mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

a tuesday to remember . . .

Noho flowersToday, my daughter and I spent the day together, driving out to our alma mater town, Northampton, MA. where both of us went to school, a generation apart.

On Tuesdays from April to November on Tuesdays, a farmers’ market opens in the town’s courtyard at 1:30 p.m., the bounty of which comes from the rich soil of the Pioneer Valley (Connecticut River) in the surrounding area.

Even though there are only about a dozen vendors, the selection is of superior quality, ranging from vegetables to flowers, organic eggs and baked goods including small fruit tarts for dessert. Today, we had a leisurely lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant, the Osaka and finished just in time to go to the market when it opened.Noho 2

It was a good thing too, because a thundershower front which looked ominously dark approached us. We made it out of town just in time, sharing a fresh fruit tart and iced coffee in the car. When we drew into our yard, the thunder began to roll in while we ran from the car with our bounty before the rain came down in a torrent of water.  Noho eggs

What a wonderful day it’s been – filled with music that I played at home and then in the car as we chatted and caught up on our activities while she’s been in Europe on vacation these last few weeks. We’re planning to get together again next week to see Meryl Streep and Rich Springfield in “Ricki and the Flash,” a movie about a mother who abandons her children while they’re young to follow her dream of singing with her rock band.

The thunderstorms rolled through the state, large hail falling and trees being uprooted all around us. But we moved through the day under a halo of sun that didn’t darken until we got home, safe and sound.

C & K selfie

 

 

appreciation . . .

coral bells

Sometimes people don’t see eye to eye. And sometimes, trying to explain oneself just makes things worse. That’s too bad because each point of view seems to be sincere and innocent. That is, nobody set out to make things difficult or hard to understand for the other. That’s what’s called a “misunderstanding.”

I’ve had this happen in my family. . . a lot, it seems. I used to chalk it up to a propensity for some people not to be able to admit that they were wrong. Or to take responsibility if they don’t feel that their intention was not amiss but somebody’s feelings got hurt in the process anyhow. Hard to take responsibility when you didn’t mean it in the first place when it turns out you’ve hurt somebody’s feelings.

I come from a place where I’ll take blame before anyone else — even more than my share of blame has been my impulse in the past. But lately, I’ve stopped doing that so much. I’ve come to a place where when I have been sincere and authentic, there isn’t much more that I can do to persuade somebody else different from what they want to believe: about themselves, or about me.

Friendship is made up of a zillion pieces of a mosaic like this. For someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends, my experience is limited. At my age, however, it’s probably more important to be authentic than it is to hold out for friendship. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

 

 

SO much time . . . so little piano!

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2

Last night, PBS aired “Virtuosity” an hour and a half documentary of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. G. and I were disappointed by how little footage there was of individual pianists playing. Here’s a review I wrote about it posted on Amazon this a.m.

Title: “SO much time . . . so little piano!”

“My husband and I are both pianists and we looked forward to watching this documentary on PBS which aired on July 31, 2015. We are familiar with other films made of this world-famous Van Cliburn piano competition. The repertory requirements are rigorous: many individual pieces, playing with a chamber group if you advance to the semi-finals; and performing a concerto with an orchestra if you make it to the finals.

Human interest soundbites monopolized the hour and a half film as we waited to hear individuals play long enough to be able to discern differences among them as pianists and as musicians. Way too much footage was given to two particular pianists whose facial grimaces detracted from the music they were playing – and there were FOUR separate instances of the same pianist grimacing through a piece that even a third-grader could manage (Chopin’s “Raindrop” prelude that Jack Nicholson played on the back of a truck in the movie, “Five Easy Pieces.”). The redundancy of that Chopin clip illustrates the filmmakers’ naivete while denying us the ability to discern true talent.

So, I guess this was journalism with all the human interest stuff and glitzy film pyrotechnics superimposing images of multiple pianists playing the same piece. Pianists don’t play pieces the same way as suggested by the montage – and we don’t get a chance to hear the differences. There was so little footage of individual playing that it was virtually impossible to glean why the First Prize Gold Medal winner was chosen.

