December 17, 2012

deck the walls

I was fresh out of high school when I made my first trip San Francisco to broaden my horizons, visit my dear aunt and see a bit of the glorious West Coast. During a short whirlwind week there I was lucky enough to pay a visit to an old roommate of my aunt, artist Michael Duté. His apartment left a permanent impression in my mind all these years later. I remember it was a rental, in Hayes Valley I believe, with a sunny kitchen and secluded back yard garden. But the most memorable image is of the hand painted frescos he rendered on the walls of his beautiful home.

Recently I came upon the design duo, Minakani. I immediately became obsessed with their work and aesthetic. Besides bringing back fond memories of Duté's work, Minakani looked like something borrowed and cherished yet modern and new. I found myself overwhelmingly inspired. In their words, they "create patterns and motifs for fashion, lingerie, childwear and home furnishing. Keeping a fresh and unique approach to colour and graphics we produce strong and simple designs, with a candid, vintage quirky, optimistic and poetic feel."

Though I would love to, it is unlikely I will be painting scenery and graphics on my own humble rental anytime soon. In the meantime I will continue to swoon over and keep a watchful eye on this pair's wonderful and whimsical work. And also share some of it with you here...

Oh, and a little do-it-yourself Minakani inspiration by Meghan McEwan, the founder of the my new favorite design and travel site -- Designtripper.

December 11, 2012

the secret to a full life

"The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision."
-Anaïs Nin, May 1946

November 20, 2012

crostata rustica

I have been really enjoying collecting recipes on my pinterest page. Lately, of course, I have excitedly been keeping an eye out for dishes I can use for Thanksgiving. I have come across some real winners for herbed almonds, roasted potatoes, stuffed zucchini, and Nutella sea-salt fudge that I am surely packing when I head to my sister's home on Thursday. One thing I was not planning on bringing was a baked good. But now that's changed thanks to testing out a recipe for a simply delicious rustic apple tart I made last week.

Photos and recipes and been emerging everywhere I seem to look these days of these mouthwatering, handcrafted, crusty little pies. It seemed like it had to be an easy enough venture into pastry making and since I had two apples about to turn bad in my fruit bowl, the time was ripe. I hoped the homey rusticity of this dessert would camouflage any of my mistakes. I looked over a few recipes and complied this one here:

1 stick of butter cut into 3/4 and 1/4
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of course salt
7 teaspoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons of chilled water
2-3 apples peeled, cored & sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup of brandy, rum or red wine

Start by peeling, coring and slicing your apples. Put the cores and skins in a pot just covered with water and add 1/4 cup of sugar and you liquor (optional). Let this boil down for about 30 minutes until it reduces into a syrup. Once you have that going, start your pastry. Sidenote: you can always put your sliced apples in a bowl of water with lemon juice in it to prevent them from turning brown. For the pastry dough mix together the flour, salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Add the 6 tablespoons of butter in chunks until the mix becomes coarsely crumbled. Add the chilled water one teaspoon at a time and blend into until the dough forms into a smooth ball. Press it into a disc shape and place in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for anywhere from an hour to overnight.
This was the first time I ever made pastry dough in my food processor and I have to confess, it will not be last. I've always enjoyed making it by hand with my grandmother's old pastry cutter but this batch was done instantaneously and resulted in a great texture that was a real dream to roll out. I flattened the dough out to about a 16" rough circle shape and kept the thickness as even as possible. I transfered the pastry to a parchment lined baking sheet and then, starting in the center, laid out my apple slices going in a spiral shape.

After the slices were all fanned out, I roughly folded over the edges of dough. The last step-- brush the remaining two tablespoons of butter (melted) over the tops of the apples and edge of the pie crust and cover that with a sprinkling of 6 teaspoons of sugar. In the oven it goes at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
And don't forget about the syrup! Once it has reduced, strain the fruit and reserve the remaining liquid. Keep it on top of the stove to keep warm and pour over the sliced tart as it's served. Enjoy!

