28 August 2010

Pies from the garden...

Actually, the pies are from the oven -- the ingredients are from the garden. The rainbow chard is still plugging along and I cut a big batch and then didn't have a good idea of what to do. So I decide to make a pie or tart perhaps a quiche depending upon your particular choice of vernacular.

I always keep some store-bought pastry in the fridge. While I am usually opposed to such things, even the most snooty chef's will buy their puff pasty and virtually all of them buy their filo and while I can throw together flour and lard with the best of them, after an afternoon in the garden if I had to make pastry, it would starve.


As for a bought pie crust, in order to get it to unroll without breaking, you need to let it set at room temperature. However, it you let it get too warm, it won't bake properly -- so after you unroll it and place it in your pan, you need to return it to the refrigerator for a bit to firm it up.

Both of these pies have an egg base, so I blind bake the crust. Take your chilled crust and carefully line it with parchment paper or foil. Fill the parchment with dried beans or pie weights (yes, I have pie weights and I also have an old jar filled with navy beans that I use) and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Take the crust and carefully remove the parchment with the beans. In a traditional blind-bake the crust is returned to the oven and baked again. This is done when filling a crust with something like lemon or custard that is already prepared and won't be baked again.

For these pies, I simple baked them to firm them up and not to be totally done. Some people don't bother with the blind baking. If you feel like skipping the step, try sprinkling a layer of cheese on the bottom of the crust and then pouring in the filling.

Rainbow Chard Pie

1 blind baked pie crust
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard, chopped
5 eggs
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

While the crust is blind baking, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet, add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped chard, salt and pepper and sauté another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix the eggs, milk and cream and beat until smooth. Fold in the cheese.

Add the sautéd vegetables to the pie crust.

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Resist the urge to overfill.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.

And another pie...

When my friend Ann was here in July, she asked for a tomato pie. She thought it sounded good, but had no recipe or real concept, she just thought it sounded good. Most savory tomato pies in the South are made with tomatoes and a blend of cheese and mayonnaise. It is like a big pimento cheese sandwich with tomatoes. In fact, when I make pimento cheese, I always think about making extra for just such a dish.

Here's the problem, all that "pimento-cheese" makes for a really rich pie that I think masks the tomatoes and since I grew them, I didn't want them overcome. (In the middle of winter when those rock-hard tomatoes appear in the store from some far away place, I might revert ti the original concept of cheese-mayo-tomato.)
Anyway, I decide to make the filling a custard and top the pie with "pimento-cheese" crust to cut some of the richness.

Once again, I used a store-bought crust. My advice is to look upon a store bought crust as a single ingredient in a pie crust that you make your own. For the tomato pie, I made a basil crust by taking one of the crusts and layering it with fresh basil from the garden.

I topped it with the other crust and rolled it out so the basil became visible. Then blind baked the crust.

Tomato Pie

1 blind baked pie crust
2 pounds tomatoes, various colors, slice thickly
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
1 cup mayonnaise

Mix the cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl.

In another bowl, mix the eggs and half & half until smooth.

Layer the tomatoes into the pie shell. Pour the egg mixture over the eggs leaving about 1/2 inch of space.

Spoon the cheese mixture over the top.

Bake in a 350 preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Remove and let sit for another 15 minutes before cutting.

There is no salt in this recipe, because I find the cheese mixture to be a bit salty. Even with the custard filling, I must say this recipe was almost too rich.

When Ann was here, she left me her really nice camera. That is why the Rainbow Chard pie picture is much better than the Tomato Pie picture. In the end, photography aside, both pies were quite tasty.

26 August 2010

Summer on a Plate

Eva's Amish Stripe Tomato

What more can one say.

23 August 2010

If you want good eggs...

...you need good chickens.

The news has been filled with the recent recall of a half a billion eggs. That's BILLION. In large factory farmed plants, chicken are crammed in tiny cells, they never see the light of day, they never move, they eat inferior food and that's just the beginning.

At Doe Run Farm, our chickens roam the farm on sunny and not so so sunny days. They have their choice of lovely grubs and worms they scavenge as well as a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grain.

They family and feline friends who love them. In return...

...we get their lovely eggs.

