Fleur-de-Marcella

Family PortraitOne Christmas chef-phew Wille gave me a family portrait. It is a drawing/watercolor of the Allium Family: Papa Garlic, Mama Shallot, Sister Scallion, Brother Leek, Aunt Pearl, Uncle Walla Walla, cousins Chives and Cipollini, Grandpa Bermuda and Grandma Wild Onion. It is hanging in a place of honor on the pantry door of my mother’s kitchen.

This holiday I unwrapped a gift from Wille and it was Mi Comida Latina cookbook. In an email Wille explained that the Allium print and this year’s cookbook were created by the same woman—Marcella Kriebel of Washington, D.C.

Wille explained that he met Marcella before the holidays.

“You are such a gadabout at those farmers market,” I teased.

He asked me what a “gadabout” was and corrected me—he met Alice Waters at a farmers market (and bought a cookbook that she signed and he gave to me several years ago), but not Marcella. He met Marcella at a Christmas Market.

I explained that “gadabout” was an old term for “social butterfly”.

Again, he corrected me. He was not just being social; It was business.

“Now that I am Executive Chef, networking, networking, networking, with any and all Latin American food lovers.”

I guess I need to start referring to him as my Exec-Chef-phew.

Yes, Wille is the executive chef at Ruta del Vino, a Latin American Wine Bar and Restaurant in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The menu offers dishes from Mexico to Peru and from Brazil to Argentina: Pulpo Anticucho (grilled octopus), Sudado (butternut squash soup), as well as more familiar Chile Relleno and Empanada, and 18 wines from Latin America.Mi Book

I haven’t made it down to Wille’s restaurant, but I have been flipping through Mi Comida Latina. In sub-zero wind chills it has me lusting for sun-warmed San Marzano tomatoes and the pop of fresh cilantro gathered from our herb bed.

Although I’ve never travelled south of the border, Mi Conida Latina had me traveling back in time to a Saturday afternoon when my dear friend Terese showed me how to make empanadas. Terese is a world traveller and had eaten empanadas in Argentina. When she returned from her trip, she adopted and adapted these stuffed dough pockets in her Allentown kitchen. They were the perfect grab-and-go snack for her lanky teen-age son to inhale between school and sports practice—and it worked. He is now a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Each page of Marcella’s Mi Comida Latina could be framed as artwork or devoured by an everyday cook in the kitchen.  2018 promises to be a culinary Latin American adventure.

The cookbook’s step-by-step instructions and illustrations are like travel postcards from a friend.  Stories that accompany recipes take you to a diner in San Juan to sample a sweet breakfast bread, to Oaxaca  to sip a drink from a street vendor, or to Quito to taste cassava fritters.  Marcella takes the mystery out of Latin American cheese, explains how to eat a mango without peeling or slicing open the fruit, and taught me a better way to cut an onion.  If I keep reading, I may have the courage to eat a cactus pad, expand my chili pepper repertoire, and unlock the subtleties of the Belizean spice Annatto. Laurie LynchArtwork

More on Marcella: If you would like to know more about Marcella Kriebel or buy a print or cookbook, check out her website https://marcellakriebel.com She has a new book called Comida Cubana: A Cuban Culinary Journey.

Gardening/Language Sidebar: When the kids were toddlers I had a part-time job maintaining residential gardens in the Lehigh Valley. We had one client in Orefield whose Southwestern-style home had gardens to match. I dreaded weeding amongst the Opuntia humifusa (Eastern prickly pear cactus) but never knew I could have eaten them. Don’t ask me why, but the bright red fruit of the prickly pear cactus is called a “tuna”.

Written on Slate: Or at least inscribed by Marcella in my copy of Mi Comida Latina, “Cook with love!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fleur-de-PlayingWithFood

Christen Grill

Grill Christening

Richard was about 13, in middle school, when I got a call from the principal.

Mr. Smith explained that Richard and his best buds were caught playing with food in the lunchroom. Not a food fight. More like an anatomy lesson using a banana and tangerines as props.

I can’t remember if I burst out laughing on the phone or was polite enough to wait until Mr. Smith hung up. I doubt it was the latter.

Richard is twice that age now and still playing with food. He is on a first-name basis with his favorite growers and merchants at the local farmers markets. He gets ginger kombucha from Reuben, eggs from Mike, and turmeric, harvested in Belize and ground by Eric in Warriors Mark.  He thinks nothing of whipping up a jar of salad dressing, blending a smoothie, or shaking a blend of spices into his steaming rice.

