It's Like He's A Real Boy!

Apparently Heidi Klum's comments on the villain of Project Runway Season Three refer to Keith Michael, the fellow who was kicked off the show for harboring pattern books in his bedroom. I suppose that makes sense, apart from the fact that I all but forgot Keith following his sudden departure. The show's treatment of his villainy was so curt and cursory-- I don't get why Heidi's excitement sounds so promotional.

Misunderstanding Ms. Klum's intention, I tried to put my finger on this season's villain: isn't Nina always a villain? Must be the Antarctic mother of 5 or 6, Laura Bennett?

Wasn't Wendy Pepper a villain, so is this villain thing (Heidi: "
You always hope for something like that.") all that new?

Before the above link sorted everything out for me, I firmly concluded that Jeffrey Sebelia must be the villain: everybody hates him, his dark attitude, his rude treatment of Angela's mother, etc., etc.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for recovering addicts. Or maybe I'm just too West Coast-y. I'm rather fond of Jeffrey. I find him interesting to look at-- his is a type rarely glimpsed on the little box. I love(d) looking at Jeffrey and Alison Kelly together. Such a great contrast, that pair: pale, gritty, weathered street layers next to a fantastic, soft, luminous, Lolitalike one-piece.

She's only been gone a week, but I really miss Alison. Oh to have seen her mother (or sister) on the most recent episode!! (I've begun to theorize that she was removed from the competition because her family members weren't available for the mother/sister challenge... or she was discovered in a magical cabbage patch and has no family...)

As you ponder Jeffrey's behavior last week, keep in mind that he gets stuck with Angela's mom: no one else wants her. Also note that she targets his fabric, something that Jeffrey can't revise at that point in the challenge. The feedback we see her give Time is purely unhelpful, and Jeffrey reacts to this in particular.

Of course she cries: how easy is that? It's a pity that she doesn't start to cry the minute she is paired with Jeffrey... I was impressed by his positive attitude in that moment; he says something like "We'll have fun, I promise." Of course said fun never manifests itself, but I suspect that Darlene is (quietly, passive-aggressively) too me-me-me to enable said fun. Why would a woman like Darlene go to Jeffrey for a garment? Purely on a lark. Her behavior is strictly larkless.

Long live Jeffrey Sebelia, who I do not expect to make the top three but whose t-shirt is the only one I've considered ordering.


And Liberty plucks Justice by the Nose

Kenneth's co-workers mocked him early Friday evening as he left the office to fetch me for Measure for Measure at APT. American Players Theatre is a fabulous outdoor, primarily Shakespeare theater in Spring Green, about an hour west of Madison. And, during the gray, soggy drive to the event, we thought his co-workers might be right: it was no night for a show at APT. However, we've gone to rained out shows in the past and had a great time. A change of scenery, an air uncertainty (maybe we'll see a play tonight, or maybe we'll head home early for heaven-knows-what), the people watching, all of this can make for a fun outing.

Upon arrival, we discovered that the weather wasn't so bad. A dark haze hung over the grounds of APT throughout the evening, but the misty drizzle quickly gave way to warm humid air. It was a perfect evening for outdoor theater.

We wiped off a table and had a picnic among clusters of other playgoers.

I made a tomato basil gratin (with garlicky ricotta cheese) and mayo-free tuna sandwiches. The oil-packed tuna, olives, celery, onions, etc. are tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. The trick to the dish: a layer of cannellini bean spread goes on the bread first and holds the tuna salad in place. The recipe called for watercress, but I substituted spicy radish microgreens because, well, I couldn't get watercress. That's orchid melon (a watermelon with pretty orange flesh) in the plastic bowl.

For dessert, I made a plum tart topped with marzipan crumble. I supplemented the plums with a handful of Bayfield blueberries. I'm in love with the crumble. It's not super-cheap but it's so easy and delicious: just whirl together golden brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds, flour, and butter. I can't stop eating it...

The crust is a little dark on the outside. I'm figuring out a couple of new things: a black tart pan (darker pans cause things to bake faster) and the new pizza stone in my oven (which must shift the ways and wheres heat accumulates).