Perhaps this film was what the Van Cliburn foundation wanted as PR. Too bad they forgot the piano playing that everyone wants to experience in the first place. It was produced by people who aren’t pianists – and I was thinking that if Van Cliburn were still alive, it wouldn’t have been allowed to happen for sure. This film was a true disappointment and a missed opportunity.

a fresh peach pie for two . . .

peach pie ready to go in the oven . . .

peach pie ready to go in the oven . . .

Even though it feels like I am cooking more these days, trying out new recipes, I have also consciously been making much smaller portions. It’s been fun, actually, scaling down recipes so that the end results are just meant for two.

Simplifying the steps has also been an outlet for being creative – no crusts for quiches, for example, but make them in an individual sized ramekin with organic eggs, cream, gruyere cheese, parmesan cheese, bits of leftover broccoli or asparagus tips, baked in a bain marie until they are golden brown, poufed up and slightly jiggly in the middle. Come to think of it, a crustless quiche is similar to a souffle, isn’t it? It’s so much fun to be served an individual souffle on your plate!

This afternoon, I had three fresh peaches left from the farmer’s market in the fridge. They had to be used up because they were beginning to show bruises and I thought that making a small scale peach crostada would be perfect. So, I reduced recipes for homemade crust and chilled the butter and crisco in the freezer. Then I took out the Cuisinart and measured a cup and a half of flour, spun the chilled butter (3/4 stick unsalted) and 1/4 cup cold Crisco using the pulse button until the flour mixture was mealy looking. Added a teaspoon of Maldon salt. Then about 5 tablespoons of ice water added gradually while continuing to pulse. The crust dough came together into a ball and was a little sticky when I took it out, but with just a smattering of a little more flour, was smooth as a baby’s bottom. Wrapped in parchment paper, it went into the fridge for over a half hour. During that time, I peeled the peaches – they were ripe enough so that the skin almost zipped off with a sharp paring knife; sliced them up into a small glass bowl, added a mixture of flour (a tablespoon plus; teaspoons of cinnamon, nutmeg and stevia (in place of sugar) respectively.

When ready to bake, I took out the Silit pad and floured it lightly, rolling out the crust with a very light touch because it was so tender to the touch – I folded it into quarters so I could lift it into a prepared tart pan, opened it up again and spooned the peach mixture into the center. I folded the crust into overlapping folds towards the center, brushed the crust with an egg wash and sprinkled the crust with turbinado sugar.

In a 400 degree preheated oven, I slid the pie in and set the timer for about half an hour. Turned the pie around almost towards the end to brown evenly. Left it in the turned off oven so that the crust would be crisp and not undercooked in the parts of the crust I could not see. There’s nothing worse than underdone crust to a pie that looks this glorious!

just out of the oven! . . .

just out of the oven! . . .

 

 

8-hour tomatoes . . .

3 hours so far in the oven . . . .

3 hours so far in the oven . . . .

Eight Hour Tomatoes . . .

Looking through one of the “Kinfolk” volumes, I came across a recipe for cooking tomatoes meant for “darn good sandwiches.” I have a few of the Kinfolk volumes and while some might view them as precious in the way that photographs are taken and articles written, it’s that very earnestness that wins me over. I love looking at them.

Anyhow, these sandwiches were composed (that’s the only word for it) of grilled/toasted hearty peasant bread brushed with olive oil and toasted on a heated grill pan until dark striations appeared on the toast. The inside ingredients included thick slices of cooked bacon and a fried egg, frisee lettuce coated in ranchy dressing and these 8-hour tomatoes.

My idea was to modify the sandwich recipe a bit, using Dietz and Watson thick-sliced turkey bacon which I already have for my breakfasts, no egg (too gooey) and lettuces instead of frisee. Have the creme fraiche vinaigrette that I used last night to dress the lettuce.

As the acid content from tomatoes can sometimes result in disagreeable reactions (mouth canker sores, for example) I thought that cooking them this way might reduce that troublesome aspect. Even if it doesn’t, with the August surfeit of luscious tomatoes approaching at local farm stands, this recipe’s an experiment worth trying. Leftover tomatoes are stored in a layer of olive oil and taken out when needed.

Preparation: use a fresh, ripe home grown or farm fresh tomato. Slice in half and then each half into 1/4 inch slices. Brush with olive oil. Cut up fresh garlic into bits and sprinkle on the tomatoes, along with sea salt and coarse pepper. Pick some fresh sprigs of thyme and strip the leaves, sprinkling them on the tomatoes.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the tomatoes for ten minutes. Turn the oven off and without opening the door, leave the tomatoes in the oven for eight hours. Refrain from peeking at them with the door open. Yep, that’s right. At first I thought I would make them overnight. But, on second thought, waited until the morning because when the eight hours are up, it’ll be time for supper.