From his year in Brazil, grilling or “churrasco” is one of his favorite methods of cooking, and I gladly leave it to him. His three-legged, rusted-out charcoal camping grill made its last supper of bleu cheese bison burgers a few weekends ago.  It was replaced with a “real” barbecue—rain cover and all—that became the mystery object on the patio.

Nonna had endless questions about “What’s that brown thing out there?”

Orderly

Orderly Chef

“Is it a statue?”

“Is it a bicycle?”

“Is it a machine?”

Anything new in Nonna’s environment is a source of endless curiosity.

Finally the day came when the cover came off.

Richard lifted up the lid. And there was the face.

Yes, that’s another thing about Richard’s Nonna. She sees faces everywhere: in the swirl of cream in her hazelnut latte, in the taillights of the cars on Route 80, in the petals of an amaryllis. When she looked at the lid of the barbecue, she said, “Oh, look at that face.”

Bolts holding on the thermostat—eyes and nose.  Side-vent wheels—ears of course.  The upper grill rack—a broad, toothy mouth.  She talks about each facial feature, and we see it too.

Richard christened the grill with marinated flank steak, rack of lamb, halloumi, portabella mushrooms, and our own asparagus, green garlic, and shallots.  Needless to say, we had leftovers.  Lots of leftovers.

After a second dinner of leftovers, Richard’s creative juices began to flow. He was still hungry but needed a change.  Spinach flatbread was his canvas and inspiration. That, and his Nonna.Playing w Food

He began by placing two rounds of provolone on the flatbread, then came the grilled portabella eyeballs, button mushroom nose, asparagus smile, beef tongue, chard and spinach hair, and leaf lettuce ears.

“Oh, look at that face,” my mother said, delighted. Laurie Lynch

Miles of Smiles:  While this blog was percolating in my mind, we went to Café Lemont for lunch.  I ordered chicken salad. The bowl that came to the table had a ruffle of lettuce around the mound of chicken salad. Then, on top of the salad were two cucumber slice eyes, a carrot nose, and a green bean mouth smiling at me. Faces everywhere…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleur-de-Verrine

An advert from Subarashii Kudamono arrived in my email mentioning their Asian Pear Spread as a perfect ingredient for a Wild Rice and Corn Verrine.  What, I asked myself, is a verrine?

Then I consulted Google. Verrine is French meaning “protective glass”.  But, as with many things French, the word is linked to food.  Verrine in that sense is an appetizer or dessert served in a clear glass so you can see the colorful, artistic layers of an edible masterpiece.

Two days later, I got a notice for a vegan cooking class at a local farm.  The word verrine was missing, but there was this beautiful photograph:verrine 2

A spring vegetable verrine.

My mind goes zooming back to the 1970s.  For those of you who were around in the 1970s, verrines remind me of the larger scale Layered Salads of that era. Iceberg lettuce (remember that?), sour cream, bacon bits, guacamole, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, bottled Ranch Dressing.)

Verrines are personal layered salads, if you will, adapted to the tastes of the 21stcentury.

My mind goes skipping back to earlier this year when my friend Terese sent a bagged lunch for Richard when I was on my way to pick him up at Newark International Airport in the midst of a snowstorm. Inside were assorted goodies, as well as a layered fruit trifle in a jar…

My mind goes flipping forward. No need to buy verrine glasses, although they keep popping up on my computer screen. I’ve got bags of Bonne Maman jars in the basement just waiting to be transformed into verrines a la red-and-white checkered lids. Perfect for picnics at Lemont Village Green Friday night concerts or lid-less verrines for at-home noshing.

Verrines are the do-it-yourself cook’s dream.  They can be hot or cold, cooked or raw, sweet or savory. You can puree avocado and cucumber, blend cooked red beets with a touch of plain Greek yogurt, or make a strawberry coulis Then you chop, dice, slice, or  shred accompanying fruits or vegetables, maybe add cubed cake or crunchy granola or whipped cream or a swirl of nuts, and layer everything beautifully in a clear glass tumbler.  To make it look professional, repeat the same process times the number of people you plan to serve.

For those of you who need a little guidance, I asked Terese if she had a recipe for the fruit dessert she sent for Richard—or if it was something she just threw together.

It was an “intentional” throw together, she replied. Here are her instructions:

1. Mother-in-law Marion’s pound cake (cubed in about 1-1/2-2” cubes).  I add 1-1/2 teaspoons of almond extract to any basic pound cake recipe. Allow cake to cool.