In England, cookbook author and writer Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall started Chicken Out, a campaign to encourage free range farming of chickens. In the U.S. the USDA requires that in order to be "free range" outdoor access must be made available for "an undetermined period each day." In other words, the farmer can open a little door for a few minutes a day and call his eggs "free range." Seriously, felons in super-max prisons get more time outside than "Free range" chickens.

Please, ask questions about your food. Nearly 8 eggs in 10 are produced by 4 companies. While that egg carton in the grocery store may have a different name, chances are all those eggs came from the same basket.

Please, buy your eggs from a farmer, not a factory farm.

20 August 2010

Happy 100 Eero Saarinen

Today is Eero Saarinen's 100th birthday. It is also the 137th birthday of his father, Eliel Saarinen, the first President of Cranbrook.

I spent most of the week in D.C. with my friend, Harry Lowe. Harry Lowe had a long career at the National Museum of American Art before it became the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He also has quite a bit of Saarinen's furniture in his house and he went to Cranbrook. Sitting at the Saarinen table for breakfast, I asked him if Saarinen had been at Cranbrook when he was there.

The answer was no. The elder Saarinen was already dead and the younger Saarinen was out and about making tulip chairs. In Harry Lowe's remarkable sense of understatement, he did mention that he had been close to Saarinen's mother Loja.

Loja Saarinen was a weaver and textile designer. She was the director of the weaving department at Cranbrook from 1929 until her retirement in 1942. Many of the rugs at Cranbrook were designed and executed by Loja.

I spent the morning listening to Harry Lowe tell stories about the Saarinen House and his time at Cranbrook. What a lovely way to spend a morning!

In honor of the Saarinen's I am planning to sink into a Tulip chair and toss back a shot or two of Finlandia. Hyvaa syntymapaivaa!

19 August 2010

Character Approved

I am the first to admit that "commercial" blogs rarely work. Anyone who actually blogs on a regular basis know that a blog grows out of the things the blogger loves and that kind of love rarely seldom translates to that commercial level.

USA (the Network) has recently started a blog based on their ad campaign "Characters Welcome." Since USA's prime time offerings feature some fairly strange characters, they set out to celebrate the characters in everyday life. Last year and this year, they have selected a group of "characters" who are celebrated in their field. For the most part, their choices are already celebrated - chef David Chang, director Kathryn Bigelow, designer Narciso Rodriguez, and artist Shepard Fairey to name a few.

They are a bit different in that they have a category for giving, which features a humanitarian or philanthropist. It is nice to see that component amid the the art , food and movies.

Several months ago, USA launched a web site, The Character Blog, featuring architecture, art, design, fashion, film, food, music, technology, writing and social giving. They enlisted a bunch of blogger to actually write the stuff, so I am hoping it will be interesting.

13 August 2010

The Art of the Steal

"The Barnes Foundation is the only sane place to see art in America."
Henri Matisse

Yesterday I saw The Art of the Steal, a documentary I had longed to see. It tells the story of the Barnes Foundation, one of the largest private collections of art in America.

The Foundation houses what many believe to be the greatest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in America. There are paintings by Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean Hugo, Claude Monet, Maurice Utrillo, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Maurice Prendergast, as well as 181 works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 69 by Paul Cézanne, and 59 by Henri Matisse. The collection also includes ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, African art and sculpture, and American and European decorative arts and metalwork.

Dr. Albert Barnes was a self made man who became interested in art and education. He collected art and became enthralled with John Dewey's ideas on education. The Barnes Foundation was established to hold his art collection and provide an educational experience for students.

In 1923, Dr. Barnes proudly exhibited his collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was ridiculed by art critics who called his works “nasty” and “primitive”.

Dr. Barnes replied, “Philadelphia is a depressing intellectual slum”.

Dr. Barnes dislike the austere single paintings style of most museums, preferring to hang the art in complementary groups with furnishings and decoration together.

Barnes had no children, so he drew up a will providing for the Foundation and stipulating that it never be moved, sold, or sent on tour. The documentary details how his wishes were summarily disregarded. Much of the documentary is based on the book Art Held Hostage by John Anderson.

Anderson's book, published in 2003, basically ends with the "grand tour" of the collection. After much legal wrangling, the Barnes is currently set to be moved in 2012. It will move a whopping 4 miles up the road to Barnes' intellectual slum of Philadelphia

Matisse, Henri. The Dance II. 1932. The Barnes Foundation, Merion Station

The documentary is a fascinating look into the world of art, or should I say, the world of art vs. the commodity of art. It explores the cozy relationship of politicians and "non-profit" billion dollar charitable foundations. There are issues of race, money, power, law and politics all dancing on the grave of Albert Barnes. It is a giant train wreck and it is impossible to look away.

