"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four... unless there were three other people.
-------Orson Welles

Sunday, September 28, 2014


 My first exposure to Dale Chihuly's artwork was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where his very large yellow chandelier hangs in the foyer.  Since then I have seen his pieces in museums and galleries around the world, including the large installation hanging from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  Called "Fiori di Como," the installation represents Chihuly's interpretation of Italian flowers in the Spring.   In planning our recent trip to Seattle, seeing the Chihuly garden was number one on my list of must-do activities.

Here is a little introduction to the artist.  Chihuly first began to work with glass in the 1960’s.  Inspired by what he saw in the natural environment, he focused on allowing molten glass to take on its own organic shape, much like plants do in nature.  Over time, he also became intrigued with glass houses and conservatories which were almost entirely constructed of hand-blown glass; and he began putting together installations in conservatories around the world.  His pieces grew in size and complexity, with some sculptures being comprised of up to one thousand pieces of blown glass.  He found that glass can be very strong and able to withstand harsh weather, and began installing pieces in gardens of all types.  All of this led to Chihuly creating his own glass conservatory and gardens, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit which opened in 2012, located in the Seattle Center, at the base of the Space Needle.  

These first two photos are of Chihuly's "Persian Ceiling."  A flat glass pane is piled with glass works and lit from above.  This is a large room and stunningly beautiful.

An automobile accident in England in 1976 left Chihuly without sight in his left eye.  In 1979 he turned over the gaffer position (master glassblower) to a team whom he directs.  Drawing is one of his means to communicate his artistic vision for the glass pieces.

This installation filled a large room in the museum.

 The following three photos show the 100' long sculpture suspended from the ceiling of Chihuly's Glass House.  In the second photo, the Seattle Space Needle is visible.

A view of the hanging installation from the garden.
The following photos were taken in the gardens surrounding the Glass House.  Notice how seamlessly the glass installations fit in and compliment the natural gardens.  

Friday, September 12, 2014


One of the wonderful things about travel is meeting new people.  Two years ago, on our trip to Germany, we met Debbie and John, who live outside of Seattle, and have a "cabin" on Lake Chelan, a beautiful lake in the Cascade Mountains about 3-1/2 hours drive east of Seattle.   We have kept in touch since then, and when they heard that we were thinking about visiting Portland, they invited us to visit them.  Initially, we all felt a bit of apprehensiveness since we were going to be together for a week.  Within minutes of getting together, however, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief... Everything was going to be fine.  Well, it was tremendous, actually!   Now we look forward to seeing them again, hopefully soon!    

This recipe comes from Debbie.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

*  1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (plus more for garnish)
*  1/4 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
*  3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or to taste)
*  1 large eggplant, trimmed, sliced into twelve 1/2 inch rounds
*  2 sprays cooking spray
*  1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
*  2 large fresh tomatoes, ends trimmed, cut into 6 slices each
*  3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
     Preheat grill to medium-high.  
     In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, oregano, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside for flavors to blend. 
     Coat both sides of eggplant with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Grill eggplant slices until lightly charred and tender, turning as needed, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Brush eggplant with lemon mixture; top each with 1 slice tomato and 1 tablespoon feta.  Cover grill and cook until tomato and feta soften slightly, about 1 minute.  
     Remove to a serving platter and garnish with additional oregano leaves.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


After reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Bone in the Throat”, a murder mystery, I had low expectations for his “A Cook’s Tour - In Search of the Perfect Meal.”  After reading just a few pages of this book, however, I concluded that Bourdain is significantly better at writing about real people and real events than he is at making up characters and events for a novel.  In fact, in this book he shows his talents as a writer with well articulated descriptions and personal insights.  

“A Cook’s Tour” was the basis for Bourdain’s travel series on Food Network.  Each chapter highlights Bourdain’s trip to a new location, including cities in Cambodia, Vietnam, Portugal, France, Spain, Russia, America (San Francisco and Napa Valley), and so on.  As the title suggests, Bourdain was in search of the perfect meal.  Interestingly, some of those meals consisted of eating an iguana, an entire four-foot long cobra, beginning with the still pumping heart and a cup of its blood, and many, many other animal parts that we typically don’t find at our local American restaurants.  Bourdain writes about these meals with fascinating detail, and without censorship.  I found myself laughing out loud, squirming, feeling horrified, and experiencing a whole host of other reactions as I read about Bourdain’s adventures.  All of this made for a quick read, a desire to search out and watch his TV series, and a desire to read more of Bourdain’s travels.  

Monday, July 21, 2014


About 15 years ago, a little group of friends, including Kevin and I, started a tradition of spending a weekend together, out of town, cooking, eating, drinking wine, visiting garden centers, golfing, biking and any other activities that we found to do in that town.  We love the tradition and have had so much fun together and made many fun memories over the years.  This year, to celebrate our 15th (or so) anniversary we decided to venture further away from this area, to a place none of us had been to previously.  All of us are well traveled; so finding a place was a challenge.   One person suggested Savannah, Georgia and almost immediately we decided that was the place to go.

