Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes

Do you say To-may-to or To mah-to? I know, who cares as long as you have big gorgeous red ripe tomatoes all summer! It is thought that our beloved tomato is not a vegetable, but rather a huge berry that is apparently from Peru, originally, working its way north, onto the Yucatan peninsula then to North America. I had heard that Columbus took the tomato back to the Mediterranean region, but it seems that is not the case. The earliest mention of the tomato in European literature is found in a piece written by Matthiolus in 1544. He described tomatoes, or as they were called in Italy, pomi d'oro (golden apple), and wrote that they were "eaten in Italy with oil, salt and pepper". This provides evidence that the first tomatoes to reach the Old World were a yellow variety, and that they were introduced via the Mediterranean. Red tomatoes were said to be introduced to Italy by two Catholic priests many years later.

According to Women’s Health magazine, today the tomato is summer’s number one power food; it can be dressed up or down and is perfect for every occasion. And, as in previous recent years, the heirloom tomato is the only one to plant. When you hear the word “heirloom”, do you immediately think “antique”? When you are talking heirloom tomatoes, you are indeed talking antiques. They are tomatoes that come from an original family line that dates back many years. Heirloom tomatoes are so ugly, they are beautiful!
Those perfectly shaped tomatoes, uniformly colored a bright red, which you buy at your supermarket are actually hybrids, made by crossing two or more types of tomatoes. This makes them disease resistant and hardier, but has destroyed their wonderful flavor. Is there anything more disappointing than a hot house tomato?

Okay enough of the history….

The Italians have definitely made the tomato their own. Is there another cuisine that immediately brings the tomato to mind? I don’t think so. Southern Italy and Sicily have the perfect climate for growing bumper crops of pomodoro. As in 1544, they still eat their tomatoes with oil, salt and pepper, but they also add fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. This salad is known as Insalata Caprese. To my way of thinking, it is the perfect salad, gloriously simple.. It does require perfect ingredients, however: Sun-ripened tomatoes and basil, good Mozzarella, from buffalo (not bison) milk if possible, and excellent olive oil. Food fit for a king!

If you have never tried it, do it as soon as you find some heirloom tomatoes!

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, sliced, seeded, and drained
A fresh mozzarella (buffalo milk if possible) weighing about a pound, diced.
Fresh basil leaves, hand-shredded (8-10 or to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste
Pepper and salt (if necessary)

Slice the tomatoes into rounds and put them on 6 plates; slice the mozzarella into rounds and lay them over the tomatoes. Season with the olive oil, basil, origano, and a little salt and pepper. Serves 6-8.

I suppose I should give you an Italian Tomato Sauce recipe, but to be honest, I make mine from canned Italian Plum Tomatoes.

I have told you about my trip to Sicily several times in the last year and a half. I have mentioned my day in Trapani and the salt pans on Sicily’s westernmost tip, and the perfect salt. But Trapani also has a tomato recipe they are well known for. It is called

Salamureci - A Sicilian Chilled Tomato Soup

1 1/3 pounds (600 g) ripe tomatoes, chopped and drained
A bunch of parsley, shredded
1/2 pound (200 g) day-old Italian bread, cubed
2 cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste, hopefully Trapani salt!

Grind the garlic in a mortar with a pinch of salt and distribute the mixture in 4 bowls; if you prefer less garlic simply rub the bottoms of the bowls with a cut clove. Add the tomatoes to the bowls, season them with salt, pepper, and basil, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Add chilled water to cover, season the "soup" with a little olive oil, and serve it with the cubes of bread.
It is delightfully refreshing on a hot day!

Next I have an appetizer recipe for you,

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

1 package puff pastry (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Here is a recipe from the good old USA, just in time for the 4th!

This Tomato Relish Recipe is sweet and tangy and will go great with a wide range of burgers. Try this tomato relish recipe if you don’t want a relish that is too spicy.

Ingredients for 8 servings:
6 cups of fresh chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons of celery seeds
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare the tomatoes peel them by soaking them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, the skin should peel off easier. Remove the seeds and chop them.
Combine the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Now add the chopped tomatoes, onion and green pepper. Store the relish in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.

