Tuesday, July 28, 2009

woodland bouquet

Bouquets in the rough
Many are travelling this time of year, far away from favorite florists or flower stands. Hopefully, you'll come across some splendid blooms at a local farmers market or one of those charming roadside stands where you drop your money "honor system" into a can before leaving with a colorful nosegay.

If none of these options present themselves, worry not. Look around, with a snip here and there of things that catch your eye in your remote getaway a woodland bouquet can be yours!

In a bucket filled with water we started with some low branchy- branches with items of interest (green plums and pine cones). This layer serves as a natural flower "frog" and gives support to taller branches which will be added later.

Into the base layer we added a layer of slightly taller Madrona branches, this adds a shiny green element to the bouquet and more stability for the taller branches.

With the sturdy base in place, the bouquet starts taking shape with a variety of colors and textures.

Tall bunches of lavender (we've cut bunches from the plant, not individual stems);

a twist of wild honeysuckle;

taller branches laden with more green plums;

a long strand of blackberries, tucked into the bouquet on one side and then looped around and tucked in again to cover the bouquet with bright red jewels;

branches with these lovely little green gems;

A much smaller version would be delightful to wake up to on a bedside table on sinkside.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Herb gardenspiration

How does your garden grow?

One of the great luxuries of summer is the abundance of fresh produce and herbs from the garden. It's much more pleasing to spontaneously pluck the ideal sprigs of this or that for dinner or a garnish, than to finger through your options in the plastic grab-box from the grocery!

While plucking, one enjoys the fragrance of the sun warming the oils in the herb plants or tomato vines -- nature's incense.

While some started months ago with seeds and grow lights, it truly is not too late to start an herb or produce garden.

The good news about starting now is that, while some of us have been busy just been thinking about it, our local nurseries have been carefully tending to our future garden plants, ensuring the they are as hardy and healthy as can be.

In this post we'll visit a variety of gardens, from the most intense to the ultimate non-maintenance garden (a lazy ladies delight!)

The first garden is the creation of a very passionate gardener, his preparation and devotion transitions into abundant results.

These photos were taken in early spring.

Beans are grown on a tee-pee formation of poles.

Landscaping carpet covers the ground, an "X" is cut in the carpet to allow the desired plants to grow through. Weeds do not receive the light, but water can filter through.

Using a removable plastic cover and this rich compost tea, one can enjoy vine ripened tomatoes through the shoulder seasons.

A raised bed full of rocket, or arugula.

Marigolds attract the bugs which would normally attack the tender leaf lettuce.

Espalier is a beautiful and space efficient way to grow fruit. Against a building or fence the plants receive extra warmth which helps the fruit to thrive.

Drip irrigation throughout allows ultimate ease, note how the doors on the end are closed, but can be opened for full or partial ventilation and to adjust the temperature.

Strawberry fields forever.

Next, we hop across the pond to France. Versailles is just an hour or so outside of Paris and well worth a visit. Allow 2 days to really see it all.

Marie Antoinette found she needed an escape the formality of the Chateau de Versailles and Petit Trianon, so beyond the rowing lake, she had her private Hameau constructed, where only friends were invited.

The main semi-circle building was built around an artificial lake. She loved to stroll the connecting walkway to observe the farming activities and animals. Her quarters were to the left.

The dozen thatched roof buildings on the property were faux painted with imitation cracks, splits and false half timbering. Carved mossy stones decorated the gardens.
Grand gardens from the 16th and 17th century royal palaces such as Versailles were filled with herbs and vegetables grouped together in boxes, rather than rows to emphasize the color, texture and foliage of the plants.
This garden, framed in boxwood with squares of herbs and vegetables is a perfect example of this style. Flowers were often used in patterns to create a geometric tapestry in the gardens.

How lovely to be able to devote an entire garden section to parsley the "most over used and under appreciated" herb. Acres of land were often devoted to these beautiful and productive gardens.
This method of gardening, oftentimes near the kitchen was imitated on a smaller scale throughout France and beyond and is called a potager, or kitchen garden.
A couple more peeks at the hamlet before we continue our garden story...In the thicket chickens and rabbits cool themselves in the soil.

Visitors are not allowed inside the Hameau buildings, but the furnishings are reported to be just as grand as in the chateau.
Let's hope she also had a sizable group of needlepoint benches with the Napoleon bee like these!