The production took a broadly comic approach to Measure for Measure. I enjoyed it and learned a great deal about the play from APT's interpretation. However, I remain convinced that Shakespeare's play makes the most sense (or perhaps only makes sense) when understood as a meditation on the relationship between theater and politics. The sometimes sprightly and often seemingly sympathetic portrayal of the Duke veiled his manipulative character and his concomitant drive to re-tool his reputation-- to improve the morality of the city without being held responsible for upholding rigid laws. At the play's end, evildoers are punished by marriage rather than hanging not because Shakespeare adheres to some corny comic convention but because this outcome (mandated by the Duke) makes the Duke appear a benevolent ruler. The Duke scripts and directs the play's conclusion: it's one of my favorite metatheatrical moments.

Director Kenneth Albers implores the audience to "embrace [MfM's] unusual circumstances and gleefully follow the Duke's 'Master of Ceremonies' as he leads us through the various 'acts' of this unique and often chaotic theatrical 'circus.'" This is a cop out: a preemptive against any assertion that his production seems jumbled (as it does). If one wants to consider the play as scathing comedy, why not push Angelo's violent treatment of Isabella to heights of dark comedy heretofore unimagined? Why not twist Isabella into a more complicated figure (humorously icy? or flatly self-righteous? or dully innocent?)? If, as Albers commands, one gleefully follows the Duke's "Master of Ceremonies," one leaves the theater with a confusing aftertaste of unexplained sadism. The costume and design, as always, were delightful.

Kenneth's co-workers may have mocked him, but that didn't mar our Friday evening plans. AND, I may be a persnickety scholar or whatever... but that didn't keep me from enjoying another great evening of picnicking and theater in Spring Green.


"And plums, to tempt you, turn their glossy side." -Dryden

Pretty Plums from yesterday's market. Also, note that I posted out of order (see "Holy Shit: Readers Beware!!" below, if you haven't) so that the post's image would be out of my view.

Bayfield, Madeline Island, Etc.

After living in northern California for half a decade, I came to accept its varied yet ubiquitous natural beauty as standard. Consequently, I'm hard to impress. I pondered this fact worriedly while enroute to Bayfield, WI. I'm delighted to report that the place took my breath away.

Likely, you've already seen this:

What this picture doesn't reveal is that this beautiful river flows into Lake Superior, which surrounds the rocky coast of Madeline Island (the largest island, just out from Bayfield).

And just down from this: a thin but extensive beach lining the cove-like bay on the east side of the island. When was the last time you visited a beach littered with pinecones and, of course, bounded by sand grasses that lead up to beautiful pine forest???

The pride of Wisconsin looks out onto the Great Lake dissolving into the horizon.

The mainland also offers lovely beaches. Here's a taste of the crystal clear water lapping up against the shore and then a wee Erk wading way out into the lake. At the beginning of the film, you can make out Madeline Island in the distance. I include the video because the sound of the gentle waves is essential to the place's relaxing magnificence.

Holy Shit: Readers Beware!!

I recently blogged with enthusiasm about squash blossom quesadillas. My first batch was a revealation: delicate, delicious, and easy to prepare. Last night, following up Mike's interest in the flowers, I snapped an image of my preparations.

This time around, a revolt-ution. The cooked blossoms were quite bitter, but Kenneth and I-- foolishly-- worked our way through the quesadillas. Early this morning, we both developed horrendous, gut-wrenching diarrhea. I promise to follow up on this in an effort to provide sound info on eating squash blossoms. Diana Kennedy can't be all wrong as my initial venture was so successful; however, there's something she's not telling me. I can't do the research now: ugh, simply posting the picture makes my stomach lurch for the first time in hours.

I didn't want some gentle reader to remember my excitement about the quesadillas and end up in the same dreadful situation...........

There now: the last 3 hours I spent reading blogs has resulted in something.

"Seriously, quotes from Mommie Dearest are the wire hangers of gay culture." -fourfour


Nor, creeping through the woods, the gelid race / Of berries. Oft in humble station dwells / Unboastful worth, above fastidious pomp.

-James Thomson*, Summer

I thought blackberries were, by definition, tart. While on vacation in Bayfield, WI, I ate the sweetest blackberries I've ever encountered: piled plain in bowls at Egg Toss Bakery Cafe, mixed with blueberries, etc. in a berry pie at Maggie's, and (also at Maggie's) fashioned into blackberry shortcake.