Now, for my final recipe, and my favorite.....my Tomato Sandwich.

Pepperidge Farm Extra Thin Sliced Bread
Salt and Pepper

As with most things in life, simplicity makes for perfection....
Toast 2 slices of bread for each sandwich you want to prepare. As soon as it pops up in the toaster, liberally spread them with butter. Next spread them with mayonnaise. Salt and pepper gently.
Slice the tomato as thin or as thick as you like, me, I like it medium. Place slice between the two pieces of toast. Cut in half and sit down to the perfect Tomato Sandwich! Ahhhh, simplicity!

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

There is a great quote from Julia Child’s own book, “My Life in France”. While discovering all of the amazing things about France, French food and dining in France, it dawned on Julia that “The waiters carried themselves with a quiet joy, as if their entire mission in life was to make their customers feel comfortable and well tended.”

Remember that kind of server? We don’t run into them as often as we wish we would, but they still do exist. A server who understands what the word “service” means, is worth his/her weight in gold. The older gentlemen who were waiters at The Savoy Grill in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, were that kind of servers. Always dressed as a 5 star waiter should be, complete with stiffly starched white coat and black bow tie, they treated you like royalty, and they could tell amazing stories about early Kansas City. While dining on lobster and steak, it was a treat to hear one of them talk about jazz, or architecture, politics or the meat packing business and the garment district.  Of course, I wondered on occasion if it was all just “made up stuff”, put together with just the right amount of “true stuff”….but I always went home feeling like I had the time of my life!

The Savoy Hotel was built in 1888 at 9th and Central. In 1903, it was remodeled and the west wing was added along with The Savoy Grill dining room. Imported marble and tile, brass fixtures and stained glass are some of the original features of the hotel decor. Art Nouveau style stained glass in the skylight was designed in Kansas City by Frank Anderson for the hotel lobby.

The Savoy Grill restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Kansas City, with stained glass windows, high beamed ceilings, lanterns that were once gaslights, and an enormous carved oak bar. Booth No. 4, known as the presidents' booth, has been host to Warren Harding, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Marie Dressler, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Lillian Russell, Sara Bernhardt, and John D. Rockefeller

There aren’t too many restaurants that have been operating since 1903! The servers love to tell you the history.

Another great story-teller was the bartender at the Majestic Steak House. He spent close to an hour telling me all about the beautiful hand made, hand carved Missouri Walnut backbar. A back bar is the piece of furniture with mirrors and shelves to hold all of the bottles and glassware. This back bar was made in St Joseph, Missouri, loaded onto a barge and floated down the Missouri River to Kansas City. It remained there for some time, there in the the building that would someday house the Majestic Steak House. A New Orleans gentleman walked in one day and bought it. It was loaded onto another barge and made its way down the river to New Orleans. As I remember the story, it found a home in a “Gentlemen’s Club”. Years went by and when the club was shut down and the building was about to be demolished, someone had the good sense to contact a friend in Kansas City to tell them about the
bar’s possible end.

Onto a barge it went and soon it was on its way back up stream to Kansas City, where, once again, the bar came to rest in its original home.

Built in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the early 20th-century Fitzpatrick Building has housed a saloon and bordello, and during Prohibition, the basement was a Speakeasy and meeting place for many businessmen and local politicians. If rumor has it correct, there was a "cigar club" upstairs, very private. The boys knew how to party.

How I love stories like that one; I sure hope it is true!

Both of these restaurants helped make Kansas City THE place to order a steak.
Want to prepare a perfect Porterhouse at home? Give this a try! This cut of meat has always been my favorite. Granted, they are BIG....but you can share!

Kansas City Beef Porterhouse Steak

3 to 3 1/2 pounds porterhouse steak, about 2-inches thick
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 scallions, white parts only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Trim the fat from the steak, leaving a quarter to half inch of fat. Rub the remaining fat with the lemon to keep it from burning and smoking.
Combine the olive oil, garlic, scallions, salt and pepper in a glass or ceramic dish. Put the steak in the dish and turn several times to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator for as long as 4 hours. Turn the meat once or twice during marinating. If marinating in the refrigerator, remove from refrigerator 1 hour before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Lightly spray the grill rack with vegetable oil cooking spray. The coals should be moderately hot to hot. Lift the steak from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the steak, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn and grill, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes longer for medium-rare, or until it reaches the desired degree of doneness. Let the meat rest for a few minutes before serving.

