Masher

Old Tools, Modern Life

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Look what I found at my friend’s yard sale yesterday. These are so cool. I’m especially happy about the silver cookie cutters in perfect condition just like my mom had, so charming. Plus getting them for so much less than new ones in this recession was great of course. Especially considering that new ones don’t come with a piece of my childhood in the box and the opportunity to connect with my yard-sale friend in these over-scheduled times. And these weren’t the only treasures.

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Masher

Ways of Seeing

Feet on the Kitchen Floor

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Here is another in my new Kitchen Art photos.  Like the last I posted, shot SANS view finder. 

see also: Kitchen Art




Masher

Last of the Front Yard Harvest

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We delayed picking the last harvest until the very last minute.  Last week, one evening, in the dark, when we realized that the first frost would come that night--my sons and I were out with flashlights groping around for the last vegetables. 

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Masher

Jellypress Live!

This weekend Jellypress went on the road at the Morristown Historical Society for an event called “Old Recipes, Modern Life:  A Painter and Writer Meet in the Kitchen.” Here we are in front of the exhibit of my paintings.  It was a great day.  image


Masher

Ode to Tomato

Yesterday fall came in on a blustery wind.  As the temperature began to plummet, I went out to my tomato plants and found a clump of lovely ripe red babies hidden beneath the dying vines.  I shook the branch and a bunch of them fell to the ground.  It was a stunning sight--those red tomatoes amidst dried brown leaves--the air gray and cold.  I raced for the camera but it was out of juice.  So I took a colander instead and gathered them up and made a tomato salad.

Tonight there will probaby be a freeze, so I’ll have to send the boys out later to pull off the beans and peppers and the green tomatoes.  I always take the end of tomatoes hard. 

This year I’m mourning just a tiny bit less.  That’s because with my new chest freezer all set, I finally processed my own tomatoes by myself for the first time.

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In the past, I’ve observed and lent a hand at Lou’s house where each year he and his friend John Moy make near a hundred quarts of tomatoes.  (They are kindred spirits those two and will do heroic things for the love of food.) But it’s never the same as doing it yourself.  So on Tomato Day, I swung by for a review.  Let the Tomato Documentary begin!

Tomato processing is ideally an outside job.  Here are the plums, ready to be hosed down. 

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Masher

More Front Yard Harvest

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Here’s husband pulling some beets from the front yard.  He’s from South Central Pennsylvania, where people love red beets--as I blogged last spring about our courtship there and my early encounters with his family.  I thought it only fitting that I show him here with these gorgeous things.  For that story and a great beets recipe, clink the link below.

see also: Rothe Ruben (Red Beets) from Lancaster




Artist's Notebook

Kitchen Art

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Seated at my easel late one night looking at a careful arrangement of beautiful objects I had placed on a counter-top, I had an epiphany. Why am I such a curator in my paintings when real life is so messy and full of movement?  As an exercise, I began taking photos of my subject matter without looking through the view finder in order to force myself out of my conventional way of seeing. This photo of my sugar canister is one of the first. Check in here for more as the work progresses, and in the meantime see the beautiful Cotån mentioned in the quote below by clicking here.

“The kitchen pictures or bodegones of Juan Sånchez Cotån (1561 - 1627) are conceived from the beginning as exercises in the renunciation of normal human priorities . . . It would not be enough simply to record the fruit and vegetables and game as they are; mere realism would not bite deep enough into vision to dislodge the habitual blindnesses and vanities which lurk there . . .The enemy is a mode of seeing which thinks it knows in advance what is worth looking at and what is not; against that the image presents the constant surprise of things seen for the first time.”
From Looking At The Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting by Norman Bryson (Harvard University Press, 1990.)


Masher

Practical Advice:  Filling the Larder

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Even though I haven’t lived in a city for ten years, I still sort of act like I do--buying in small quantities and shopping almost every
day--perhaps I’m still imagining I’m MFK Fisher in 1940s France.  I don’t know.  I cook enough for the meal at hand and just go the market the next day and begin again. I like things very fresh.  I’ve got a small kitchen and small fridge.

Problem is that I work.  I’m completely busy and overwhelmed with all i have to do in a day.  There are not enough hours to work full time and attend to the kids, husband, house, dog, take care of the people in my life and the mountain of domestica.  bla bla bla.  I’m in the thick of it.  My husband of twenty years says to me “We’re in the grind.” And he means those years of the midlife when we are caring for others and never have enough time.  Bills fall late.  We run out of clean clothes.  We run out of milk. 

