Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grape Leaf Pie: Another Excellent Culinary Adventure

The grape leaves came with the house.  Here they are growing on the side of the garage.  Even though I'm very fond of grape leaves in Middle Eastern cuisine, I've never used my own grape leaves in cooking.  Until today.

Enter the grape leaf, yogurt, and herb pie:

This cookbook is a fountainhead of excellent culinary adventures.
The requirements for the grape leaf pie seemed pretty straightforward.  I start by gathering 24 grape leaves.
Then I put them in a bowl, covered them with boiling water, and let them soak 10 minutes.  No problem. But the recipe didn't say that when they came out of the boiling water they would have the consistency of wet kleenex.  That meant I had to unroll and flatten them out and dry them on ...tea towels.  Who has tea towels?  
Next, I had to cut off the stems and drape and arrange the leaves in a 9 inch pie dish.
The recipe called for a pie filling consisting of Greek yogurt, pine nuts, parsley, tarragon, dill, mint, lemon zest, and rice flour.  After the filling was put in, the grape leaves were folded over the top and the whole was covered with breadcrumbs;

While that was in the oven (375 degrees, 40 minutes), I made burnt eggplant with tahini--a side dish suggested by the cookbook.  This one called for some unusual ingredients, such as pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds.  It also called for an unusual cooking technique:  burning the eggplant directly on a stove burner:
What a mess!  That's a bottle of pomegranate molasses standing by next to the burner.
The eggplant was charred on the outside and raw on the inside.  I gave up and finished it in the microwave.  But what a flavor that burning produced!  It was deelish!

Here's the finished recipe of burnt eggplant with tahini, decorated with pomegranate seeds and being scooped up by Joe Rubin, with a piece of pita at the ready in his other hand.
Here's how the grape leaf pie looked after its trip through the oven and after we'd helped ourselves to a couple of servings.
And we both wanted seconds.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today's art quest: felting with poodle hair

I took a felting class the other day at Artsplace Cheshire, and decided to do some felting with poodle hair.  After all, what else was I going to do with the big bag of dog hair that I brought home from the groomer a few weeks ago?  I decided to replicate this image of our standard poodle, Java, nosing around in eel grass on Cape Cod:

After almost six hours of laying wool roving onto a background of silk gauze, applying soap and water, wrapping the piece around a noodle and rolling it, my result still wasn't ready for prime time.

So, the next day, at home, I continued to work.

That's a big bag of dog hair next to me on the bench.

It's coming along.  And I've learned something:  poodle hair felts together really quickly.  Look at this ball.  I was going to use it for a fluffy tail-end.  Instead, it felted together so so fast it's as hard as a golf ball, and there's no way I'm going to be able to tease those hairs apart to make a tail-end.

Right now I'm adding extra roving, and green yarns, to make the grass in front of the dog, and needle-felting that in.

Felting with poodle hair may be strange, but get this:  the guy next to me in the felting class was making a felted lining for a helmet that he was making to specifications described in the Iliad.  He even brought a copy of the Iliad with him to the class to read to anyone who was interested.  He said he was going on a hero's quest.

Quest on, artists!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hanging my Show, Twigs and Tides

Today was the day.  At 8 am, I showed up at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CT, to hang my solo art quilt show, Twigs and Tides.

Here I am loading my work into the car at 7:45 a.m.

 I brought 20 pieces to the show, knowing that only 15 would be able to hang.  I knew it would be hard to weed out 5 of them, but I trusted to the expert eye of UConn Art Curator Linda Webber, who has a good instinct for what looks good with what.  We started out by stacking some of them against the wall and laying others on the floor.

There wasn't enough room for these five pieces:

But the other 15 look great!  Here's a preview:

Helping to hang the show are Mark, on the left, who works for UConn, and Sheila, on the right, who works with the UConn Health Center Auxiliary, the group that handles the nuts and bolts of the art shows.  Sheila said to me, "These aren't your grandmother's quilts!"

Here are Linda, Sheila, and Mark, helping to decide what looks good where.  

4:30--6 P.M.

Providing medical care for the poorest of the poor in earthquake- and cholera-ravaged Haiti

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Embarassment of Riches

Our dining room these days is serving as a repository for work that will be included in my upcoming solo show at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Twigs and Tides.

Here's a corner of the dining room. You can see a corner of the buffet, which is engulfed by work mounted on foamcore board.  On the buffet itself are a clipboard, a tape measure, and a pencil.  I need those because part of my task for today is to measure and inventory my work and set prices.  Not all of them will be for sale but most will, and part of my obligation to UConn Health Center is to provide a price list.

Thus, all my work for the show--21 pieces--is collected in the dining room, awaiting measurement and valuation.

The business end of things is the least enjoyable part of taking my art seriously.  Still, seeing it all gathered together for the show does impart a sense of satisfaction.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Today in the Garden: Loving the Rain

Don't read this unless you love the way the rain makes the natural world rise up juicily in spring.

Last fall, I put in a new garden bed in my yard.  Three days ago, I put my foot on the working end of a shovel and moved a lot of heavy clay soil from this new bed to make way for a dozen or more  perennials, transplanted from the old bed of which this new one is an extension.


I used a lot of fresh compost in those transplant holes, then watered the fresh transplants deeply.

Then came the rains, and look how the new garden uses them.
This heuchera and lamium, instead of drooping over in shock, as might be expected after a transplant, are rising up green and juicy after the rain.

Take a closer look at the leaves of this heuchera.  Wow.

 Here's the bigger picture, with the new transplants in the foreground and the older garden, from which they were taken, in the background:

Meanwhile, just across the yard, in a study of whites and greens, St. Francis hangs out with the hanging white blooms of Solomon's Seal, polygonatum:

All the plants that love cool temperatures and lots of moisture are loving this rain.
Like this Brunnera Jack Frost

And this dicentra eximia

Elsewhere, everything is thriving.

Like this ajuga burgundy glow, putting out a show of purple flowers this spring

And this shade-loving hosta sieboldiana elegans, with the blue flowers of Spanish bluebells, hyacinthoides hispanica, peeking through its leaves

And this lovely clump of Spanish bluebells.