PERFECT! Now all you have to do is make a salad and think up some great bit of history to talk about as you dine!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to cooking!

That's right, Art in the Vines is over (for now, but, stay tuned); the opening at For Art'sake was held this last weekend (It was wonderful and the show will be hanging for at least a month); and finally, I am officially moved into my new painting studio space in Paola. Whew! I have time to cook again! It is a good thing....I have had absolutely no butter in my refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, which I feel is surely against the law. I have not had time to read my favorite food blogs, much less try some of the recipes. So, I have decided, I'm going to spend more time in the kitchen, starting now.
Just went grocery shopping; there are 3 pounds of butter in the fridge! I feel so much better. Of course, I have two chocolate sheet cakes to bake this weekend, so one pound is spoken for. As for the remaining two, I am sure I can find some way to use them! Did you know it takes 21 pounds of fresh, wholesome cow’s milk to make each pound of butter?
According to Web Exhibits "Butter has symbolized the powerful, life giving and sacred, the good, the happy, the healthy and pure. It has sustained lives, cultures and civilizations for millennia. For over six millennia, humans have had an intimate culinary relationship with butter. Melting at just below body temperature, butter has a luscious mouth feel that imparts a rich, creamy taste to everything it touches. In the second half of the twentieth century, butter – one of the great flavors and most important ingredients in a cook’s repertoire – was reported to be the gateway to a host of health problems. We now know that butter’s negative reputation was undeserved, and instead that butter substitutes and man made trans fats are the true culprits that pose threats to our health.

Indeed, recent studies reveal just how important butter is to a healthy diet. It supplies our bodies with vitamins and minerals; boosts our immune system; helps hormone production; and supports our bones, organs, and most importantly, our brain. Good natural butter is satisfying and can even help with maintaining a healthy weight." 
Oh how I would love to believe that statement ....but I think it is slightly exaggerated!

Butter is a major part of my cooking and baking. If I am testing a recipe that calls for shortening, I think twice before I continue. If I absolutely must cook with shortening, I buy the smallest amount possible. I truly do not like the way it looks, smells or tastes. Butter, on the other hand, makes me happy.

I love making butter based sauces, my favorite being Beurre blanc, or white butter, the classic French white sauce that’s known for its richness and creaminess. Beginning with a wine and/or vinegar reduction, butter is whisked in until it has the consistency of heavy cream. As with all butter sauces, beurre blanc is fragile, and can easily break down when exposed to heat.

To make beurre blanc, combine 1 cup  dry white wine (Somerset Ridge Chardonnay, of course), 1-1/2 oz. white wine vinegar, and 2 finely diced shallots in a saucepan. Reduce over medium high heat to a volume of 2 tablespoons. Cut 2 cups cold butter into small pieces. Set the pan over low heat and add butter a few pieces at a time, whisking continuously. Add more butter as previous addition is almost melted. Continue until all the butter is added. This is absolutely perfect on fish, turning it from ho-hum to yum-yum!

As for baking with butter, gosh, where do I begin. Most people bake chocolate chip cookies. Most use the recipe on the back of the bag of chips. Everyone loves them! But have you ever noticed some cookies are mounds and some are flat and spread out? That is because the mounded cookies are made with shortening (I am sure all that plastic keeps them that shape!); the flat cookies are made with butter.  Mine flatten and spread, and melt in your mouth!

My favorite butter cookie is Shortbread. With such simple and few ingredients, butter is the shining star of this recipe. If you have never experienced true homemade shortbread, prepare for a religious experience!

Thank you, Martha!

Makes 12 wedges.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar

1.Spray a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour. Mix until well combined.

3.Evenly spread cookie dough into prepared tart pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

4.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle shortbread with sanding sugar. Using a 2-inch round fluted cookie cutter, make a shallow cut in the center of the dough. Using the tines of a fork, score dough from the edge of the circle in the center towards the edge of the pan into 12 equal wedges.

