kay” but later learned her real name in time for the second painting.

In Rob’s words, “…I found some slides on eBay, which had been bought at an Estate Sale in Indiana. I discovered they were part of a huge collection, featuring one very special and delightful woman with jet black hair and an amazing collection of clothes. She loved the camera and the feeling was mutual. I was able to acquire the whole collection” after more than a year of trying. Flying out to meet Helen’s family, even touring her home and small town with her niece.

Helen and Roy were married some 69 years in a Sears & Roebuck kit house. Playing host to many, many memorable backyard and cocktail parties. This is what Rob paints. Her echo. The memories of Laughter. Love. A real zest for Life!

Keeping Up With The Conleys, Robert Townsend, Oil.

Rob now owns (& cares for) some 3,000 slides of Helen, Roy and their loved ones. With 60 paintings planned in coming years – all set during Rob’s cherished mid century modern 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

It’s no wonder Rob doesn’t get much time to cook. Luckily, I fatten him up every couple of months when he visits our Farm.  Below are two recipes Rob makes often. Like, a lot.

Mango Smoothie, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. Owned by Weismann Art Collection.

 

MID CENTURY MODERN CHILI 

Rob’s note: “So here’s the thing, as a single artist working at home, it’s perfect. Spend an hour making it and have easy leftovers for days…. There’s also no onions in this, as I’m not a big onion person, but obviously it could be added along with peppers.”

“Probably” Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground Turkey
  • 1 can diced organic Tomatoes
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Celery
  • 1 Box Low Sodium, Organic Chicken Stock
  • 2 cans Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Corn
  • 1 Bag Power Greens (Kale or Spinach)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt / Pepper

Recipe explained, “Ok, in a big pot, sauté chopped carrots and celery. Then add Turkey. Break it up and cook to brown turkey. Add spices and garlic [to taste]. Add tomatoes, broth and beans and simmer 30 minutes. Add corn and greens for another 10 minutes.”

“I like to make Trader Joe’s Cornbread to serve with, and drink with an A&W Root Beer. That’s my meal!”

 

ROB’S BREAKFAST SCRAMBLE

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Handful Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Handful Shredded Cheese (to taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt / Pepper

Rob’s Recipe: Cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes and cook 35-45 minutes in olive oil, seasoning salt and pepper. Scramble [or fry up] a couple of eggs. Put potatoes on plate. Eggs on top. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the whole thing.”

Enjoy!

EAT, Robert Townsend, Oil.

SOURCES:

Friendship & Cooking for Rob: www.freecolortv.com

Helen Film Trailer, The Art of Robert Townsend (video)

Galleries, Bios, & Available Works: Altamira Fine Art (Tucson), Hespe Gallery (San Francisco), & Imago Gallery (Palm Springs).

Interview at http://www.frankie.com.au/blogs/art/artist-appreciation-robert-townsend-interview

Eggs.

13935086_1246737735338882_8438539756714467478_nIt takes a lot to put me off my eggs.  Or to leave a Mimosa half finished. But today’s breakfast was just such an experience.  The next table over was occupied by a visiting foghorn for bigotry, racism, gender disdain (especially for “the very dangerous” FLOTUS Michelle Obama), and politically conservative extremes. Wave after wave of verbal diarrhea washed over not just myself and fellow patrons but also my children and our lovely server, Jasmine.

We are each entitled to our personal views.  But explaining to your guest (+ we unfortunate bystanders) how “south american immigrants” are the visigoths at the gate while a Latina American serves you Huevos Rancheros curdled my stomach.  Jasmine didn’t hear much of what you said but my daughter did.  And so did my son.  “Brown people” aren’t “duped into becoming democrats” and Trump does not “represent the savior of our great nation.”  Your eggs were prepared for you and served to you by the children of migrants, or immigrants themselves; hard working people each and every one.  Mexican, Italian, Venezuelan, Asian, and French… Many of which our sweet wine country cafe (Garden Court) was filled with a demographic makeup much like this country: DIVERSE.  And THRIVING.  All of us now covered in your verbal vomit.

I thought to say something.  But the Huevos irony was lost to you already.  That, and you wore black athletic socks with topsiders.

