Wish you could create a rooftop vegetable garden like Chef J.W. Foster of the Fairmont Hotel, in San Francisco? Get yourself a copy of Lauren Mandel’s EAT UP: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture. read more…
family + friends
(Video link here.) We’ve written in the past about the virtues of hula-hooping as exercise. But we’ve never seen SUCH an inspiring example as Grace Jones, age 65-ish, performing Slave to the Rhythm at Roseland. Amazing body, energy, joy…
If you crank the music up and have a hula hoop on hand (or just feel like a dance break), it’s the perfect rhythm to be a slave to for a while… read more…
The headnote to Dorie Greenspan‘s crazy-simple, unbelievably good ‘M. Jacque’s Armagnac Chicken’ begins “This recipe, une petite merveille (a little marvel), as the French would say...”. The recipe IS une merveille, taking almost no work to make, with the most ordinary of ingredients, yielding spectacular results, as we discovered when cooking dinner for friends the other night. Chicken and vegetables cook at once so you only need serve a salad and a great dessert (We recommend Sally’s chocolate cake.) We only got as far as photographing “the before”, above. All thought taking an “after” fell by the wayside with the heavenly aroma of the finished dish, and very good wine. We found a picture of the finished dish at Bake Away With Me.
The recipe is, very simply, a life essential; have it in your head and you’re covered for life. read more…
Truth be known, I have been composing food right on my kitchen worksurface for many years. As a food writer, I enjoyed the big palate the worksurface offered, perfect for combining elements and creating new combinations, both visual and gustatory. So when I renovated ‘the improvised life’s laboratory kitchen, I chose white Corian for the new worksurface, as much for its pristine whiteness as for cost/value. But all my composing-on-the-surface was done in private for recipes-in-process. I’d never viewed it as a way to serve guests UNTIL I read about caterer Pinch Food Design‘s custom-built Chef’s Table: a borderless, food-safe silicone surface that easily squeegees clean; it’s supported by sawhorses made of crown moulding that emulates the flowing lines of a tablecloth, adding warmth without the need for actual fabric.
At parties, Pinch’s chef’s compose their dishes directly on it, allowing guests to experience the creation of food as performance, “an engaging presentation that brings the kitchen out to the party”. read more…
This weekend when we go to the farmer’s market, we will have Tubetti Pasta with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans from Sally’s award-winning cookbook A New Way to Cook in mind. It the perfect spring-into-summer pasta recipe because it lends itself to endless improvisation, depending on what look’s best in the market, or how much energy we have.
It plays on an essential principle of improvisational cooking: most foods harvested in the same season — in this case asparagus, morel mushrooms, and various members of the pea family— have an affinity for one another.
The recipe is built on a basic technique: braising the vegetables in a flavorful fat and a little water, then tossing them together with small tubetti pasta and fresh herbs. If you’re pressed for time, use the essential method as a foundation and use only one or two of the vegetables or whatever else looks good in the market. Or swap out like vegetables: use other firm mushrooms like maitake instead of morels.
Shucking fava beans or peas can be a delight when done with friends, but if you’re pressed for time, frozen peas are a fine stand-in.
For those who want to improvise, here’s the basic approach: read more…
This image of sneakers worn during the Boston Marathon is the cover of the current Boston Magazine. It was the idea of the magazine’s design director Brian Struble; the magazine sent out tweets and Facebook posts asking runners to submit images of their shoes, along with personal stories. Here’s Brian’s thinking:
To me the cover is about two things: perseverance and unity. By itself, each shoe in the photograph is tiny, battered, and ordinary. Together, though, they create something beautiful, powerful, and inspirational. Remove just one shoe and you begin to diminish, in some small way, the overall effect. Collectively, they are the perfect symbol for Boston, and for our response to the bombings.
Over the years, just about every place we’ve lived has had hardwood floors. They’ve ranged from prewar bleached and polyeurathaned oak to white “pickled” new oak and lately, off-white, high-gloss painted slightly rough plywood. For all those years, we’ve searched for the best way to clean our floors without damaging the protective surface. Since New York City is a fairly dirty place, a simple dry-mopping won’t do; the dust that settles on the floor needs to be washed away or it will get ground into the surface (and our bare feet). The classic string mop is hard to wring out and doesn’t seem able to handle shoe marks very well.
We’ve written about the unexpected stylishiness of stacked logs before but love this particularly charming and effective storage for firewood and fallen timber: a fence of stacked logs (snapped by Susan Jacobson as she drove by in her car).
(Video link here.) Above, a trailer for Deceptive Practice, the new documentary about brilliant sleight-of-hand master Ricky Jay. For a totaly entertaining read, check out this 1993 New Yorker profile of Jay by Mark Singer.
For those of us haunted by the instantaneous life changes that occurred to so many wounded in the Boston bombing, The Times’ heartening article about new technologies and therapies for amputees.
And a fund you can contribute to for those most affected by the bombing (prosthetics and rehab costs A LOT).
On Sprinkles and Springs, we came across this diy striped tee inspired by the modish tee-shirt Marc Jacobs recently featured in his chic, stripey collection. It is a great example of I COULD MAKE THAT thinking that has infiltrated many a clever head. Sprinkles and Springs saw it and figured out how using a plain white tee shirt, masking tape and fabric paint. And then she generously posted a how-to that you could use to make Jacobs-ish stripes or your own graphic pattern (the method would also work fine on jeans, slipcovers, pillows, many fabrics…) read more…
(Video link here.) Mike Breach never knew he was an artist, until he started working as a barrista. He discovered that the foamed milk inspired him to draw in cappucinos and lattes. The way he found his unique expression seems like kismet to us.
If you’d like to try your hand at drawing in milk froth but need a palette to begin with, we find battery-powered milk frothers make an easy way to make a thick foam. Follow Breach’s basic method, pick up a skewar or a toothpick and then…see what happens.
(We’re thinking kids could do it with a rich cup of cocoa….)
Related posts: the coffee improvisations (pt 1) + oscarina’s old brazil brewing method
the coffee improvisations (pt 2): roasting your own
the oddness and power of real cook’s tools
kramer’s coffee table book (imaginary d-i-y)
coffee-can pot as mystery + reminder
Suddenly realizing that Easter is just a couple of days away, we started thinking Easter eggs, the symbol of the day both Christian and pagan. Immediately, photographer Tessa Traeger’s egg series came to mind. All eggs collected from various birds, they provide inspiration for egg decorating from Nature. Witness Livet Hamma’s diy spatter-painted eggs below. Easy-to-do, freeform, and potentially really beautiful (with one caveat*).
If, like us, you have been slow to get your Easter act together, look below for last-minute strategies, recipes and ideas. read more…
In the past month or so, two readers of ‘improvised life’ sent beautiful virtual bouquets in the form of emailed jpgs. You might think that a cyber bouquet would have little of the power or effect of a real one, but we’ve got to say, NOT SO.
Part of the reason they were each so powerful was that they were unexpected: thoughtful, handmade gifts of beauty from people who we’d never met, but are connected to through ‘the improvised life’; they sent them to express concern, care, appreciation for the work we do.
The first were some hyancinths from Sahana, a long-time reader and thoughtful Commenter; it came out-of-the-blue when we’d abruptly taken the site dark in order to recuperate from the flu. We felt like a friend had sent us flowers. In fact, she had.