5.Transfer tart pan to oven and bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the shortbread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Immediately re-score circle and wedges with cookie cutter and the tines of a fork. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 1 hour. Remove shortbread from tart pan and let cool completely. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife along the scored lines.
Last but not least, here is a great berry butter. Raspberries and Blackberries are available now, but you can always use Strawberries.
Berry Bread Spread, a fresh fruit butter
1/4 cup berries
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
Place all ingredients in the bowl of the food processor. Process until well combined. Refrigerate the mixture in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to a month.
Wonderful on bread, scones, bagels, or my favorite....biscuits! 
If I have turned you on to butter again....Good! I am not saying throw a half a stick on your baked potato, but do allow yourself to enjoy a pat of pale yellow goodness everyday! And we must not forget Corn on the Cob....oh! and Popcorn! I almost forgot fresh vegetables, you have to have butter on asparagus and peas! Mashed Potatoes, and French Toast! Pancakes, what good is a pancake without butter?  Okay, see? You may need many pats of butter!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Today, while enjoying the conversations between my new studio mates, David Gross, Claud Davis and For Art’sake owner, Caroling Langner, I started to realize how much I am learning, just by listening, and sometimes, eavesdropping! All three are professional artists with experience I can only dream about.

Midmorning, David handed me a book to read, John F Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting. I suspect he realizes I need a lot of help! Anyway, while flipping through the book, I came across the following…..”No one color can exist “pure” in the out-of-doors without a lesser or greater tempering with the other two, this tempering being decided mostly by the colorcast of the light, with its myriad reflections and refractions.”……Oh Boy, do I need help!

I do wake up every morning with a feeling of excitement, eager to get to the studio. I also feel intimidation when I walk in, but all three of my new friends have done nothing to make me feel that way. Our conversations are either very stimulating, or out right slapstick. Today David and Claud were telling jokes….badly! They, themselves, were much funnier than the jokes!

Caroline is one of those artists who can do everything, and do it well. She has filled bookcases, there at the studio, with books on every form of art and crafts. She has a great imagination as well as great plans for the studio and gallery.

Now for Claud….he has an amazing way of looking at things. Claud was an engraver at Hallmark for many years. As I understand it, engravers work on a piece upside down. So there is Claud, standing before his easel, painting upside down. His paintings are beautiful, so it works.

I hope all of you can visit us at For Art’sake this Saturday for the Art and Wine Stroll. We will all be there to greet you!

For Art’sake will be offering classes in painting, life drawing, pottery, jewelry, weaving, polymer clay, etc. There will also be a class on writing and compiling an Heirloom Recipes cookbook, taught by me. David Gross teaches private painting classes throughout the week.

It is indeed, a stimulating place! I have a new home.

One other thing David said today was he loves lamb shanks. I’ve promised the 3 of them that I will cook lunch for them soon, possibly lamb shanks. There are so many wonderful lamb recipes that are so good. In thinking about them, I once again realized I’ve been ignoring those of you who are “foodies”. So, here are a few of my favorite lamb recipes.

Hope you enjoy them.

Braised Lamb Shanks

4 American Lamb shanks
4 cloves garlic, divided
1 tablespoon lemon pepper, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
28 ounces canned whole tomatoes and juice, broken up
1/2 cup Somerset Ridge Vineyard Ruby Red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika

In 13 x 9-inch baking dish with meat rack, arrange shanks. Make slits in shank meat. Thinly slice 2 garlic cloves and insert into slits. Season all sides of shanks with 2 teaspoons lemon pepper and salt. Roast in 325ºF oven for 1 hour.

In 2-quart saucepan with cover, heat oil. Sauté onion, bell pepper and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, wine or broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, sugar, oregano, 1 teaspoon lemon pepper, coriander, allspice and paprika. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; set aside. Remove cooked lamb shanks and rack from pan. Wipe out pan and return shanks to pan. Pour on sauce, cover and cook 1-1/2 to 2 additional hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaves. Serve with rice or pasta.

Minty Pasta Salad with Lamb Chops
5 oz. dried fettuccine
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 recipe Mint Herb Pesto, below
12 small lamb double rib chops
3 cups arugula
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse; drain.

