Sunday, August 28, 2011

Late Summer Tomatoes

I know everyone is concerned about the effects of Hurricane Irene on the homes and infrastructure and beaches of the Eastern Seaboard.  But I have had a different thought; what about all of the farms in the storm’s path?  Some of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten have come from New Jersey.  I love buying corn picked that same day on the tip of Long Island.   What about the Hudson Valley farmers that supply markets like the NYC Union Square Greenmarket?  Not to mention stores like Fairway?  Thankfully, Thistle Cove Farm says it was a lot of wind and not worse, but I wonder how the rest of the farms got through. 

Here in SoCal, the world stops with a speeding drop of rain.  I can’t imagine a major catastrophe here.  As I picked my way through the markets this weekend, I was grateful for our consistently perfect weather, which contributes to consistently great produce.  Can you ever have too many tomatoes?  No, I don’t think so.  I use what I grow in the garden, supplemented by heirlooms from Valdivia~ 


When I return home each Sunday after the market, late afternoon, I am usually tired, but cooking what I found that same day gives me my energy back and is very relaxing to me.  Today I took the week’s tomatoes and got busy with some simple recipes I will share here. 

A French “tian” is like a gratin, but it really refers to the clay baking dish.  To make a Provencal eggplant tian, select some small to medium sized eggplant, onion (whatever color you find!) and tomatoes~ 


Slice the tomatoes, onion and eggplant into approximately 1/4” slices; arrange tightly in a baking dish alternating slices; it’s best to select eggplant, onions and tomatoes that are approximately the same diameter, but don’t worry if they are not~ use peeled garlic cloves to fill in the spaces, drizzle with olive oil; I used avocado oil today~


Cook at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.  Then dust with sea salt and ground pepper; using a fork, press the veggies down to the same height and to release some of their juices.  Return to the oven for another 20 minutes or so until it looks slightly roasted and done.  Sprinkle with Parmesan or (in this case Trader Joe’s Four Cheese mix)  at the last minute and you have a great veggie meal; add a little crusty bread and wine and this is all you will need~


Next, I took the end slices of the tomatoes from the tian and added more tomatoes from the garden, and put them in a pie tin with a few partially seeded jalapeno peppers; leave the seeds in if you want it really spicy~


Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the tomatoes and chiles have roasted~


Leave the tomato peels on, but remove the tomato cores when slightly cooled.  Process in a Mini-Prep or food processor; you will end up with a slightly chunky and spicy sauce.   We had this tonight on top of pan fried filet of sole from the Saturday Corona del Mar market, but my sister is coming by shortly to take the rest so she can put it on scrambled eggs for breakfast; the family favorite~


For dessert tonight the gang is having home made vanilla ice cream with roasted figs, from the market today.  Make an X on top of each fig, add a small piece of butter and some vanilla sugar; cook at low temp for about an hour…. yum~


My Mom asked me for some flowers today (pink~ of course), which will grace the table~


More recipes soon.  This week we will wind up for the Labor Day weekend and create a great menu based on whatever we find fresh at the markets~

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Pleasures

In summers past, I spent my time at the beach, the pool, perhaps a  few weeks in France or days in the Hamptons.  Recently, summer is not about sunning or traveling or shopping, it is high season for selling baskets, so I have been tied to Laguna.  Simple pleasures have come in the form of my favorite and highly fragrant rose from the garden, Yves Piaget~


and the night blooming Jasmine called Cestrum Nocturnum; this will bowl you over, if it can grow in your garden you will smell it miles away; these tiny blossoms open at night~


While I have spent little this summer, along with the rest of the masses, my garden continues to give to me, freely~


A few cut roses and a few snips of night blooming jasmine and I am in heaven~


In the evening hours, in front of a mysterious 19thC wood nymph, the roses and the jasmine bring the room alive~


the mature Madagascar Jasmine never disappoints in summer~


The jewel of late summer gifts from my garden is an ancient Orchid Cactus, also know as Epiphyllum.  This semi-tropical plant looks like a three-sided cactus, and in August, depending on the heat and the rain, it produces a series of 15-20 blossoms which grow to the point at which they are ready to burst~


the magnificent flowers are a foot long and bloom in the evening, and last a few hours, only until the next morning~


a stone arch is topped with runners, and it gives a brief yet magnificent show~


No wonder this variety is called Queen of the Night.  It is the most spectacular plant in our large garden, and it amazes me that it waits all year to produce these complex yet delicate blooms which last only a few hours~


Among my summer reading favorites, flowers by my side, are Brooke & Steve Giannetti’s Patina Style; love this book, love the text and the images, and it made an excellent gift to one of my dear friends….