In 1923, the works Barnes collected were dismissed as ugly and primitive. Today those same works are valued at $35 billion dollars.

To quote that great philosopher Cyndi Lauper, "Money, money changes everything."

12 August 2010

Snake at the PO

William Blake, Eve Tempted by the Serpent, 1799-1800

Yesterday a snake got into the post office. Alas, he received no mail.

He was no anaconda, Still, he upset Nelda, the Post Mistress, and would have caused problems for anyone trying to get to the mailboxes as he was fond of striking out at anything that ventured into the PO. I was called in to dispatch him. Nelda pinned him with broom and I sent him home to Eden with an even bigger broom.

09 August 2010

Farm Fresh

The chickens watching over things.

Carlisle guarding the produce as Teddy looks on.

Teddy needing to be involved.

But really, not too much help!

Garden grub.

04 August 2010

Adventurers Bewares


For those of you interested in marrying adventure, check this out, first. I know people just love this book, though I am not sure that everyone who sticks it in a photo-op has actually read it. Still, the zebra print is a must have for the busy designer looking for adventure.

Before you buy a copy of this book, you should know which one is the First Edition and which one is the book club. Since most people who buy the book are decorators, the edition doesn't really matter... unless you don't want to get totally ripped off. Recently, I have seen a half-dozen copies of this book listed for $100 or MORE and each one was listed as a First Edition. Every last one of them was a BOOK CLUB Edition and certainly not worth $100.


When Book-of-the-Month-Club printed their edition of I Married Adventure, they needed a way to differentiate from the Lippincott printing. Since they used the same plates, BOMC chose to change the typeface of the cover. Lippincott editions have "adventure" in BLOCK type. Book of the Month Club have "adventure" in Script.

By all means, buy the book (and do read it) but what ever you do, don't pay an outrageous price for a First Edition when you are getting a common BCE.

P.S. If you want to pay $150 for a BCE, e-mail me and I'll sell you one!

03 August 2010

The Home Within Us

There was a lot of talk on numerous blogs about Susan Sully's The Southern Cosmopolitan. That was not the only book that Susan Sully "wrote" this year. The other book, which hasn't been as widely blogged about is Bobby McAlpine's The Home Within Us. For me, this has been best design book of the year. I know you think I think that because Bobby McAlpine is from Alabama -- well you are wrong. There is something "indescribable" about McAlpine's work. There is, to steal the title of Flannery O'Connor's essays, a mystery and manner to McAlpine's work. It is that mystery, an unseen but always felt presence that draws me to McAlpine's work.

"To create spaces with a broad emotional spectrum, there has to be a pendulum that strikes far to the left and far to the right. A rhythm of the grand and the humble, the exhilarating and the calm, the bold and the tender must be struck at a regular rate."

"I rarely work in a single style. With intuition as my guide, I borrow freely from the entire language of architecture."

One has to hand it to Susan Sully, who allowed McAlpine's voice to flow through this book. Unlike most design books that use text to create a house, Bobby McAlpine's words create a home. Like most people, I immediately opened the book to look at the pictures, but reading the insets from McAlpine, I was constantly drawn and re-drawn to the text. The text reminds my of my first reading of The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. There were times when I wanted to hold the text, in a slim volume, devoid of the glowing photos, so as not to be distracted by them.

To me, Bobby McAlpine excels in his use of juxtaposition. His small houses, fishing camps, shacks and cottages bring out his consummate sense of home. I adore the rich velvets with the raw wood; old garden urns filled with apples; broken slabs of marble.

"The cabin has such a cratelike nature that it was impossible to resist putting guilt and fine things in its presence, It was a beautiful foil for things unlike itself. And so there was a lesson somewhere for me in the pendulum's swing between rough plank walls and guilt frames, great tapestries and absolute raw floors."

If the cabin catches on fire, I am going back in to retrieve my copy of The Home Within Us.

Both Susan Sully and Bobby McAlpine have bloggy/magazine/web type things online...

Check out The Southern Cosmopolitan


COMMUNIQUÉ is the journal of McAlpine Tankersley Architecture and McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors
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