Tuesday, September 30, 2008

an autumnal walk...

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile. ~ William Cullen Bryant

My crazy back problem allows me only 20 minute bursts in front of the computer. Regular postings will resume shortly.

Meanwhile, I thought that you all may enjoy an autumnal walk through Paris.

Friday, September 26, 2008

blueberry comfort and health...

So sorry I have been lax in my blog posts this week.
I sustained a back injury (not too bad, not to worry) and needed to take time to rest and see my Chiropractor and massage therapist each day.

As an adjunct to this therapy have been trying to eat healthy, yet comforting foods as I recover.
My favorite new breakfast comes from a neighbor that brought me several jars of Lime Curd and an assortment teas from her recent trip to England. She came by one morning and made me tea and toast of 9-grain bread slathered in Lime Curd and literally covered in fresh blueberries. I was so surprised by this simple combination of flavors that changed this healthful bread into a party…
In a word, it was marvelous…!

In 2005, blueberries have been categorized as a superfruit, having the favorable combination of nutrient richness, antioxidant strength, emerging research evidence for health benefits.
A superfruit, refers to a fruit which combines exceptional nutrient richness and antioxidant quality with appealing taste.

And appealing, it was. The citrus of the Lime Curd combined with the soft-blue sweetness of the right off the farm blueberries and the crunch of the grains in the toasted bread made an unusual and welcome new taste that I want to have often as a petit-dejeuner.

And having a a pile of sweet superfruit each day certainly can not help but aid in my road back to strength and health.

Monday, September 22, 2008

through the looking glass...

Many of my dear friends have asked for at least one image of the progress I am making on the re-design of ma chambre, my room. Here is a softly-lit night image of one small corner of my room in progress.
The bolts of textiles, ladders and piles of my photos to be hung are in the other corner out of view. I took this though the mirror of the short armoire to soften the scene.

I will post additional images of the entire chambre as soon as my Chanel screen that a dear friend is sending has arrived from Paris. (Any day now, I am hoping…)

What I imagined is that it will anchor the room and impart it with character. All my design cues and inspiration I took from my tour last year through Coco Chanel’s appartement on rue Cambonm Her appartement was eclectic, oriental, opulent and trés, trés elegant…
I wanted my design to mirror that feel, the feel of Chanel.
Just distilled to be a simplified version, but keeping the essential ingredients of romance and elegance intact.

We will see how this plays out and comes together soon…
Please stay tuned… merci...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the seduction of the morning market…

I am not a morning person…
Never have been.
Never. will. be.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I was born exactly at 6:00 in the evening.
I had spent my entire nursing career working the third-watch in the ER or transplant units of various hospitals.
Working in 8 to 6 corporate environment was really tricky; as I never felt fully myself until after 6pm. This benefited the design firms that employed me, as I never minded working after hours.
The sunny Carnival Squash can even put a smile on my grumpy morning-face…lol…

I love being a photographer, as the morning light is almost always thin, murky or foggy from pollution and never suited to the drama-shots of the bright sun and deep shadows of the late afternoon light. So usually a client will be amenable to an afternoon shoot unless it happens to be an indoor shoot and a there is a time crunch.
After the on site work is completed, I can go back to my atelier after the shoot and happily sort and edit the image until the wee hours of the night. The hours that suit my nocturnal-catlike personality.
The vibrant pop of multicolored peppers wake up my visual senses

But from May to October, there is just one thing that will get my sorry, sleepy bod out of bed on a Saturday morning is Chicago Green City Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
Sure I have to drive 30 minutes and sure I have to pay for the privilege to park.
But it just feels worth both the time and the minor expense.
That first hazy morning look at Lake Michigan

But there is nothing like coming round the corner form the Stevenson to Lake Shore Drive (LSD) and getting that high up in the air first glimpse of that inland ocean know as Lake Michigan. After that cool blue sighting, my energy kicks into high gear fueled by the karmic power of this beautiful city, and the anticipation of getting to that oasis of fresh, fresh, fresh food in the middle of the city.
Colorful striped Turkish Eggplants