2. Vanilla pudding. Two or maybe three “stovetop cooked” boxes. Reduce the milk slightly.

3. Any berries — red raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry and in combination.

4. Almonds (California) and Marcona — chopped coarsely.

5. High quality raspberry jam

Layer like a lasagna … cake, then berry jam (dabs here and there like you would with ricotta), then pudding, then berries, then almonds. Repeat.  Top with fresh whipped cream. Do NOT count the calories for this one.

Don’t worry, Terese.  I won’t.  Laurie Lynch

Mem Day SnowWritten on Slate:  “I ate pound cake today, but I gained two.”  Jarod Chintz

BTW:  You are not seeing double. This Terese is the same Terese I mentioned in the last blog who dropped off two crates of slates. She’s a generous soul.

Memorial Day Snow:  It was snowing fragrant black locust blossoms on Memorial Day.  The week was filled with trees and shrubs in full-blown bloom—heavenly days.

Fleur-de-Recycle

Full Bloom Last Summer

Full bloom last summer

With way too much rain this spring, rain lilies were an easy sell at our Master Gardener Plant Sale.

Zephyranthes robusta bulbs, the size and shape of a hazelnut, were planted in pots in our atrium in early April and began blooming the week of our plant sale.  Pretty in pink, they nodded to passersby, drawing them closer on an otherwise gray morning.

As with everything, it takes a community. Rhonda gave me my first Z-bulbs last spring to memorialize her grandmother who shared a wealth of rain lilies in her lifetime. My success with the bulbs sprouted into the idea to sell them at our May 2018 plant sale.

Rain lilies bloom intermittently all summer long, especially after a good rain, and have to be brought inside before the first frost in Pennsylvania. Put the planter in an unheated garage, and forget about it. Don’t water it.  For Mother’s Day, you bring it outside.  Soon the bulbs produce green foliage that becomes an arching mane, and it starts pushing out blooms. For those who live in Florida, Zephyranthes can be planted in the ground and remain there, year-round.

At a planning meeting for our plant sale last fall, I suggested forcing rain lily bulbs to sell.  Fellow MG Bev said she wanted to clear her over-stuffed garage of ceramic pots—and we could grow the bulbs in her pots.

Lineup

Line Up

Our shipment of 200 bulbs arrived in early April. I placed a couple layers of wine corks on the bottom of each pot for lightweight drainage, filled the rest with potting soil, and pressed 10 or so bulbs in each pot. We lined them up in our sunroom along with flats of luffa seedlings, protected from cold night temperatures, and watered them every other day.  Soon the green strappy leaves sprouted like tufts of hair across the surface of the soil. About four weeks later, a few stems shot up buds, unfurling into a six-petal blossoms.  Perfect timing.

Along the way, our plant sale committee decided to have “Learning Tables” to give plant sale customers fresh ideas and information amongst the banks of annuals, perennials, pollinators, herbs, shrubs, and vegetables for purchase.  That idea germinated into more meetings and plans, which resulted in a Kid Gardening area, and a central set of Learning Tables with displays and demonstrations on Bonsai, Grow Boxes, Pass-Along Plants, Luffas, and yes, Rain Lilies.

Since the Learning Table areas were a new feature, we wanted them to stand out.  We drafted two new trainees, Joe and Ed, to come up with an eye-catching plan.  They saw two slates I made for the luffa and rain lily tables, and asked if I had more slates. Loads more! A year or so ago, my friend Terese dropped off two crates of old slate after they re-roofed their Allentown home.  She remembered my Written on Slate signs at Fleur-de-Lys Farm.Kid Gardening

It wasn’t until set-up day that the Learning Tables and Kid Gardening signs were unveiled.  The sign for the Kid Gardening used Hula Hoops, cutout flowers and butterflies, and slates to create a festive chalkboard look.  Each Learning Table had slate signs indicating the topic, and a giant whiteboard, echoing the school theme, was adorned with watering hoses, peat pots and garden gloves.

From a recycled idea to recycled pots to recycled slates—it definitely takes a community.  Laurie Lynch

Rain Lily Table

 

 

Fleur-de-Linguistics

I often sit on the front porch waiting for Seth to put the Café Open sign at the only traffic light in Lemont. That means I can slip in behind him and be first in line for coffee.

Within minutes after my first sip of iced coffee, a fellow joins me at a nearby chair on the porch at Café Lemont.

“I like your purple Chucks,” I say.

I blame my forwardness on my early morning bike ride high.  The caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet. But “Chucks”?   I hadn’t used that expression since I was in high school, when I hung out with a bunch of basketball guys on the JV team.

“You’re the second person who mentioned them since I got to the States two days ago.”