Also on my favorite summer reading list is Kathryn Ireland’s  Summers in France~


I think anyone would love to read this book for the images and text that will call you to visit France.  I also love Kathryn’s descriptions of the renovations, and her “do’s & don’ts” for house guests.  I love the casual nature of Kathryn’s lifestyle, and her penchant to entertain en masse like I do.  One of these years, I will be in Beaune for six months of the year with an open house for my friends… long as they are good guests!  Kathryn has inspired me to make my own list of do’s and don’ts for guests.  Some of them never need to be told a thing.  You know who you are and you have a permanent invite to return.

I have one Parisian décor book I bought this summer that I greatly anticipated, but it was a total disappointment.  Should I mention the name? I will focus on the positive.  I will add that the two books above are on sale on Amazon for about $20, off the $35 list price.  Seems the price of loveliness has gotten slightly more reasonable, off the usually higher price point.  If you want a copy of Gli Giannetti’s book I highly recommend contacting Kelly at the store and having a copy inscribed, though the price is retail, it’s totally worth it for the packaging and gift value.  

I’ll have a few easy recipes for the end of summer.    Enjoy your summer days~

Monday, August 22, 2011

Becoming Jennifer’s Favorite?

I mentioned I sympathize with Jennifer Garner. How would you like to have paparazzi follow you everywhere? OK, it sort of goes with celebrity, but the poor girl gets no rest. Here she is again in a tabloid pool photo from last weekend, with her French Basketeer Bandol basket at my former haunt the Pacific Palisades market~

Jennifer at pali mkt

Most women in the U.S. want a basket with long handles that goes over the shoulder. Jennifer carries her long-handled basket European-style, in hand. If you use a basket for shopping, when it gets a little bit full you won’t want to carry it on your shoulder, but the long handles will let you get more in the basket without squishing the contents. Jennifer carries this style perfectly.

The photo is meant to show a baby bump, fueling pregnancy rumors. Congratulations if she is~!

Update: Yes, she is! And she is also the lead story in (see the link HERE with more pics) so I will pick up the next issue and see if my basket is in it~

Image credits:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Urban Barn Flea Market

The current issue of Romantic Homes Magazine showcases the Editors’ “Top Ten Flea Markets” in the U.S.  Making the cut, the Urban Barn permanent and once-monthly Flea Market aka Street Faire, in North San Diego.  Kerry went to the Faire the last two days, and I thought you’d like to see a little bit of what she saw, through her lens~

I’d be happy to flop down in this comfy bed with a book and a pot of tea, wouldn’t you~


The drapery above reminds me of tattered ship’s sails, or a laundress gone mad~


I love the grain sack pillows with bright tulle skirts, against the faded red leather chair~


We joined the riot of color with baskets, colored and natural Metis linens and a few bits and bobs~


Many natural influences; love these burlap pouches in the wood caddy~


I laughed when Kerry texted to ask if I wanted these….she did not know I had just purchased an item I had monogrammed for myself….talk about an XXL mono…aren’t these fun, if they are your initials?~


Many of my friends go to the Barn on a regular basis, it’s an escape in some ways; I love the whimsy, I love the creativity of the mattress springs overhead and the collection of objects, including any reference to Paris!~


You can find the Urban Barn blog HERE.  Women from Orange County go by the busload to visit, and now I know why~ 


Special thanks to Kerry for the photos, while I was at the Corona del Mar market!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

El Moro Park

As it is late summer and the weather a perfectly balmy 75 degrees, I decided to take the dogs for a short hike late this afternoon and check out the newly-opened El Moro State Park.  Imagine our delight (and surprise) to enter the parking area and find a local family unloading their three beautiful horses, right there in the middle of the parking lot~


Due to ever-increasing urban sprawl, our county’s equestrian areas and trails continue to be marginalized.  Apparently these are the last publicly-available costal trails for horses.  When I was a kid you could rent horses and ride along the bluffs and on the beach below; seeing these horses today brought back some wonderful memories of riding with my equestrienne Mother. It’s too bad that the State did not provide for a staging area for mounted visitors; there is a petition underway, according to these riders; it would have certainly been easier and safer for all if a simple area had been set aside. Including me with Biscuit, who has never seen a horse and was straining at the leash while I was shooting photos; thankfully these were calm horses~


