Friday, June 19, 2015

intrigue and delight in the natural decay of things - Jeff Bye and David Zimmerman

Part of what I love about this business is that sometimes the most delightful connections come together by happenstance.  I've learned whenever I'm planning an exhibition to leave myself open to being directed in the process, discovering as I go how to best present the work.   

I'd been looking forward to the upcoming exhibition of paintings by JEFF BYE since last year when we scheduled it.  And with a recent visit to the gallery's long time stable artist, DAVID ZIMMERMAN, I found myself thinking they both find intrigue, surprise, and delight in the natural order of decay - Jeff in painting spaces, and David in creating wood sculpture.

David's workshop is chock full of sculptures from the earlier part of his career, work in progress, tools, paints, and slabs of wood waiting to be called forth.  Sunlight was pouring into the space that day, slicing through the created inhabitants, a formidable play of shadow and light. 

I was fortunate that day to have long time friend TOBY RICHARDS and his camera along with me to document and capture the work and the space in ways even an I-phone and Instagram can't.  There is something to be said for a professional photographer, his trusted eye, and his understanding of what's really going on in the camera.  I still find my Nikon D80 and all it's buttons and menus befuddling, despite numerous tutorings from savvy photographer friends like Ed Huddle, Andy Schoenberger, and my father-in-law Gene Clemens.  

Between the combination of David's delicious trappings and stocking of worked and reworked pieces stowed in every corner and rafter, Toby's watchful, talented eye, and the ensuing conversation between the three of us, this series of photos is really a feast for the eye.  A gift really - thanks Toby!

Anyone familiar with David knows his numerous series of explorations - boats, spirals, cocoons, benches, tables, bowls, and vessels.  Typically we think of the larger than life pieces like the 11' cocoons that hung from the massive ceiling space of the Marriott in Downtown Lancaster for awhile.  But he plays with miniature versions of these too, exercising what must be an enormous amount of patience, not to mention dexterity for a tall, lumberjack of a guy, and puts them in shadowbox dioramas crafted of salvaged wood.  

Pensive and quiet, David appears to listen to each piece of wood, communing with it, rather than pulling out saws, sanders, and blades determining ahead of time what he wishes it to be.  Every decision from removing a branch or filling in a knot, to applying legs to a table or bench and a simple coat of finish require a deep understanding of what will enhance the sensibility of each piece.  

One of my favorite things was a series of three flat boats hung together above a door.  Probably made from the same fir tree trunk, they keep quiet company together and simply must remain that way.  Looking for a perfect wall somewhere in your world, perhaps!  We're bringing this never-been-seen-publicly work into the gallery for the exhibition, along with some brand new gorgeous wormy maple, organic slab tables…and... 

a selection of old favorites - like the "boat with fishtail" - 110" of maple that was originally displayed in a pop-up gallery in a downtown Lancaster abandoned tobacco warehouse just before it went under construction to become the Lancaster Arts Hotel.  A collection of photographs by Toby from that exhibition in 2005 are available in a limited edition catalogue from the gallery.   

Early this month, I completed a trio of visits to JEFF BYE's studio in preparation for this exhibition.  What is found was a feast of color and introspection still blooming like ready yeast - works completed, and numerous canvases in varying states of completion.  Of course those are always my favorites, as I love, love, love seeing the process beneath an artist's work, though they all deny me the pleasure of watching them actually paint.  Must be a solitary thing.  Even my husband drops his paintbrush as I approach him working at the easel.  

I couldn't help notice two new pieces, both of which showed boisterous color on decaying walls, exposed ceiling joists, and his characteristic narrative light and perspective of an interior.  But what else caught my eye?  Crystal chandeliers hanging from the rotting ceiling, like proud expensive pieces of jewelry on a woman who wears purple.  And the splashes of bright lime green, turquoise and orangey red - just perfect for some of today's popular interiors' pallette - opposite of the Benjamin Moore or Farrow and Ball trendy, neutral grays.

A peak into Jeff's working studio space yields exactly what I'd expect - a penchant for architectural salvage and nostalgia.  Stuffed book stacks, some books lying about open to favorite artists works, journals (I forgot to ask him if he sketches, writes, or both…?), punctuated with a world globe,  a collection of cowboy and indian figurines about 4" tall lined up precisely along the top of the shelving, and an enviable collection of vinyl records.  I found numerous craftsman reimagining furniture design for the storage of LP's, turntables, and speakers on a trip to the Architectural Digest Home Design show in NYC earlier this year, and noticed just last week a new area in Barnes and Noble dedicated to vinyl.  