And way too often, the cupboard is bare because I’m in a fantasy I think that I’m going to stroll to the market and inspect the fruit and vegetables one by one.  Seems like it’s the way life should be.  But it’s not.  At least not here in suburbia land new jersey.  At least not now. 

I’m coming to think that those old gals had some good ideas about filling the larder.  You know the kinds of women who had cellars filled with hundreds of jars

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Masher

More Front Yard Harvest

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Masher

Drunk on Peaches

Peach Cordial

Gather ripe cling-stone peaches, wipe off the down, cut them to the stone in several places, and put them in a cask; when filled with peaches, pour on as much peach brandy as the cask will hold; let it stand six or eight weeks, then draw it off, put in water until reduced to the strength of wine; to each gallon of this, add one pound of good brown sugar--dissolve it, and pour the cordial into a cask just large enough to hold it--when perfectly clear, it is fit for use.

The Virginia Housewife,
1824
Mary Randolph



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It’s over.  I know it is.  No matter about the warm snap of the last few days.  The tomatoes remain stubbornly green.  My cucumber vine is shriveled.  There are a few last beans and peppers.  I keep meaning to plant some cold weather spinach, but it’s not happening.  That’s what happens when it’s over. 

And that’s why I’ve been busy the last month trying to save the last bit of the end-of-season harvest.  These peaches are the last ones of the season from my favorite New Jersey orchard.  I was flummoxed at first about the recipe asking for a cask.  A cask?  I asked Sandra Oliver at Food History News.  After we bemoaned that gosh you just can’t get a cask anywhere--not at William Sonoma or all the other gazillion cook’s stores out there now--Sandy counseled me to use glass.  So I did.

When I told Nancy about my project and sent her this photo of my drunked peaches, she sent me back a link to this Monet painting of . . . peaches in a jar. Amazing resemblance don’t you think?  http://www.monetalia.com/paintings/monet-jar-of-peaches.aspx

In the meantime, my peaches are marinating in brandy for a couple of weeks now.  In about six weeks more, Nancy and I plan to podcast ourselves drinking this stuff--who knows what could happen.  Stay tuned.

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Artist's Notebook

Old Fruit, Modern Life

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The last peaches of summer. That’s how pastry chefs referred to September peaches when I was in the business. They’re wonderful in a tart with ginger ice cream of course, but more than that they’re a symbol of an ending, of the last warm days of dying summer, the fleeting days of cricket song and cooler nights. When the peaches are fresh picked, they’re glorious, full of juice and intense flavor. Overripe they’re even more impressive, as there’s such beauty in the dying. This is what I’m trying to paint now. Thinking about this a month or so ago, I thought that the young peaches are like children to me with their smooth blushing skin, and all the character of midlife and old age is there in the wrinkled and bruised skin of a peach that is overripe. But there was more than that. My painting professor at graduate school told me that this is a cliché. I must look deeper, she said. So I did.

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Masher

A Hive for the Honeybees

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Okay, so I already mentioned my love of those gazillions of honey bees and bumblebees in my front yard garden.

But I think I’ve got to say a bit more about honey, which I’ve recently fallen for pretty hard. 

It began a few years ago when I went into one of my favorite bakeries here in town and saw a display of honey jars stacked in a pretty golden pyramid.  Turned out that the bakers—Will and Sally—were raising bees in their backyard.  So I bought a bottle to try and took it home. 

Some hours later, standing in the kitchen counter in my boring life, I tasted it and was blown away by the light color and beautiful minty taste.  I’d never experienced anything like it.  Later a beekeeper explained to me that the minty taste came from

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Artist's Notebook

Paris in New Jersey

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I’m in Paris. No I’m not, but I feel like I am. It’s the long holiday weekend, my ex-husband has my son and I am painting by day and going out to cafés by night. It is all so sensual and delicious. In a paint splattered tank top at my easel until the sun sets, and in heels leaving lipstick prints on glasses of pinot at a table for two until I’m sleepy and ready for bed. Kisses and paint and arugula . . . sigh. And tomorrow I will be a single mom again hurrying from my full-time job to child to home and to my easel again, this time at night with my son safely abed as I paint in the kitchen into the wee hours, well beyond the time I would like to put my head on a pillow. Don’t get me wrong, I love my New Jersey life, my son’s angelic face as he sleeps, our spaghetti dinner plates resting in the sink. But oh, as I load them into the dishwasher tomorrow night, I know I will be dreaming of my brief nights in Paris . . . 