The parking area quickly gives way to gently sloping fire roads which double as paths~


Which provided ample room for the mounted team to pass us and round the next corner~


This time of year, everything is dry as a bone.  Still, Mother Nature manages to present little bits of beauty & color~


Springtime is a different story, but even now there are the tiniest flowers~


But this park and this walk are not about the little views, it’s about the vistas; here down to the beach and Abalone Point~


The El Moro Park is adjacent to Crystal Cove Park along the beach, and joins up with the Laguna Wilderness Park  behind our house on the inland side; if you want to do the entire circuit it is about 10 miles and several hours.  There are fine views towards the interior of the park~


The newest portion of the Park to open is the campground.  This was formerly the El Morro trailer park, where I used to enjoy the blufftop views from my friend Leah’s sisal & linen & antique-filled double wide; today it was full to the brim with campers and RV’s~


In the early morning hours, you will see plenty of deer and other critters, always lots of big rabbits, which were crossing our bath today and got my dogs all keyed up~


In the summer you will also find rattlesnakes, which is why I keep the dogs close; but you are more likely to find one of these creatures along the path~


Just to the north is Newport Coast; more of that urban sprawl and McMansionization which brings congestion to our formerly sleepy little town of Laguna Beach~


Leaving the park and coming down Coast Highway, you get another look at Abalone Point and all the vacationers enjoying the beach; the ocean was beautiful today~


Thanks, California State Parks, I think I will indeed be back soon!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Favorite French Chocolate Tart

This post is for one of my favorite San Diego shoppers. It’s interesting that you can see someone on a weekly basis, but not always know them by name.  I know her as “Anna’s Mom,” and I promised her I would post the recipe for my favorite chocolate tart.  She is a serious foodie, as is her husband.  We compare notes on Italy, cooking and travel, and she brings me armfuls of lemon verbena from her garden.  And I will add I wish I were as impeccably dressed as she is, on a consistent basis!  She recently sampled my chocolate tart at the Sunday market, and proclaimed it the best ever; this is quite a compliment coming from her!  I use a shortbread crust, which I think pairs well with the tart.

The printable recipe for the tart is HERE

The printable recipe for the shortbread crust is HERE.  Special thank you to the amazing Yvonne from Stone Gable for telling us how to set up printable recipes; and to Kerry for setting these up for me!

I have been making this tart forever, in every size from one large to many minis, and I have never found a recipe my guests love more.  I have to say, my family prefers the individual tarts.  Especially when half the shortbread tarts are filled with lemon and half are chocolate.  As I mention in the recipe, the trick is not over-baking.  In fact I don’t think you can under-bake it; remove from the oven when it is still “trembling” or jiggly in the center half. 


If you try my recipe, please do report back on how it went; I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!!  This will be perfect for Labor Day too; it makes well a day ahead of time~

~bon appetit~

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Plein été

Oh yes, summer is in full swing.  I envy my friends Patty & Jock who are now in Beaune; they try to make me feel better by saying it has been raining there for three weeks; not good for the grape harvest; but still, I wish I were there….  Here in California, one look at these raspberries from Sunday’s market will confirm, it is Summer~


Submerged in boiling water, then buried in ice, the berries made the most amazing raspberry-mint water Sunday~


From Kevin at Kawano Farm we had the tiniest of baby corn; I shared 10 of these (raw) with friends at the market and took the rest home; this is rare to find at our markets, it was very tender and delish and went into our dinner salad~


Summer Luxury; the silk was so fresh, the corn so tender~


We roasted a Da-Le chicken for Sunday dinner, trussed up with garlic from Sage, lemons from our trees and with the finest carrots from Valdivia Farms, and I brought yellow wax beans to my Mom, her favorite~


And at every meal this week including breakfast we have tomatoes; odd shapes but colorful and oh so good~


Raquel took her first ever week off and so I was the market manager Sunday with Kerry’s assistance…I think we should do a basket each week at the manager’s booth and call it “don’t miss”…or….”best of”… smallest vintage French basket was full of not to miss produce this week.….and it had many admirers~


And our sample food…chevre and fresh herbs~


This was the third piece of chevre rolled in Akram’s sesame-mint Jourdani mix and drizzled with local avocado oil~


Hope you are enjoying your summer and the wonderful summer foods!