It is not just the veggies and fruits and cheese and meats and fresh milk and breads and pastries and jams and flowers and herbs that draws me.
It is not just the fact that I can take as many images as I can squeeze into a two hour time frame that my parking voucher will allow.
Chef Debbie Sharpe of Feast Restaurant ~ Chicago wields a knife during her cooking demo at Green City Market

It is not just the fact that I can buy fresh, organic and sometimes fairly exotic produce in as much abundance that my wallet will allow.
The thing that keeps me coming back, again and again are the connections.
Rosa Bianca Eggplants

The connections of the growers and producers to their products and the pride they take in producing the best with love and enthusiasm.
The connections of the products to the land that is nurtured with care and dedication producing organic or sustainable harvests (or both).
The connection that I feel to the land through the food that I purchase from these people. They have so much passion and knowledge and willing share that with all that come to the market.
This is Kathleen, one of the sisters from Three Sisters Garden.
She not only told about the white Flageolet beans I had selected to buy, but their French history, where they were grown, when they were picked and shelled and how to cook them to delicious perfection.
I always come away with a great deal more than something to feed my body… my mind and spirit is always fed after a morning at Green City Market.

Friday, September 19, 2008

comfort me with…

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. ~ Sheilah Graham

Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort.~ Norman Kolpas

Comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. ~ The Song of Solomon 2:5

After getting soaked to the skin last Saturday during a long morning at the Chicago Green City Market I came home in search of warmth, dry clothes and comfort food.
For warmth I fired up the oven to roast the golden beets that I had purchased at the market for my favorite salad.
I had made a Golden Beet Salad earlier in the summer with a recipe from The Bitten Word and loved it so much I had to make it again. Please check out Clay and Zach’s fabulous, joyful colorful and informative blog. The recipes are fabulous, their style engaging and their images stunning…you will become addicted as I have.

As the oven warmed up my chill and that in my kitchen, I did my weekly chill-chest clean-out in search of ingredients to produce a dish that would warm my insides. I found that I had as usual, an inordinate selection of cheese in my dairy compartment. Cheese is wonderful, but not the warming comfort that I had in mind...

Then I recalled that I had frozen small batches of a huge pot of the French Onion Soup or soupe de la oignon that I had made a few weeks before.
I didn’t need a crystal ball to know that as the days got shorter and colder and darker, there were going to be times I would need its comfort and warmth in a hurry…

It takes me the better portion of a day to make my French onion soup so that the final product closely resembles the soup that I often enjoy at a tiny hole in the wall Paris bistrot on rue Grenelle.
Cutting that many onions for a double recipe is time consuming, so I make it an event. I put on my fave French movies or music, turn them up loud.
With Parisian sounds in the background, I go to work making a huge amount of this liquid-love that will bring solace and warmth whenever my stomach and my spirit are in need of a comforting taste of Paris.

Now I can imagine that there are as many recipes for onion soup as there are cooks out there. I also imagine that there are as many favorite restos where each person seeks what they deem as the best onion soup that they have ever tasted on this earth. For me personally, I have tasted French onion soups all over the two countries that I call home (the USA and France) and have three places that I adore to go for this warm, cheesy, crouton-y full-flavored rich tasting
bowl of contentment.

When in Paris I go to Café Roussillon, a workers cafe and La Pied a Cochon that has been dishing upsoupe de la oignon in Les Halles when it was the “belly of Paris” and when I am in the US,
I go to my very own rustic kitchen. I know that this will stir up a flurry of opinions, but for me these places have the "soup-chops" that produce heaven in a bowl.

