Sunday, November 30, 2008

What'sss it got in itsss boxxxxx?

Packed and ready to be mailed...
But whither shall it fly???

A Party in Cape Town

My mom's 75th birthday is coming up next week and today in Cape Town, they celebrated with a lunch under the tree.

But the real present, I suspect, was James Grace, who came to play for an hour before lunch.

Thanks to Guy Louw for sending me the pictures!

My mom, middle, and my brother Anton right, if my eyes do not deceive. He is elusive, so one can never be sure. It could be him. On her right, James Small. Who is not small.

Above - usually lunches under the tree are an All Mother affair, but today lunch was outsourced to spare the toil. I would venture to say it was not quite the same!

Friday, November 28, 2008

From the November streets

Golden raintree, Koelreuteria paniculata, in the Cobble Hill Park.

Sentinel water towers guarding banks of airconditioners between West 17th and 18th Streets. New York in November is red apple crunch, white frost air, high blue sky.

Credit Suisse between Madison Park and Park Avenue.

Back home in Brooklyn, if you are a flower, you must pay outside at Key Food.

Union Square Christmas Market

While I waited for copies of some garden designs to be made I did my bit to combat Red Friday by buying a silky dress for warm nights and a fleecy jacket for cold nights (in the Namib?) at Anthropologie. Then I headed to the Christmas market at Union Square where I chomped at the bit, stuck in the crowd, then turned a corner and found ...

Waffles en Dinges.

So, for lunch, I had a waffle with maple syrup.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bounty of the tundra

The soil in the planters on this, the windiest terrace, was already frozen solid today - even though at street level the weather was relatively mild - and had heaved some heather and little junipers inches out of place.

But the maraschino cherry trees were in abundant fruit and ripe for the plucking.

It will be Manhattans for weeks to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Fennel seeds ready for picking
Label three garden designs
Paint third one
Find evergreen wreaths
Call cat sitters and co ordinate
Passport pictures for citizenship interview
Copies of all tax info for same
Document addtl travel dates, ditto
Triple check Ever Ready really is open Friday for design copies
Kitchen Arts and Letters, Lexington Avenue
Lafco, Lafayette
Get a box from post office
Hold mail
Mail box
Put presentation on disc
Tin tray from Metropolitan shop!
Hiking boots

Monday, November 24, 2008


Hardly seasonal. But light, and crunchy, and salty...and, it has BACON in it. Sort of. Pancetta.

Speaking of wine. I hear a wailing and gnashing of teeth. Chinon with a pita pocketful of cucumber; superior French (I'll have you know) feta; unrepentant red onion; salty Kalamata olives; sweet cherry tomatoes; and crisped pancetta with attitude? Not to mention extra virgin olive oil and a shake of sherry vinegar.

And black pepper. Salt hardly necessary.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter clothes

I've changed our clothes top left left. We were on the beach and freezing. It's winter. So now we have woolly hats.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Borough Hall Farmers' Market...brrrrr!

It was freezing, but worth it.

Taken home: red Swiss chard (eaten with feta inside phyllo triangles tonight), Golden Delicious apples, Granny Smiths for roasting with raisins, cauliflower (eaten for lunch, steamed, with butter and parmesan)...

Seen, but not bought: purple, yellow and orange carrots, Huge. The bigger, the sweeter.

Purple and yellow cauliflower. Pretty for bagna cauda.


I've been thinking about these paperwhites...and how they smell. It is a lovely scent, to me, an old one, from long ago, and it makes me feel that somehow things are going well. I spent all day with them, working on a garden design at home. I cut some of the stems a few days ago and put them in the bathroom, because they had become strong, but it was still a good smell.

I know that many people hate paperwhites. So it must be chemical. I hate the scent of Stargazers, which make me feel ill. And Lancome's Tresor, possibly the most poisonous perfume ever concocted. Makes me sick at 100 paces.

How can a narcissus be toxic to some and delicious to me? Our amygdala is ancient and records scents and their associations early. Can it be that happy memories can turn a bad smell good?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Japanese forest grass

Blazing on the terrace, Hakonechloa macra, straight up, not "Aurea", which is variegated. H. macra is a rich green in summer.