A grape arbor covered a connecting walkway, providing shade and an afternoon snack.

This potager is splendid for those with limited space. There is no room for rows. Situated near the kitchen, it is easily accessible for harvesting and maintaining. Because it is heavily planted, opportunities for weeds are limited.
Basil, tarragon, chives, thyme, parsley and sage co-mingle with a couple of heirloom tomato plants, and a bay tree in training.

For success in such tight quarters, all dead leaves should be pinched on a regular basis, allowing for air to flow and discouraging rot.
When planting be sensitive to the amount of light each plant will need and receive. Sun lovers can provide shade to those that may wilt in the heat.

Vines placed around the perimeter maximize the space and add vertical and eventually, horizontal interest.
In preparation for Autumn, a few pumpkin vines have been planted, they'll stretch across the courtyard and supply festive color and texture come fall. An antique gate supports raspberry canes and a small piece of fencing is home to a rambling, climbing white rose.

Pots are a compact way to keep herbs close at hand, they can live outdoors or in a kitchen window.

Favorite herbs can also be combined with flowers to make a pleasing, pluckable pot.

A bushel of tomatoes in a decorative pot?

Why not?
The Splendid Market team is about to set sail on the Salish Sea (well, start a motor, actually). So, we've planted a galley potager to take along.

Inspired, but not running out the door to the closest nursery??
Following is the ultimate low effort path to enjoying gardeners gratification.
The Votivo Fresh Tomato Leaf candle smells just as your skin does after coming in contact with a living tomato vine. Click on the name of the scent to order from their site.

Lay out a cute pair of gardening gloves with a matching hat, light the candle and consider yourself a gardener at heart!

Monday, July 20, 2009

icy orbs

A Splendid Chill Pill

Feeling a little cooler?

While travelling in Japan last summer we marveled at the icy spheres used in our beverage glasses at several restaurants. Unfortunately, our limited language skills didn't allow us to learn the secret behind these splendid orbs.

Upon our arrival home we were greeted with stacks of catalogues and thankfully chose to read the edition from the MOMA store -- mystery solved! These pink plastic ice tray molds create the beautiful crystal spheres we found to be so mesmerizing. The cost is $16.00 for a set of two (which makes a total of four frosty balls).

The directions were in Japanese, but with a little trial and error we learned how to make them. Here's how:

Fill the lower piece of the tray full of water.

Place the top part on top of the water and gently press it all the way down to rest on the bottom piece. Some water will spill out of the holes on top.

Put the tray in the freezer for a few hours to freeze.
When frozen, take the set out and run a little hot water over the exterior. We've found that leaving it at room temperature for about 5 minutes makes it easier to remove the ice.
Lift off the top, twist and turn the tray to release the ice.

Keep a couple sets loaded and ready to go in your freezer. Start a few days before and make a bowl full for your next party. Frozen orbs can be stored in the freezer in zip lock bags until needed.

Put that in your g&t and sip it!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sizzling Insalata Caprese

A Splendid Summer side dish

The classic Insalata Caprese takes on a softer texture and caramelized sweetness when the tomatoes are roasted on a slate stone. A slate stone can be bought at a stone yard (it needs to be washed and seasoned).

Also, Sur la Table sells a piastra (the Italian term for cooking on slate, in France it is called pierrade). Details for washing and seasoning the stone can be found in the recipe for Tuna Steaks au Pierrade in the culinary section.

Insalata Caprese, Sizzling

Ingredients3 roma tomatoes, stem sliced off and cut ½
1 large ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced and cut into 1" squares
8 large basil leaves, chiffonnade
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


In serving bowl, toss tomato halves in the olive oil, salt and pepper

Heat slate stone or piastra on grill, brush stone with olive oil
Place tomatoes cut side down and allow to cook until the surface turns a shade of pale orange and is soft but not collapsing
Use a spatula to gently turn tomato halves
Cook on skin side until soft and marked on the skin

To chiffonnade basil: wash and dry leaves,
stack leaves, then roll them up together and thinly slice into ribbons.
Put tomatoes back into serving bowl with oil, add mozzarella and basil
Toss and serve

Salad Caprese Sizzling on Foodista