Transfer to bowl; toss with oil and lemon peel. Prepare Mint-Herb Pesto. Add to pasta; toss. Set aside. (Pasta may be chilled up to 24 hours.)

Meanwhile, sprinkle lamb lightly with salt and pepper. For a charcoal grill, place chops on rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, 10 minutes (145 degrees F for medium-rare), turning once. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place chops on rack over heat. Cover; grill as above.)
Toss pasta with arugula and mint. Top with grilled chops; sprinkle with pine nuts. Makes 6 servings.

Mint-Herb Pesto: In blender or food processor combine 1/2 cup lightly packed arugula, 1/2 cup lightly packed mint, 1/2 cup lightly packed basil, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 cloves minced garlic. Cover; blend or process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add the 1/4 cup shredded pecorino cheese and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cover; blend or process until just combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Feta Lamb Burgers with Spinach Slaw

3 tablespoons quick-cooking rolled oats
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground American Lamb
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, leaves and stems removed, chopped
4 English muffins, split and lightly toasted

In a bowl, combine oats, egg white, pepper and salt. Add lamb; mix well. Form into eight 1/4-inch patties. In a small bowl, toss together the feta cheese and green onion. Place one-fourth of the cheese mixture on each of four patties. Top with remaining four patties and seal edges to hold filling inside.
In bowl, combine vinegar, mustard and sugar; mix well. Pour over chopped spinach; toss to mix. Set aside.
Grill burger over medium-hot coals for 5 to 6 minutes per side until no longer pink inside. Place each burger on a muffin half; top with spinach mixture and second half of the muffin.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

6 months ago, I completed a painting I call “Kansas Storm”. I’m pretty proud of it, it does indeed please me. But after yesterday, I’m thinking I need to change the title to maybe “Before the Kansas Storm” or maybe “A Distant Kansas Storm”….possibly just “Kansas” with no mention of a storm. After yesterday, trust me, my painting is nothing like a true Kansas Storm!

Picture this….the beautiful rolling hills of Somerset Ridge Vineyard. There, scattered across the Norton Vineyard and the French Vineyard were 30 artists….all prepared to spend the day in the sunshine, selling there paintings, pottery, sculptures, glass and furniture to the savvy and generous clientele of Somerset Ridge.

There were big umbrellas of every color shading the artists. Easels displaying landscapes, abstracts and florals! Tables laden with glass and iron, sculptures and wine barrel stave serving pieces and wine paraphernalia. We had artists that were as young as 12 and as old as me! …..And then it happened…..Where was Noah when we needed him!

Now I’m not saying my mother didn’t do her best to raise smart children, but I do wonder about the family gene pool when it comes to intelligence. Does the phrase "not smart enough to come in out of the rain" ring a bell? There I was, wrapped around an end post, hanging on to dear life, watching artwork fly by. Suddenly the 9 foot umbrella I had attached to the end post began to lift off the ground. I gripped it with all my might, to hell with my nails, my flesh, my muscles….I needed that umbrella to protect my paintings from the driving rain! About the time I watched one of my paintings head to the horse pasture south of the vineyard, the umbrella achieved “lift off”. It took off looking very much like the early Mercury Missions. Slowly at first, clearing the tower (post) to shoot skyward. It shuddered then aimed to the southeast. I am sure it would have arrived somewhere in Missouri right on schedule, if it had not been snagged about 30 feet up in a tree, settling in upside down like a giant cup, ready and willing to gather rainwater for the Kansas drought that is bound to happen 6 weeks from now!

I looked around through the drenching rain to see my darling brother, Tom, not 10 feet from me, hanging on to their canopy. See what I mean about our mother not raising smart kids? I was about to waddle over ( running with clothing, including underwear and shoes, full of water is impossibility) but I thought twice about it when a giant clap of thunder boomed over our heads. We waddled to the winery as fast as we could, to be greeted by a photographer who snapped our photos before they handed us towels. We were drenched to the skin, and then some!

There was quite a party going on in the winery….and many of the artists were completely dry (the smart ones)!