I would like to set something straight however. When you come to Wine Country, or dine out in general, bring a shred of common decency.  Even if you’re faking it.  Your servers, cooks, hotel maids, gas station attendants, waiters are known and appreciated not just to each other but also by the winery owners, restaurant owners, hotel owners, tour company owners, magazine owners, etc.  The ” owners” of which you esteem so highly and loudly plan to milk for political donations while here? News flash: We prize and appreciate good people, let alone our teams of staff. For something fascinating and good happens in regions governed predominantly by agriculture.  A good or bad year is shared by all and oft dictated by weather and consumer confidence. There’s a shared camaraderie amongst most of us.  We rise and sink together.  Much like this already great Nation of ours.

So don’t saunter in from your Florida rental car brimming with runny vitriol for the very people serving you eggs. Go back to the Wonder Bread Box from which you came.  And never order Huevos Rancheros from my colleagues and friend again.

Original art by friend Eric Bowman.

Original art by friend Eric Bowman.

Morning Echoes.

imageCOLD Weather, it seems, cloaks so much of our Country in wet, icy mists, snow, and plump downpours. Here in Sonoma, windy rains woke me early.  Streaming water down windows somehow still aglow by an almost-full moon.  Our vineyards (in barren-winter garb) presenting rippled puddles of blue rain water. And little else. While rose fields — soon to be replanted as Pinot Noir — looked on silently.

On this Farm, sometimes the loudest, most unconscious thoughts happen when there is no noise at all.  Waking your soul, and heart, but not your mind. When you only got up intending to pee.

The Mind? Takes Coffee.

I crept downstairs avoiding that creaky step.  Lit my tea pot. Pet our happily fat Lab. Flipped on my pretty lights over the sink and started another load of laundry. (We have little children.) Three scoops of coffee went into the French Press…I lit the fireplace. And chose my grandmother’s mug…

It’s now Noon. Much has happened since easing into this morning’s caffeine ritual.  Breakfast, more laundry, marketing, wrangling wee hellions into proper clothes… But here I sit once more. Slightly ignoring my children.  Sipping hot tea. In the same kitchen chair, out of the same mug, with rains still streaming.  Thinking of family, kitchens, and morning rituals past.  Of my Mima sipping Folgers Crystals instant coffee.  Dad Richard brewing drip.  Mom preferring tea at the time.  My father’s parents cooking thick ham. Dad reheating coffee brewed day before to pair with fresh baked pastry…  All with eggs on the horizon.

And all gone now.  “Into the Sunset” as we explain to the kids…

How tender and most intimate these early kitchen rituals.  How they linger. Surprising we the Living even from the lull of raindrops and starkly rich vineyards… An agrarian Life that only Mom got to see.  That only Mom got to become a “LaLa” and make new memories for my children here in this most bucolic of Wine Country.  For now, Anni with her eggs and Coltrane with his toast.image

… And I’m sure in time, Coffee.

 

The Perfect Waffle and The Importance of Butter

The Importance of Butter and Buttermilk: Secret 2

The Importance Buttermilk: Secret 1

For weeks, I wondered what to say at Mima’s funeral. I truly thought about just reciting her Buttermilk Waffles recipe. But flying down on Friday, the stewardess gave me a free glass of white wine. Anni played a new Dinosaur game. And inspiration struck:

“The morning after Mima died, I was surprised how much harder her death hit me. I thought I’d feel more relieved. And then Hannah (my cousin) wrote a note to we girls that she wished she had a waffle maker and all of us together. I loved that. I think it speaks to the legacy of our incredible grandmother that thousands of miles apart, four granddaughters — now women — yearned to be together. And I’m betting we all flashed back to the sun-lit kitchen at Linda Ridge (their home) on Sunday morning. Because no matter how epic, talented, beautiful and strong our Mima was… She and Dida helmed one hell of a family. I think we Palmers are so collectively dynamic — each in our own ways — because of the strong, loving examples set for us by Mima and Dida.”

“I couldn’t decide what to say today. There was too much good stuff. Dancing the Charleston in our socks. Sailing to Catalina. Driving to the Ranch in Kansas. Collecting rocks. Learning to curtsy with books on our heads — I can still do this. Museums. Water aerobics. More Museums. Playing dress-up. Collecting ART. Sitting on her Dressing Room floor watching her get glamorous for a Night Out with Dida. Seeing her smile now on my little girl’s face.”

“But it all boils down to waffles on Sunday mornings. With a bunch of us gaggled around kitchen table in our pajamas. Breathing in the sleepy scent of syrup and Folgers Crystals. And love. Always lots and lots of love.”

