Monday, February 28, 2011

Sarsoon ka Saag or Jolly Green Glop

I am not trying to become a vegetarian but I have cut back substantially on eating red meat and fish (because the oceans are being over fished and red meat - well, that should be pretty self-explanatory). 

I try to plan for a meatless Monday and today's meal was right out of the pages of Julie Sahni's book on Vegetarian Indian Cooking. Well, maybe not quite RIGHT out - let's say, inspired by the original recipe but with several Nancy-type variations. 

Sarsoon Ka Saag is mustard greens cooked with a little cornmeal, Punjabi-style. I always keep several kinds of greens in the fridge so I substituted 1/2 cup of collard, turnip, mustard greens and chard. When the greens were completely thawed, I squeezed all the excess water out of them and put them in a colander to drain.

While the greens were draining, I sauteed one large onion and several cloves of garlic in vegetable oil. Then I added 1 tbsp Menthi power (I think it's made from Fenugreek), two green chilies (seeded and diced), 1 tbsp of coriander and a large piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into small pieces. 

Then, I sprinkled the pan with 1/4 cup of cornmeal because the mixture is supposed to be silky and somewhat thick. Once all the spices smelled fragrant, I added all the greens and made sure that the spices were completely mixed with the greens. Lastly, I added about 2 cups of vegetable stock. Simmer until the greens are tender and salt and pepper to taste.

You are supposed to add a spiced butter to the mix when it's ready to eat but I didn't want to add any extra fats. I also thought that the greens weren't spiced enough to my taste. I like much more spice and vinegar in my greens so I added vinegar to taste (maybe 1/4 cup each of cider and white wine vinegar), more sauteed garlic, two more diced chilies and a cup of pickled carrots. 

Now, that's good eating. 

If I make it again, I'll leave out the cornmeal as I didn't feel that it added anything. I don't need a thickener with my greens. I like them chunky, vinegary and hot, with lots of roughly chopped up pieces of onion and carrots.

Here's an official version from somewhere on the web:

1 bunch spinach washed and chopped fine (approximately 1/2 lb or 250 gms)
1 bunch mustard greens washed and chopped fine (approximately 1/2 lb or 250 gms)
2 green chillies
1 tbsp grated ginger (or paste)
1 tbsp grated garlic (or paste)
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsps ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion grated
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
Juice of 1/2 a lime/ lemon
1 tbsp bengal gram flour/ maize flour

Mix the greens, green chillies and salt to taste and boil in 1 cup of water till cooked.
Mash the greens mix well to make a course paste.
In another pan, heat the ghee on a medium flame. When hot add the grated onion and fry till pale golden.
Add all the other ingredients and fry till oil separates from the masala (onion-spice mix).
Add the greens mix to this and stir till blended.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Louis Armstrong "St. Louis Blues" 1933

The visuals aren't much but the music - hot, sweet and full of joy. 

Today's Cooking with Nancy dish is mustard greens cooked with a little cornmeal, punjabi-style. I will go into my changes later but there is not going to be a photo. Even a food stylist would have a hard time making a heap o'greens look decent, much less eatable. Even if the taste is great, green glop is not inspiring.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Textural Rhythms at the Museum of the African Diaspora

 Dr. Edward M. Bostick's black, white and red tribute to Billie, "Lady Day's "Strange Fruit"

Well, I am still working on a longer piece on Bali but, not for the first time,  I got distracted. I have been meaning to see this show since it first opened and today was a good day to do it. My upstairs neighbors did their usual endless noise in the middle of the night so I was groggy and grouchy and needed something to pep me up.  I made the right decision for the show is awash with color, craftsmanship and joy.

Bisa Butler's cubist inspired homage to Satchmo

Textural Rhythms. now on display at the Museum of the African Diaspora, unites two of the most well known and popular artistic forms in African American culture, jazz and quilts. The exhibition includes work from some of America’s best known African American quilters, Michael Cummings, Edjohnetta Miller, Tina Brewer, and Jim Smoote as well as quilts by top Bay Area quilters, Marion Coleman and Alice M. Beasley. 

Curated by Carolyn Mazloomi, the MoAD showing is part of a two-and-a-half-year-long national tour involving the work of the artists of the Women of Color Quilters Network, whose mission is "to foster and preserve the art of quilt making among women of color."
 Viola Burley Leak, "Jazz Montage II (Back)" (2006) applique, silk, cotton, lurax, machine-quilted

In one of her more famous songs, Ella "the Great" Fitgzerald sang "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." Well, you could actually say she bopped, hopped, swayed and seduced us with her lively rhythms. A similar seduction is going on at the exhibit, through what curator Carolyn Mazloomi calls "visual soul food."  The song sung here is in fabric and thread, not musical notes but it's equally vibrant. Throughout the show, the background music and the wall text pay tribute to jazz, an utterly American music, created out of African rhythms and inspired by the myriad of experiences, both tragic and joyous, of African-American life.

Alice M. Beasley. Miles Ahead. 2006 appliquéd and machine-quilted cotton, ca. 48 x 24 in.

For anybody who saw the exhibit at the De Young of the Gee's Bend quilters, the ingenuity, artistic eye and unique use of fabric will not come as a surprise. But these are not your traditional quilts. Unlike Gee's Bend - or Amish quilts for that matter - these masterpieces of fabric are not structured blocks of color but complex riffs on the interweaving of jazz with African-American traditions of quilt making.  There are sequins interspersed with beads, metallic threads combined with applique and gold accents on vibrant colors; these quilts are not made from the usual used scraps pierced into bed coverings for everyday use but art pieces, rich, joyous, lyrical and unique.