Early in the summer, Kenneth asked if anyone ever made blueberry or blackberry shortcake. I answered, "Sure..." with a very California-inflected opinion that a cook can retool any old recipe. And without any notion that I would ever retool strawberry shortcake. Maggie's answered Kenny's question with more delicious gusto than I could imagine. On our way out of town, we stopped by a berry farm which to our surprise was run by the priest who preached at Bayfield's Christ Episcopal the previous Sunday. His comments on sustainable farming suddenly had a whole new context. Last night, I sustained the pleasures of Bayfield just a little longer with my own humble version of blackberry shortcake.

Oh that I could somehow let every reader sample just one of these berries: they are so so sweet and delicate.

*Thomson is one of my favorite poets. Initially, I found him to be impenetrable and boring, but now his verses makes me weep...


Simple Summer Dinner

A new favorite: Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Romanesco Broccoli with Mushroom Wine Sauce. If you aren't familiar with Romanesco Broccoli, check out this great pic by another blogger.
...but I was warn'd by my Experience to eat sparingly of them, remembring, that when I was ashore in Barbary, the eating of Grapes kill'd several of our English Men who were Slaves there, by throwing them into Fluxes and Fevers. -Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Sure, champagne grapes are elegant in all their tiny glory, but I find them to be difficult to eat. I cherish any number of other difficult foods-- artichokes, for instance. However, lacking the patience to nibble my way through a bunch of champagne grapes, I frequently find myself harvesting batches of the juicy wee grapes into the blender and whirling them into a fruity beverage. The results always delight me, though I feel like I'm commiting a sacrilege of some sort.

Don't you wish your maters were mauve like these?

Don tchoo?


The parson of F-field no longer threw his oyster-shell into the street, ambitiously luxurious! but supped in his garden upon codlins and cream, or a bit of soft cheese and a cucumber. - Graves, The Spiritual Quixote (1773)

We're supping at home again, after a week of mostly dining out. You scarcely can glimpse the layer of shaved cucumber at the bottom of these salads in waiting. The soft cheese, garden-fresh basil, and tomatoes, on the other hand, are all representin'.

Perhaps I might the garden's glories sing,
The double roses of the Pæstan spring;
How endive drinks the rill, and how are seen
Moist banks with celery forever green;
How, twisted in the matted herbage, lies
The bellowing cucumber's enormous size...

-William Hamilton (1704-1754), The Corycian Swain (from Georgics IV, Line 116)

We lugged a bundle of celery to Bayfield and back-- eating only a few stalks either raw or in tuna salad. Unwilling to let the well-traveled celery get the best of me, I made it into a chilled soup. Read my pedantic harangue on the lovely recipe here (I'm squireallworthy in Madison, WI, USA, of course).

The pomegranate sorbet I've been dying to try-- just pomegranate juice and maple syrup-- was tasty but unseemly. The dish needs something to bind it together. Lemon juice (with its natural pectin) will probably do. A picture will have to wait until I make an updated batch... In the meantime, pomegrante juice will figure prominently in my new Viking-blender lifestyle: the smoothie at long last has returned to my daily fare.


Life's Rich Pageant II

I discovered a new interest in cooking Mexican cuisine and a love for Diana Kennedy when, after making Victoria Wise's (read my review of her Vegetarian Table: Mexico) empanadas for a Cinco de Mayo party, I impulsively bought a poblano pepper plant with the intention of making homegrown chiles rellenos. My plant produced exactly 4 peppers, and... mission accomplished!

For tonight, I also made squash blossom quesadillas and arroz verde. Both are instant favorites. I'm delighted to have a simple recipe for the squash blossoms which always call to me at the market.


Content with little, I can piddle here/ With Broccoli and Mutton, round the year

I place broccoli as pizza topping in the column of strikes against NYC. I encounter broccoli on pizza most frequently in NYC and crankily imagine that haggard New Yorkers consider it to be the healthy option when scarfing down a coupla slices at one of the city's innumerable mediocre pizzerias. This may be neither fair nor rational; so be it.