Masher

Smoked Blues

Lou gives me a call.  It goes something like this.  “Laura.  I’ve got the smoker going and a lot of bluefish.  You want a piece?”

Now, you’ve got to know how I love bluefish.  So what am I gonna do...say no?  A few hours later, I arrive to find Lou standing in his garage with the smoker going, and huge plumes of smoke blowing down the driveway.  “They’ve been on since 8 this morning,” he explains. 

Typical. 

Lou, as many of you know, is a great cook and friend, who busts me mercilessly and offers comic relief to my overly serious self.  I say “Lou, Can I take your picture at your smoker?”

He replies by singing a snippet from a Louie Prima song,

Se ti piglia lu pisciaolo
Tssu vai, issu viene
Sempre lu pesce a manu tiene

Which is basically about a guy who is always holding fish in his hand.  (Get it?) It’s a great song in dialect from the wonderful region of Naples, same as Lou.

Anyway here is Lou at the smoker.  (Sorry Lou for the less than flattering shot with your eyes closed!)

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And here are his bluefish inside the smoker. 

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Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking how can I get a smoker like that?  Well, you can’t.  This is a custom job, built for Lou by a couple of friends, and I don’t remember the whole story either, except that it’s a workhorse.  He’s had whole pigs on the spit in there. 

And what you also need to know is that if you get into this ancient form of preservation, the smoke alone wont do the full job to preserve food safely.  You’ve either got to dry it in addition or salt it.  That’s why Lou first fillets these fish then puts them in a salty brine before smoking.  The result is stong, salty, smokey, and absolutely delicious.

And here’s a better picture.  Can you guess what Lou’s saying? 

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“Calda!” Which is not dialect for “Hurry up and take the picture--the fish is hot!”

Lou often catches the fish he smokes, but in this case, a friend brought them by.  For Lou’s smoking services, the fee is simple.  He keeps half.  That’s right.  “I get ten to smoke.  I keep five,” he explains.  Seems fair enough when you consider all the work and time.

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Maybe we’ll come back next month to visit Lou’s back yard when it is the scene of much tomato preserving. 

But before you go, click here to brighten up your day with this completely fun Louie Prima song that will have you dancing and wishing you were from Naples, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg3C0nvenro&feature=related


Masher

Front Yard Garden Update

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Okay, so we're slacking a bit.  Weeds are growing.  Some tomatoes are cascading onto the sidewalk.  And this is no time to slack. It's August!  There's weeding to be done, and harvesting, and then planting some fall crop.  But hey, my kids were away with their aunt and uncle and grandparents in Florida this weekend, and it's the first time in years that my husband and I had a weekend off together. We headed to the city one day, the beach the next.  Sorry garden, but no way was I staying home to tend you.

Still, it's hard not to beam with pride--and we do all the time.  Our beans are very productive growing on the tee-pee in the center.  Biggest success:  cucumbers, which you see on the trellis in foreground, a long prickly skinned variety that is very crunchy.  We eat them every night.  Tomatoes a little slower than we'd hoped, but coming along and lovely.  Hot peppers turning red.  Chard ready to harvest.  Root vegetables slow but coming.  All in all, a great joy.

The biggest surprise for me was the bees.  As I've written earlier, this garden--which mixes flowers, herbs, and vegetables--was inspired by the front yard gardens I saw in Italy.  Now I'm really wondering why in the world we segregate or vegetable patches and flowers here.  Clearly they belong together.  Honeybees are attracted to flowers and then pollinate everything we've got.  All summer long there have been dozens of bees in the garden at any given moment.  They especially liked the cucumbers.  Who knew that our garden would be helping bees--giving them food so they can make honey? 

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For those just visiting jellypress for the first time..... you can see how this garden was transformed from a useless patch of grass, by clicking the link below “tomatoes at my front door.”

see also: Tomatoes at my Front Door




Page 11 of 13 pages    « FirstP  <  9 10 11 12 13 >

Jellypress is about Nancy and Laura having fun with what they love: old recipes, art, and ideas--as we find them in our modern lives.  We met...read more »

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Yes, all the artwork on Jellypress was done by Nancy. Go to the Jellypress Art page

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyTo find out about Laura's search for a long lost family recipe, click [ What's a Jellypress?


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A Thousand Years Over a Hot StoveA James Beard Award winning book that tells a history of American women through food, recipes, and remembrances. Recipes and illustrations from prehistory to the present day.
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Walking on WalnutsIn this culinary memoir, Nancy Ring combines funny and poignant stories of love and work with warm remembrances of a family that celebrates food with gusto and cherishes memories with passion...
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