1217P5 with ratatouille

Braque still life?

“This ends up looking in color like a Braque still life” says my 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking about Ratatouille Provencale, an eggplant casserole. In “Ratatouille,” the Pixar/Disney movie, the character Linguini says, “Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like ‘rat’ and ‘patootie.’ Rat-patootie.” Ratatouille is is both beautiful and delicious, one of my favorite late summer dishes.

fused glass plate with ratatoille vegetables
Garden vegetables for ratatouille
Saturday we had all the garden vegetables needed to prepare ratatouille for dinner: onions and garlic, peppers, eggplant, the last two zucchini, and a couple large tomatoes. Which reminds me of some “Ratatouille” dialogue.
Skinner: What are you doing in here?
Linguini: I’m just familiarizing myself with, you know, the vegetables and such.
Skinner: Get out. One can get too familiar with vegetables, you know!
While I don’t know what that means, I know I like vegetables and Ratatouille Provencal is all vegetable.

RatatouilleInPan_sq300px72ppi When I prepare ratatouille using the Joy recipe, I’m not fussy about the quantities of each vegetable. If one is in short supply, I’ll add a little more of another vegetable, just so they maintain balance. I also skip the step of peeling tomatoes and will use cherry tomatoes if no large tomatoes are ready to pick. When all the vegetables are sliced, diced, or chopped, I saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in a deep skillet. I transfer the golden onions and garlic temporarily to a dish and put the remaining vegetables into the pan in a couple layers, adding salt and pepper to each layer. After scattering the onions and garlic on top, I cover the skillet and simmer the whole works over very low heat for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

1217P5 with ratatouille
Ratatouille on “Glacier” platter
Then I uncover and simmer another 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. If it is not reducing fast enough, I transfer the vegetables to a lovely platter or bowl with a slotted spoon and then quickly cook down the juices before pouring the concentrated liquid over the ratatouille. I make enough to serve 6 or 8 persons; leftovers are good whether served hot or cold.

There is wisdom in the movie “Ratatouille” for both cooks and and artists. Gusteau says, “Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.” Braque was a fearless pioneer of cubism. Which Braque still life do you think my platter of ratatouille most resembles?

Georges Braque 1934 still life
Braque, Still Life with Red Tablecloth
still life by Georges Braque
Braque, Still Life with Palette
1938 Cubist still life by Braque
Braque, Studio with Black Vase
1941 still life by Georges Braque
Georges Braque, Mandolin and Score
1929 Cubist still life by George Braque
Braque, The Round Table
Georges Braque 1938 still life
Braque, Nature morte à la guitare

Four panels between lobby and Garden Room

No blues on Friday evening

Such a lovely evening we had Friday! Jay and I arrived at The Blue Shutters in time to take a few photos and eat dinner before our exhibit reception. (The chili-spiced sea bass and the herb-encrusted veal chop were delicious. So was my escarole soup and Jay’s beef consomme. Everything, including the service, was lovely. If you like to eat early, soup and dessert are complementary before 6 p.m. except Saturday.)

4 kiln-formed pieces on sideboard
Kiln-formed platters and bowl
Classic bowl and drop-out-ring bowl on left radiator
Two kiln-formed bowls
3 bowls on right radiator
Three kiln-formed bowls
4 panels
Stained glass panels

During the evening we met many new people and enjoyed the opportunities to talk about how we create both fused and stained glass, our glass sources, and some design inspirations. Several artist friends stopped by, too. A bonus was the opportunity to see and sniff Chef Guy Ciccone’s herb garden, ask him about a few specimens I couldn’t identify with certainty, and hear some of what he does with herbs. During the evening I noticed, passing by me on their way to diner’s tables, artfully plated meatloaf (yes! in a gourmet restaurant) graced with a tall flowering sprig of Thai basil.

Our glass will remain on exhibit in the front room of The Blue Shutters through October 1. The restaurant is open 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Blue Shutters is an historic building, so look around while you’re there.

Stained glass pane of: autumn tree

Showing at The Blue Shutters

This coming Friday evening, September 20, is the opening of a small exhibit of our work at The Blue Shutters.

Abstract design stained glass panel
Blue Shift
Stained glass panel with open area
Out of the Depths
Stained glass panel portraying cherry tree
Sweet Cherry
Stained glass pane of: autumn tree

We will show both stained glass and fused glass in the reception area.

11" fused glass serving bowl
Blue & Marigold Confetti classic bowl
Large platter in red, cream, and amber
Red and Pise platter
10" slumped square fused glass platter
Pale Olive with Chartreuse & Blue Rimations platter
Impressionist design serving bowl
Giverney in Green & Red fused glass bowl

The Blue Shutters is an upscale restaurant located on PA 435 in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania. In one evening you can see beautiful glass and have a lovely meal. Friday evening you can visit with us, too. The exhibit runs until October 1.

"Sea Circles on Lavender" pasta bowl with gound cherry cusatd pie

Ground cherry pies and memories

Instead of birthday cake I ate pie on Saturday. After picking ground cherries for a few weeks we had more than enough for two pies, so I baked on my birthday.

