23 May 2010

garden update: mid-May

After a spell of really rainy, windy, gray weather, we were pleasantly surprised with a sunny weekend! So, I was finally motivated to take some more photos of the vegetable garden exuberance. El niño might be acting up, but the garden is bursting at the seams.

For those playing along at home:

- Edibles enjoyed so far: all the radishes, tons of carrots, scallions, peas, fava beans, spinach, arugula, all herbs, lettuces, fennel, beets, kale, chard.

- Bolted/out/over: arugula (made honey-smelling flowers), cilantro, mesclun, giant spinach (see flowers below), 'sea of red' lettuce (aphids).

- Currently eating: fava beans, baby spinach, peas, more carrots, fennel, all herbs, kale, chard, scallions, purple basil (some leggy seedlings met the salad bowl tonight rather than the plot).

- Next: squashes, cucumbers, pole beans, melon, more basil, summer flowers.

garden mid-may 2010
Fava beans (center), 'cosmic purple' carrots (left), peas (right)

ripening blueberries
Blueberries, ripening in the sun

'heaven on earth' roses
'Heaen on Earth' roses. Way too much rain lately, but some blossoms made it.

'tall telephone' peas
'Tall Telephone' peas -- up to about 8' now

'laxton's progress' peas
'Laxton's Progress' peas -- earliest harvest, super sweet

mexican sour gherkins
Mexican Sour Gherkin

lovely greens: chard & kale
Chard, Marigolds and Kale

giant spinach flowers
'Giant Spinach' flowers -- I let a few crops go to flower so far, just to see what they'd look like. These are a few feet tall and kind of hairy in between the tiny petals.

basil, ready for transplanting
Basil, ready for transplanting. I've also started 25 new basil plants indoors... I can see the future, and it is PESTO.

artichokes & sunflowers
Artichokes & Sunflower babies

tomatillo & tomato alley
Tomatillo & Tomato alley. I started with 20 seedlings, gave some away and composted a few... We're now down to a manageable 10 or 11.

'violet jasper' tomato
'Violet Jasper' tomato

espalier: gravenstein apple
'Gravenstein' apple espalier

blackberries, setting flower
Blackberry flowers

summer crops are started
Summer in the works: squashes, cucumbers, melon, basil and hot peppers

20 May 2010

mama-child crafting (or the overdue mother's day post)

I have a question. Is it narcissistic to want to replicate my own childhood for my child? You know, create for him that certain crunchy, crafty, messy, sunny thing known as The 1970s Childhood? 

Those of us who fondly remember our youth probably all say, I just want my child to grow up "how I did." Simple, with the pure, good stuff. Jacky is not yet 18 months old and I've already said and thought this so, so many times. Is it a constant that every generation wants to re-create their childhood for their kids?

My childhood was crafting, and I have this terribly deep urge to get elbow-deep in some felt and clay. For the adult crowd, I want to make modern quilts, embroider beautiful linens... but I readily admit that, for the toddling set, I want to crank out some tissue-paper mobiles, homemade glue and play-doh, all kinds of papier-maché objects -- to make my son some clothing and a wind wand, for goodness sake. (Because you know that the 70s was all about shirtless, corduroyed children running with ribbons trailing majestically behind them. Or maybe that was just me. Wheeee.) 

Yes, I was brought up in a crafting home. My mom was that mom: she made my clothes and urged us to fill up rainy days by making hand-drawn flip books (I still love those). She was one of my troop's Brownie leaders, coordinating origami sessions and exhibiting acres of patience.

There's, of course, a psychological thing going on here. Each step that I take into motherhood, I miss my mom more and more*. Yeah, that sounds pretty sad, but man, I have questions. It's an intense longing and vacancy. It's not practical questions that I can ask my girlfriends/fellow moms. It's really granular, moment-to-moment stuff about her experience doing This Job. Stuff like, what did you think on Day 1, Day 10, Day 100? What was the hardest part? Did you worry about me? How long did you breast feed me? Was there sleep training? What did you think when *this* happened? What did I say first? What was I like as a toddler? What made you laugh... cry? How was it different in 1973? Was this crafty childhood just your nature as a parent, was it a trend, or were you reading the same type of crafting books I'm reading now? These are all questions that, like learning to sew from my mom, I just never got around to before she was gone. Regrets... but then again, not exactly the preoccupations of a 22-year-old art major. I had no idea.

Lately, I've been buying and reading all kinds of crafting books: from Waldorf-type kid craft-philosophy books, to monolithic Martha Stewart crafting encyclopedias. I've got the bug bad and am itching to get crafting, period... but especially with this kid. When it's the right time. To me, it's what you do if you're a mom. Jacky is on the right path with gardening: he begs to be brought down to that gloriously messy zone, full of rocks and tickle-y plants that mysteriously make their way into his food (plants, not rocks). But, I sincerely hope he'll indulge me with some mommy-son crafting action someday. I have this need to re-create some scenes: to dip our fingers in papier-maché goop, to press some flowers, make sock puppets, tie-dye our underwear. Yeah, been there, done all that with my mama.

Is it too much to ask that we do a little re-enacting? It would make my life.


*My beautiful, generous mom was taken from us by cancer when I was in my last year of college. She was 50.

17 May 2010

portrait of the artist

... as a 17.5-month-old.

portrait of the artist

These looks kill me.  He is SO not having the photo-snapping whilst in creation mode.  Not having it.  (Obviously, didn't stop me!)

portrait of the artist

Sigh... parents.

