Friday, May 28, 2010

The perfect picnic or potluck salad

orzo salad recipeWell, it's the Friday of a holiday weekend that pretty much marks the beginning of summer — and boy does it feel like it here! Warm and sunny, perfect for days at the lake, barbecues, picnics and potlucks. So I though I would send you off for the long weekend with a recipe that is terrific on a hot summer day and feeds a crowd. My mom has been making it for a few years now and everyone always loves it. It is bright and refreshing with lots of lemon and dill. It keeps getting better as it chills in the refrigerator so you can make it well in advance, but tastes just as good at room temperature.

Orzo Salad
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tb finely chopped fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Pound orzo pasta, cooked al dente and drained
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 Tb finely chopped fresh oregano

Whisk together the zest, juice, oil, dill and garlic, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the pasta, cheese, peppers, olives and scallions together in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over and fold and mix thoroughly to combine. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The recipe is easily halved, and you can always leave out the olives. Hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day with swimming and flip flops, salty snacks and lemonade.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lurking in the bushes

First there was the rooster:

Then I thought my little dinosaur should live here:

And then I got all fancy with this one:

And now…

I really, really think I can't live without this sweet little schoolhouse from Says the Tree on Etsy. It would be just perfect living in one of my plants. Sigh… one day soon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Taste of East Coast summers: Mussels with white wine and garlic

mussels with white wine and garlicOne of my favorite things in the world is so, so simple. Mussels steamed with a bit of wine and garlic and a good hunk of crusty bread for dunking in the juices. Nothing says summer to me more. Best enjoyed with the taste of salt air still on your lips from a day at the ocean, but good any time really. With the warmer days we've been having, I was craving this deeply.

Ina Garten has a great tip for cleaning them that I had never heard before: Soak them in a large bowl of water — about 2 quarts — with 1/3 cup of flour added. As they soak, the mussels breath, filtering water and releasing sand. (When you get your mussels home, make sure none are open, chipped or broken. If they are, chuck 'em thrown out.) Soak the mussels for about 30 minutes. Remove the mussels by scooping them out of the water, rather than draining them so that the sand doesn't run back over and into them.

Drain them, then remove the "beard," or tassels sticking out one side of the shell. Using a dry towel, grasp the beard and give a sharp yank out and toward the hinge end of the mussel. This method will not kill the mussel. If you pull the beard out towards the opening end of the mussel you may tear the mussel on the inside of the shell, killing it. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water.

If you're wondering how many to buy, I would recommend a half pound per person as an appetizer and a pound per person as a main course.

Mussels with White Wine
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 pounds cultivated mussels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (5 to 7 shallots)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good white wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large, deep pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot.

Be sure to have plenty of bread on hand — it's my favorite part!

Monday, May 24, 2010

P.S. So much happening at Blue House!

Just a quick little P.S. for today: There are some great things happening at Blue House Ann Arbor this week! There are still a few spots open in the beginners knitting classes I'm teaching on Wednesday:

Let’s Knit Together
Wednesday, May 26, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., $26
Designed to get kids introduced to knitting, this workshop is great for parents or caregivers to take with their little one. You’ll learn the basics, including casting on, the knit stitch and binding off. All materials included.

Knit One
Wednesday, May 26, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., $26
A small group gathering to get you started with the basics of knitting. You’ll learn to cast on, knit, bind off — and purling depending on how things go. All materials included.

For more info or to register, visit, email, call 734.780.1762 or drop by and check out the space! 1026 Main St. in Ann Arbor.

MakersMARK! Handmade Nation screening
There’s also still room for the Handmade Nation screening at Blue House this Tuesday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m. Handmade Nation documents the new wave of art, craft and design that is capturing the attention of the nation. It is the feature film debut of director, author, artist and curator Faythe Levine. Levine traveled to 15 cities and covered more than 19,000 miles to interview artists, crafters, makers, curators and community members. Email Siobhan Lyle at or call 734.780.1762 to reserve your seat!

Hope to see you around the Blue House this week!

New print in the shop! The Masked Bird

Giclee print Masked bird by Sloe Gin Fizz
Happy Monday, everyone!

I feel as though I've been a bit distracted here on the blog recently. I do some gardening for a few folks around town and this spring I got to design several new gardens and beds. I became thoroughly obsessive about it to the point of total distraction — my apologies to you. But happily, I am back on track and plunging into some new work for summer — and some new recipes. This masked bird wonder has been lingering in my sketchbook for a couple of months and I thought I'd reveal him to the world today. He's available as a print in the shop, though I've been contemplating a t-shirt or new notebook with him. Stay tuned…