Ground cherries are a familiar fruit in my family. Apparently both Mom and Dad grew up eating ground cherries from their families’ gardens. My dad said that after my aunt Melie was living with our family she came home one day saying, “Guess what I found? Ground cherry seeds!” Melie was the chief family gardener while I was in elementary and high school, with my dad resuming charge of the garden when age slowed her down. By that time ground cherries were well established in the plot at the back of the yard. GroundCherryPlant_sq300px72ppi

Ground cherry seeds need to be planted only once; at least that’s so in the Midwest and in Pennsylvania. In subsequent years one need only watch for seedlings to emerge in the vicinity of where plants grew the previous year; they usually appear in late spring. Within a couple months the plants grow into sizable shrubs, spreading their branches out a couple feet in every direction. Fruit matures in August, with green lantern shells turning yellow and the cherry-size fruit inside also turning from green to yellow. As fruits ripen the “lanterns” fall to the ground where they are easy to gather. Because local chipmunks steal fruits from the ground, we check the plants almost every day and take any yellowing “lanterns” that drop when tugged gently. If left in their casings ground cherries will keep many weeks, their husks drying to a tan papery covering. We pile the fruits in a basket on the kitchen counter until we’re ready to use them.

"Sea Circles" short oval with unhusked ground cherries
Fresh ground cherries infused glass oval dish

My aunt Melie was also the baker of ground cherry pies that my family enjoyed at summer’s end. I don’t recall whether she made ground cherry jam along with other canned goodies. After I was married and visiting my parents from South Dakota or Pennsylvania, Dad and Mom took Jay and me on excursions into farm country around Hazleton Iowa. Amish farm families still sell their baked and canned goods, hand-woven rugs, woodworking, other crafts and general merchandise a few days a week. My parents would buy a ground cherry pie after Melie stopped baking and I would purchase several pints of ground cherry jam as gifts to myself and others.

Our son doesn’t like the seediness of ground cherries but our daughter loves the fruit. As a young child she claimed the task of picking up ground cherries when we worked in the garden. Since that was always her chore, doing it myself on the day after delivering her to college for the first time brought “empty nest” tears to my eyes. Now she’s a wife and mother who has taken ground cherry seedlings from our garden to the gardens she started in Wisconsin and Maine. She has no garden space in Florida but has asked us to pot up a plant for their patio. I hear ground cherries grow well in pots.

Obviously ground cherries hold lots of memories for me and I can’t miss baking pies at least once every year. The amount of fruit we have determines whether I make a custard or two-crust pie, or even two of the latter. When there are too few ground cherries left for a full pie at the end of the season, I mix them with apples. To husk the fruit, Jay and I sit across from one another with newspapers spread on the table for the husks, and a large measuring cup between us to collect cherries.

Husked ground cherries on "Giverney with yellow" square slumper
Ground cherries on fused glass square dish
Saturday there were enough ground cherries to make both a custard and an all-ground cherry pie. We put the two-crust pie into the freezer for winter enjoyment and sliced into the custard pie for evening dessert without even putting a birthday candle into it.
"Sea Circles on Lavender" pasta bowl with gound cherry cusatd pie
Ground Cherry Custard Pie in fused glass dish

If you would like either pie recipe, just ask. If you live in our area or can visit, we’ll happily share heirloom seeds or plants so you can start your own ground cherry traditions.

Tomatoes in "Blue & Green Serendipity" starfire drape bowl

Veggie tales

Plenty of rain and heat most of the summer has made our vegetable garden lush. Asparagus, radishes, sugar snap peas, and salad greens grew well in the cool, damp spring before June heated up.

Sugar snap peas & baby carrots on Blue Confetti oval dish
By midsummer the garden was yielding baby carrots, turnips, beets, zucchini, and kohlrabi. We harvested onions and garlic before the end of July. By mid-August we were getting a few cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant, [caption id="attachment_534" align="alignnone" width="150"]"Embers" square plate with cucumber, cocozelle squash, Cubanelle pepper Green vegetables on “Embers” fused glass plate
while zucchini, beans, and tomatoes required almost daily picking. All the cucumber vines withered and the cocozelle haven’t been as prolific as zucchini we’ve grown in other years,
Jay picking Sweet Million cherry tomatoes
Jay through tomato vines
but beans and cherry tomatoes make up the difference.
Tomatoes in "Blue & Green Serendipity" starfire drape bowl
Four Kinds of Tomatoes

Five or six years ago we added a second, larger garden, 25′ on a side. The two combined aren’t as big as our South Dakota garden, but amply feed the two of us. We made raised beds by spreading good soil over our rocky ground and we erected a 4′ fence to keep critters at bay. Deer can get jump the fence but don’t, except in the winter, oddly enough. Rabbits can and do get through the wire despite reinforcement. Groundhogs didn’t bother to try . . . until the past month. A young groundhog got in when a visitor left the gate open. Having tasted beet and carrot tops, the critter returned day after day despite our having closed the gate. It burrowed under the fence, digging further and further long the garden perimeter as Jay reinforced each area with wood and slate. Within a few days the woodchuck had stripped the pole beans of all leaves up to about 18″ from the ground. Jay has repaired the fence line and sprayed animal repellant but the voracious creature remains one step ahead of him. Now we have a live-catch trap in the garden but so far the peanut butter-slathered apple bait has not enticed the groundhog inside. Who will win this battle of wits and stomachs???

There’s no better hour of the day than the one spent picking the garden.

Jay at pole bean trellis
Jay picking Romano beans
Except for when we sit down to the table with fresh vegetables, raw, grilled, or steamed or sauteed.
Cobalt & red fused glass pasta bowl with garden kohlrabi
Kohlrabi in “Galaxy” fused glass bowl
Summer is so good.