We four Granddaughters of Mima

Mima’s four Granddaughters.

I wore a mid-century inspired dress in Jade green for Mima and my pearls. All of us girl cousins were wearing some semblance of this combination. Sara and I wore pearls. Hannah and Kate wore Jade necklaces. Mima loved to “look good.” She believed everyone could be beautiful. “It’s not what you’re born with but what you do with it.” And that each woman had her own style to find and cultivate.

Knowing when to Splurge: the Importance of Butter. Secret 1

Knowing when to Splurge: the Importance of Butter. Secret 3

But making Mima’s Waffles is more about Butter than a nipped waistline. Knowing when to splurge. The Joy cooked into family food. And buttermilk. Lots of Buttermilk. I think those flavors are part of our collective family DNA now.

As many Palmers as possible gathered to celebrate Dida's 100th Birthday on Sunday

As many Palmers as possible gathered to celebrate Dida’s 100th Birthday on Sunday.

 

BUTTERMILK WAFFLES RECIPE: Well…I was going to give you her exact recipe that we make most Sunday mornings but reconsidered. I think some family secrets should remain kept. But I will tell you this, no matter how you make your waffles — from scratch or with a mix (we love Bisquick) — Swapping in Buttermilk for regular milk is vital. This is Secret 1. Mix in one and a half to two times the called for amount. So the waffles are thinner, less doughy. Because waffles really are just a vehicle for butter and syrup.  Secret 2: Always give the first waffle to the dog. It takes you and your machine one test-run for subsequent waffles perfection.  Secret 3: Melt 1 stick of butter to every cup to cup and a half of pure maple syrup on your stove top, being careful not to boil too much or reduce.  When you waffle is ready, PING! Go whole-hog and enjoy.

I think families who share at least a handful of beloved dishes — and pass down their recipes to kids and grandkids — strengthen their inter-generational fabric with memories of deliciousness. Waffles is this dish for us. My grandmother may have gone to Army Cooking School in World War II and been a plain cook all her life but I like to think she intuitively knew the French secret that everything tastes better with Butter.  Especially on Sunday mornings.

Off to take Anni Swimming on this last day of our Family Reunion. And maybe some Water Aerobics. For old times sake.

Three Generations missing our Fourth.

Three Generations missing our Fourth.

Happy Memories! And Eating.

Part 2: How to Eat Now from the Farmers Market

The finished meal: it looks ramshackle but delicious!

The finished meal: Ramshackle but delicious!

Welcome to Part 2 of What to Eat Now from the Farmers Market!  I promised you all food and little rhetoric. So here goes:  Spring has definitely “sprung” and our local Farmers Markets are alive with fresh bouquets of flowers, spring vegetables, and juicy crops of late winter citrus (I couldn’t resist). This dish is an amalgamation from a Morning Glory Farms recipe. It is beyond versatile and lends itself to whatever you find!

You will need:

  • 6 farm fresh eggs
  • 1 leek or 3 Spring onions — halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, kale or baby spinach (if they have it) — cleaned and sliced into edible sizes
  • 10-12 bunches of wild asparagus or baby Brocoli rabe — toughest part of stalks removed
  • Cheese — opt for a mild cheese like salted Feta or clean tasting Cheddar. Nothing too  spicy — crumbled or shredded
  • Garnish herbs like Italian Parsley or Chives (but these aren’t really in season yet.)

Preheat oven to 300’F

Toss asparagus or broccoli with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Slide into warming oven on the 2nd shelf and roast.

Melt 3 tblspns Butter or olive oil in a skillet or large pan. I use a wok.   Sautée leeks or spring onions until they smell sweet. Toss in sliced greens and sauté briefly. Salt & pepper to taste.

Sauteing spring onions in butter.

Sauteing spring onions in butter.

Being low-carn focused these days, I am always looking for ways to use my cute pie pans. I transfer the vegetable mixtures into my heritage Emile Henri pie pan.

Create six “wells” in the veggies and drop 1 egg into each well. Crumble or spread your chosen cheese over the top. How much you use is up to you. I used a cup of crumbled feta from Petaluma.

Ready for Cheese and then the Oven. This all takes about 12 minutes up until this point.

Ready for Cheese and then the Oven. This all takes about 12 minutes up until this point.

Toss asparagus or broccoli with a spatula.

Slide skillet or pie dish into the Oven on the top rack and bake for 15-20 minutes or until egg whites look set. Yolks will be cooking but still moist for that warm farm-fresh yellow goodness.