Why does this trend just make me extremely happy?  It's a bit like hearing on NPR recently that independent bookstores are proliferating and seem to be thriving amidst the digital reworkings of our age.  Even magazines and newspapers seem to be making a comeback, albeit slowly.  This tells me Art too, will continue to thrive.  As I read recently in the Sunday NY Times Magazine… 

"Why art?
  Because you will never have to change batteries or remember passwords, 
  or read instructions or fear obsolescence."  in an ad for Questroyal Fine Arts, LLC

A Brooklynite for several years before coming to Pennsylvania, JEFF BYE still basks in the afterglow of the city streets, decrepit buildings, and past lives.  He says of his work, 

"I am fascinated with how these spaces have weathered over time and the beauty that they withhold.  These abandoned spaces are now a mere reflection of their past.  What draws me to them initially are the facades of the buildings.  Some…have a haunting presence that is hard to ignore."

Jeff's light-filled studio, on the other hand, is anything but haunting, rather full of life, color, stories, and laughter.  His distinctive, contagious laugh and easy smile fill the space, like his work, with fun.  You are just happy being in front of these paintings, seeing something you missed before, each time you revisit them.  I'm looking forward to a couple of months living with the work in the gallery.

Workshop and studio visits with artists can often be arranged, and gallery hours are available outside of posted hours - just give us a call 717-367-9236 and we'll arrange a private showing.  More information about the artists, their work, and event happenings at the gallery can be found on our website,

Art feeds the soul.  Remember to eat well, and buy more art.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

a double recipe of whole wheat raisin cinnamon swirl bread

I've posted this recipe back in December 2008, pre-iPhone convenience of photographs and can't quite figure out how to insert them into that post without completely messing it up, so posting them here.  For the original single recipe and its history, click here.  This particular day I doubled the recipe, which is typically the case - if I'm going to all this trouble, I want to have plenty to share!

Gather the following ingredients (again, this is a double recipe yielding four 5" x 9" loaves, or several small ones, as I'll show you here)
-  3 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup honey plus 2 tbs.
- 1 cup butter (two sticks)
- 3 cups of raisins, currants, or dried cranberries - I like to use a combination
- 4 tbs. of yeast
- 3 tsp. of cinnamon
- 2 tsp. salt
- 6 cups whole wheat flour
- 7-8 cups white occident flour

Combine the honey and buttermilk in a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat until the milk is hot to the touch, but not scalding or boiling.  Adjust the temperature to simmer and add one stick of butter and the dried fruit.  Continue stirring frequently until the butter melts, then turn off the stove.  Let cool until if needed, until you can put your finger in the mixture comfortably.  It should feel like hot bath water.  

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl add 2 tbs. honey and 1 cup very warm water (again, the water temperature should be the same as described for the milk above).  Stir quickly with a whisk or fork, add four tablespoons yeast, stir to combine and set aside.  

In a few minutes the yeast should foam and bloom, rising quickly.  This proofing is will reassure you that your temperature is hot enough but not so hot as to kill the yeast.  If you are uncomfortable with not knowing more accurately, purchase a candy thermometer.  The liquid should be 120-130 degrees.

Grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil spray, then add half of the whole wheat flour, the milk mixture and the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine thoroughly.  I like to use a large, heavy crock I've had for decades, as it holds in the warmth and stays put while I'm mixing such a large batch.

Gradually add the rest of the whole wheat flour, and some of the white flour until the dough will hold your spoon standing up and pull loose from the sides of the bowl.  It will will still be a bit sticky.

Spray the countertop with olive oil spray and generously sprinkle flour over your kneading space.  

The mound of dough may look a bit daunting at first, but this is where the real work and satisfaction begins!

Knead the dough by hand, pulling it from the far side back toward you, and shoving the heels of your hands deeply into it, slide a quarter turn around and repeat - over and over.  You will be adding in more and more flour as you go along - enough to keep your hands from sticking, until the dough is soft and pliable to the touch and no longer sticks.  This should take five minutes or so - and don't cheat it!  The success of good bread is in the temperature and the kneading.  It loves to be worked.  

Spray the large bowl once again with olive oil, return the dough, cover with a light towel and place in a warm place, free of draught.  This is a good time to clean up after yourself, as it will need an hour or two to rise to double the size.  If you get distracted and busy and aren't ready when it does, simply pound it down, or knead it a bit more, and by yourself the time of another rising.   