After several hours of partying, it was time to survey the damage. I actually didn’t fare too badly. I lost 1 painting, 1 patio umbrella, 1 cell phone (they do not hold up well underwater), a little flesh from my hands and arms, and I am sure, some respect from my fellow artists. When I finally got to see myself in a mirror, I did indeed, resemble a  big old drowned rat with mascara streaks down her cheeks! I was an absolute vision of loveliness!

I got over myself quickly, there was nothing I could do. My purse, that I had left wide open up by the post, was full of water. Not only was my cell phone submerged, but so was my makeup. I left everything as it was, and wandered about the winery, checking on how the other artists had come through the storm. There was a great amount of laughter, a few tears, and many startled expressions when they laid eyes on me.

As the storm left Miami County, the sun, that we had all been prepared for, broke through the clouds and soon, we were under a sky of blue. Most of the artists packed up and headed for home to try to salvage their work. I got help from my adorable granddaughter, Holly. As we loaded my trunk, I looked up and here came some old friends from high school. They had purchased a painting of mine at the first Art in the Vines and they came to see what I had painted in the last few months. I can tell you this, I have now sold paintings out of the trunk of my car! It is like “starving artist on the road again!”

After the sale, we sat out in the winery yard, drinking wine and remembering the good old days.

My paintings are being cared for by my friend and studio partner, Dave Gross, a truly wonderful painter . I drove my paintings to Paola where Dave was waiting for me. We unloaded them, checked them out for damage and turned a fan on them to help with the drying.

With any luck, they will be hanging in the gallery at For Art’sake on the historical square in Paola, Kansas. The show opens Saturday, June 19th as part of the Paola Art and Wine Stroll. Please come and join me, I would love to see you! I will be there from 10am until 9pm. I am bringing Somerset Ridge Wines!...and, it’s indoors!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Saturday is the BIG DAY! Come one, Come all!
June 12,  11am to 5 pm
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
for directions, go to
click on "about us"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Below, you will find a letter from my daughter, Cindy Reynolds. I know the name is familiar to you, she makes my blogs several times a week. She and her husband Dennis own Somerset Ridge Vineyard but she also volunteers a great deal of time to charities and is a member of several Boards of some of Kansas City's finest foundations. So, let me be a proud mama and forward this letter on to you.

June 8, 2010
Re: 2010 Pinnacle Awards and Dinner
The Pinnacle Awards Dinner has become the signature event for the Johnson County Library Foundation. And those of you who have had the opportunity to utilize any of the extensive services and resources available at the 13 Johnson County libraries know that this community resource is consistently ranked in the top two or three library systems in the country year after year. It is the Foundation’s mission to provide a measure of financial stability to ensure continued excellence and free access to one of the best collections in the country and award-winning programming. The Pinnacle Awards dinner is an opportunity to honor excellence and to celebrate the connections between the community, the Library, and the programs the JCLF helps support. And we can all play a role by nominating a friend, colleague, neighbor or mentor who has made a meaningful contribution to the metropolitan area through their excellence in the arts, advocacy and public engagement, business and entrepreneurship or literacy and education.

Please take a moment to review the award categories below and consider those you know who demonstrate excellence in their professional field or philanthropic pursuits. Submitting an online nomination is easy. Just visit http://www.jocolibraryfoundation.org/ and click on the Pinnacle Awards button at the top of the page. The deadline for nominations is Friday, June 18, 2010. If you have questions about the nomination process, or on filling out the online form, don’t hesitate to call the Foundation office at 913/495-7579 or call me directly at 913/915-7177.
Finally, I invite you to forward this email to your friends and colleagues. You will help us continue building identity and excitement for the Pinnacle Awards, and expand our outreach to the many deserving, outstanding candidates in our community. And I extend my personal thanks for any help you can provide.
Cindy Reynolds
Chairman, Board of Directors
Johnson County Library Foundation

Excellence in the Arts
Presented to an individual whose work as either a visual or performance artist or writer has had a significant influence on the cultural well-being of our community.

Excellence in Advocacy and Public Engagement
Presented to a recognized leader who has made substantial philanthropic or public contributions to our community’s improvement and development.

Excellence in Business and Entrepreneurship
Presented to a business person who has demonstrated innovation, an exceptional entrepreneurial talent and spirit, and contributed dynamic growth and economic well-being to our community.