16 May 2010

pizza of the week: baby fennel, asparagus pesto & interesting spices

pizza with baby fennel, asparagus pesto & interesting spices

Fennel is amazing to me. Witnessing thin, wispy seeds turn into crispy, round, juicy bulbs has been one of my favorite things in the garden this season. When I'm out there watering or just puttering, I always peek under the feathery fronds to make sure all is well in the fennel row. They're such perfect little packages of flavor. 

In fact, I cherish those crunchy little guys so much that I took some time to figure out how to use the first baby bulbs. Fennel risotto? Braised? Grilled? Pizza? Yes, a good starting point for the first fennel bulb. I needed to thin some out so that the others could size up. A pizza is a good use of a tiny ingredient.

And, "interesting spices?" Remember how I picked up some spices at Penzey's in NYC in February? One of them is Charnushka, or nigella sativa (or "black cumin") -- which I'm currently growing out back (still a baby plant). The other is the strongly camphorous-smelling Kala Jeera, which seemed so overpowering at first that I wasn't sure how to use it. On pizza, however, after some super high heat roasting, it mellowed nicely. Together, the two spices simply lent an exotic, warm note that worked really well with the asparagus pesto from the last post.

fennel diptych

Baby Fennel, Asparagus Pesto & Interesting Spices

basic pizza recipe + asparagus pesto + cheese: 1/2 grated mozz, 1/2 grated gruyere + thinly sliced baby fennel + kala jeera + nigella sativa + olive oil & salt on the crust. Bake until pretty + garnish with grated parmesan + fennel fronds. Serve with lemon wedge.


pizza with baby fennel, asparagus pesto & interesting spices

13 May 2010

asparagus pesto pasta with raw baby peas and mint

asparagus pesto w/baby peas

Note to self: if ever faced with the "issue" of a huge asparagus surplus, get thee to the food processor! This is some good stuff. (Mark Bittman comes through yet again.) We usually roast asparagus in a simple fashion, until it's kind of caramelized. This recipe is basically the opposite, and boy was it a good change.

We made the following tiny tweaks: We upped the garlic a little LOT (I'm all 90s like that), toasted the pine nuts, garnished with mint and unzipped some teensy baby peas from the garden right on top. 

Absolute Spring on a plate.

asparagus pesto w/baby peas

11 May 2010

park moment

OK, three. 

We've been spending many recent mornings and afternoons in the park across the street... working out some toddler energy and generally exploring. Jacky's current faves: collecting leaves, bits of grass, twigs, flowers... running far away from Mama (and then slyly looking back... then running back)... and SPINNING -- wheeeeeeeeeeeeee

jacky: park triptych

06 May 2010

pizza of the week: briny bits & kale

kale & briny bits pizza

Me, I'm a pro-anchovy person. Salty, briny little fish? Yes please. I can eat them like snacks, right out of the package... but then I've been known to have a WEE thing for salt.

Plus, briny stuff like anchovies, capers and olives go great with dark greens such as my slightly newer crush, kale (cavolo nero). Happily, for this week's pizza night, we had the first two on hand, plus quite a bit of the green stuff out back. I love starting dinner by walking outside with a big bowl and kitchen shears.

Some of these pizzas are so simple that I'm going to forgo any semblance of "fancy recipe format" and just give you the info how I'd tell you in person. M'kay?


Kale & Briny Bits Pizza

basic pizza recipe + good tomato sauce + grated mozz + chopped kale (plus I think added some chard too, come to think of it. Bonus.) + chopped garlic + anchovies + capers + red pepper flakes + olive oil on the crust (I used the anchovy oil! Bonus.). Bake until pretty + garnish with grated parmesan.


Just curious: any fellow pro-anchovy peeps out there? Or is it a "more for me" situation? :)

Cavolo Nero

moment with Jacky

A boy and his brooooom.

Or rather, the fantastic broom he gets to use at Mimi and Papa's house. Pretty, no?

image via Toby

05 May 2010

happy #12 mister pabs

sexy beast

Sweet Pablo kitty,

You've been my faithful lap-warmer, determined hand-licker and reliable treat-begger for all these years. You've been there through boyfriend, husband and baby, a few new houses... and you still give me those kitty bedroom eyes. Today: a day in the sun and all the stinky treats you desire, handsome boy.


03 May 2010

first rose of 2010

first rose 2010

Close your eyes... inhale deeply... 'Heaven on Earth' is lemony, sprightly, effervescent.

Refreshing.  Spring.  Perfect.

02 May 2010

strawberry mojito-ish

strawberry mojito-ish

This was a weekend of a few changes in our house. First, Jacky is officially down to one nap per day. Phew. Some nights, he's happy and rested... some, not so much. It's a process, right? The other change around here was with the weather: Last week was really rainy and cold, but this weekend the days were GLORIOUS. Warm, clear and beautiful.

If you ask me, both of these occurrences are reason for a late afternoon cocktail. I give you the Strawberry Mojito-ish. "Ish" because I didn't really bother to consult a recipe... we didn't have any actual limes... and I basically just wanted to use some pretty berries and fresh mint. With hooch.


Strawberry Mojito-ish
-Serves 2-

Fill a cocktail shaker with 5-6 sliced strawberries, a handful of mint tips, a couple of ice cubes, two shots of light rum and key lime syrup to taste (you can just go with lime wedges and simple syrup/fine sugar if you have it). Muddle everything together and/or put the lid on and shake vigorously, until your hand aches from the cold. Divide (don't strain) between two glasses which contain more ice. Top off with tonic water or the like. Stir gently, taste for sweetness, acidity, etc. Garnish each glass with a strawberry and serve outside.


strawberry mojito-ish
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