In a shallow, wide bowl layer roasted asparagus or broccoli topped with a wide scoop of the eggs vegetable cheese mixture. Garnish with chopped parsely or chives. For adult plates, a dash of hot sauce is fabulous.

I serve this meal on the table so family and guests can help themselves.

I serve this meal on the table so family and guests can help themselves.

Happy Eating!

 

 

 

 

 

Pursuing the Local Dish.

image

Locally caught wild Ahi Tuna Sandwich at Local Dish in Hawi Town, Hawaii

Korean Chicken at CSC Cafe

Korean Chicken at CSC Cafe

I know this may come as kind of a shock, dear Foodies, but my husband and I like to eat. Like really love to eat. Try new recipes at home. Grow new kinds of vegetables. And when we can, select and savor new restaurants…and visit beloved old ones. But with two kids 4 yrs of age and under? We’ve not had much opportunity for the latter. Luckily my Mom popped over this week to play with us and help us eat out with the wee ones in tow.

When traveling, Dean and I scout for gatherings of local cars around off-the-path cafes, diners, and restaurants. Dean is SO good at it. Since so much of Yelp and restaurant reviews can be sadly purchased nowadays (just like wine reviews) Locals don’t lie. And where locals spend their money? That’s where I want to eat.  Not just because the food more likely tastes good but in our experiences prices are lower, our money goes straight into local pockets, and? As parents, eating as close to the source is a valuable lesson to keep teaching our Littles.

First up today? CSC Cafe down the road. You might miss it buried behind the middle school as you blaze down the road at a blistering 30 mph but the telling gaggle of dusty trucks caught our attention. We parked to the rather curious, but not unfriendly stares, from local men drinking coffee (or beer) in front of a large patio TV. An odd contrast considering the Cafe is painted a girly Pepto Pink.  Inside the bowed, creaking screen doors stood a lovely Mama named Jamie. She took our nutty order as you can order lunch even at 9 in the morning — which was good because I really wanted something Asian. Not eggs. Kids had me up too early and even though I should want eggs, my belly was growling LUNCH.  Jamie suggested the Korean Chicken. The Owner’s family recipe and a “locals favorite.” Sold. I only wish I’d ordered a full plate instead of a “mini”. Three wings was not enough.  I wanted SIX pieces of island bird perfectly fried, elegantly seasoned with sesame, hints of fresh ginger and muted garlic. Fried up decadently in what I am sure to be some kind of lard rendered from magical baby unicorns.

We didn’t intend to really eat a lunch later and thought we’d only browse galleries BUT after parking, our collective noses inhaled lovely aromas wafting from cafe Local Dish here in Hawi. More of an upscale cafe featuring local produce, salads, wild fish and meat and wine and beer, Local Dish is the brainchild of Matt VanderNoot, an accomplished restauranteur from the mainland who cut ties with his hectic yet acclaimed foodie life in Sun Valley and Bay Area for the glacial pace of bohemian, food-centric Hawi.  For the very same reasons which we vacation here every year. Only we didn’t know all of this yet. We only knew baby Coltrane erupted into a colloidal meltdown JUST as we sat down.  Thankfully, to all patrons, Dean took our little son home and let Anni, Mom and I stay to lunch in iced-tea peace. The nice, tall man who took our order was kind enough during the row and we chatted away to learn he was the owner. Open since August, tourists and locals have flocked to Local Dish to eat his sandwiches, salads, local guacamole, and banana breads. Brightly dressed and lovely, you’ll find Matt behind the cash register or serving. We feasted on Island Chicken Salad tucked into fresh Croissants, garden green salads, wild caught Ahi Tuna Sandwiches with tomato and sprouts, and a slice of Banana Bread with macadamia nuts. Lunch was SO great, we actually stayed on to order a glass of Grenache Blanc each (a luscious Rhône varietal) AND to try Matt’s Banh Mi signature sandwich: pulled pork (slow roasted 20 hours), jerk chicken, and island sauce. Yum yum yum.

Today was a GREAT day for food! Now to find room for dinner… It’s Date Night! Luckily my dress is rather roomy.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Lunch today

Lunch today

Few things make me glow brighter than a proper tea.  Mom and I have actually traveled to some fun places while I was growing up for High Tea. Spots like the Plaza in New York or the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada.  It was even part of my etiquette curriculum in Finishing School.  How to pour tea correctly (opposite hand always on lid), how to serve  jam (on the plate with the provided spoon, never on scone), and the correct order in which to devour goodies (savory to sweet, not the reverse).  There wasn’t a lesson on how to surprise Valets though.  When in Canada, the Empress Valets weren’t quite sure what to do with our rented Vespas…!

Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada. Still the Queen of Teas in my book

Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada. Still Queen of High Tea.

As I’ve grown older, my love for the ritual in a good tea has only cemented in the way of a WASP of British decent (albeit in 1622).  I love the harmony and elegance of dressing up for friends and female family in pearls and heels to toast each other with piping hot Earl Gray and enjoy coiffed tea sandwiches, strawberries with creme freche, scones topped with fruit compotes, mini chocolate cream eclairs, and the very languid joy of proper Champagne.  Another etiquette lesson: the fine Champagnes made in the Methode de Champenoise have small, almost teeny bubbles of effervescence.

Today, I felt inspired by old pictures I found of tea parties past with my Mom and grandmother, Mima.  Every Christmas we invited friends, family, and members of the community we respected and admired.  Girls only.  We’d slave for days baking and copying tea sandwiches from old recipes.  Today, Anni asked to play “tea party” and I made an old favorite: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches.  But you don’t need a little girl to enjoy this treat.  Sitting with an iced tea and a book in the garden shade sounds beyond heavenly!

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches:

Ingredients:

  • White bread (nothing too firm or fancy)
  • 1 cucumber (skinned with a vegetable peeler)
  • soft cream cheese
  • Berries for garnish and dessert

Thinly slice cucumber into pretty, almost translucent rounds.

Step 1: Assemble Ingredients

Step 1: Assemble Ingredients

Trim crust from the white bread.  Cut into cute, 2-bites sizes.  Lather cream cheese in a light creamy layer on each side of the lttle sandwiches.

Step 2.

Step 2.

Arrange on a cute plate and serve with flair! If you have iced tea or champagne in the fridge, go for it!

Ready! Prep time: 5 minutes.

Ready! Prep time: 5 minutes.

NOTE: If you’re making these more for a grown up crowd, I’ve started garnishing salads and sandwiches with Microgreens.  They apparently are wonderful for your health but I love the peppery crunch they add, especially to my little cucumber tea sandwiches today.

Microgreens of arugula

Microgreens of arugula

Happy Eating!

Eggs & Birdies

Few things bring me back to my grandmother’s table than eggs and toast.

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

Mima wore her 1970s vibrantly swirly, totally rayon, neck-to-floor dressing gowns to make breakfast.  She called them “Eggs & Birdies” — slightly morbid now that I think about it as a grown up (arguably) — but she and Dida soft boiled the eggs and timed the toasting of bread to perfection. Every time.  Seventy plus years of marriage will do that to you….  Then: They lightly cracked the eggs open in an upright position and spooned the goodness over toasted slices of Orowheat.  Egg yolks running smoothly over toasted exteriors.  Cracked pepper and iodized salt.  Served with piping hot mugs of Folgers Crystals instant coffee and breakfast was served.

 

Eggs & Toast

Eggs & Toast

Dean made me and the kids this amazingly simple, old school goodness this morning for breakfast.  We’ve made it a regular weekly staple — this fried eggs over toast — but somehow this morning was different.  Eaten by hand, my first bite transported me back to Linda Ridge Road, to my grandmother’s table.  I almost cried.  I was 11 years old again in faded acid wash jeans, a hot pink t-shirt, and rubbing sleep from my eyes.

Somehow these fried eggs had the perfect flavor of a soft boiled and our 2-day old toasted slices Ciabatta from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg did the trick.  Today in our kitchen, we use local eggs, fancy rustic sea salts and fresh cracked rainbow peppercorns… But you get the drift.

Early days of little me and my Mima

Early days of little me and my Mima

I WORSHIP my grandmother.  Always will.  Peg Palmer was a force to be reckoned with.  Glamorous, loving and willful.  At home in a Marshall’s special as she was in Evening Attire or blue jeans.  Mima was fearless, funny in private circles, suffered ZERO social-climbing, and channeled much loving energy into us.  She had a special spot for us grandchildren.  As well as the color coral (in lipstick!!), water aerobics at the Valley Hunt Club, a mean chopped salad, forever being a size 10, and Asian art.  When life had me briefly down in my early 20s, Mima advised, “You go wash your face and put on fresh lipstick.  You’ll feel better.  Stick your chest out, tuck your rear end under and glide.  Glide.  Glide…” She was right.  Still is…. And I may still do this today whenever I need an inner boost.