My own recipe is a slight adaptation of Alton Brown’s French Onion Soup recipe from his Good Eats show, A Bowl of Onions. I have made this recipe at least 20 times with thrilling results and dozens satisfied diners at my table, including moi…

My Paris Comfort ~ French Onion Soup
soupe de la oignon

I use a combination of sweet onions (Vidalia, Carzalia or Walla-Walla),
white onions, purple onions (in season) and red onions that are equal
to about 5 or 6 pounds of onions in total.
3 tablespoons good unsalted Butter (I use 365 from Whole Foods or Plugra)
2 tablespoon of good Olive Oil (I love Tassos Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil)
1 teaspoon Ground Sea Salt3 cups white wine (I use a fruity Chardonnay)
12 ounces Beef stock
12 ounces Chicken broth
12 ounces unfiltered Apple cider Bouquet garni (I either buy the ones sold at Monoprix
in France produced by Albert Ménès, also available on-line)


You can make your own Bouquet garni with one or two bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, parsley 3 fresh sprigs or 3 teaspoons dried and ½ teaspoon of whole white peppercorns.
I put these in a small square of cheese cloth and tie with kitchen twine.
(Off-season, when I am not growing these herbs fresh in my kitchen garden, I buy small amounts of each dry herb and spice in the Whole Foods bulk spice aisle. This makes it very
inexpensive to wrap up a half-dozen or so Bouquet Garni, and store them out of the light in an airtight glass jar...)

1 good Baguette
Ground sea salt
Ground black pepper or ground grains of Paradise (Melegueta pepper)
Garlic cloves
1 cup grated Gruyère or Fontina cheeses. (I use a mixture of both,
plus a bit of finely diced buffalo part-skim milk Mozzarella)

*** ***

Finely slice all the onions into (Alton says, into half-moons shapes) and put in a large container.

To a large soup pot, (I use my large copper Dutch-oven that is lined with non-reactive stainless steel) and add the butter and olive oil.
After the butter has melted onto the oil, add a layer of onions and sprinkle with ground sea salt.
Continue adding layers of onions and salt until all onions are in the pot. Do not stir onions until they have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes.

After that, you can stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take1 hour.
Add the wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency.

Now add the beef stock and chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni.
Reduce heat and simmer 40 minutes.
Remove bouquet garni and taste for seasons and adjust salt and pepper.

Heat broiler and place oven rack on top slot.

While the soup is cooking I cut slices of baguette and toast them either
under the broiler in a sheet pan for a minute for a large group or in the toaster for just me.
While the toasted slice is warm, I rub them on one side with the cut garlic glove.
Ladle soup into crocks leaving at least one inch to the lip.

Put in one or two slices of the baguette, toasted and garlic-ed side down.
Sprinkle the grated cheese on liberally.
Place under the broiler (I usually place the soup crocks on a sheet pan)and broil until cheese is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Then be comforted...

(I like this recipe as I can control the flavor and the salt content (sea salts are lower in sodium) as most commercially canned or frozen soupe de la oignon is loaded with salt and other preservatives.

After the soup has cooled to room temperature, I ladle what I want to freeze into one serving ramekins and put them all on a tray into my freezer.
After they have frozen solid, I pop the soup rounds out and put into double zip bags and put them right back into the freezer.
For immediate cold-day comfort all you need is a baguette and some cheese...

I hope that you will try this or your fave onion soup recipe. Dig in, make a big batch and freeze some for a rainy day you need a touch of Paris to warm your heart and in your tummy.
Here is a link to the original recipe for Alton Brown’s French Onion soup.

(This is one of the posts that I had lost due to my computer’s weird influenza…)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

little. things.

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving.
What you have caught on film is captured forever ...
It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten them. ~ Aaron Siskind

I had two posts of warming autumnal comfort food recipes written and photographed until my computer lost the posts and the images. Merde...
I was able get the images restored, but the posts may take a bit longer to recapture or rewrite.
Until that time, I want to share with you a food memory of what was once my favorite tiny resto in Paris. It was an unobtrusive and little known resto called Le Grillardin, that was just a few steps from my Paris appartement.
Unfortunately this treasure of a resto is no longer in existence.

But I remember.
The little things.
The tiny, infinitesimal, intimate details about a very simple and delicious meals I ate at Le Grillardin.

