Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August: Look back in hunger

The hottest, muggiest New York month is ending on a hot, muggy note.

Here's a look at some of what we ate at summer's height.

A good month for baking. The super-simple muffins...

Nigel Slater's it-doesn't-get-better-than-this almond and peach cake. I made it three times.

The sweetest, most clear, most juicy white farmers' market peaches, splashed with cold prosecco.

Ratatouille, employing all roof farm crops:

And lamb chops, not from the roof farm. But we can dream, can't we?

More lamb, roasted on lemon slices.

Vietnamese sticky ginger and garlic chicken.

The roof farm watermelon!

A leisurely breakfast of organic eggs and pancetta.

And a bed of potatoes...

...for a juicy brown roast chicken.

The new Transatlantic cocktail: Juneberry and cherry-infused Calvados, topped with prosecco.

And finally, the stars of the show and of the terrace, and we shall not forget them: the cornucopia of figs.

I'm ready for Fall.

Biodiversity Blog

Aandblommetjies [evening flowers]. Photo: Marijke Honig

On the subject of biodiversity (it is the Year Of...) my friend Marijke Honig ('Maraykuh' to all you non-Dutchies - Marijke's family is Dutch, as opposed to Afrikaans...here endeth the lesson) has started a blog on the subject, the Biodiversity Blog, kicking off with her involvement in the design and implementation of the Biodiversity Garden, situated on the old Green Point Common near the new stadium in Green Point, Cape Town.


Living together in harmony?

I wasn't sure how she was able to fly with her load of pollen.

ID still needed. Will post on BugGuide

Is it all because of the exotic and invasive and beautiful Verbena bonariensis?

The last week has seen unprecedented butterfly activity on the terrace, and the verbena is where they hang. A few years ago I designed a garden for a Park Slope rooftop where we planted New York ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis) as a native alternative (although it is far too robust to be an aesthetic stand-in) for tall and slender V. bonariensis.

I think it's time to check on that roof garden again, and to ask whether insects have been attracted to those flowers. I'm not sure that the owner would notice. I sit and work close to the open sliding door, so that the flutterings outside have been a constant distraction/inspiration.

The Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae) are new this year.

Constantly on the move, but not as fast as the little skipper (Herspiriidae family), below, poised for take off. Apparently many skippers look similar, so another candidate for BugGuide submission.

The skipper, again.

Here was my cunning swallowtail butterfly trap: parsley, center stage.

..so it went for the fennel?

At last, where she belonged:

Oscar, the offspring; only surviving member of the family, in fact...


Grab a drink, a strong one.

Up on the farm...


' Je-hosaphat.

I had seen this...this...Thing, through the skylight from the apartment below, and thought it a curled up leaf.

No. It was a caterpillar, longer than my middle finger and fatter. And perfectly matched to the black cherry tomato's stem. Which was bare of leaves. A caterpillar that eats tomato leaves? I suspected a mothy heritage, not sure why...size, maybe. I get big moths in lily season. The tomato connection made it very easy to look up, of course.

Tobacco hornworm, I think: Manduca sexta (7 white stripes). Very similar to Tomato hornworm, which ought to be more common here.

Child of moth indeed. Carolina Sphinx Moth if it is the tobacco hornworm...And I've found pictures of them actually eating the tomatoes themselves. Wait! Yesterday I found a black cherry half eaten. Grrrrrrrrrrr

Once I got over the initial revulsion, I found it to be quite beautiful. But did it have to pick my favourite tomato? Still, I weighed tomatoes over chrysalis-observation and the possible chrysalis won. For now.

I'm already changing my mind...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fall greens

It's almost the last day of August. Blue September air has arrived. Colours are saturated. We can start to cook long, slow dinners again without expiring from the heat.*

I am watching my sweet red peppers on the roof like a hawk, so that I can turn them into a rouille for bouillabaisse a week from today. I must visit my fishmonger to order shrimp with their heads on in advance - so hard to find, here. In Cape Town we buy them by the box and put them on the braai, after slitting them down the middle to clean, and then marinating them in lime and garlic. Or peri peri. Oh, what I would do for a packet of Woollies peri peri marinade, right now.

The spicy 'micro' greens on the roof are becoming macro, and I shall let them. Planting more today. The upland cress is up, and the chervil only stuck their spidery green heads above the soil yesterday...Interesting -they took 8 days to the others' 3 and 5.

* Heat. Well, let's just ignore the temperatures at the moment. Wishful thinking.

Roof farm getaway

If you can't get away to the beach...

...you have to use a little imagination, as our neighbor Danielle does, on her roof next door.

Nothing like the silvertop of Brooklyn roof to conjure up images of silver sands...

...or a weekend in the country, for that matter, Away From it All.

We know what we have.

And we are lucky.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Park (again)

Another weekend, another picnic. Friday was one of those perfect blue New York September days, when streets seem longer, deeper; trees taller, outlines sharper, life, better.

I wanted to take pictures in good light of the Lobelia cardinalis in the bog at Pier 1, at the northern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park. We left early, just before 6pm, and the sun was still high by the time we'd reached the Atlantic Avenue, playground end of the park (Pier 6), where I snapped this Hasidic family in stripes in front of Uncle Louie G's icecream truck.