November 15, 2012


A few weeks ago I finally got around to visiting Greensgrow Farms, a local urban farm located smack in the middle of Kensington in Philadelphia. It's shameful really, that is has taken me this long to stop by this magical place considering I live a quick 30 minute walk from it. On my opening visit to this 15 year old farm, in the middle of a brisk, slightly overcast November afternoon, I was lucky enough to enjoy a tour of the farm and hear all about what they do, what they grow, how it all began and what some of the future plans of the farm are. If you are ever in the area I encourage you to stop by this colorful, friendly, bountiful place. They open a farmstand on Thursdays and Saturdays to sell their own produce, plants and flowers as well as produce and products from local farms, artisans and canners. I exited happily with a bag of locally made cheeses, hummus, handmade soap and some paperwhite bulbs that have already started sprouting on the windowsill of my office.

November 13, 2012

fresh ricotta

Three months ago, after starting a new job, I found a new culinary curiosity and challenge-- fresh ricotta cheese. This subtle, spreadable charmer is featured on the menu at my work place and so I began conversing with the lady of the kitchen on how she whips this customer favorite together. In addition to my cheese chat, I also scoured recipes online to hear what different cooks had to say. What I came to learn is that the process of making fresh ricotta is a ridiculously simple one.

Fresh ricotta is one of the few cheeses you can make without interning at a creamery or getting too technical. Though traditional ricotta is made from the whey of mozzarella cheese, this version is made from simple ingredients; whole milk, cream or buttermilk, lemon and/or white vinegar and optionally, salt. That is all. Beyond that you will need a pot, wooden spoon, cheesecloth, colander and bowl. After a few different attempts, this is the recipe I have settled on and am starting to perfect.

4 cups of whole milk
1 cup of cream
large pinch of sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Start by adding your milk and cream and salt to a sauce pan or small pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally while you wait for the milk to come to a boil being careful to not scald the milk. In the meantime line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and position this over a large bowl. Once the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat and stir in both the lemon juice and vinegar. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes to curdle. Then pour the entire batch into the cloth-lined colander and let it strain anywhere from 5-15 minutes. I prefer closer to 15, which will produce a drier, crumbling finish. You can always add back some whey that has drained into the bowl below. At this point you can refrigerate for about a week (if it lasts that long) or put some crushed or chopped herbs in while it's still a bit warm. I did this to the last batch I made adding about a tablespoon of both parsley and chives along with crushed black pepper. And just a word about the leftover whey... DO NOT throw it away! There is so much to do with it! Tonight I plan on using it in my polenta in place of water. For other ideas you can find them here.


October 30, 2012

survival and other things

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone in my neck of the woods and no thanks to her the woods are almost bare. The bountiful, bursting fall we were in the midst of was whipped short by winds and rains. I am fortunate to have not much more to deal with than a pile of wet leaves and branches in the yard and a couple of tumbled planters. My family, on the other hand, is dealing with coastal evacuation, flooding, power outages and what remains to be seen. In the past two days of being cooped up I have been fighting off cabin fever with lots of cooking and digging into some projects. Today I am working on a flyer, the old fashioned way. I am hand-cutting and pasting as I go, borrowing from an old vintage Biba catalog. This is being put together for a clothing swap party in late November and I aim to make this mess shown above, the finished product. Which, I will no doubt be sharing on The Peregrine Papers at a later date. I hope to also be sharing some of the great recipes that I have been experiment with and enjoying these past few days including fresh ricotta cheese, Shepherd's pie, and a way to put the season's pumpkins to good use. I'll be back soon. Hope everyone else out there in the Northeast is managing through this stormy weather and it's aftermath. Ciao!