The succulent fresh fish was cooked so that it melted in my mouth, and it was accompanied by perfectly turned and parsley strewn potatoes. (Trust me these are difficult to get perfect..)
A fresh green salad with a just-right-balanced vinaigrette dressing was a fresh green exclamation, and a complimentary jug of house wine completed the meal. This déjeuner was presented in a manner that was not haute couture, just with the utmost respect to the food and to the diner. And all for a price that I could afford and afford to return here often...and I did.

Until I recover my words from my lost posts, I wanted to share these little memories, of a little meal, in a little place near Palais Royal with all of you.
But these memories seem not so very little, they seem immense and utterly perfect…

That is the great thing about memories, they can be what ever you want them to be…however, I have photographic proof of these memories.

Merci beaucoup for you patience…

Saturday, September 13, 2008

we. be. little.

pumpkin season begins very, very small...

I came across these miniature sweeties at Chicago Green City Market early this morning before the rains blew in across Lake Michigan and took away my photographic light. Perhaps I was punchy from too little sleep, too much rain on my head or the many fumes from painting my home…but the name of these adorable little pumpkins just ticked me all day…we be little…lol…

I learned from their Indiana grower that the we be little pumpkins are extra small, well rounded with a smooth skin, no ribbing and range from 3 to 6 inches in diameter.
The white pumpkin variety has three types: Baby Boo, Lumina and White Ghost.

Baby Boo is a bright, white pumpkin with deep ribs and a tendency to turn yellow in bright sunlight.

The Lumina babies are a brilliant white pumpkin with smooth, bright yellow skin.
It is highly valued for its flavor.

The White Ghost, which is also known as the Valencia, has pure white skin and bright yellow flesh. It is usually used for painting or decorating and only occasionally for cooking.

I have to say I went a bit overboard purchasing quite a few of these we be little pumpkins as they tickled my fancy. It will be interesting to see how I am able to use them in recipes after I finish photographing these tiny first gems of autumn.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I imagine that many will think this image a corny remembrance.
But the friend that I am honoring would have loved that I remember her with a tomato.
(And also teased me mercilessly in her loving way…)

I wanted to stop today for a moment in my hectic life and remember.
I wanted to remember all the victims and the families of those that perished on this horrific and tragic day on 2001.
But most particularly, I wanted to remember my friend.

I went to gather salad for my dinner last night and found this on heart-shaped tomato on the vine. It seemed appropriate to photograph it as a small tribute to my friend.
Food and cooking food was her life and she made others happy by what she created and how well she fed and nourished them.
She would have loved my silly and clumsy tribute...and would have laughed…a lot…

I dedicate this to my very dear friend 'N', a fellow foodie and very talented chef that perished in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Merci for your friendship, courage and all that you have taught me.
You were always a blessing as a friend and continue to be an inspiration…

Monday, September 8, 2008

potage parmentier…julia, julie, meryl and me…

Life itself is the proper binge. ~ Julia Child

The weather had been blissfully warm, sunny and mild this weekend, but the rain has returned and these is a damp chill in the air this afternoon. Julia Child’s classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking sits on my warn wooden work table in the kitchen, beckoning me, as always to find a delicious solution for a meal from the ingredients that I have on hand.

I have been rediscovering many of the recipes from Julia’s masterpiece lately after re-reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. The re-read was prompted early this summer when my best friend “Y” that lives in Paris, called and excitedly told me that she saw the Julie/Julia project being filmed on her way to work passing the film crew on rue Mouffetard.
I had no idea that this blog to book that I had so enjoyed, would soon be a major motion picture, so I decided to re-read Miss Powell’s book in anticipation of the movie.
“Y” sadly did not have her camera with her that day. But, after a little search, I did find several images of Meryl Streep as Julia on simplystreep.com.

Early in 2003 I discovered the Julie/Julie project’s blog after it was in progress for several months. In case you are not familiar with this blog/book, this is the project where Julie Powell undertakes cooking the 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of one year.
This blog alone inspired me to flex my culinary muscles again and using Julia as a guide, discover more about what I could do in the kitchen.
Believe me I will not be undertaking all of Julia’s recipes, as Julie did. I am much to “culinary challenged” for that monumental task. But both ladies inspired me to pursue my food and photography passions, no matter what else was going on in my life.
For more on the Julie/Julie project click on the link to the left, under MY BLOG LIST.