Turns out the young-ish man is an expert in Faroese, the language of the people of the Faroe Islands. The archipelago of 18 volcanic islands is midway between Iceland and Norway. He tells me he is actually from England, where he studied at the University College of London. One day he told his father, a businessman, that he was going to specialize in Icelandic and Faroese languages. His father’s reply was: “The f— you are.”  But, for the last dozen or so years he’s been living in Iceland doing exactly that.

Why is he in Lemont wearing purple Converse high-tops that he bought in London?

Penn State is host of the Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference 24 this year.  I’m guessing he found an Airbnb in Lemont, a short walk to the CATA bus stop to campus.

He orders a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich and a cup of tea.  When the server brings his breakfast, our linguist looks perplexed.

“Am I supposed to drink out of this jug?” he asks me.

“Yes,” I reply, “we call it a mug.”

Hand-made pottery mugs are a trademark of Café Lemont. Porcelain teacups, they are not.

“My grandmother would turn over,” he says, shaking his head, a little culture shock seeping in with the brew.

Soon, it was time for me to head home.  I wished him well, strapped on my helmet, and pedaled down the road, fulfilled with the joy of conversation and a bit of regret that I didn’t even ask his name.  Laurie Lynch

Post-Coffee Research:  I checked out the linguistics conference online.  Of the 40 or so workshops offered, at least four focus on Icelandic and Faroese languages:

–Decomposing Event Structure in Syntax and Semantics: Predicates of Excess in Icelandic and other Germanic Languages

–A Possible Explanation for the Odd Impersonal Verbs of Icelandic

–Analogy by Default: Type Frequency Effects of Inflectional Patterns on Faroese Nouns

–Evidence for a Post-Sonorant Fortition Hierarchy from Continuancy Neutralizations in Icelandic

As someone long before me said, “It’s all Greek to me.” I can’t even find some of these words in the dictionary, but at least I could point out the Lemont linguistic distinction between jug and mug.

What I Didn’t Know In High School:  About those Chucks.  Converse high-top sneakers were a big deal in my high school days and they seem to have recurring surges of popularity.  Chuck Taylor was a basketball player and shoe salesman extraordinaire in the early 20thcentury. In 1935, a year before basketball became an Olympic sport, Chuck Taylor invented the stitch-less basketball. By World War II, the Chuck Taylor sneaker became the “official” sneaker of the U.S. armed forces, as Chuck was the fitness consultant for the U.S. Military.

Coming Up:  Centre County Master Gardener Plant Sale is Saturday, May 19, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Ag Progress Days Special Events Barn, Entrance K, off Route 45 outside of Pine Grove Mills.  Our new Learning Tables section will showcase Bonsai, Grow Boxes, Pass-Along Plants, Rain Lilies, Luffas, and Children’s Activities.

Written on Slate:  “Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fleur-de-ArtTales

Asparagus bunchWhile waiting impatiently for spring, I am devouring the words and stories of Edmund de Waal in The Hare with Amber Eyes. My last post mentioned a spring beauty in the flower garden—the hyacinth—and now we move to the spring vegetable garden with yet another gem from The Hare with Amber Eyes.

The cousin of de Waal’s great-grandfather was a wealthy art critic and art historian, Charles Ephrussi. He lived in Paris in the late 1800s during the heyday of French Impressionism.  If you’ve seen Pierre-Auguste Renior’s  Le déjeuner des canotiers       (Luncheon of the Boating Party), part of The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., Charles is the fellow in the background wearing a top hat and black suit.

Well, the story goes that Charles bought Édouard Manet’s still-life Une botte d’asperges, a simple bundle of asparagus stalks tied in string (white asparagus, the way the Europeans like the vegetable).  Manet wanted 800 francs for the painting. Charles sent 1,000 francs. That painting now hangs in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne.

And now, I’ll pause for a moment and return to another book that has my heart, Tasting Paris, 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local by Clotilde Dusoulier.  

Of the 100 recipes, I’ve used Quick Red Onion Pickles twice in the past month. It is so simple, but the flavor and versatility go a long way. We’ve slipped these pickled red onions into sandwiches to add crunchiness, sprinkled them on eggs, as Clotilde suggests, and topped salads with them. I’ve taken the liberty to condense her recipe a bit.

Red Onions

Pickled Red Onion Rings on Salad

Oignon rouge en algre-doux

1 medium red onion, peeled

3 cups boiling water

1 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. fine sea salt

2 tsp. spices, such as peppercorns, coriander or cumin seeds (optional)

You will need a clean 1 ½-cup glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Cut onion into thin slices and place in a metal colander in the sink, separating slices into rings. Pour boiling water over onion rings and pack them into the jar.