I hope this breakfast kicks your day off right…without the need for 1980s coral lipstick!

Ingredients:

  • Farm fresh eggs or at least organic.  *You are looking for golden yolks.
  • Pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher or French sea salt
  • Slices of real bread — about to be toasted — 1 slice per egg

Heat a frying pan (or non-stick) up over medium-high heat.  Turn up heat to lower-high and melt butter.  Once butter begins to boil, crack eggs into pan and let cook 1-2 minutes until whites “set”  Remember: Cooking eggs is purely subjective.  Trial and error is the way to go.

Toast bread.  Butter bread and put on plate.

Using a smaller spatula, flip the eggs over and cook for 1 minute in reverse.  I look for a light gold “crust” to form on the edges.  Slide eggs onto each slice of buttered bread.  Dust with salt and pepper.  Serve IMMEDIATELY.

Additions include: flash sauteed kale or spinach, a drizzle of arugula aioli, or thinly sliced tomato works every time.

Happy “Croque Madames” for All Ages — in 25 minutes.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post from a new Mama of two taking it easy on herself in a constant pursuit to lose the “baby weight.” Her words rang true to this new-ish Mama of two and in the spirit of happy gastronomy, I am back to cooking more than kale salads.  Yay!

This quick, simple little recipe makes my whole household happy and is a fun weekend breakfast treat.  Or lunch.  Or even dinner with a big side salad.

Croque Madames:

Finished deliciousness.

Finished deliciousness.

You will need:

  • 1 loaf pre-sliced bread (your choice)
  • Eggs
  • Shaved Gruyere cheese (amount to taste) or Cheddar if you prefer that
  • Thick ham steak cubed (amount to taste)
  • Butter (1 stick, softened)
  • Kosher salt & fresh cracked Pepper
  • 1 non-stick cupcake tin
  • 1 fat rolling pin (think a broom handle or wider)
Ingredients

Ingredients

I’ve adapted this recipe from a few sources and made it far more healthy without sacrificing flavor.  You can also make this ‘sandwich’ for one, two or 12 people.  Very flexible and DIVINE.  But for four Croque Madames, here goes:

Preheat oven to 350’F.

Cut the crusts off eight slices of bread.  Roll the bread flat with your rolling pin.  Julia Child once waxed poetic on the proper girth of the rolling pin and your pin should be as wide, if not wider, than a sturdy broom stick. The scrawny sticks may save counter space but were clearly not meant to sumptuously roll out savory doughs or in this case, flatten your store bought bread into something more tender.

Anni helps me roll out the bread.

Anni helps roll out the bread.

So.  Take each slice of bread and lather lots of good quality butter onto EACH side (repeat after me: real butter is good for you!)  Then smush it into the cupcake tin slots, two slices per slot.  There is no proper way to do this and it will look sort of awkward. Just be sure each well is covered by buttery bread so the rest of the ingredients stay nicely tucked up inside.

Sprinkle in a few chunks of your nicely cubed ham steak into the bottom of each bread-smushed-cupcake-well.  Then sprinkle in a bit of cheese over the ham (like a large pinch).

Crack one egg into each one.  Eyeball it and if the egg is too big, hold back on some of the egg whites.  It should look like this (below). A side note: You can see that I rather unceremoniously dumped all extra egg whites into one well for one plain baked egg…

Baby croque madames in progress.

Baby croque madames in progress.

Take as much shredded Gruyere as your little Croques can handle and cover the egg yolks.  I like sprinkling some sea salt and fresh pepper over the top of the Cheese.

Ready for the oven. In 15 minutes, breakfast will be very delicious.

Ready for the oven. In 15 minutes, breakfast will be very delicious.

Slide your tray into the upper-middle shelf of your oven and bake untouched for 15 minutes.  If you want to hard cook your eggs (but really why would you want to?) leave the tray in for 17 minutes.  If you like your eggs more on the runny side, opt for 14 minutes exactly and the yolk will then run fabulously down melted Gruyere, ham and buttered toast…

Remove from oven and let sit about one minute before serving.  They go superbly well with Champagne — as does anything salty — but coffee and grapefruit juice works too.

Happy morning friends!