I didn’t have to many pages to peruse in my well-worn 1961 copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as my fluorescent post-it tag stopped me on page 37, Chapter One - Potages and Soups. The first recipe, Potage Parmentier was double-flagged and I had a bag of potatoes from Rexburg farm that need to be used. This simple (says Julia) and hearty soup seems to be in order for this cool pre-autumnal night.

Here is Julia Child's Potage Parmentier ~ Potato and Leek Soup

1 lb potatoes, washed, peeled and diced

1 lb leeks thoroughly washed and thinly diced.
(you can substitue yellow onions)

2 quarts water

1 tbsp salt ( I used kosher salt)

3 - 4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 - 6 tbsp heavy cream

2 - 4 tbsp minced chives and parsely for garnish

(I added fresh ground white pepper for a bit of spice.)

Simmer the potatoes and leeks in the salted water for 40-50 minutes.

Puree the soup using a food mill or an immersion blender.

I started with my grans mere’s ancient potato masher and then used a few hits of my stick blender as I wanted my potage to have small bits of potato.

Add the butter in small bits and whisk in.
Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to a simmer.

Off heat, stir in cream slowly in spoonfuls.

Pour in tureen or soup bowls and sprinkle on chives and parsley.

My friends enjoyed this soup for a late lunch and to prove their potage-love had seconds and thirds.
They said it was their favorite soup I made for them, ever. (lol)

I think that they were cold and ravenous, but even the cook enjoyed this warm creamy, buttery, faintly onion potage. Sometimes, getting to great simple food, takes a long and convoluted journey before you arrive back at the simplicity. And this simplicity was delicious.
Because my blog does not as yet have "cyber-aroma", at least I hope that you will enjoy the images that I took as I worked on this dish.
I also hope that you will try this recipe for yourself some cool, rainy afternoon.

(Insert Julia’s voice here)…Bon appetit…!

Friday, September 5, 2008

rainy-day musings...

"Find something you're passionate about
and keep tremendously interested in it...! " ~ Julia Child

It dawned a dark day...a very dark day.
And the dark became rain.
And it rained...
All day...incessantly…in earnest....and with a vengance.
The usually tame creek outside my door became a roaring lion and bounded down to join the turbulent lake in the forest across the road.
My vegetable garden was a soggy marsh filled with deep puddles of mush.

But it was a perfect day to finish the detail painting in my bedroom so it would be dry when the new furniture arrived later that afternoon.
I groggily began work at 5 am. But the work took my mind off the small deluge outdoors.

Inspite of the damp weather, the paint was dry and some of my photography was framed and hung in time for the delivery of the long awaited japonaise-wright-esque bedroom set that I had ordered months ago.
And the furniture came and on time.
And it is lovely and simple and looks perfect in my softly-colored buttery room.
(Images in a few days...)

But my passions for photography and food were calling me.
So out I went to the garden in pouring rain to get peppers to photograph and to eat.

I do so dislike having a day pass without photographing something beautiful to the eye and cooking something beautiful to the palate.

This post will be short as I still have to wrangle the red peppers stuffed with cheeses and spices into the oven and wrestle my mattress on to the new bed so I can crash in style.

Bon week end…!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

warming the kitchen with eggplant

A good cook is like a sorceress that dispenses happiness.
~ Elsa Schaparelli

Many coincidences came together to compel me to cook this dish...

One is that when I shop the local farmers market, I shop with my eyes and nose…what looks great to photograph and what smells wonderful to inspire a meal (or eat out of hand). What ever I wind up purchasing, I try to find a recipe or dish I can cook wIIth that ingredient as soon as possible. Either I experiment and craft a new recipe or use the fresh ingredients in a long-standing favorite. This week after the arrival of my aubergine colored Christmas gifts, the shiny purple eggplants at the Farmers Market were more than I could resist. I just had that plumy color on my mind that extended to my cooking.