In a small pan, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices. Simmer and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour mixture into the jar, making sure onion slices are submerged and close lid. Cool on the counter for about 2 hours, then refrigerate. Refrigerated onion pickles can be kept for a month—but they’ll vanish before then.

OK, now we’ll get back to the asparagus story.  Remember, Charles sent 1,000 francs for Manet’s 800 franc painting?

Well, a week later, Charles received a small canvas signed with an M.  It was a painting of a single asparagus stalk on a table.  With it, a note: “This seems to have slipped from the bundle.”  L’asperge now hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, ParisLaurie Lynch

Flower Power:  Morning bike rides are my weekend treat, along with a break at Café Lemont.  As I was walking down the front steps of the cafe to put on my bicycle helmet and ride away, a gentleman stopped me.  “Could you wait for just a moment, I’d like to get a few photos of your bike.”  It did make a pretty picture.  My bike, with its basket rimmed with faded, silk flowers, parked in front of the Victorian porch of Café Lemont.

Local-ish Art History:  Marina sent me the following link to a blog entry on finding Keith Haring’s artwork in his hometown of Kutztown.  Thought you’d enjoy:

https://hyperallergic.com/441321/keith-haring-art-hometown-kutztown/

Asp. Single

Fleur-de-MoreTasting

Spring in Centre County. On Tuesday, the 10thof April, it seems like winter will never leave.  The snow is like icing on a cake … but with no calories.  No shovels. No salt. No plows.

Daffodil 4:10:18A yellow daffodil bends into the green foliage under a shawl of snow, hunched like an old woman.

 

 

 

Hand 4:10:18

 

My sister Lisa’s sculpture, the focal point of the pentagon garden, is a black etching above a veil of white on her rarely snowy birthday.

 

 

Free Spring 4-14-18

 

 

Saturday, April 14th, “spring has sprung” and temperatures reach the 80s.  On a bicycle ride I picked up a hanging pot resting on a FREE pile along the road.

 

 

 

No matter where you live, there is beauty around every corner. It is up to each of us to embrace our locale. And no one does it better than Clotilde Dusoulier in her new cookbook, Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes To Eat Like a Local.

I’ve only foraged through a few of the 100 but already my book is sprouting torn strips of paper marking 23 I want to try. But recipes are just the icing.  The cake of Tasting Paris is Clotilde’s description of everyday Parisian life, unlocking some of the mysteries of the City of Lights.

The first time I saw Paris was in the summer of 1971. I was a sassy 17-year-old who ordered and actually drank a “Cognac and Coke” on the train ride from Amsterdam to Paris.  Three of us graduated high school together; the fourth was my girlfriend’s kid sister, to keep us out of trouble.  We stayed in a friend of a friend’s small apartment, up three or four winding flights of stairs (horror of horrors, no elevator!).

I remember a burlap drape instead of a door to the bedroom, a teensy kitchen with a refrigerator smaller than my suitcase, and a dingy sitting room. But then, we were hardly the epitome of sophistication.

We bought our bottles of wine from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, complained to ourselves when a restaurant served Coca-Cola without ice (!), and practiced the French command for “Get away!”  (“Va-t-en!”) when guys made advances—but all I could do was giggle.  We got scolded in the Jardin des Tuileries for walking on a patch of manicured grass, and the Mona Lisa was sooooo small.

I was determined not to fall in love with Paris. That was so cliché, and I so wanted to be a rebel.

But I fell hard.  The mansard roofs on the Haussmann apartment buildings.  The Seine booksellers and barges.  Baguettes and Brie. La tour Eiffel.  The frills and thrills of Paris.

The last time I saw Paris was through the pages of Tasting Paris.  As I read Clotilde’s Welcome and Brief History of Parisian Cuisine, and each of her recipe introductions, beginning with Le Matin (Morning) and ending with Tard Dans La Nuit (Late Night), I began to understand Paris.

Apartments are small, so Parisians developed a café culture. They often socialize at outdoor cafés or wine bars, mingling over café au lait or Côtes Du Rhône. Refrigerators are petite because Parisians go to the market several times a week and cook what is fresh. Bakeries are plentiful because Parisians love their baguettes and croissants. A stale nub of this morning’s baguette is ground into breadcrumbs and sprinkled on mussels on the half-shell or poached eggs. Leftovers of a loaf of artisanal bread are tucked under a blanket of Comté and voilà, Soupe a l’oignon gratinée. Nothing is wasted.

Next time I see Paris, I’ll taste it with new eyes and a new appreciation.  Laurie Lynch