Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

Completed the new Roofscape cover, dated January 1. Polished the N-E-W-S @ Roofscape, a section with news about the magazine. Wrote all the blurbs for Views @ Roofscape, a summary of new and featured articles inside the magazine. Crafted a new Beans About Boston puzzler and Thought for the Week.

Everyone was away for the holidays so I had the kitchen, in fact the whole house, to myself. Created a broccoli-cheddar soup using freshly made vegetable stock. Made a whole gallon, swirling colorfully in a big green enamel cooking pot. And totally nailed the recipe on take one. That doesn't happen often. It will appear in the January 15 issue.

As I finished the soup and set the steaming pot on the table, Charles and Joanne appeared at the door just back from their trip to Israel. Charles - who's a big broccoli fan - and I sat down and ate the soup while he spun stories of their journey through the Holy Land over Christmas/Hannukah, including fabulous feasts in tents with Bedouins in the desert.

Updated the department and contributor pages related to the new articles and features on the cover, also changing their color, nav bar and title. Made two new contributor pages. Housekeeping chores. Not onerous when done one at once, but five new items is a schlep. And we're not quite out of the woods, but I've had enough for now.

Decided on the cover images for the next two months, all snow scenes.

Now trying to decide two things. First - what should the next new (small-scale and manageable) article be? Second - what article in progress should I focus on? I'm leaning towards Roofscapes 2010 Garden - which would also help us get a jump on actually planning it and Olmsted's Green Ribbon, about FLO and the Emerald Necklace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29, 2009

Roofscape is back! I'll quote from the new cover of the magazine to explain our absence.

We've been away and we look forward to being back. The recession was rough on Roofscape and regrettably we had to suspend work on the magazine for the latter part of '09.

So where have we been? We took our design and building skills, found a partner and started a new business designing and building interiors and landscapes for private and business clients, mostly in Boston's beautiful South End. And we've been fortunate enough to find some wonderful clients with interesting projects. We appreciate you.

We'll be working our way back to you - gradually, in a manageable manner. By January 1st we'll have a new cover, articles and features inside the magazine and at Roofscape Journal, plus a new, lighter color scheme.

We're working from the cover in, starting with a new seasonal image Along a Northbound Rail Line from Boston. The N-E-W-S @ Roofscape is completely updated, featuring three new articles. The first, Paris Sketches by Charles Thiesen is edited, image and uploaded. Bike Lanes: Promise and Peril by Michael Felsen (which previewed here in November) is now online as well, as is Ciambotta, which previewed a few days ago just below.

The purpose of Roofscape Garden Journal is going to change. Fun as it is, we're going to deprecate it somewhat to focus on the magazine itself. The journal will now be a record of our work and experiences at the magazine - and yes, Roofscape's garden. OK - and maybe cool new images as soon as they're taken, as always. That's just too much fun to let go.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ciambotta | Cookout . 5

Ciambotta is one of the definitive dishes of southern Italy - on a par with Pasta Puttanesca - a vegetable stew simply using the bounty of the family's kitchen garden or the local farmers' market. Pronounced, this melange of fresh garden produce also figures variously among Italians and Italian-Americans as slang for a big mix-up, mess or an obsession.

Jambot is fairly fast, flexible and forgiving but several things are key. First - using the freshest ingredients picked at their peak. Second - salting and draining the eggplant and tomatoes. Third - cooking some of the vegetables separately to their optimum time before combining them.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large (1-1/2 pounds) onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with salt
3 large celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 large (1 pound) carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large (1-1/2 pounds) eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 10-ounce bags frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
A pinch each of basil, oregano, tarragon and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup capers, rinsed and drained
6 medium-hot cherry bell peppers, seeded and minced
Parmesan cheese, grated
Garlic bread

Toss the eggplant cubes in a bowl with 2 teaspoons salt. Turn into a colander and let it sit over a bowl for 30 minutes or so to sweat out the bitter juices. Rinse, drain and squeeze dry between two clean tea towels.

Paste tomatoes such as plum or Roma varieties can be chopped and added directly to the cooking pot. Other garden varieties often have a high water content and after chopping should be lightly salted and left to drain in a colander for 30 minutes or so. Save the tomato water for possible addition to the stew at some point if it looks too dry. Some cooks also prefer to seed and peel the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes dunk them in a large pot of boiling water for a few minutes until the skins split then run them under cold water. They'll then peel easily.

Heat the oil in a large heavy cooking pot over a medium-high flame. Add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the eggplant and wine. Cook about 10 minutes, with some stirring.

Add the tomatoes, peppers, olives and herbs. Lower the heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over a medium-hight flame in a cast iron skillet. Saute the mushrooms until they're browned.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the green beans to tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl using a slotted spoon. Add the zucchini to the boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Move them to the mixing bowl with the slotted spoon. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add to the the beans and zucchini using the slotted spoon. Cook the corn following the timing on the package, Drain and add to the boiled vegetables.

Add the boiled vegetables and sauted mushrooms to the stew and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in soup bowls with capers fried in a little olive oil, hot peppers, cheese and garlic bread.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our holiday greeting card

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009

Over the weekend we had both our first frost and snowfall of the season. Together. In my memory that's a first. And the latest first frost that I ever recall. Our typical frost date is in late September and here we are in December, over two months late.

The weather turned on a dime like a damned traitor. From the 50's and up to 70° a few days ago, it's now down in the low 40's for a high and predicted to slip into the 20's. Not funny.

We're still riding our bikes everywhere, of course. Wool sweater under a thick sheepskin jacket, wool hat, fingerless wool gloves, long thermal underwear - with shorts over to preserve that summer feel. I'm in denial about this winter.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5, 2009

The first week of December and Boston still hasn't had its first frost, much less a snowfall. The days have often been bright and warm with temperatures in the 50's. The day before last it hovered just below 70° all day with sunshine and brisk, warm southwest breezes.

A line of waterfowl flying high and fast due south, very late to migrate. Evidently the higher latitudes have been unseasonably warm as well.

Flowers lingering on, still blooming hopefully. The trees stripped bare by warm windy storms, all but the tenacious oaks insisting on their full tenure.

But as the days continue to shrink toward the solstice our endless Indian Summer might soon be over. Cold - 40°, not even sweater weather in some parts of the country - and snow, mere window dressing dustings - are predicted. And indeed the bright white cloud cover does seem to speak of snow. And I feel the familiar lassitude that a snowy day brings with it. Snowbound. No schools, all schools. The only earthly use for snow.

In September I predicted a mild winter. And that the Sox would lose. So far so good. Over the last four years I've called the weather, Red Sox and elections correctly - except for last year's rather rough winter - rough only in terms of the easy ride we've come to expect and deserve. But that was just a blip, an anomaly. The trend continues. Global warming is here to stay. My guilty pleasure. Living in Boston, maybe 3 feet above sea level, definitely guilty.

Orion, the hunter constellation, rising burning and bright in the east at a more convenient and ever-earlier evening viewing hour. Check this out to accompany the Great Hunter through the heavens.

Image: Bottle Glass. The North End, Boston.