Once the dough has risen, put it back on the counter and knead it again for another 2 minutes or so.  Divide into four equal parts, placing three of them back in the bowl with the towel over them to keep warm.  

Divide again into equal parts based on the pans you have.  I have several 3" x 6" bread pans that I like to use for gift giving sized loaves, and one quarter of this recipe will make four of these small loaves - or eight wee ones, three 4" x 8" or one regular size loaf.  

Pound down and knead the dough once more and shape it into a elongated oval, tucking edges under so it is relatively smooth, and ready to roll out.

Roll the dough out flat and long, about the width of your pan and 1/4" thick.  Melt your remaining stick of butter and spread a thin coat on the dough with a pastry brush, all the way to the edges.  

Sprinkle the dough liberally with cinnamon and sugar and rub it lightly with your fingers into the butter  to cover evenly.  

Begin to roll up the dough tightly starting at the end closest to you, tucking in the sides as you go so in the end it will fit inside your pans nicely.  Place the loaves in a warm place free of draught, cover with a light towel, and let them rise to double the size.  Preheat your oven to 375.  I typically let me bread rise right on the stovetop while the oven is warming up, as long as I'm not using any burners that could catch fire to my towel!

Bake loaves this size (3x6") at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or longer for larger loaves.  You can brush them with egg white and water (1 white per 2 tbs water) if you want a nice, glossy finish.  I usually skip this, because I like to ice them. 

You'll know the loaves are done when once released from the pan they sound hollow if you tap on the them and have a golden brown color.  If they don't seem quite ready, simply put them back in the pans and the oven and bake a bit longer.  

A festive finish, especially on the holidays, is to simply make a sweet drizzle icing.  Put about a 1/2 cup of confectionary sugar in a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup and stir in enough water that once you mix it rapidly with a fork, it will drip like honey when you pull the fork out.  

These loaves make delicious french toast if you find there is any leftover!

chicken nachos

This has become one of my family's favorite quick and easy dinners, after I created it while camping on Ocracoke Island decades ago - it was basically what I had left at the end of the week.  You'll need the following:

 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
 - one sweet Vidalia onion, sliced by not too finely
 - two or three cloves of garlic, smashed and dice
 - a pound of chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
 - one can of black beans, drained and rinsed
 - a pound of shredded cheese, a combination of 2-3 is best
 - fresh tomatoes, diced, or a can of drained diced tomatoes
 - one bell pepper, diced
 - one package taco seasoning mix (or the equivalent mixture from your pantry)
 - a glass of white wine - for the cook, but you'll need some for the dish

My favorite cheeses for this include fresh cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, but you can use whatever you have left in the refrigerator - or in my case that summer of 1980, the ice chest.  

I typically shred them on the larger size, rather than so fine.  Bags of pre-shredded, dairycase cheeses are great to have on hand the freezer - and I usually do - but I still prefer to shred chunks of fresh cheese whenever I can.

Prepare all your ingredients and set them aside within reach of the stove.  Pour yourself a glass of white wine (most any semi-dry variety is fine), and get ready.

Heat the olive oil till hot, then sauté the onion until translucent.  Add in the garlic and stir until hot, but don't let it brown, then add in the chicken.

Stir frequently until the chicken is opaque and little pink is left, pouring in a bit of wine during the process to keep everything from sticking.  

Add in the pepper and continue stirring a minute or two.  Then add in the tomatoes and beans, stirring all together until warmed through.

Add the seasoning mix or combination of spices of your choice and mix well, adding in a bit more wine or water if it seems too dry.  

The mixture should be moist but not too soupy…  At this point, read on for serving suggestions, or spoon the mixture into taco shells or roll up in a burrito and top with cheese.

Spread the mixture in a flat, greased, ovenproof pan or plate - once again, a piece of my Milt Friedly pottery collection is my go to, as it will move straight to the table for serving.  Top with the shredded cheeses.  

When my kids were home, I'd often tear several squares of tin foil, turning up the edges and lining them up on a cookie sheet for the task.  I'd layer nacho chips in the foil, top with the chicken mixture and shredded cheeses to bake.  Once out of the oven, each had their own individual serving to eat with their fingers.  

Set the oven on broil, and heat a few minutes with the oven door slightly open until the cheese is bubbly.

