“Thinking about making ricotta is only marginally easier than actually making it.” The New York Times
I have been thinking of making my own ricotta for years. Whenever fresh homemade ricotta is on a restaurant menu, we order it and usually swoon while enjoying it. Well I finally took the plunge. I recalled reading it was so easy to make: milk, vinegar and salt. Continue reading
“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”
Harriet Ann Jacobs
Every spring, just as the lilacs in my gardens fade away, my beloved fringe tree comes to life. It is my most eagerly anticipated garden show. The fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, from the Greek chion and anthus meaning “snow flower”, is a native tree and does well in zones 3 to 9. It grows slowly from 12-20 feet high and equally wide. Because it has a beautiful curvilear form with branches that appear to spread and curl similarly to a willow, it should be planted as a specimen tree with plenty of space for it to stretch out its limbs.
You can see a lilac peeking behind the fringe tree which has just started to go into bud stage.
The graceful, delicate branches of the fringe tree in early spring budding stage.
Come May, its green buds open up to the most magnificent feathery fringes of white flowers that are suspended beneath the branches.
And the fragrance! Intoxicating! I have been known to throw impromptu gatherings when the fringe tree is blooming. I find the fragrance is more pronounced at night and with its white flowers, this is the perfect ornamental tree for a garden space you enjoy in the evening. If you are lucky to have a breeze blowing when the fringe tree is at peak blooming, the swaying of its fleecy clusters of flowers is just mesmerizing. This beauty requires little maintenance once established. It should be planted in well-drained soil in a sunny location but it can tolerate part shade. I have never pruned my 17 year old tree other than occasionally cutting a sucker-type of new growth near the soil. In the fall, its leaves turn a soft golden color. It is truly a remarkable addition to any garden space. Photos do not do it justice. I hope you can find a fringe tree blooming near you and stop and smell its jasmine-like perfume!
Whenever I have guests who are gluten-free coming to my home, I tend to panic and worry about what I can prepare for a sweet treat. I shouldn’t because I have made many delicious gluten-free desserts over the years. I thought it would be easier to find these recipes if they were all corralled in one place, hence this 16-recipe round-up. From virtuous pistachio-encrusted chocolate-dipped dried apricots, to a decadent, show-stopping flourless chocolate torte, these desserts have been tested and are crave-worthy. Click on the highlighted link to access the recipes.
1- Frozen Banana Cherry Ice Cream
“The lime trees were in bloom. But in the early morning, only a faint fragrance drifted through the garden, an airy message, an aromatic echo of the dreams during the short summer night.” Isak Dinesen
Citrus desserts are my favorite. Key Lime pies, Lemon tarts, lemon squares, yes please! When I came across these lime squares made with a pistachio crust, I knew I’d have to make them. With triple layers of lime flavor, they have a satisfying tartness. Not too sweet with a lovely nuttiness to the crust and a silky smooth filling, they were delicious albeit a bit crumbly. Continue reading
“It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” Rainer Maria Rilke
This recipe comes from one of Canada’s most popular cookbook authors, Greta Podleski, from her cookbook, “Yum & Yummer: Ridiculously tasty recipes that’ll blow your mind but not your diet!”. The salad has a cult following and it is easy to see why: it has color, crunch, mega nutrutious creds, great fiber and tons of texture in a super flavorful apple cider vinaigrette with maple and mustard. It is gluten free, vegan, raw and vegetarian to satisfy today’s dietary needs. I was treated to the salad at a recent dinner at my niece Vanessa’s, a gifted cook. In a delicious meal, it was this salad that we were all swooning over! It has become her go-to potluck dish. The massaging of the kale with your fingers might seem weird but Podleski insists it is a necessary step to tenderize the kale. Use organic kale if you can find it. Continue reading
“While we often think of plants as giving a garden definition, it may be more accurate to say that light holds its complete identity. Without light, there is no color, no line, no shape, no form. Darkness swallowing a garden whole, enfolding its shadowy depths, where it lies in wait to be reborn in the morning.” P Allen Smith