Allium Risotto


No, not the purple golfball flowers, lovely or corporate, depending on how and where they are planted.

In short: Allium porrum. Allium sativum. And Allium cepa. In other words, leek, garlic and onion risotto.

I must thank Jen, without whose inspirational picture of her mushroom risotto, or use of sage rather than thyme (which is what I usually do, too) I would not have made this one. And if I had made it another night I might not have had my beautifully slender and sweet farmers' market leeks in the fridge, and would have based my recipe on another vegetable.

It's the best one I've made and I'm still trying to get to the bottom of that. I suspect the answer may be in the piping hot stock. Often I cheat and add the liquid cold. Or was it the leeks? I don't know, but here it is.

Butter, about a tablespoonful (I usually cook with olive oil, but the butter is important here)
6 paper thin rashers of pancetta
1 cup of finely chopped/shredded leek
1 fat garlic clove, squashed and chopped fine
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/3 cup arborio rice (this is risotto for One)
Healthy slosh (1/4 - 1/2) cup dry white wine
1 cup hot stock, I used a Swiss vegetable bouillon cube
3 sage leaves, chiffonaded
4 Tbsp half and half or pouring cream
1 squeeze of lemon, no more
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 more sage leaves

To learn the premise of risotto read Marcella Hazan on the subject. All I can tell you is this:

In a pan or pot with sides, melt the butter over medium heat and add the pancetta, cooking till opaque. Add all the allium. Every single one of them, stir until coated with butter and cook gently without colouring for about 4 minutes till softer. Add the sage. Add the rice, stir to coat until glistening and keep stirring to toast it (and pay attention: don't turn your back on it, not like I just did with tonight's apples and leeks for a pork chop - burned to a cinder).

After the rice has turned an opaque, chalky white, add the wine, which will sizzle and make a lot of steam, and keep stirring until absorbed. You may want to turn the heat up a bit. Depends. Once it has been absorbed add gulps of hot stock, and stir between each addition. Don't just make soup and wait for it to be absorbed - the stirring is what produces the creamy texture. And you may need a little less, or a little more stock...

After about ten minutes of this I start to nibble rice grains to see how done they are. You do not want mush. They must be firm, but not crunchy. When you sense it is all coming together, add the cream and stir. Taste. Add the squeeze of lemon and stir. Taste.

Add the cheese moments before you eat it and stir again. It will turn creamy. Turn into a warmed bowl, sprinkle on your reserved, chiffonaded bits of sage and eat, at once.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bad wine blues

Pictured with my weekend farmers' market haul is a wine recommended at my wine store, when they saw me looking for a Gigondas under $20. I should have known when it was described as leaf mould/green olive-y that there would be a problem. Leaf mould. I don't know. It was awful.

It is exceedingly rare that I toss a wine down the drain but that's where the rest of the glass went. It was not corked, just horrid. Sour, dead on the palate. Cooking with it would make whatever I cooked taste bad too, so now I sit with it. 2007 Cheverny, Le Domaine du Moulin: Pinot Noir and Gamay. Avoid.


And tonight I bought a bottle of overpriced South African Chenin Blanc, made by the fabled Teddy Hall.

It was a 2006, and as flat as a pancake, though the wood was still evident, and that's about all.

So I am cross.


My guilty pleasure to wash away the nastiness, though I mess with the timeline. Hey, it's my blog. This was laaaast week. A...blush...Moscato. In other words: sweet. That explains it, they crow! She has no taste, of course she hated a wooded Chenin Blanc and a risky red. She's a cretin.

No man. Those two were bad. I know bubbly Moscato is not serious, not proper, is naive, is shallow...but...I liked it!

Look, root vegetables. That proves I have gravitas.

And it's good for sipping chopping vegetables (I chop vegetables instead of chopping people), or dessert. It tastes just like the Moni's grape juice I drank as a child on special occasions, when the adults were quaffing special wine.

Thash my shtory an I'm schticking to it.

