Musing with Max

Musing with Max

July 30, 2012

(Sun)Flowers in the house or Girasoles en la Casa

I have a vivid memory of racing down a winding mountain road in Spain while going from Seville to Granada. Suddenly we came around a bend and my breath caught in my throat; on each side of the road were endless fields of sunflowers. Every inch on either side, as far as the eye could see was a sea of bright yellow. It was a sight to behold and impossible to capture with any true justice, my photos are a yellow blur. I stuck my nose to the glass like a child and stared hard, my brain went click, click, click. There, mine, forever.

So this weekend when I walked into Whole Paycheck Foods to gather the ingredients for a dinner party I stopped cold. Buckets and buckets of sunflowers; and since it's party day at Jane's I thought I'd bring a little bit of Spain.


July 28, 2012


My backyard tends to be a veritable Disney movie. In addition to Thumper

and Bambi

we are usually graced with all manner of lovely sounding birds from giant shimmering blue jays and the reddest of cardinals to tiny fluttering hummingbirds. There are several kinds of butterflies floating from flower to flower and armies of bees, as Max has unfortunately found out. On occasion we've been visited by a fox and a couple of times wild turkeys. The ducks from the pond in the park have somehow wandered through looking a bit lost. Then there are the furry little creatures. Some passing through on their way home

others to scare the bejeesus out of us

others like the adorable chipmunks just to make us smile. Then there are those who come to eat. Sometimes they bring their own

but unfortunately other times they help themselves of our stuff
which annoys me no end because even though I have no problem at all with sharing the world with all of God's creatures I didn't sign up to feed each and every one of them...especially the dreaded groundhog
whose sole mission in life seems to be to eat each and every one of my tomatoes to fatten himself up before hibernation time. I hope he realizes this means war!

What to do, should I let out the ferocious guard dog?

hmmm, not sure that will work since he seems to come in the middle of the night. I know I'll spray them with the concoction that keeps the deer away from the day lilies. OK, that worked until it rained and the next morning two tomatoes went missing so I went on line and read that they're spooked by any movement so I bought two of these
yes, ugly I know but sometimes sacrifices need to be made for the sake of a tomato. Then all is forgotten when I look and towards the back see a little red peeking through and pick my first little beauty

I do believe I have won this round.

July 22, 2012

On the Porch

Years ago when we decided it was time to move to a new house and new neighborhood we devised a wish list.  We narrowed the neighborhoods to three that were much closer to New York City which would really improve our commute and the houses were old and cool with an eclectic mix of architecture. Then came the house. In addition to the usual number of bedrooms, bathrooms and all that boring stuff we wanted certain things that were missing in our house at that time. At that house the front door led you straight into the living room so we wanted some sort of entry way or front hall or foyer. We also wanted some sort of "extra" room, a fireplace and a wrap around porch. Not a lot, right? Well, we hadn't looked for a house in 15 years and this was 2002 when the real estate market was starting it's irrational exuberance phase so we were in for a rude awakening. To begin with the neighborhoods we chose were sexy and popular and all manner of New Yorkers with money and new babies were moving in and driving the prices up because they were fighting for what they wanted and starting bidding wars. We were priced out of a number of houses and wound up losing some in those bidding wars. Our spirits, and our wish list, were diminishing. But lo and behold, good things come for those who wait and while it may not wrap completely around, it's a wish come true.

Max just loves it
and he's not the only one

there are those who just come to visit the porch

and lie around in the afternoon

and in these hot Summer days there's a lovely cool micro climate which makes dinnertime most pleasant.

Shrimp and Sausage Stew adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 6 to 8

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch rounds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped (2 cups)
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup bottled clam juice
One 10-ounce bag fresh or frozen baby lima beans, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 pounds large shell-on shrimp

  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the onion, celery and green pepper to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until their liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and clam juice and bring to a boil. Scatter the sausage, lima beans and half of the parsley on top. Add the shrimp, cover tightly and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Let the stew rest for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.
Serve over steamed rice.

on the porch

but try not to drop anything

...but wait,

is that a squirrel with a bagel???

or a groundhog with a tomato?

Oh, and did we get everything else on the wish list? Yes, we did!

July 19, 2012

Cool eating

As much as I enjoy cooking and spending time in the kitchen, this heat is not amenable to standing over a stove or cranking up the oven. Central air or not a heat wave is a heat wave is a heat wave...and no not a tropical one, at least not in the very steamy northeast. We still have to eat though. So, make something cool.