During long winter months, gardeners itching to get their hands dirty are often going through garden catalogues dreaming of what to plant. With a barren landscape to ponder, take your armchair garden designing in another direction this year. Look at your space with a fresh, critical eye to study its structure, flow and function. Think of how many hours you actually enjoy your garden space. For many of us, daylight hours are spent away from our outdoor spaces. Ask yourself what would make it easier to use the garden at night? What would make your garden come to life after sundown? How can you extend the use of your garden by adding lighting? How can you make your outdoor spaces an inviting destination after dark? In hotter climates, being able to enjoy a garden at night when it is cooler is of utmost importance. Is your goal to dine al fresco more often? Do you want to sit quietly in a mood lit corner after dark to enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee? Your outdoor spaces can enchant by day and seduce by night when adding the right kind of lighting. Continue reading
“Let them eat cake.” Marie Antoinette
This Nigella Lawson cake was popular about 15 years ago and I had forgotten all about it. Unfortunate since, as far as cakes go, this one is a simple 5-ingredient recipe, full of healthy ingredients with no added fat and little sugar. And soooo good! The batter is made up of ground almonds and whole clementines. Nigella says to cook the clementines for 2 hours. I made the cake twice this month, once by cooking the oranges as directed and a second time by just bringing them to a boil and cooking them 10 minutes in roiling water. The result was the same as far as taste, texture, moisture of the cake with a huge time saving. I also made it in a bundt pan the first time and it was impossible to separate. The springform is a must with this recipe. This is a totally delicious unfussy snacking cake that is super fast to make. I served mine with a dollop of yogurt. Variations on the theme: substitute lemons or Meyer lemons for the clementines. Everyone loved it!
Salads are a staple in my world but come winter, I crave the complex favors of roasted seasonal vegetables instead of cold salads. This salad was inspired by New Orleans chef John Sinclair featured in the WSJ recently. I modified his ingredients to what I had on hand and substituted juicy blood oranges for his grapefruit. Gorgeous squash, sweet potatoes, fennel, red onion and brussel sprouts are oven roasted with warming spices like chili powder, cumin and fennel seeds. Then bright citrus notes are layered in with blood oranges. A topping of crunchy toasted squash seeds and pistachios finish off the salad. There is so much to fall in love with in this meal salad! The recipe lends itself beautifully to all kinds of substitution in the ingredients, spices and citrus toppings so that you can make it over and over in various combinations and never tire of it. There is no need for vinaigrette as the olive oil of the roasting will have coated the vegetables and the acidity and brightness of the blood oranges and their juice will be enough contrast to make the salad truly sing. Here’s how I made mine
“Missouri Ann ate her bit of orange slowly. “Tastes like summer,” she said.” Sandra Dallas
In the heart of winter, this colorful trifle will awaken your palate with its bright citrus flavors and the bite of ginger. As far as trifles go, this one is pretty healthy. The creamy layers are made with Greek yogurt and mascarpone cheese, flavored with orange zest and sweetened with a mere soupçon of honey. The ladyfingers are dipped in the juice of the fruit. Ginger adds a nice spicy contrast to the citrus while boasting great anti inflammatory properties. It is a stunningly beautiful dessert that is good for you too. I served it at a brunch where it received rave reviews. Dig in!
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.” Edith Sitwell
This hearty soup has all the great flavors of cabbage rolls without all the work. Essentially deconstructed cabbage rolls, it is made stovetop, a one-pot meal. Loaded with heart healthy cabbage in a rich tomato broth, it is more stew than soup. You can make it with ground beef or ground turkey. I seasoned mine with bay leaves, dill and parsley but go with the flavors you are partial to from your favorite cabbage roll recipe. Ready in about a half hour, it is a warming cold weather dish everyone will want to dig into. Hearty and filling, no one will suspect it is low calorie. So good. Grab a bowl! Continue reading