The second occurrence happened when I found three mismatched copper gratin dishes in my favorite local second-hand store ”Second Hand Rose”. I often go to this quaint little shop to browse for plates, kitchenware and utensils as props to use for my still-life’s with food.
I don’t always find a treasure, but when I saw that these lovely copper dishes were so reasonably priced, I just could not pass them up.

The third reason is that a dear friend in Rhode Island sent me an eggplant gratin recipe that she loves that was inspired by a recipe by Ina Garten, but it contained too much fat as it stood.
I promised her that I would adapt it to a version that was lower in fat than the original that she had been making with cream and eggs. I do always like a food challenge.

The fourth reason is that I had made a delicious batch of chunky tomato sauce from the Purple Calabash and my own terrace tomatoes. The recipe for the eggplant gratin calls for a marinara sauce. So, I set aside a portion of the marinara for this dish before I froze the remainder for the long winter ahead. I have to admit that these Calabash tomatoes, as promised by my farm market vendor, makes the richest and most flavorful sauce I had ever tasted.

But the final reason that sealed the deal to try this dish was that the temperatures here went from a sizzling 96 degrees to 56 degree today.
It was time to fire-up the oven and cook something to take the chill out of my tummy and the kitchen.

eggplant gratin

This recipe is for one individual gratin I made in an
8” gratin dish that is 1¾” deep.
You can adjust the amounts for the number of people
that you are feeding.
You can also make this in a baking dish or shallow casserole.

ingredient list
Olive oil
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, sliced ½” thick
¼ cup low-fat ricotta cheese1 egg, but I used the equivalent of one egg in eggbeaters
¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup crumbled or cubed part-skim Buffalo mozzarella
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan sea salt to tastefreshly ground white pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup marinara sauce

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Heat about 1/8” of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (nearly smoking) add slices of eggplant.
The eggplant slices will pop and spit when dropped in the hot oil, so be careful…!

Cook the eggplant, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.When slices look golden brown and delicious, transfer the slices to a cooling rack set on a sheet pan lined with newspaper under it to wick the oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, buttermilk, ½ cup of the mozzarella and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg (to taste).
Stir to combine.

In the gratin dish, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with half the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan and spoon on the marinara sauce. Add a second layer of eggplant, pour on the ricotta mixture, and finally sprinkle on the remaining the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Place the gratin on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes.
Lower the heat to 375 and bake for an additional 20 minutes until the custard sets
and the top is browned.
Let cool for 10 minutes until the cheese can be sliced for plating or eating from the individual gratins.

I serve this with a crisp green salad and a crusty baguette.
Bon appetit…!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

