Like many of you, I have been glued to the news and am so saddened by all that has been brought on by this latest storm. We have now heard from all of our family & friends who live there, so it is relieving to know they are all fine, but many of the stories of what folks are going through is heartbreaking. But we humans are a resilient lot. I woke to a lovely e-mail from my new friend Elizabeth (who I met in New York last May at the Blogfest on Design) and the subject line was, Resilient in Rye. She and her family live in the lovely New York town of Rye. She wrote of their many blessings and how grateful they are that all is fine. But I also know from all the news how tough it was for them and all the work that will go into the clean-up and rebuilding of things. Natural disasters make all of us really examine things, and makes us so grateful for the ones we love and the things we still have. I find questioning what is important in life part of this process. Times like these make us all so grateful for what we have and any good fortune–Mother Nature is very complex.
As the clean-up and rebuilding begins, they will all still need our good thoughts and continued prayers. I am a big fan of the American Red Cross. Check out all the amazing work they have been doing, and if so inclined donate to www.redcross.org
At a time like this, soup can be so comforting. We made stock the other week-end out at our place on Vashon Island. Here is our quick & easy stock recipe.
Since we frequent the organic farm stands all through the Summer, we collect every bit of produce that we don’t use in a recipe. We add all the onion tops & skins, spiny greens, carrot tops, herbs–to a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. We add to the bag all through the season, many times creating several bags. I also roast many chickens for Sunday night suppers, so we create other bags for all the carcasses and add those to the freezer. Come Autumn, the freezer is brimming with produce and chickens, just ready to be made into stock. Add all to a large stock pot. Cover with water. Add a small handful of peppercorns. Boil all. Then turn down the heat to very low but you are still seeing bubbles coming up. Cover and let cook for several hours. Once done, skim the top layer of foam and any fat that has collected on top. Take out all the solids. Strain your beautimous golden stock. Fill containers. We use plastic soup containers we get from our local Thai restaurant. Put in freezer and enjoy all Winter long when you want to make soup or add to recipes when it calls for chicken stock. Your chicken stock. The stock you made yourself. Smile at how cool you are that you have stock sitting in the freezer.
Our first shipment of Panevino Grissini (breadsticks) arrived the other day and it was quite hard not to break into one of each of these containers. OK, I did break into one. I was dying to try the Fiscalini Cheddar. They did not disappoint. At all. Actually, it was tough not eating the entire container. A little back story. When we were having our dinner a few Fridays ago with the owners of Grove 45 EVOO, they mentioned these amazing breadsticks that were such a hit down in Napa. We had not heard to them, so Bonnie & Nena, thank you so much for the introduction. David and Mimi Katz own a successful catering company in St. Helena. From what I gather, and I completely understand why, the breadsticks have always been a big hit, so they started packaging them and selling them to shops such as Watson Kennedy. The idea is that they work quite splendidly paired with wine. I can attest that they also work beautifully solo, or with a glass of Perrier. I am crazy about the packaging, as these will become just the perfect host/hostess gifts this Autumn and into the Holidays.
Our last table of the Summer season, and oh what a stunning end of season it has been. We had guests to the island for a Sunday supper, and with a nod to the season ahead, many of the farm stands had apples galore for sale. The small apples got my mind churning about how to set the table. The glorious dahlias had made the trip in from town, and the color & combo of the 2 worked swimmingly together.
The apple John Derian plates along with the flour sack apple motif dish towels that would be the napkins continued the theme. The red handled Laguiole cutlery just always makes me happy when we get to use it.
The red glassybaby and the salt and pepper lending to the red themed table. Those little red apples so sweet.
A stall in the Market had these huge bunches of rosemary that looked fantastic, so that would add a little herby goodness to the table in a simple clear drinking glass.
And those dahlias! Just a big bunch in a clear glass vase as not to compete with the flowers. They make me weepy they are so good.
As the sun danced around in the late afternoon, the table was set. Ready for the last meal of a memorable Summer.
The Market was just swooning with luscious, colorful zinnias. These are such great blooms because they are so hearty and have such a long life after cutting. My favorite way to use them is mixed in with fresh herbs, like rosemary. Mixed together the zinnias and herbs create a lovely spirited end of Summer arrangement. But then, they also look pretty darn fab just as they are, in a simple vase, either solo with one color or mixed together for a riot of color.
I just can’t get enough of the color combo blue and white this Summer. We have had a glorious stretch of sunny days in Seattle, record breaking actually, so we are grabbing every chance we can to dine outside.
