The Personal Palette

We all have a personal palette.  Fashionistas say all colors are a go. But there are those colors that make us want to sink right in, and relax. Although my painting palette is a rainbow of color, my personal palette is earth tones, accentuated  with the warm side of the color wheel: reds, oranges and grays.

My palette also includes the color that contains all color, black, and the absence (so-called) of color, white.  Just look in your closet and around your interior spaces. You will  immediately recognize your personal palette.

 

I know that my fondness for cardboard grew from my personal palette: it’s the color.  I even see my palette in culinary choices. I love bringing as much color as possible to the food I prepare. But once in a while it startles me when I recognize the subtle overlay of my personal palette settling in, even in the kitchen!

These bars are a good example. An old fashioned cookie translated into a  simple, comfortable sweet treat in my personal palette. Perfect!

Snickerdoodle Bars

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Cinnamon Filling

1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

 

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350˚.
Spray the bottom only of a 9 x 13 pan.

 

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk slightly to mix. Set aside.

Beat butter on high speed until creamy.
Beat in sugars.
Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.
Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined.

Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the pan, and spread evenly.

Sprinkle evenly with the Cinnamon Filling.

Dollop teaspoons of the remaining batter evenly over the cinnamon filling. Gaps will show, but the batter spreads to form a marbled appearance with the filling showing through.
Bake 20-25 min, until golden and a tester inserted in the center comes outclean. Try not to overbake these.  Cool completely for 1 hour. Cut before glazing, but leave in pan.

Prepare glaze in a small bowl, stirring ingredients until smooth and adding more or less liquid as necessary to creat a consistancy that will drizzle.
Drizzle over bars, and let the glaze set.

Can be frozen with glazed.

 

 

Eat! Oysters In May…..

“Eat! Design With Food” documents the results of creative projects that “in their own way have an impact on culinary tradition”.

“Eating is a cultural asset that reflects the spirit and lifestyle of a society, so there is great aesthetic interest in the preparation, display and marketing of food. Reason enough to feature this subject in the 6th edition of the EIGA trend diary series.
The design calendar documents the exciting results of creative work which, in turn, influences food culture. Be it product, graphics or interior design, an architectural project or fine art.”

Editors: EIGA Design, Henning Otto, Elisabeth Plass

 

I’m honored to be be included, along with 53 other designers, artists and typographers, in this beautiful calendar. Oysters On The Half Shell is the  featured art the week of May 21-27.  From the elegant laser cut and embossed silver cover, to the creatively delicious art and design, Eat! Design With Food:  it’s completely yummy!

The Joy Of Looking

When I was young, I would sit in the kitchen and watch while my Mother prepared meals. It seemed to me a very mysterious process. There were so many parts required: kitchen tools, books, time, and of course ingredients. I was  left to wonder how did it all fit together to create a meal.

 

Of course it wasn’t long before I jumped in too. I began by arranging the ‘parts’ into pleasing patterns on the table. These were abstract collections of books; spoons; knives; wrapped and fresh ingredients; pots and pans. Today I would  call this a still life set up! This early influence can be seen in my kitchenscape paintings.

I have never outgrown my love of kitchen bits and pieces. To my eye they are artful. And the only reason I haven’t over collected is budget and space. But that doesn’t stop me from looking.

 

One of my favorite ‘parts’ places  to look, and poke, around is Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. This is not your average kitchen store. It looks like a rather nondescript strip mall shop from the outside. But once you walk through the doors, it instantly becomes a magical place full of nooks and crannies with treasures waiting to be discovered. It’s also a  well kept secret  that this shop is visited by most of Seattle’s food professionals!

 

The owner, Greil, is the second generation of this family to run the shop. She happily dispenses  all manner of baking and pastry advice, while opening boxes and stocking unending shipments of products she receives from all over the world.  If you have been looking long and hard for special sized dragées, unique colored sanding sugars or ‘never been seen’ cupcake papers, this is the place. There is no web presence, email, or answering machine. But if you call, Greil knows every item in the shop and she ships worldwide.

 

Look what I couldn’t resist from the shop! I’m sure my Mother would understand.

Home Cake Decorating Supply Co.: 206-522-4300

 

Squeezed

The lovely lemon has a recorded history dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome. It was brought to the new world in the 16th Century. Aren’t we lucky! We use it not only for brightening flavors but also medicinal purposes. It even has an artist’s paint color named after it:  Lemon Yellow. All cooks are crazy about this magical pantry staple.

I love lemons to enliven flavors; as a stand alone dessert filling; candied; and zested or peeled for that explosive punch of color on a plate. And it’s the only pantry item I can think of that has this association: squeezed.

This is why it’s been front and center in my mind. We all know the pressure of being squeezed: time; space; ideas; both real and virtual. I have been carefully navigating  the shoals of studio work and readying the house for a move in the future. It’s no wonder this word popped into my mind.