We all came up with ideas for activities but one idea was of interest to everyone:  A Southern Cooking Class, Lecture and Demonstration by Chef Joe Randall.  Check him out here

The menu consisted of:
* Savannah Crab Cakes with Herb Mustard Aioli, 
* Warm Fried Green Tomatoes on Bibb Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing, 
* Roasted Rack of Sage-Rubbed Pork with Madeira Jus Lie, 
* Savannah Red Rice, 
* Southern Fried Corn, and for dessert 
* Brown Butter Peach Cinnamon Pecan Tart with Bourbon Custard Sauce.
Needless to say, when we were done, we were stuffed!  Everything was absolutely delicious! 

My personal favorite, and a good thing to make at this time of year, is the Salad of Warm Fried Green Tomatoes on Bibb Lettuce.  

In case you aren't sure, green tomatoes are simply unripe red tomatoes.  Why wait until they are red to eat them?  Extend the tomato season!  Here's the recipe which consists of three main parts - Buttermilk Dressing,  Fried Green Tomatoes,  and the other salad ingredients:

BUTTERMILK DRESSING.  Makes 12 servings.
*  1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
*  3/4 cup buttermilk
*  1-1/2 cloves garlic, minced
*  2-1/4 tablespoons Vidalia onion, or any sweet onion, minced
*  1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
*  2-1/4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
*  3/8 teaspoon salt
*  3/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, garlic, onion, vinegar, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve; will keep 2 to 3 days.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES.  Makes 8 servings.
*  1/4 cup buttermilk
*  1/4 cup milk
*  1 egg, beaten
*  1/2 cup cornmeal
*  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
*  1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
*  3 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-1/3" thick
*  1 cup peanut oil for frying
In a bowl combine buttermilk, milk and egg.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, black and cayenne peppers.  Dip tomato slices in milk and egg mixture, then dredge in cornmeal and flour mixture.  Coat well.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook tomato slices 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

*  2 heads Bibb lettuce, torn
*  16 prepared Fried Green Tomato slices (Recipe above.)
*  2 tablespoons sliced green onions
*  2 cups Buttermilk Dressing (Recipe above.)
Chill 8 salad plates in the refrigerator.  Arrange the Bibb lettuce in the center of the chilled salad plates and arrange two sliced fried green tomatoes on lettuce.  Pour a little buttermilk dressing all over the salad.  Garnish each serving with sliced green onions.

Trust me, this salad was DELICIOUS!!

If you make the trip to Savannah, talk to Chef Randall about a class.  It was great fun, and a wonderful meal.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I bet I have more rhubarb recipes on this blog than any other kind of recipe, but my rhubarb plants are prolific producers and I can't imagine not using the rhubarb.

A couple members of my cooking club were interested in the recipe for Rhubarb Curd in Rhubarb Renaissance, by Kim Ode.  I said that I would send the recipe to them but since I had a lot of rhubarb on hand, I thought I would also make the recipe.  I made two substitutions: 1) grape juice instead of cranberry juice, and 2) salted butter instead of unsalted.  These substitutions seemed to work well.  Here is the recipe as shown in the book.

RHUBARB CURD.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups.
*  2-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in half-inch pieces
*  1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
*  1/3 cup cranberry juice
*  4 egg yolks
*  Pinch of salt
*  2 tablespoons, unsalted butter, cut in four pieces.

Combine rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, and cranberry juice in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until rhubarb breaks down into a sauce, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a saucepan over which a medium bowl will fit.  While the water is heating, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Reduce heat to keep the water at a simmer and place the bowl over the saucepan, whisking constantly until the yolk mixture begins to thicken.

When the yolks are quite warm, whisk in the rhubarb mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Add the butter a piece at a time, mixing well, then set aside to cool.  Refrigerate for up to a week.

Rhubarb, grape juice and sugar

Egg yolks, sugar and salt

Rhubarb curd is good with all of the same things as lemon or orange curd:  scones, in desserts, on toast, and so many other things.  The prepared curd will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 30, 2014


As you can tell, I've been enjoying spending time with friends, touring beautiful gardens.   Today is another round of photos from those tours, for your enjoyment!

This garden is in Roseville, MN on a large lot.   


Charming garden shed.

The color combination here between the heuchera and the poppy was lovely!

The peonies were in bloom, and so beautiful!

Japanese Garden

Cactus Garden

Another lovely combination.

Larger than life-sized!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


On Saturday, the Garden Club of Ramsey County had its annual garden tour.  Most of the gardens on the tour, however, are owned by gardeners of the Men's and Women's Garden Club of Minneapolis.  Enjoy the tour!

First stop, a garden in Eagan.

A boat filled with coleus and surrounded by a variety of hostas.

Tour organizer extraordinaire, Jerry Shannon, in front of a 15' giraffe.

A lovely combination of colors and textures.

Notice the papasan chair, repurposed as a planter!

 Our second stop is at a garden in St. Louis Park.  The owner is the President of the Minnesota Hosta Society and, as you would expect, the garden is filled with hostas.

This is not a flower garden but it was spectacular!

The pond off the patio.

Loved this one!

Water feature.

Planter filled with succulents.

The red bamboo stakes add a nice touch to the planter.

A few doors down the street is another hosta garden featuring over 250 varieties of hostas!  Included were hostas from Japan, personally acquired by the gardener, and not available in the U.S..

The hosta at the top is named "Dr. Bob."  It was a hybrid hosta from a well known hybridizer, named and given to the gardener, Bob Olson.

"Bride Groom"

Momma Robin (not her best photo).
 ...to be continued.

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