I am, however, pleased with the pizza I topped last night with peppery ricotta cheese, garlic, and broccoli greens. The greens come from the farmer who rocked my summer with her amazing sorrel. Sadly, I won't have a chance to inquire more about them (or acquire more of them) because I will miss this Saturday's market. So, I'm not sure if there was anything particularly special about these broccoli greens. I do know that most broccoli greens never make it to market: people don't realize how delectable they are and most farmers feed them to cattle, etc.

I used Hazan's very simple pizza dough recipe, which worked wonderfully. Bradford recommends the Chez Panisse recipe, or simply their technique of beginning the dough with a sponge of rye flour in order to infuse the crust with nuttiness. With a new baking stone in the house, I'm more than game.

I topped a second pizza with caramelized onions, anchovies, and dollops of goat cheese. This is Kenneth's favorite.

I didn't go for a true pissaladière and add olives, because olives appeared in last night's salad, as did yellow doll watermelon, mint, and red onions in a lime vinaigrette. This salad is best with cubes of salty feta, but I thought we were having enough cheese for the evening.

For dessert, we had blueberry sorbet, which disappointed us a little. I'm without a proper blender just now, and the food processor didn't adequately pulverize the blueberry skins. Also, I was just sad that I hadn't opted for blueberry ice cream instead of sorbet. Sampling it again this afternoon, though, I think it may not be half bad...


A Good Word or Two

"What is elegance? Soap and water!"
-Cecil Beaton

"...and does propriety change with meridians?"
-Lady Olivia in Leonora (1806) by Maria Edgeworth


By these means he not only spent his mornings in useful exercise, but supplied himself with money for what the French call the menus plaisirs, during the whole summer.

Packed Lunch for Friday @ Madison Hostel:

-Organic peanut butter and wild arctic forest jam sandwich
-Cucumber and homegrown tomato salad
-Donita plantain chips

Packed Dinner for Friday @ Madison Hostel:

-Salad of arugula, smoked trout, and shaved fennel dressed with red currant vinaigrette
-Cold soup of leeks, sorrel, and peas
-Half a La Brea demi-baguette with chevre

Saturday Breakfast @ the market:

-Apple Cinnamon Croissant
-Pain au Chocolat (both from L'Etoile's Café Soleil)

Saturday's Lazy Lunch @ home:
-Warm raw honey, hazlenuts, and chevre with half a La Brea demi-baguette
-Cold soup of leeks, sorrel, and peas

Saturday's Dinner on the lush deck garden of Clara and Alex:
(I provided only a bunch of flowers)
-Vegetarian salad niçoise (w/ white beans in lieu of tuna)
-Vegetarian pissaladière with chevre and feta on the side
-Salad of potatoes and fresh string beans dressed with mustard viniagrette
-Blueberry pie with whipped cream

Sunday Bruch @ Original Pancake House:
-Dutch Delight (Dutch Baby with bananas and strawberries and served with housemade strawberry syrup)

Packed Dinner for Sunday @ Madison Hostel
-Farfalle with beet greens, currants, and chevre
-Salmon salad with roasted potatoes and homegrown basil, dill, and tarragon



...for dead air on Siege of Derry. Kenneth took the new camera on his trip to Maine, leaving me with the old clunker: I have photos to post, but they're locked out of reach on a floppy as we're so technical that we no longer have a floppy drive. I also have a couple of things to scan, but our antiquated scanner-- the lightest piece of equipment in the world, like a feather enclosed in a piece of plastic-- died. Oh to be a feather enclosed in a piece of plastic.


Who, from the tumps with bright green mosses clad,
Plucks the wood sorrel, with its light thin leaves,
Heart-shaped, and triply folded; and its root
Creeping like beaded coral...

All summer long, I've purchased sorrel from a farmer who repeatedly thanks me for appreciating her labor of love. It's really all my pleasure. Sorrel is so mysterious-- a green not bitter but rather quilted with a citrus-y flavor as intense as the seasoning on a dorito. But, of course, all natural.

Tonight I served a rough chiffonade of sorrel with roasted beets, fried goat cheese, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. The salad needs a little fine tuning (I want a softer, tangier chevre, maybe the cheese should be peppered before it's fried, etc.), but I'm sold on this combination of flavors, colors, and textures.