Thinks: maybe that's why I almost sliced my thumb off!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cat Sitter Search

[Who weel loogh after me een the weenter???]

Estorbo's cat-sitter arrangement for December through February fell through, and I am looking for someone who can either live-in with him, or someone to whose house he can move for two months. Remuneration negotiable and all supplies provided.

As well as lots of black cat love, backchat and unsolicited witticisms.

Possibly some of this blog's leaders have leads, and thanks to Halloween's yooman for her suggestion a while ago.

If anyone has any ideas please contact Estorbo directly or me at marieyviljoen(at)gmail(dot)com
Thank you!


Winter supper:

The beautiful beets were turned into borscht: thinly sliced onion sauteed with rashers of pancetta, grated beets, the leaves, chopped, some cloves of garlic, a bulb of fennel with leaves, chopped, a carrot, sliced, juniper berries, peppercorns, a little sugar, 3 Tbps sherry vinegar and about 8 cups chicken stock. Lemon juice at the end.

Greek yoghurt with some crushed garlic stirred into it, to top it off.

And a perfectly ripe persimmon (took about 4 days at home to ripen) for dessert.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

November rose

Late opening and long lasting in this cold weather, the roses are still rosing. There are still lots of small buds, but if it freezes hard before they are will be along wait to see more blooms: next year's rose party.

Paperwhite perfume

They have opened, 16 days after being put on their pebbles, and are smelling...delicious.

Cat trouble

Estorbo 1
Canon Powershot 0

I will be shopping for a new camera.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Borough Hall Farmers' Market

I came home from the farmers' market with a huge sack of beetroot, leeks and sweet potatoes, as well as three perfect red apples, called Roma. I have so much fruit at the moment that I had to hold back: three persimmons ripening, a bowl of clementines...

The beetroot were gorgeous, their leaves in perfect shape, and are destined for borscht. The leeks will have to be leek and potato soup with pancetta, and some will go into the borscht, too. They were a very good deal at $3.50 a bunch, and the bunch weighed about 4lbs.

The sweet potatoes: bake for about an hour in their skins at 425'F; split, drop some cold sweet butter into the steaming interior and dribble over a capful of maple syrup. Salt, fresh black pepper, and you are in heaven.

Gorgeous chard, passed over, but reluctantly. Visions of spanokopita.

Autumn in Cobble Hill

Henry Street gingko leaves.

Oak leaves on Amity Street.

Amity Street looking south to Court.

Friday, November 14, 2008

US Evergreens

For your complete winter bough needs.

Don't call them. You will get no sense out of them. At this time of year they are frantic, and things are only getting going. So just show up.

This is the place for woven garlands and ropes of evergreens: fat and heavy and fragrant: juniper (I ate some berries off a garland I bought - good, like sweet gin, just spit out the pips), boxwood, white pine, cedar...later they will have prickly balsam, which smells like Christmas trees on the sidewalk in New York, and probably like Christmas in the woods, but I wouldn't know about that.

The orange leaves in the photo belong to the Callery pears, yes, they of the weak crotches and pretty white blossoms. I have never asked where the cut boughs are from. I'm afraid to know, because they are substantial and one imagines a tree unable to withstand such a donation, or withdrawal, or stick up, as the case may be.

There are faggots of white birch wood (yes, there is such a thing and I stick to my word), posies of rosehips and wreaths of magnolia grandiflora. It's a chaotic place, and worth a visit in this funny city.

6th Avenue just south of West 28th Street.

Shedding one's skin

My favourite part of the new cream coat I bought for winter: the lining.

But today was warm, if wet. Warm enough to wear jeans and my Obama T-shirt. It makes me feel good.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pyrus calleryana - the Bowery

Here we are. The weak-crotched tree again. Unlike the unhappy humans with the same affliction, the trees have many redeeming qualities. When I find it I will post the spring picture for comparisons' sake.

These are on the Bowery at Stanton, and share the white painted trunks of their neighbours the hawthorns, on the same property. I like to imagine a homesick Italian immigrant faithfully painting them to reflect sunscald in winter, in the days when the Lower East Side was still home to Lady Liberty's invitees...