October 9, 2012

bygone beauty

As a lifetime resident of Philadelphia and a serious flâneur of this fine city, I have come across many gems from bygone days dwarfed by modern architecture, hidden down tiny alleyways, ravaged by overgrowth and some simply abandoned in plain sight. The Rittenhouse Coffee Shop is one of the later. This colorful and neglected yesteryear cafe sits at 1904 Sansom Street in the shadow of the equally disregarded Warwick Hotel. After a bit of research I found that it was operating most recently as a soul food joint in the early 1990's. Before that it was a home to The Second Fret Coffee Shop in the 60's & 70's, a folk and blues venue that helped nurture the budding careers of the likes of Joni Mitchel and Arlo Guthrie and a rumored set by The Velvet Underground happened there. As a development and planning war continues to rage between the Philadelphia Parking Authority, The Historical Society and big money developers, I will continue to daydream about what the place was in all it's original Mercer tiled glory and my wild ideas for what it could be if I could get one hand on it with a blank check in the other.

October 5, 2012

bon weekend!

Today I am out and about foraging in the city markets for cured meats, imported cheeses, olive varieties and other snacky delicacies. It's all in preparation for a weekend by the sea with family and friends celebrating Autumn and all it's charms while attending the annual Cape May Wine Festival. This afternoon I pack up and drive east into the moonrise and I cannot wait nor could I be happier. It's been near two months since my finally escape to the Atlantic and I miss it dearly.

Before dashing off I wanted to share some link love here today. Through the wonder of Instagram I was lucky enough to come across Lily Stockman a few months ago. It may go without saying, but I was struck by her photography style and the subject matter in her feed on IG. Natural curiosity led me to click the link to her website, eventually finding my way to her blog. In her own words, Lily is "a Brooklyn-based painter". But if you have anytime to check her out for yourself you will find much more. She is quite a multi-faceted, multi-talented dynamo. Besides being a Harvard graduate and founding contributor of Kinfolk magazine, she is extremely well written, well read (she turned me on to Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements), has serious photography skills, a fine sense of humor and an obvious love of travel. The thing that initially caught my attention, I mean, really made my ears perk up, were her shots of a recent trip to Iceland. After browsing through these dreamy, perfectly desolate and otherworldly scenes my lust for touring and trekking was completely kicked into high gear. I look forward to seeing her work and wanderings in the future. Consider me a fan. I hope you find yourself one too.

September 21, 2012

carrot bread

Last weekend in an attempt to use a bunch of carrots I had in my fridge, I whipped up a carrot bread. I also threw in half an apple, a handful of walnuts and another handful of golden raisins just to add some flavor, texture and dimension. It was a really easy adaptation and combonation of some other cake/bread recipes I have tried.

Start by mixing together the dry ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Add the wet ingredients, one at a time:
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup of oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
1-2 cups of carrots (or other vegetable... I used one cup + the additional ingredients I mentioned above)

Mix together well and pour into a lightly greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to one hour. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center. The bread will be complete when the toothpick is clean. You don't want it too overdone as it may dry out. I find it to be delightful breakfast! Enjoy!!

Also this weekend is the start of the annual Sausage Fest at the Standard Tap. If you haven't gone before, you have been missing out and should make every effort to get in there. Take my word... it's worth it!

September 19, 2012

pin it on

my work space
I have a penchant for order and cataloging. I can't help but think everything should have it's place. This trait has me often invited into friends homes for day long organizing sessions. Two of my favorite past times are cleaning up my workspace and rearranging furniture in a room.  Many, many years ago, before I owned a laptop, I would sometimes horde magazines until there would come a point when I would purge them but not without flipping through each one and making tears of my favorite images, ideas and inspirations. Once a pile had accumulated, the sheets would be organized into a book. I still have this book and occasionally sometimes add to it. After I got my computer, I started doing the same thing with images I would find online. Folders with different labels soon cluttered my desktop until I started uploading them to a tumblr account. After about 4 years of continually adding images I found and reposting others, I broke down and joined the sister site to tumblr, pinterest. I have been really enjoying the format of pinterest, mostly because it has a very clean and basic format and allows you to be as organized as you want. Have a look and feel free follow or to leave a comment! See you over there...

September 17, 2012

wings & scarabs

Here is a sampling of one of my latest obsessions... illustrations from the enigmatic French turn-of-the-century artist, E.A. Séguy. I would surely love to have at least one of these prints hanging in my home. Have a gander while I try and visualize how the bathroom may look wallpapered with these beauties.