It’s fitting that it has taken me 8 months to finish this piece:  “Lemon Meringue Pie Slice”.  True, part of this delay was locating the right cardboard. Another was placing my non-commissioned pieces on the back burner while waiting for “time” that had been squeezed out of my schedule, to appear.

As I watched the little streams of juice trickle between my clenched fingers to pool  in my bowl, it suddenly became my visualization.  The perfect image of a certain kind of pressure for the kitchen inclined.

Squeezing lemons clearly illustrated that the current pressures would yield exactly what I needed in the future. Drop by drop the juice would meld together the flavors of the lemon cilantro pesto I was preparing. Being squeezed by these crazy constraints  will extract just what is needed for the move to go forward.

Lemon Cilantro Pesto

Zest and juice of 2 small lemons
1/2 cup toasted almonds
4 cups fresh cilantro leaves loosely packed
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino

1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor fitted with steel blade attachment, blend first 5 ingredients until coarsely chopped.

Drizzle in the olive oil in a slow stream while the processor is running, until finely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper.

Makes approx 2 cups.

This pesto is very stiff.  Set aside a little pasta water after draining your pasta, to loosen the sauce.

The Orange Messenger

It was late May,  really not that long ago.  The low gray sky and heavy clouds were barely filtering the sun on a cold wet Saturday morning. It was another dreary visit to the Farmers Market on the wettest recorded Spring in 70 years.

I love potatoes and turnips, and I arrived expecting to see their broad palette of browns, muted reds, and pale yellows which always follow a drawn out winter and cold Spring. But this visit gave me my first  hint of color, and with it the fruit and veggies yet to come. The artist’s hope can reside in color!  On this visit, the color was orange, and the produce was baby carrots.

Spring, although late, had finally arrived.  Soon I would be able to slather butter on my radish baguettes and anticipate that first bite of my fresh tomato tart.

I scooped up several bunches of baby carrots.  I love the incredible sweetness, the tenderness with just a little crunch, and the versatility of this earliest Spring veggie. You can eat it raw as a snack or in salads, or barely cook it as an addition to any dish.

I wanted to celebrate these carrots as the harbinger of a long awaited Spring with a simple recipe.  I have made this so often I no longer use a recipe: a splash here and a pinch there. This preparation lets the carrots shine in color and flavor. I sauteed them gently in butter, and when barely tender stir in a little sugar and balsamic vinegar to taste. For an added contrast in flavor and color I toss in chopped chives at the end, and viola! A delicious Spring welcome.

Balsamic Glazed Baby Carrots

1 lb baby carrots, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoons sugar ( or to taste)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Balsamic (or to taste)
2 Tablespoons chopped chives or sauteed  shallots

Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add carrots.

Saute until tender-crisp.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve!

I have substituted honey for sugar, shallots or onions for chives, and apple cider vinegar for Balsamic and it’s always delicious! Also good cold in salads!

Miss Heaton’s Art Class Creates a Cardboard Kitchen!

I was recently contacted by Miss Heaton, a secondary art school teacher from the U.K. Her class wanted to create sweets as a project, but were finding it a challenge to draw two dimensional cakes and sweets.

Miss Heaton explained that although it was a challenge for the class to draw sweets, they found  “cardboard sculpture exciting and creatively freeing”.  After viewing The Cardboard Kitchen online, the class was inspired to set up their own Cardboard Kitchen.

So with a few tips from The Cardboard Kitchen cookbook, these young artists created an elegant selection of yummy desserts. I think you will agree, these beautiful treats are amazing!

Congratulations to all, including the gifted teacher Miss Heaton. It takes a talented teacher to inspire gifted young artists!

Above: Ahmed, age 13 (left); Shan, age 13 (right)

Above: Jack, age 13

Above: Tom, age 13

Above: LeShae, age 13

Above: Charlotte, age 13

Miss Heaton’s art class bakery display!

Cheese Chat

From the perfect selection on a trolley that’s wheeled around ‘fine dining’ establishments, to the orange day- glow product extruded from an aerosol can, when it comes to cheese there is something for everyone.

Be it artisanal or lowbrow, melting creaminess or plastic wrapped slices, the variety of  choices is seemingly endless. And most astonishing of all: it originates from the same product, milk.

For the artist, all the usual descriptive qualities are present: color, texture and shape. If I then mix in the interpretive characteristics, such as creamy; sweet; complex; rich; sharp; etc.,  this ancient food that crosses all cultures becomes a still life subject of infinite exploration, deserving of canvas and paint.

The cheese, as they say, stands alone.

Space, The Final Frontier

Warning all ‘Trekkers’: this is about blasting off but not from terra firma. It’s about space in the studio, and why I may not be as active on my blog in the coming months.

One of my favorite blog posts is by Smitten Kitchen, in which she describes how she maximizes, organizes and utilizes her less than galley sized kitchen.