Move the dish to a trivet or cork on the coffee table with a bowl of nacho chips and some plates, and you have a simple, healthy, and filling meal to eat fireside or while binge-watching Netflix.  Guilty pleasures!  (and the leftovers, if there are any, always get eaten quickly)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thai rice noodle salad

I created this rice salad after a bit of experimentation with Moosewood's Sri Wasano's Infamos Indonesian Rice Salad recipe.  I quickly decided I preferred rice noodles and large chunks of vegetables, over the brown rice and diced vegetables the original recipe called for.  And once again, I couldn't resist the addition of fresh grated ginger.

Collect your ingredients, your favorite chef knife and cutting board and get ready for a sumptuous, flavorful, aesthetic delight.

Combine the following in a four cup pyrex measuring cup or equivalent size bowl and set aside:
     1/3 cup peanut oil
     3 tbs. sesame oil
     2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
     1/2 cup orange juice
     2 tbs. soy sauce
     2 cloves garlic, mashed and diced
     1 tbs. fresh ginger, diced finely
     1 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (I usually use more)
     8-oz can crushed pineapple, including the juice

In a large bowl, combine the following:
     3 scallions or green onions cut diagonally in 3/4" pieces
     1 stalk celery chopped in 1/4" pieces, crosswise
     3-4 miniature, red or orange bell peppers - top them, rotate your paring knife down inside the whole pepper to remove the seeds, the cut across in circles
     8-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
     8-oz fresh mung bean sprouts
     a large handful of fresh snow peas
     1/2 cup dried cranberries
     1 cup whole cashews

Bring 8 cups water to a boil, remove from the burner, and add 14-oz stir-fry rice noodles.  Let soak for 10 minutes and enjoy a glass of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc while you get the table set and the candles lit.  (Truth be told, in my kitchen the wine is being sipped and candles are lit as soon as I put my apron on and get started…!)  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc became a house favorite here last summer after discovering it in a Bar Harbor restaurant in Maine.  

Drain the noodles once they are soft and pliable, but still a bit firm.  Rinse with cold water and add the noodles to the large bowl with the vegetables.  Combine gently, lifting not stirring, then add the sauce and continue to combine, careful not to mush the noodles.  Top with 2 tbs. sesame seeds and serve.  

-OR- Cover the sauce, and the vegetables and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  Cook the noodles closer to the time you want to serve the salad but let them cool before combining all the ingredients and serve cold.  Leftovers are delicious, but never seem to last long!

I personally love a summer meal of salads, homemade bread, and a nice crisp, fruity wine.  For a table of 8, make the Thai rice salad, wheat berry salad, a fresh green salad, two fresh loves of bread or crusty baguettes with olive oil for dipping, and serve with a generous offering of warm conversation and couple bottles of sparkling water with fresh lime, and some chilled wines.  Top off the evening with a dollop of lemon sorbet and fresh berries.  

And don't forget the flowers, candles, and linens...

apricot rosemary rice pilaf

This recipe has become a staple since finding the initial version in "Moosewood Restaurants new classics" cookbook.  I've varied it little, save to add shitake mushrooms to the mix, sometimes toasted almonds, and trying different blends of rice for the color and texture options they provide.  My favorite is a combination of red and brown rice.

Prepare your fresh ingredients ahead of time for seamless meal preparation:
     3 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
     1/2 cup diced vidalia onion, or 1/3 cup red onion, cut in small strips
     1 cup shitake mushroom caps, sliced (I often use more, as I love the meaty texture)
     1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
     1/3 cup sliced unsulphured dried apricots

Prior to heating the skillet, have the prepared ingredients, spices, and olive oil sitting conveniently to the side of the stove.  I typically use sea salt, dried red pepper, and ginger.  On this particular evening I was preparing Christmas Dinner for my staff, and the pilaf was accompanying a Moonshine Molasses Ham from our local charcuterie, Rooster Street Provisions.  

You'll need a total of two cups of rice - usually a tougher variety of wild and/or basmati rice works best.  Rinse the rice beforehand, and let drain in a colander until you are ready for it.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of the skillet, then add the garlic and onions, sautéing until the onion turns translucent. 

Place the drained rice, rosemary, and spices in the frying pan and sauté' another minute or two until the rice is coated with oil.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is tender - typically about 45-50 minutes.  

During the last 15-20 minutes when most of the water is absorbed, stir in the mushrooms, and add the apricots toward the end.  Remove from heat, top with grated parmesan cheese and cover until you are ready to serve dinner.  This dish will keep nicely warm on the stove in the cast iron skillet, or it can be put in the oven after it's turned off when any baking is done.  

I'll need to post a pic of the completed dish next time I make it - just realized I nicely documented the process and not the end product!