Sunday, February 28, 2010

happy march 1st!

Fresh, tender asparagus - the perfect spring vegetable! Beautiful shades of green mixed with purples (or all purple, or all white), asparagus's visual appeal is as unique as its flavor.

One of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus is to simply sprinkle it with a bit of olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and pepper, then wrap the whole thing in foil and cook to perfection for 10 or 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. This technique also works with grilling.

I also love steamed, chilled asparagus with a great dipping sauce. My favorite is a take on the familiar Bearnaise sauce, but done as a rich but fresh-tasting mayonnaise. Sweet and mellow, tarragon is another one of my favorite flavors, and like dill, it seems to blend so well with all the lovely vegetables of spring, like asparagus, spinach and fresh peas.

Try this Bearnaise mayonnaise with chilled asparagus spears for your next spring fling:

  • 1 minced shallot, or 2 teaspoons of minced mild onion
  • 4 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (if you have tarragon vinegar, all the better!)
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill

Heat together in a small saucepan until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Keep an eye on it; once it begins to evaporate, it happens quickly. Also, you may want to turn on an exhaust fan or crack a window as the vinegar aroma does become a bit pungent.

Combine the reduced mixture with:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill completely, and serve as a dip for fresh vegetables.

Monday, February 1, 2010

inspiration from ... quilts!

I truly love quilts and admire quilters and fabric artists. Would I like to be one? Sure. But, lacking even the most basic of skills, I limit my love of quilts to visiting quilt exhibits and shows, buying how-to books for quilts I'll never make, and even the occasional fabric purchase.

But this time, it was different. I recently purchased a copy of "The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book" by Alfred Allan Lewis, published in 1973. Pictured on the cover is the most wonderful art quilt, panel after panel of colorful whimsy and bright cheer. Fanciful mushrooms, rabbits, birds, flowers; a quizzical-looking snail and so much more. This "Rockefeller Quilt" became the basis of my newest collection of pendants (pictured above is one of them, "I Have A Bird In Spring) and has introduced me to new possibilities in designs, while retaining my own "signature" look.

If you are a quilter or other fabric artist, I recommend this book for ideas that are just as fresh today as it was in 1973. The story behind West Virginia's Mountain Artisans is enlightening as well, from their humble roots to their successes, even winning a Coty Award in the process of turning the world on to their craft.

Remember - inspiration can come from anywhere and you can apply nearly any concept to your own creative pursuits!


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