Open for Interpretation

I probably start most of my blog post the same way. I talk about how it’s been so long since my previous post and how busy I get and I’m going to try to do better! It’s all true.

I had a show in February with two artist friends at Fifth Avenue Art Gallery, in Melbourne, Florida entitled Open for Interpretation. The three of us, each submitted three words and all of us had to “interpret“ all nine words. So the show consisted of 27 artworks. The nine words were: tree, oyster, spicy, sunflower, honeybee, fishing, collection, vintage and origami. The three of us have very different styles and mediums that we work in. I am a mixed media artist, my friend Lori is a watercolorist and my friend Barbara is currently working with digital ink transfers. As I sometimes do, I didn’t get started on the project as early as I should have and in the end worked feverishly to get all my pieces finished. But I did enjoy the process and I like the playfulness and directness of my finished work for the show.

To Beet or not to…Beet

Yes… I know, so corny, but I couldn’t resist that title. So BEETS. Healthy, from the earth (under the earth) colorful, nutrient rich, RED or purple or golden or really pretty red and white, trendy too. I never want to be “afraid” of a food item… especially one that is so good for you. My mom and dad always had a jar of pickled beets in the refrigerator, always. I love pickled veggies but the beets in the jar were never appealing to me. The best way I could describe the aroma from that jar would be “dirt disks”, eeeewwww.

Lately I have been approached by various beets… my son likes “daily roots” juice (lots of beets there) and occasionally I add a little bit to my morning smoothie to hide the greenish brown kale color.  I went to lunch with my friend Suzanne and two of the four salads on the menu included beets. Then I was asked to make borscht (beet soup) for a presentation at my church… borscht! So maybe it’s a good time to re-evaluate my position on beets.

Along with being so good for you, beets are quite lovely, and if you peel them and cut them up without gloves, your hands will turn magenta… one of my favorite colors. The salad I had at The Crepe restaurant in downtown Melbourne was delicious and due in part to the diced beets… never second guess French cooking.  As far as Borscht… it’s a very tasty soup with chicken or beef stock (I used beef) onions, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, leeks and grated beets and dill with a hint of apple cider vinegar to balance the earthiness. I just finished my first ever bowl of Borscht and would definitely make it again.

Tonight I’m cooking dinner for friends and I’ll be making a different soup; carrot, lemongrass and ginger bisque along with grilled salmon and a mixed salad with fresh beets and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. If you, like me have avoided beets in your diet, you might want to re-consider. (Unless you love the color magenta… wear gloves.)

Bon Appetit!

No Tangerines Here

My friend Marti gave me a treasure for my birthday years ago — a Meyer Lemon tree. I have had years and years of successful crops of lemons! My husband Jay wishes so much that it was a tangerine tree…

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Renee’s lovey lemon tree

Meyer lemon trees are scraggly. They don’t grow in a regular fashion but prefer to spread out. You can even espalier them to the side of a house or trellis. I tell Jay it’s a great attribute of the Meyer Lemon tree. Our tree is growing sort of sideways right now, reaching for full sun; it annoys Jay. When I told him this morning that I had harvested some beautiful lemons and preserved them in jars with salt and spices… his response: “imagine if that was a tangerine tree and your out working in the yard, sweating and you walk over a pick a nice juicy tangerine.” Me: ” But lemons are so beneficial! ”

Over the last 4 or 5 years my annual crop is around 70 large Meyer lemons. Not the little tiny California grown Meyer lemons either, but big Florida, size of a grapefruit, lemons. I’ve canned jars and jars of lemon marmalade, cherry lemon marmalade, lemon fig marmalade, lemon honey jelly and preserved jars and jars of  lemons.

Preserved lemons are made with lots of salt and I like to add the suggested spices; cinnamon, cloves, coriander and peppercorns. You wash your lemons very well since what you will eventually be using is the peel. Use sea salt or good canning salt and layer the lemon sections, spices and salt in canning jars; squeezing the juice from the sections into the jar as you go. Once your jars are filled, you put lids on, not too tightly, and set them in a dark place (my pantry) to start the fermenting process. Every day or two open the lid to release built up gasses and gently shake them up to re-distribute the salt. After a week or two the fermenting process has created a funky, lovely, exciting aroma :) Now you can stick the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. The great thing is… you can keep your preserved lemons for a year or more in the fridge and use when wanted.

I use them for seafood soups and stews, my version of Moroccan chicken with lemons and olives, seafood marinades, vinaigrette… etc.  To use the lemon you remove the sections from the jar and rinse well to wash away the salt. You also remove the pulp and discard, leaving the soft aged peel to chop, mince, dice — whatever you like.

Another great benefit of having a Meyer Lemon tree… their lovely purplish blooms have one of the best fragrances and your whole yard will smell heavenly. Bon Appetit and happy gardening!

lemon bloom