It’s not working so smoothly in the Art On The Menu space. Here I have divided my space into stacks of cardboard; bins of colored cardboard pieces; an easel space which limits me to rather small scale paintings; paint storage; odds and ends of reference files and my lovely large pneumatic  drawing table

upon which I create all of my cardboard sculpture. I also bring up extra tables from the basement  which I then use for photographing sculpture and food. When photographing in the studio, all else gets pushed to the wall in order to create a clear center space for lights, table, and action!

It’s now so full,  I have expanded and I am currently packing art for shipping in the basement. My office is relegated to a 40 sq.ft. area previously used as a mud porch.

Alas, it’s time to move. The rest of the year will be spent prepping, painting, and remodeling bits and pieces of my current house. Between my regular posts, I will keep you all informed with updates.

Space is the final frontier in this little abode. But this  1,000 sq ft house has served me well.

Peace In A Cookie? Part 2

I still write my initial blog notes with pen and paper. And sometimes, I just can’t pick up that pen. The words just aren’t there. During the last ‘pen-less’ three weeks I also watched as a human rights revolution, and celebration, spread across the Mid-East and North Africa.

I thought I had nothing to say, but it was now obvious to me that this was the perfect time to re-visit, and bake, my Peace Cookies.

I explored the Peace Cookie in a recent post, and after researching options on the internet, I complied a list of variations. Since many blogs have been written about the Dorie Greenspan chocolate sable Peace Cookie, I decide to bake the Croatian Peace Cookie. This cookie was a cream cheese pastry with a jam filling. While staying in the spirit of the original, I did find myself redesigning this recipe.

I began by substituting my own cream cheese pastry for the original cookie pastry when I discovered the original recipe was incomplete. After making one batch I  changed the size of the original cookie, a 3″ square was just a mouthful of pastry, trimming it down to a  2″ square which was the perfect two bite size.

But the most important change of all, and in solidarity with our Mid- Eastern/North African sisters and brothers, I changed the filling to a mixture of fig preserves, dates and almonds.

I rounded out this little cookie with a brush of egg glaze and sprinkle of sugar to hold it together, and give it shine after baking. A much prettier finish than just a dusting of powdered sugar, which is what the original recipe called for.

The original cookie was a Croatian family recipe. It was published along with the following notation: “Each cookie is a prayer for peace for all people living in war torn and repressed nations.”

I’m so happy I decided to double the recipe. Double the Peace!

‘Redesigned’ Croatian Peace Cookie

Makes 4-5 doz

Pastry: ( can be carefully rerolled  two times)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 8- oz package cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Whisk salt and flour together.

Using stand or electric mixer, beat butter and cheese until light.

Beat in sugar until mixture is fluffy.

Mix in flour/salt until dough can be gathered together. It will be soft.

Divide the dough, forming into 2 equal square shapes, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour, or can be made a day ahead and chilled overnight.

If chilling overnight leave out until soft enough to roll.

Filling:

1 cup pitted chopped dates
2/3 cup fig jam
2/3 cup  chopped roasted, unsalted almonds
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix above together in a medium size bowl

1 egg, beaten
additional sugar

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350°

Flour your rolling surface.  I roll out this pastry on wide plastic wrap dusted with flour.

Roll out one chilled square of pastry  to 1/8″. If pastry was chilled more than one hour, leave out to soften until it is soft enough to roll.

Cut pastry into 2″ squares. ‘Gently’ re-knead and re-roll scraps to prevent dough from getting tough.

Lay out the 2″ squares so you can fill them assembly line style. See photo below.

Place one scant teaspoon of filling in the center of each square.

Bring opposite corners of the square to the middle, pressing the first corner down sightly onto the base, and overlapping the second corner.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Repeat process with second square of rested pastry.

Bake on an unlined, ungreased baking sheet for 20-25 min, or until bottoms and edges are golden brown.

Think Peace!

To Bake A Vision In The Cardboard Kitchen

Artists, musicians, writers, chefs and home cooks, or anyone in the midst of a creative endeavor would agree, inspiration is a mystery.

It can feel like floating through a delicious cloud, straining just a little to see an image that suddenly appears above the haze. Or, it can become a thick veil in which we become entangled. We thrash around with obscured vision until we break free and the image, word, flavor combination, musical notes, or theme becomes crystal clear.

So it goes in the cardboard kitchen. I recently found this lovely, deep cherry colored wine box.

What I envisioned was a towering, ambrosial multi- layered torte. My first inspiration was definitely the delicious cloud variety!

However, if there is a consistent theme in using recycled material, it is that cardboard is unpredictable. This beautiful cardboard would not cooperate. I was suddenly thrown into the thickly veiled cloud of inspiration, thrashing  around for another image.  Just when I was about to put this cardboard aside for another day, a friend gave me a box of Italian cookies. The cookies were so-so, but the box was the epitome of chocolate and vanilla, dusted with gold.

The solution: a scaled down version. I combined these two confection-flavored cardboard ingredients, and baked a ‘Swiss Pastry”.  Inspiration also works in mysterious ways.

And, I have lots of the  dark cherry cardboard left over, to bake with in the future!

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