This blue & white version would get spiffed up with Juliska bamboo handled flatware that I just adore.
It also gave me a chance to use that sweet little Fleur de Sel dish I wrote about a bit ago. Plus I love using that shell to hold fresh cracked pepper.
Our herb container is going wild with all of this sun, so I cut a bunch of parsley and filled up 2 blue glassybaby and had them at each end of the table. Herbs work so great for little pops of color.
Since I always like to add something either vintage or natural to a table, this little lichen covered branch would fill the spot right in the middle.
A scattering of white dahlias in clear drinking glasses cut really short so the head rested right on top of the lip of the glass, and we were all set for dinner with friends.
The herbs in our zinc herb box are growing like weeds at this glorious part of August. We are using them in dishes every chance we can think of. But I also really love using them as a flower alternative. The parsley this year has been incredibly plentiful, and has grown quite tall. The stems would be perfect in a clear vintage beaker, next to a vintage glove mold on a small side table. The willowy greens adding just the right amount of life and color. If placed out of the sun, and with frequent water changes and a fresh cut, the arrangement can last for weeks.
I am sure many of you already know this, but I did not. I learned a gardening tip from our friend Sylvia, who owns www.dignursery.com along with Ross on Vashon Island. Cut your flowers and herbs in the early morning–they respond so much better that way to having been cut. I was cutting things in the mid-day sun, and the flowers & herbs were not responding as well when I put them into a container.
Have an amazing Saturday!
Using fresh herbs in your cooking can be such a delight. The mellowness of using fresh herbs instead of dried can make all the difference in a dish. We planted more herbs in our zinc planter box this year, as some did not make it through the Winter, while others did remarkably well. We added more thyme and oregano, among others, and the herb box is once again overflowing with herby goodness. Even having a few little pots of herbs in your kitchen that you can pick up at your favorite garden nursery or grocer, can really elevate many of your dishes this Summer. I made a super simple halibut dish the other day using some of our herbs. You can substitute any white fish for this. The herbs infusing the meat of the fish, adding a nice earthiness & freshness.
Place halibut steaks in a baking dish and sprinkle a healthy amount of salt over both sides of the fish. Let sit for a few minutes. Turn oven on to 400 degrees to warm up. Add a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil to the top of the fish, and a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Also thinly cut a lemon, taking out the pits from the slices. Set on top of halibut. Using fresh sprigs of thyme and oregano, place around the fish. Done. It is that easy. Bake for 20 minutes, or a tad more or less, depending on the thickness of your halibut steaks. This is lovely served over jasmine or basmati rice. Enjoy and enjoy those herbs!
Not only did I find those crazy big and beautiful dahlias on Saturday morning, I also found this sweet bundle of oregano. I knew they would work perfectly in a water glass, spilling over the top. Herbs are so beautiful, and are great to use in place of flowers. This tiny arrangement found a home tucked right into a shop display, adding an additional punch of glorious green.
My friend Catherine taught me to use fresh herbs in flowering arranging many years ago. She would mix in mint with heirloom roses to create a sumptuous bouquet. Since then, I have taken to using single stems of herbs in a variety of containers–drinking glasses, vases, tea cups, you name it. We found a really cool zinc planter a few years ago that we loaded up with herbs so we could use them while cooking. Our property on the island is quite wooded, and there are only a select few spots that get full sun throughout the day. A very large tree fell last year, opening up an area where we have placed the zinc planter, and it is bathed in sunlight throughout the day. The herbs are going crazy! While we were away in New York, the herbs went wild and seemed to double in size. Many also started to flower.
We cut things way back, and brought a load of herbs back with us into town. I placed stem after stem of the fresh herbs in single stem containers and set them about.
They not only are lovely to look at, but are also quite interactive. I love to rub my fingers on a leaf and pull out some of the divine oil of the fresh herb. The scent of the oregano is particularly spectacular, and the flower is quite pretty.
We found vintage galvanized buckets a few years back, and thought they would be perfect to grow basil in. Since we are only out on the island 2 days a week, they are easy to care for, as we just heavily water them before we depart, and give them another good watering when we arrive. We had several holes drilled in the bottom of each bucket, allowing for drainage.
Since basil grows plentifully, we have tomato & basil salad often. Either for lunch with a piece of cheese & baguette, or with dinner as our salad. I cut the tomatoes in half, tear some basil leaves, add a few healthy pinches of sea salt and some fresh ground black pepper, with a splash or two of olive oil. It is the simplest, freshest, taste of Summer.