Tonight’s supper will be filet of sole with meyer lemon, the rest of the patty pan squash that we had last night and these tomatoes. And for lunch sometime, how about spreading whole-milk ricotta on grilled bread with tomatoes, coarse pepper and fresh basil on top?

8 hour tomatoes 2

Postscript: We ate these tomatoes along with the sole and summer squash. They were flavorful from the garlic and the thyme, but the most memorable taste was a deep sweetness emanating from the tomato flesh itself. I think it’s from curing in the heated oven after it was turned off. Will definitely make again with bigger tomatoes – for that fresh ricotta on grilled bread sandwich on my wishlist!

fresh as can be . . .

hamp farmers market

local peaches

farm fresh eggs

farmer’s market bounty from northampton on tuesdays! an added bonus to making the drive west is having a sushi lunch at the osaka restaurant, a hop, skip and a jump up the hill from where the farmer’s market sets up at 1:30 p.m. WEBS, a prime source for knitting yarn is also located nearby.

made fresh peach ice cream last night (more like a sherbert) and trying out mark bittman’s recipe for crustless quiche in ramekins with these gorgeous eggs and gruyere cheese for supper tonight.

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017528-crustless-quiche

“Limitation” . . .

herbs in pots 2

The I-Ching (Wilhelm/Baynes edition, Princeton University Press) says about

“Limitation” Hexagram 60:

The Judgment:  Limitation. Success. Galling Limitation must not be persevered in.

             Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective. If we live economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be sparing saves us from humiliation. Limitations are also indispensable in the regulation of world conditions. In nature there are fixed limits for summer and winter, day and night, and these limits give the year its meaning. In the same way, economy, by setting fixed limits upon expenditures, acts to preserve property and prevent injury to the people. 

            But in limitation we must observe due measure. If a person should seek to impose galling limitations upon his own nature, it would be injurious. And if a person should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would rebel. Therefore it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation. 

Six in the fourth place means:  Contented Limitation. Success.

             Every limitation has its value, but a limitation that requires persistent effort entails a cost of too much energy. When, however, the limitation is a natural one (as for example, the limitation by which water flows only downhill), it necessarily leads to success, for then it means a saving of energy. The energy that otherwise would be consumed in a vain struggle with the object, is applied wholly to the benefit of the matter in hand, and success is assured.”

 

 

“farewell” . . .

petit fleur

Okay so today, I take back every complaint I’ve ever made about the music composed by Robert Schumann.

I had discovered “Abschied” (“Farewell”) the last piece in his composition, “Waldszenen” (“In the Forest”) played by Clara Haskil over the weekend.

This morning, I located the score online and printed it out to sightread at the piano. Here it is performed by Sviatoslav Richter.

 

 

 

a special occasion for no good reason . . .

Morandi pottery bottles

Except for the reason that I felt like putting these pottery bottles out today after saving them for a few years, it felt like a good way to celebrate the day. Some firecracker orange-red daylilies from the front garden spiced them up a bit. I purchased them because they reminded me of the austere, modest still-life paintings that the Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi painted over and over again.

Enjoy the day!

 

 

 

“cabbages and kings” . . .

a reclaimed wood-fired soy bottle with sprigs of dill from herb planter

a reclaimed wood-fired soy bottle with sprigs of dill from herb planter

In the grocery store today, there was a single half napa cabbage for sale that looked pretty tired. I spied the vegetable grocery clerk and walked over to ask him if they had any more in the back. At first when I said, “hi” – he looked at me and said nothing. I said “hi” again and smiled this time. He said “hi” but looked glum. With a reluctant posture and very slow gait, he walked into the back to see if there were any more cabbages.

I waited by the door so as not to have him think I had forgotten about my request. He came out with two bedraggled cabbages and asked me which one I wanted. I asked him if he would cut one in half for me and pointed to the one that was lighter in weight. He said yes and went back to do the deed.

When he came out, I smiled at him and said, “You’re a doll,” and he smiled very briefly and said, “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Made my day!

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