Monday, September 15, 2008

Conundrum, salmon and corn on the cob

The best food and visiting seems to happen spontaneously.  I stopped by Betty's to drop off some flower pots I'd borrowed - actually, she offered me beautiful flower arrangements after a gathering as she was heading to Maine for the summer.  I tend her plants while she is gone, and she tends me in my moments of anxiousness and uncertainty - "How can we reframe this?" she'll say, offering up the recommendation that perhaps I need to look at something differently.

Anyway - Saturday evening, I stopped by to find her in the kitchen reading the paper, chatting with Ted, and drinking Cosmos.  They offered me a glass of wine - "Conundrum", a California White Table Wine, from Sonoma, I believe.  Lovely full finish.  One glass led to another, then to an invitation to dinner.  I called David, as I had left him at home constructing the Butler's Pantry - his latest project.  He arrived to salmon, corn on the cob, and fresh tomatoes/mozarella/basil drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.  I happened to have half a peach/raspberry pie in the car left from the previous evening, and we shared it for dessert.  

Delicious food and drink led to challenging, thoughtful, and open conversation on all sorts of things.  We left entirely saited, thoroughly inspired, and crawled in to bed at home around midnight.

My latest acquisition, Annie Strickler's plein aire' painting, "Royalton at Dusk", 6 1/4 x 15 15/16" oil on panel.  A student of JD Wissler, and a four-year employee of Lynden Gallery, it seemed fitting to bring a work of Annie's into my collection.  I've watched her work blossom in recent years, as she has begun to make time for painting.  It hangs in my bathroom to the right of the sink, where I see it every morning and evening.  David and I find much satisfaction in walks by the river on Sundays after church at St. Stephens.  

Wheat Berry Salad

This salad was created by my friend and neighbor, Pam McCarty for a backyard cookout.  Over the years, it has evolved to include black beans, feta cheese, spinach, ginger and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Bring 1 1/2 cups wheat berries to a boil and simmer 2 hours, or until soft, but crunchy.  Rinse and drain well.

Add to cooked wheat berries in a large mixing bowl:
8 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. block of feta cheese, cubed
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup sliced fresh baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Combine dressing and shake well:
4 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. or less, salt

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well.  Cover and refrigerate three hours.  The salad will keep well for several days, and tastes best on the third day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

peach and raspberry pie

simple, easy pastry crust (makes enough for two pies)

place in medium sized crock or mixing bowl:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

combine in liquid measuring cup:
1/2 cup salad oil
1/3 cup ice water

whip with fork to combine, then add to flour and mix with fork until all ingredients are wet.  don't overdo it or the crust will get tough.  place the ball of dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll flat.  place the dough in a pie plate that has the sides moistened with milk, and form to plate.  trim excess with a knife and crimp the edges in your own definitive style.  

for peach raspberry pie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and combine the following:

for the struesel topping, combine with a fork and set aside:
1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar (or half brown sugar and half toasted wheat germ for a healthy dash)
1 cup flour (I use a portion, or all whole wheat flour)

in another bowl:
6-7 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced (do this quickly to prevent them from browning)
toss with a bit with sugar and a dash of lemon juice
mix in a pint of fresh raspberries

spoon fruit gently into pie plates and crumble the struesel over the top.  bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes, covering the top with foil until the last 10 minutes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

peach and raspberry pie

The evening began with an Artists' Opening Reception for Annie Strickler and Paul Flury.  The subject of their work, and lifelong inspiration to both, was the Susquehannana River - Paul's meticulous studio work, and Annie's impressionistic plein aire' work.  Toby Richards exhibited his "River Rocks Collection" as the Front Wall Feature, the black and white photos of the river rocks, stunningly abstract.  Music was provided by Jay Umble and Bill Druck, both jazz guitarists - first time for these guys, and well received!  The public has grown more supportive of the jazz venue, each time, donations coming closer to covering the cost for the music.

The evening started quietly, with only a few people stopping in at the 5:00 hour.  By six, however, the gallery began to fill up, and stayed quite full with people coming and going until eight.  Sales were sorely lacking, which was a bit surprising to me given the nature and pricing of the work.  We served Mandros cheeses (blue cheese/cheddar, greek cheddar, and a mild brie), along with kalamata olives, homemade roasted pepper hummus, vegies and grapes.  I made a non-alcholic punch of seltzer, cranberry and orange juices, with lemon slices, and served merlot and chardonnay.

Friends Roger Everhart and Jim Brines were expected from Maryland, but traffic held them up and they didn't arrive until after eight.  Meanwhile, Deb Stuart and Bob, Wendy Tippets, Toby Richards, Cat and Vincent Chau, David and myself gathered for drinks upstairs after closing.  Dinner was simple - chicken salad with grapes, walnuts, celery, apples, and an olive oil/cider dressing.  I cheated with Mandros homemade french bread, rather than my own, olive oil for dipping, and peach/raspberry pies for dessert.  Guests brought several bottles of red wine and an italian sparkling white wine.  

Roger and Andy arrived around 9, and we sat down to dinner and conversation.  Most guests did not know one another, so introductions were interesting - 2 architects, a professional photographer, a real estate developer, an ad agency senior marketing director, 2 bio-chemists involved in cancer research, a tile designer/subcontractor, an organic chemist and 1 gallery director/designer.  

As dinner progressed, the subject of the upcoming election could no longer be ignored, and as one, after another, tentatively expressed concern for the Republican nominees.  Rather quickly, discussion became animated, with passionate support of Barack Obama was expressed.    

Around 11:30, guests started to leave for home, David went off to bed, and Roger, Andy and myself stayed up and chatted till the wee hours.  

lavonne's chicken salad

This recipe came from my best friend's mom and I haven't altered it a bit.  It's great for fixing ahead for a big group, and a healthy twist on old-fashioned waldorf salad.

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
1 red apple, cubed
1 tbs. lemon juice, sprinkled over the apple
3 cups cubed chicken (or approximately 3 boneless chicken breast halves)
1 1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 1/4 cup red grapes, halved
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup raisins

Combine dressing and shake well:
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Miracle Whip Lite
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Pour dressing over the salad and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate before serving.