The last time we were here was a few hours ahead of a long, misting drizzle. Very different mood.

We were hoping that the bike path connecting the extremities of the park would be open. It was, though there is still a large undeveloped tract separating the two, above, so you still have to walk along the unprepossessing road beneath the layer cake of the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway), topped by the Promenade.

The BQE (below). It thunders beneath the scenic pedestrian Promenade, which it effectively cuts off from the water and the new park. Ideas are being tossed around for some resolution. One is to build a tunnel for a redirected BQE, and turn the existing layers into a Highline. Which is a bit silly, given the enormous cost of tunnels, not to mention the decade it would take to build.

We say enclose this part of the BQE, and build arching, grassed access at several points from the park up to the Promenade.

Ha, but I just found this on BBP site:

A future component of Pier 1 is the provision of a pedestrian bridge from Squibb Park, located to the north of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This bridge will allow direct pedestrian access from Brookyn [sic] Heights to the Pier 1 uplands.

I quite like this stretch of weeds and abandoned wharfs, from which we were separated by chainlink. My little lens fits through chainlink.

Here, at low tide, is the tidal pool where I sat the other night, watching fish jump out of the water. At the end of the evening, the water had crept back in, clear enough to see the permeable pavers beneath, and there were hundreds of small fish. It was wonderful.

The paddy field of marsh grasses was exposed at this low tide...They are covered completely when it is high.

Our chosen lawn, facing New York Harbour, (and called Harbor View Lawn...yes, note my own stubborn clinging to the "u") was closed. Again! Not once has it been open when we have arrived with a picnic. Fortunately two others were open. We chose the higher of the two, facing north - Bridge View Lawn.

I love this park, but I hate the light towers. They are pressure-treated tree trunks, and ugly as hell. I guess they were chosen over steel columns for economic reasons, or maybe not. Would steel look any better? No. But they are in the way of every view and every shot. I'm hoping the pressure-treated option means that they are temporary.

In ten years some the trees are going to be big, and later, bigger, and this view will be very different - oaks, plane trees (curious about those...why?), sassafras, Kentucky coffee trees...Tall, big uns. The place will be very, very leafy. More about all the plants here, and I have asked for a plant list. Perhaps one will materialize.

Our picnic, courtesy of Stinky. But, as loyal as I've been to Stinky, I need a less expensive cheese shop. Ouch. I may defect to Manhattan: East Village Cheese, and Pino's, the old school butchery on Sullivan Street next door to Pepe Rosso - where, months ago, I bought not one but two dry sopressata-style sausages for $10. You're looking at double that at Stinky's.

For the picnic I made a quick slaw of crisper drawer leftovers (doesn't that sound delicious?): grated carrot, radish and thinly sliced celery, with a champagne vinegar and mayonnaise dressing. Yum. Three cheeses, wild boar sausage, a Sullivan Street baguette, sparkling, er...grape juice...(we would never, ever drink alcohol in public) and it was perfect.

Expensive or no, the cheese was wonderful. Ascutney Mountain, a Vermont-made, Swiss style hard cow cheese ($7.80 for a modest wedge, and $30 a pound. You have got to be kidding). And a wonderful Brebirousse d'Argental...a creamy ewe's milk cheese (below). The brie's name I forget, and it wasn't on the packet. Also very good. But just over budget. Sigh. I got carried away.

The Gehry seems to have been fully clad, at last.

Busses and busses of touring tourists pulled up on the street behind us. Like a cute little herd of some sort of animal, all clicking away with their useless flashes...

Some Spanish tourists came and sat practically on top of us even though there was plenty of room around, with the Americans all spaced nicely, puritanically apart...They were eating dinner from the Calexico street cart, down below near the Barge Music barge - previously a SoHo-exclusive street cart institution serving tacos and burritos, and now with a real restaurant in Red Hook.

On the hill, iconic Blue Marble ice cream did a brisk trade. Blue Marble has just had to close its original Atlantic Avenue store because the landlord raised the rent.

A film crew was setting up. They seemed to be new at it. We never did find out what the white balloons were for.

All shapes and sizes and persuasions visited.

Inside the barge, a pianist performed. I think this is one of the best tickets in town. Good music, excellent view behind the musicians and affordable tickets.

The river continued working...Barges, tugs, pleasure boats, the Sea Streak, always streaking.

Photographers jostled for position at the railing, which just a year ago was quite inaccessible, just a useless wharf out over the water.

On the way home, the bike lane was still open.

Back at the Atlantic Avenue end, the rudbeckia were still there, sleeping, and the Keep Off sign was gone. Did they see that picture?

Uncle Louie G's was deserted.

And Vince demonstrated at my request the danger that lurketh in the signage. In the age of texting someone is going to skin their face here or scalp themselves; this is one of many face-height signs.

Peril for French noses...

And on that note...

The End.

Oh, and the cardinal flowers that I went to photograh? - in the shadow of a mound, and I must go back in the morning-time.