Excellence in Literacy and Education
Presented to an individual who has demonstrated a sustained commitment, either professionally or as a volunteer, to serving the causes of literacy or life-long learning in our community.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Join us for
Art in the Vines

This Saturday, June 12, 2010,  11am to 5pm
Rain Date: Sunday, June 13th
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
is a believer in local food, wine and art.
For more than 10 years we have grown our own grapes and made award-winning wine
just 20 minutes south of Kansas City.
We would like to promote the work of 35 top artists from Kansas
in our second art event scheduled for June 12.
You’ll enjoy a day of fresh air, sunshine, fine art and local wine.
How nice to walk through a vineyard and find beautiful works of art at every turn.
We hope to see you there!
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
29725 Somerset Road, Louisburg, KS 66071
Just south of the Louisburg Cider Mill
It just dawned on me that you may want to bring a picnic lunch out to the vineyard, so after you stroll through the art in the vineyard, you can relax on the veranda with a bottle of wine and eat your picnic while listening to the amazing Spanish guitar of Jerrod Stephenson. So, I think I will share one of my all-time favorite picnic foods. I call it Estes Italian Savory Pie. I named it "Estes" after my Italian ancestors from the Northern Italian Lakes region. Hope you make it, it is awfully good. It is a beautiful appetizer for a party also!

Estes Italian Savory Pie
10 appetizer servings or 6 luncheon servings

2 cups flour
5 ounces cold butter, cut in pieces
1 pinch salt
1 large egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup cold Somerset Ridge Chardonnay Wine
1 egg beaten
1 large jar roasted red peppers, cut into wedges
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/2 pound sliced salami
1/2 pound provolone cheese, sliced

To prepare the crust: Place the flour into the food processor with the 5 ounces cold butter and a pinch of salt. Pulse the machine repeatedly to cut in butter. Add 1 egg and pulse to lightly blend. Add cold wine, BARELY blend.
On a floured surface, work the dough with your hands to pull it together. DO NOT KNEAD.
Chill dough for at least 1 hour. Butter a 9" springform pan.
Roll out 1/2 of the dough, place in bottom and up sides of pan, with dough overhanging the top rim. Brush the dough with beaten egg.
Drain the roasted peppers. In a bowl, toss well drained and squeezed dry spinach with 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup cream and 1/3 cup parmesan.
To assemble: Line bottom crust with 1/3 of the ham, 1/3 of the spinach mixture, 1/3 of the salami, 1/3 of the roasted peppers, 1/3 of the provolone, in that order. Repeat layering in same order 2 more times.
Roll top crust, moisten overhang of bottom crust, then attach top crust by pinching two layers together to seal. Decorate top by using trimmings from dough.
Brush with beaten egg, prick top crust to release steam. Bake at 375 degrees until deep golden brown.
Cool in pan, remove from pan to serving plate  and serve at room temperature.

But if you aren't in the mood to bring a picnic...

Cindy and I have been working with Molly's Table in Paola to offer you excellent lunch fare! And we always have Yummy's Choice Gourmet Mediterranean Hummos and Pita Chips for sale in the tasting room. Add that cold bottle of Chardonnay or our big Ruby Red and you have yourself a party!

We have been working on Art in the Vines 2010 for a year, lining up Kansas City's finest artists. The vineyard crew has been working hard everyday to make sure the vineyard is absolutely glorious!
Dennis has, as always, made wonderful wine for this occasion as well as everyday of the year!
Yep, I would say this is going to be a great event! See you there!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

After a year of planning and painting,
Art in the Vines is here!
May I take this opportunity to invite you, your family, your friends to join us at
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
this coming Saturday, June 12th
from 11am to 5pm 
for our
2nd Annual
Art in the Vines
presented for your enjoyment by
Cindy and Dennis Reynolds,
owners of that beautiful vineyard and winery,
Somerset Ridge 
This year, we have 35 local artists settng up their work
in the vineyard, among the vines!
Come enjoy the day, join us as we celebrate
ART and Wine! 
For directions to the vineyard, go to 
and click on "About Us"
See you there!  


Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker