Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sweet Treats #9

Paints that teach you how to mix colors

So cool! France and the Netherlands have come together to jointly buy two rare Rembrandts

This is so sad! These were the glory days

Finally - your ultimate coffee guide

Apparently this year’s Turner prize show isn’t so exciting

Opening this week:
  • Jim Shaw: The End is Here (New Museum)
  • Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action (Frick)
  • Edvard Munch: Archetypes (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza) - I visited the museo for the first time a little over a month ago on my honeymoon, and am bummed that I so narrowly missed this awesome-looking show!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Masters and Makers: I Adore Latte Art

New York is known for having great pizza, bagels, and for me, caffeine. It seems like every block around the city and Brooklyn boasts the “best brew” around, whether that is determined by the huge line snaking out the door, or the incredible price - $5 for an ice coffee? $7 for a latte? What?!

Despite the outrageous price of my coffee addiction (and the fact that I am perfectly capable of making a great cup of coffee at home) I can’t help but treat myself every once and awhile to a perfectly foamy latte at my favorite neighborhood coffee spot. 

My husband - which I am still getting used to referring to Michael as - and I have been frequenting Cusp in Park Slope since we moved to the neighborhood. The staff are super friendly, the coffee is nice and strong, and their crepes are amazing. What more could you ask for? Well, if you are me, you also ask them to teach you how to make lattes with designs in them!

Latte art has gotten huge in New York during recent years. It seems like nowadays any coffee shop you order from is going to hand you a drink with a flower, heart or face swirled into your foamed milk. I’m certainly not complaining, and am instead happy to learn the tricks of the trade from my favorite baristas. 

How to Make a Perfect Latte + Latte Art 

First: Make the perfect espresso! A couple of things to remember: use the best coffee beans you can afford, use good-tasting water and preheat your cup. Grind your coffee and pull an espresso shot directly into the cup using a machine.

Now for the latte! Add your milk of choice to a stainless-steel jug, leaving room at the top for the hot milk to expand, and place the tip of the steam wand a little bit under the surface of the milk. Keep the tip of the steamer in the liquid, and tilt the jug, circulating the milk, until your liquid has doubled in size. You can also make sure that the milk is hot enough - the ideal temperature is 150ºF.

Slowly swirl the milk in the jug, and then super slowly, start to pour into your cup, about an inch away from the rim. Once you have poured in half of the hot milk, gently shake the jug back and fourth as you pour the remainder, now moving in the opposite direction. Visually, the first half of the milk creates the large bottom of the flower, and as you shake the milk and pull backwards, the flower and leaves form and fill up the cup. OR try out a heart, like the last picture above.

For me, this new skill is definitely going to require a ton of practice, and I may never have the skills of my talented barista. And I seriously doubt that any consumers of my homemade lattes are going to take a sip and say, “Wow, she was definitely taught by a Brooklyn barista!” Back in the day, as in the 1400s, many artists went to learn from even greater, well-known artists, and usually left these apprentices with considerable skill and the influence of their mighty teacher. The Venetian painter Jacopo Bellini went to work under the great Gentile da Fabriano, and was so touched by his teacher that he named one of his sons after him! Flattering as it is, I probably couldn’t get away with naming any future children “coffee” :) .

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, oil on panel, 1423

Gentile da Fabriano is most well-known for his beautiful work, Adoration of the Magi, which he completed in 1423. Hanging in the Uffizi today, this triptych shows a subject that was very popular at the time, especially among wealthy Florentines, who wanted to get around the city’s sumptuary laws at the time. The Renaissance in Florence was all about luxury, but laws at the time limited the show of wealth in public, since it usually tended towards extreme excess. By commissioning a religious work showing great wealth - in this particular scene, kings and wealthy men are shown visiting the Christ child after his birth and showering him with jewels and extravagant gifts - patrons were able to display their wealth in a way that was more accepted by the church. 

I am specifically reminded of the work of Gentile da Fabriano in Jacopo Bellini’s Virgin of Humility Adorned by Leonello d’ Este (a donor), which might have even been attributed to Gentile for awhile. Take a look at the background behind the Virgin - it looks just like the windy Venetian landscape that Gentile used in the background of Adoration of the Magi. Coincidence? I think not. Happy caffeinating! So fitting for a Monday, right?