of plums and Paris fashion…

It’s that time of year again…time for Christmas presents.
Well, I am not exactly rushing the season, read on and you will understand.
Most years (except for this one, sadly) I spend September, October and most of November in Paris. Quite a bit of that time I spend with my best friend Y, a beautiful and amazing Japanese woman that has lived in Paris for the past 25 or so years working as an actress on stage and screen.
When we spend time together, we do all the girlie stuff two chicks let loose in Paris do; shoe shopping, tea drinking, pastry shopping, pastry eating, laughing (a lot, and often loudly in public), window shopping, people watching, flirting with the shopkeeper dudes, girolles (chanterelle) shopping at marché Les Halles on tiny rue des Prouvaires (we both adore this mushroom), café sitting and more shopping. But the most important of our yearly rituals is to buy Christmas gifts for each other as we shop together.
To insure that each of us can choose what we need or want that year, many, many stores need to be scouted each week. Y knows all the best places for fashion bargains, even when Paris is not in her “soldes” (sale) mode. Sadly this year I will miss that shopping extravaganza so when we spoke last week and I asked her if she had seen anything that I could get her as her gift. She quickly said “you know that I adore hats and this year in Paris the hot accessories are those in various hues of purple-ly plum”. She said that she has seen exactly what she want me to get her at the United Colors of Benetton store on avenue de la Opéra…a plum colored hand-knit hat with a matching scarf.
Done…I ordered it on-line immediately.
She reported that she sees accessories in this lovely shade in all the Paris grand magasins and boutiques; scarves, shoes, gloves, handbags, hats, vests, stockings. And an actress has to keep up with fashion, especially in Paris.
I was thrilled that she had found what she wanted. The hat and scarf was a stunning color that will look lovely on my beautiful friend.
Y also related that she found a beautiful Hermès scarf and leather gloves in this same stunning color at the Marché aux Puces for me. She remembered that I collect Hermès anything, (especially scarves) and that I lost one of my leather gloves last time I was there. I was happy to hear that she is being a staunch fashionista and making certain I am wearing fashion’s latest trendy colors.
So...it looks as though we will both be “pretty in purple” accessories for this winter.
(And even if I am here in Chicago for my autumn, I will still have some Parisienne style and a pop of color to brighten the cold months.)
That got me to thinking about how the fashion world has borrowed their color cues from natures palette of the season. That lovely succulent grape, ripe fig, perfect aubergine, plumy purple color appears in abundance in the farmers markets in the vegetables and fruits that are in season in late summer and early autumn. My emails has been flooded with recipes for eggplant gratins, plum pies and tarts, fig preserves and figs with sweet vanilla cream, grape compotes and on and on (and I thank you all for each and every one.)
It is nearly time to prepare dinner, so keeping with the color scheme of mother nature and Paris fashion, a rich and warming eggplant gratin seems just the thing for this cool evening.
I won't be wearing my new plum Hermès scarf and gloves, but my meal will be wearing the color of Paris’ hottest Fall fashion accessory.

A fashionable purple eggplant recipe coming next post...

Monday, September 1, 2008

shifting seasons

The shift was nearly imperceptible.
As I grilled my simple marinated chicken breasts for my usual late dinner, I noticed that the light was fading a bit earlier than it had the night before.
The cooling evening air had a touch of pungent smokiness that did not emanate from the barbeque.
Last night for the first time in months I need a blanket on my bed.

This morning, the air and the light felt differently too.
There was a hint of chill in the air and the daylight was lazy in putting in an appearance. The suns seemed less intense and more mellow than full-out summer sunrises.

On my second floor balcony, high enough to be safe from the herbivore creatures that live in the forest preserves across the street, I grow a modest vegetable garden.
From mid-summer it provided me with sun warmed tomatoes, spicy peppers, colorful lettuces, miniature thumbelina carrots, and a rainbow of edible flowers for my daily salads.

Even my humble veggies signaled a change. Some of the tomato leaves have taken on a golden hue and the lettuces have sprouted bright buttery flowers that are quickly morphing to purple seed pods for next season’s crop.

Instead of mourning the departing summer, I wanted to honor its passing into glorious autumn with a celebration. I proceeded to harvest a “last balcony salad” comprised primarily of the veggies from my terrace garden.

I was able to glean some soft red-leaf lettuce, crisp green romaine, arugula, juicy sweet grape tomatoes, tiny golden carrots, shallots and chive blossoms for a basis for this celebratory meal. I whisked together a Champagne pear vinaigrette dressing and drizzled it over the greens and veggies. For protein, I crumbled on pungent Gorgonzola cheese, added my grilled chicken breast, and for the sake of decadence, a dollop of rich crème fraîche.

To add spice to the lot, I topped it with a grind of fresh pepper and a pinch of each of my favorite salts; Kilauea black sea salt, Haleakala red sea salt, Bali coconut and lime leaf smoked sea salt.

This festive meal had it all...crunchy and soft, salty and sweet, smokey and mild, creamy and pungent, light, yet totally satisfying. As I enjoyed this impromptu creation, it seemed to me to contain the personality and essence of the nearly gone season. It was a beautiful final fling of the flavors of the season, but I look forward to the tastes of new one just over the horizon.