Gazpacho Rojo de Sevilla adapted from Recipes from a Spanish Village by Pepita Aris
serves 6

2 slices white bread, no crusts
1 small onion, roughly chopped
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt
1 English cucumber, half the skin and all the seeds removed
1/2 sweet red pepper without stem or seeds
2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
3 cups tomato juice

Cover the bread with water, then squeeze it out. Put the bread onion, garlic and cayenne in a blender with the oil and salt and puree. Add the cucumber sweet pepper, vinegar and tomato juice. (May have to be done in two batches).

Chill, preferably overnight or put in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Before serving dilute with ice water if it's too thick (I never do)

Garnish with croutons, or whatever pops into your head.

Tortilla a la Espanola adapted from Tapas: The little dishes of Spain by Penelope Casas

1 c olive oil, or a mixture of olive and other vegetable oil
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/8-inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Coarse salt
4 large eggs

Heat the oil in an 8- or 9-inch skillet and add the potato slices one
at a time so they don't stick together.  Alternate layers of potato with the onion slices and salt the layers lightly.  Cook slowly over medium heat (the potatoes will really "boil" in the oil rather than fry), lifting and turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are tender but not brown.  The potatoes should remain separated, not in a "cake."
Drain the potatoes in a colander, reserving about 3 T of the oil.  (The
onion and potato give the oil a wonderful flavor, so save the rest for
some other use.) Wipe out the skillet, scraping of any stuck
particles.  (If this is difficult to do, wash the skillet.  It will be
used again to set the omelet and must be completely clean to avoid

Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat the eggs with a fork until they are
slightly foamy.  Salt to taste.  Add the potatoes to the beaten egg,
pressing the potatoes down with a pancake turner so that they are
completely covered by the egg.  Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 T of the reserved oil in the skillet until it reaches the
smoking point.  (It must be very hot or the eggs will stick.)  Add the
potato and egg mixture, spreading it out rapidly in the skillet with
the aid of a pancake turner.  Lower the heat to medium-high and shake
the pan often to prevent sticking.  When the eggs begin to brown
underneath, invert a plate of the same size over the skillet and flip
the omelet onto the plate.  Add about 1 T more oil to the pan, then
slide the omelet back into the skillet to brown on the other side.

Lower the heat to medium and flip the omelet two or three more times
(this helps to give the omelet a good shape while it continues to
cook), cooking briefly on each side.  It should be juicy within.
Transfer to a platter and cool, then cut in thin wedges. 

or maybe you do need to fire up the oven

Hot tomato adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Serves 6

6 tomatoes, ripe but firm
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp fresh coriander
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp yellow cornmeal
1tbspn unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. Slice off the top quarter of each tomato. Set tops aside. Scoop out the centers of 3 of the tomatoes leaving a thin shell and put into a bowl. Scoop out the pulp from the other tomatoes and discard. Drain the tomato shells on paper towels.
3. Add the corn, jalapeno, scallions, pepper, basil, cilantro, cheese, salt and pepper to the tomato pulp. Toss until mix and fill the tomato shells with the mixture.
4. Sprinkle each tomato with 1/2 tsp of cornmeal and dot with 1/2 tsp butter. Arrange on the baking sheet.
5. Bake until the crumbs are golden and the tomatoes are cooked through, about 25  minutes. Place the tops back on before serving.

OK, since it's so hot serve it inside

Unless you can think of a better place

OK, maybe tomorrow.

July 17, 2012

Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel

As I was chasing a groundhog out from underneath the wisteria a flicker caught my eye

yes, it's a bagel

not really sure what kind

cinnamon raisin, I think

very protective

made me lose sight of the groundhog. Wonder if they're in cahoots!

July 14, 2012

The art of Summer reading

What is it about Summer that just brings out the reader in everybody? Even if you read all the time as I am prone to do Summer just escalates the desire. I suppose it's because it's the lazy season and lying about with a good book after all that Spring gardening is so very appealing. And even though I have a small pile waiting for me to get to I still felt I needed to get some "Summer" books

so off to Alibris I went and went a little order happy since I can't help myself. Some new stuff, some old stuff that I had never gotten around to and a great find, "The Garden of Reading" recommended by Jen which is a must for every reader who gardens or every gardener who reads. First, to figure out where to sit and enjoy.

the chaise in the room with the books? No, need to go outside
the wine barrel chairs I bought Frank for his birthday for me? No, while incredibly comfortable, really! not for lounging and reading. I know; the porch

drat, taken. Maybe I can entice him to move

OK, now we're talking. So where do I start? Oops new arrivals.

Decisions, decisions.