Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Daisies in Blue Sunflower Pitcher

This 9X12 Oil still life was painted in class.  The blue and green color scheme is very serene and relaxing to the eye.   I hesitated painting the sunflower on the pitcher, but think it brought this painting to life.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Radishes - What's in the Garden

This week the radishes arrived in my garden.   Checked on them every day to see if they were ready and within one day they popped.  Radishes are a cold weather vegetable, which means I was able to plant the seeds 5 weeks ago when it was still quite cold in New Jersey.  Now I must harvest two rows and plan some delicious recipes.  I'm planning to roast some for a side dish and then pickle a bunch to use as an appetizer, and of course use them in salads.  Recipes will follow.

 Back in March I ordered my plants on-line from The Tasteful Garden in Alabama.  The 17 healthy plants arrived about a week ago, but had to be kept warm in the garage because the temperature went down to 37 degrees at night last week.  A friend of mine has ordered from this company before and has been very pleased.  Heirloom tomatoes were a large part of the order, and my favorite tomato name was the "Mortgage Lifter".  So this weekend the weather finally cooperated and I've been busy planting the garden.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Hope everyone enjoyed their Mother's Day.  I was fortunate to spend the day with my mother, sisters and family.  Life doesn't get any better than a beautiful day spent with loved ones.   

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Leeks

The inspiration for this lovely risotto was a handful of freshly picked asparagus from the garden. My asparagus has been doing very well this year and, therefore, I thought it needed to be the star in this week's recipe. Risotto's creamy goodness can only be enhanced by adding leeks, peas, pancetta and a little lemon for brightness. Add a crisp salad and risotto makes an excellent mid-week dinner.

Spring Risotto - Serves 4

1 cup of arborio rice
2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
2 leeks, split and thinly sliced (rinse well and soak in cold water to clean after sliced, then dry)
1/4 cup peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup of parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Heat broth and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a saucepan until simmering (I add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to broth if broth is unsalted) then add sliced asparagus, cook 3 minutes and remove with a strainer to a bowl of ice water - when cooled remove asparagus from water, dry and set aside.  Bring broth down to simmer.  In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, add olive oil, and cook pancetta until crisp, add butter and leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes on low heat, watch carefully so that they don't burn.  They will be soft and translucent when done.  Raise heat to medium low and add rice.  Stir to coat the rice.  Add 1/4 cup of wine and stir with a spatula until absorbed.   Now the work begins.  Add a ladle of simmering broth to rice and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. You may have to lower heat a little.  Continue adding broth a ladle at time and stir.  Risotto takes about 20 minutes and a watchful eye.  You know it is done when it doesn't absorb the broth and is a creamy consistency.    You may have some broth left over.  Shut heat off and fold in cooked asparagus, peas, and parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brie and Fruit Still Life

This 12 X 16 oil painting was painted at a workshop I attended this weekend.  The workshop started at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m.   Six and half hours of painting... I was physically and mentally exhausted.  There were 15 students in a large sunlit studio with skylights painting about five still life set ups. There was a competition to get there early and get the best easel and choice of still life that I was not aware of and ended up in the back.  This still life wasn't my first choice, but I'm happy about the workshop and painting with such a talented group of artists.  Next time I will get there early and be prepared to be competitive.  In the end I love this painting and the experience.