Jacopo Bellini, Madonna of Humility Adorned by Leonello d' Este, oil on panel, c. 1440-1

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Peach Scones of Madness

After a beautiful wedding weekend filled with everyone we love, we are also recently back from 10 days in Spain (Barcelona -> Mallorca -> Madrid). I still can’t really get over how beautiful that country is. We ate and biked all over Barcelona. Then we flew to Puerto de Pollenca, Mallorca, and chilled out by the beach for a few days. Madrid was the last stop, and man, that is a pretty and delicious city! 

New York is just as hot as we left it, but there is an excited energy for fall. I’m definitely looking forward for the leaves to start changing along with the temperature. Until then I’m savoring the last days of hot summer days with lots of stone fruit. I made these particular scones with nectarines, but you can substitute any stone fruit, which goes out of season soon! 

These scones were inspired by two paintings that I saw at the Prado Museum in Madrid, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness by Hieronymus Bosch and The Extraction of the Stone of Madness (also called The Surgeon) by Jan Sanders van Hemessen. 

Hieronymus Bosch, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, oil on panel, c. 1494

Both pictures show the same scene: a bizarrely-dressed doctor pulls a stone out of the skull of a tormented patient, as others look on. It refers to a popular urban legend at that time, where the extraction of “a stone of madness” from a patient’s skull would cure them of mental illness. Bosch’s picture was completed around 1494 and is pretty simply composed. A funnel-headed surgeon is at the center of the action, extracting a stone from a patient while two others look on - a bored-looking woman balancing a book on her head and a man, busy chatting with the supposed doctor. A gold inscription around the edges says something to the effect of “Please get the stone out quickly, I am not very smart.” Not one to beat around the bush, Bosch also shows a tulip sprouting from the patient’s head, another reference to his low IQ; in the 15th century, the Dutch referred to stupid people as “tulip heads.” 

Jan Sanders van Hemessen, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, oil on panel, 1555

Jan Sanders van Hemessen’s work is darker, larger in scale, and more animated, but lacks all of Bosch’s jokes. In the center of the picture, a ill-looking patient suffers as a “doctor” pulls a nectarine-sized pit from his head. two women look on to the left, and a man stretches to the right. As in Bosch’s work, we know that this doctor character can’t possibly be someone who practices medicine for a living. During the time depicted in this scene, a group of charlatans came around claiming that they could cure mental illnesses and other diseases. This work warns of false knowledge; don’t be so quick to trust something or someone. 

These scones on the other hand, you can definitely trust that they are amazing! They are juicy and sweet with an unexpected tartness from the cornmeal. The buttermilk keeps them rich but light. Good luck trying to limit your snacking on these!

Corn and Nectarine Scones
Adapted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon
yield: 12 scones

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal 
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 c. sugar + more for sprinkling
  • 2 sticks unsalted, cold butter, diced
  • 2 c. nectarines or other stone fruit, diced 
  • 1 1/4 c. buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 400ºF and position one of the baking racks in the center of the oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. 

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, mix the diced butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and combined. Add in the buttermilk, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Gently stir in the stone fruit, and only mix until the dough looks done and seems to have a reasonable fruit : dough ratio throughout. 

Transfer the dough to a floured-surface, and gently form the dough into a small mound. Roll the dough down a bit and pat smooth. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into 12 pie-sized pieces, and arrange on a cookie sheet with about an inch room between. Bake for about 16 minutes and let cool before eating. 

PS. For those of you who followed my goal of 200 miles by the wedding, I am psyched to say that I made my goal, and actually beat it by 5 miles :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sweet Treats #8

Coming soon? Art filters on Instagram. How cool would all of my recent Spain pictures be with the “Starry Night” filter? 

Alicia Keys has an awesome house in New Jersey with works by Joan Miro, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol + tons more…jealous yet?

At the end of August, Banksy opened an alternative contemporary-themed funland in England, called “Dismaland Bemusement Park.” If you’re in the area, hurry to see it before it closes on September 27th.

Opening this week:
  • Takehisa Kosugi: Music Expanded (Whitney)

Closing this week:
  • Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971 (MoMA
  • China: Through the Looking Glass (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (MoMA)
  • Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim (Guggenheim)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Married !

Hello again! It’s been too long! After about 3 weeks away, I am back in New York as a married lady! I’ll really be back with new posts this week, but until then, here are a few pictures from our wedding and honeymoon in Spain :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Duchamp-y Coconut Lemongrass Chess Pie

Chess! Now, I know what you are thinking; when did this blog get so nerdy? Don’t worry, I still have no idea how to play the game, and this post is not going to teach you (us).

Instead I want to bring to your attention that the late, great Marcel Duchamp would have been 128 years old yesterday, and not only that, but the dude loved chess. How much did he love chess, you ask? Marcel Duchamp basically retired from making art in 1923 to devote his time to perfecting his game and playing in professional tournaments. In fact, he was such a skilled player that he participated in the Chess Olympiads (nerd alert!) a few times, as a member of the French National Team.

Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray playing chess together (image from here)

Duchamp’s love of chess lead him to design two chess boards, the first, in 1920, was a more traditional board, and the second, designed in the early 1940s, which was designed to be a more portable, pocket-set. 

Marcel Duchamp, Pocket Chess Set in Leather Wallet, 1943 (image from here)

Chess was also a subject that Duchamp brought up in his art (pre-retirement), and can be seen as a central and fairly obvious subject in The Chess Game (painted in 1910) and Portrait of Chess Players (painted in 1911). What a difference a year made in his style; while The Chess Game is brightly colored and energetic, Portrait of Chess Players shows the influence of Cubism in his work. The color palette is limited and muted in earth tones, and the figures are fragmented and angular. Despite this, Duchamp wasn’t fully committed to Cubism – his figures are in constant motion, actively engaging with each other as they hunch close together over a chessboard. 

Marcel Duchamp, Portrait of Chess Players, oil on canvas, 1911

Much like Duchamp’s unexpected obsession with chess, this pie has a surprise flavor addition: lemongrass. Adding lemongrass to the coconut takes this pie to another level – I’m thrilled with how it turned out! The coconut milk and eggs provide the richness we expect from this traditional Southern pie, yet I can’t help but think that the lemongrass adds a certain lightness to each bite, which makes me feel a tiny bit better about indulging in it 2 ½ weeks before my wedding!

Speaking of running down the aisle (for those of you reading along this spring/summer as I’ve worked towards my goal of logging 200 miles before my wedding) I am currently at 173 miles with 27 more miles to go before August 15th. Wish me luck! :) 

Coconut Lemongrass Chess Pie

Inspired by A Beautiful Mess and Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Butter Crust (for a single-crust pie):
·      1 c. all-purpose flour
·      ¼ c. whole wheat flour
·      pinch of salt
·      2 t. sugar
·      1 stick of unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
·      small bowl of ice water + a healthy swig of apple cider vinegar
Inspired by A Beautiful Mess
·       4 eggs, room temperature
·      3 T. coconut milk
·      1 t. vanilla extract
·      6 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
·      1 ¾ c. sugar
·      1 stalk lemongrass
·      pinch of salt
·      2 T. cornmeal
·      1 T. all-purpose flour
·      1 T. white vinegar
·      ½ c. unsweetened coconut, toasted

Make the crust the night before:
Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a large food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is made up of pea-sized pieces of butter. Add 2 T. of the ice water mixture at a time (I needed 3 total), continuing to pulse with the food processor until incorporated. Stop only once the mixture resembles a dough you can work with. If you add too much water, don’t panic, just add another T. or two of flour.

Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

The next day, lightly flour your work surface as well as your rolling pin, and slowly roll the dough out, starting from the center, until you have a 12-13 inch circle. Carefully transfer the crust to your pie plate, gently pressing into place, and leaving about an inch of overhang. Trim and shape your crust, and then poke a few holes throughout with a fork. Let chill while you get your filling ready.

To make the filling:
Remove the tough outer layer of the lemongrass stalk, and finely chop the bottom 4 inches. Place in the bowl of your food processor with the sugar, and pulse until combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla extract and melted butter. Add in the lemongrass sugar, cornmeal, flour and vinegar. Slowly pour the filling into your chilled crust. Top with toasted coconut and bake at 350°F for 50 minutes, or until the pie filling has set and the top is golden brown. Let cool for at least an hour and then dig in!

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