The show runs through April 24th

Friday, February 25, 2011

Curry tonight, Reviews of Bali Tomorrow...and maybe even the day after.

I swear that I am going to get back to art blogging by tomorrow or Sunday at the latest. I went to the press preview of Bali, Art, Performance, Ritual at the Asian Art Museum and I was enchanted. I've already written my generic, keep it under 400 words review for the Examiner. I hope that the piece is professionally written but you really have to follow a boring template to get them to put you on the Google search list. I do it their way because they are my bosses and I want more hits. On the other hand, I got linked to a lot of great places - WSJ, SF Citizen and more which is great exposure for me as a journalist and PR for the show. But I have a lot more to say (don't I always?) and will be expanding on Bali and the exhibit in future posts.

Since I still had a large pot of curry - and no intention of throwing it away, I started fooling around with the seasoning. In went more turmeric for the coloring, some cinnamon for sweetness and more assertive dash of paprika, cardamon and chili peppers. Next time, I'm going to Chinatown to look for curry power as recommended by Matty Boy but this was pretty darn good. 

I photographed it on one of my Turkish plates that I guard with religious zeal. At this time, some of the plates are over 100 years old (but not this particular one) and they just don't make those turquoise glazes any more. Add yogurt, a dab of humus and my carved and painted Turkish spoon and make believe that you are on the Silk Road, carrying a caravan of spices and silks to the West. 

Next question - how does the lady who writes La Tartine Gourmande get such gorgeous photos?  I had now added another item to my long list of "things to do" in my dotage - paint better, write better and now, take better photographs. 

But, as the Buddha said, our walking creates the unfolding of the path (or words to that effect). I'm just walking the walk.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Internet Memes at the Wisconsin Capital

All these people are under the gun of reactionary and vicious government - looking to lose everything (as will we if this continues unabated) but they haven't lost their sense of humor or clever ways to get their message across.

Jon Carroll: Another voice of humor and sanity..
"It is true that we're in a terrible fix and that we all must make sacrifices to get us out, slowly, oh so slowly. But, as you'll recall, it was not a labor union that tried to sell you a subprime mortgage back in the day. It was not a labor union that thought credit default swaps were just a wonderful investment instrument. It was not the labor unions that had to be bailed out because they were "too big to fail." If only."

Read more:
SF Gate

The almost curry

After my visit to the Asian to see the Bali exhibit yesterday, I had a hankering for more exotic food. Well, curry is hardly exotic for me but it was as exotic as I was going to get because I didn't  have the energy to go out and buy a lot more ingredients to make a more authentic Indonesian or Balinese dish. Plus, I had a lot more cooked chicken in the fridge; being single means that I can stretch a chicken a long, long ways.

I started out with a pretty good sized spoon of Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste and sauteed that with a cup of sliced onions and a glove or two of garlic. The mixture didn't have quite the curry fragrance that I was looking for so I added teaspoons of diced ginger root, black mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and cardamon. While those were cooking, I cleaned and diced two carrots, the rest of a bunch of celery, the last of my small onions, and then, added them to the pan with a cup or two of chicken stock. Oh, and I diced up a small jalapeño pepper. I wanted heat but not so  much heat that I couldn't eat it. 

I have sometimes gone overboard with the pepper, so much so that I've had to add a cup or more of cream to tame the incendiary fires. When all the vegetables were softened, I added my pre-cooked, skinned and (now) diced chicken. A lot of recipes call for using breast meat but I prefer the darker meat for curries and stews because it's less dry. I added a cup of green peas on top and a cup of Greek yogurt to make the sauce more creamy. If you want more carbs, you can cook a potato in the broth or add rice. 

Now, the curry turned out decent - mildly spicy and good for our cold, rainy weather. But it wasn't the deeply rich curry flavor that I was looking for so next time I will get the spices to make the real deal.

I guess I'm going to call this Nancy's "Almost Curry." I found the green curry paste disappointing but wondered if it was me and not them; well, apparently it is THEM and not me. I read the reviews on and see that a lot of people are disappointed with it. But then, other people still love it so YMMV. On the other hand, a tablespoon or two of the sauce make my morning egg whites taste delicious and rich, even without any oil or butter.

If you want to make it, the ingredients are:
1 kitchen spoonful of Thai Kitchen Green Curry paste
tsp of black mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and cardamon
Bay leaves
Ginger root, peeled and diced.
One of two garlic cloves, smashed or diced (you decide)
1 cup of sliced onions
Potatoes (I used one small Yukon Gold)
Chicken stock
Bunch of celery
Two or three carrots

1 cup of peas (originally omitted -cookie pointed out my mistake. Mea culpa)
Greek yogurt
Cooked chicken.

Saute the spices in a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil
until you hear the mustard seeds pop. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened. Then, add all the diced and cleaned vegetables and stir into the mixture until everything is coated with the spices. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Add the green peas, cook for a few minutes and then, add the chicken and the yogurt. I like my vegetables crunchy so I don't cook this very long but, as with almost everything coming from Nancy's kitchen, you have permission cook, season and vary to your own tastes. 

BTW, I am gaining a lot more respect for people who write recipes. If you cook by instinct, like I do, measurements and portions are a foreign language. I feel like I should put a disclaimer on every food post - your results may vary and if the dish is a flop, it's probably the fault of she who posted the sort-of-recipe. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bali Temple Explorer - part of the exhibit on Bali at the Asian (opening Friday)

Intelligent commentary on the wall texts, gorgeous, richly textured art of a deeply religious culture. More of a "real review to come but in the meantime, enjoy this video made by one of the contributing artists to the show:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lavinia and Mona

LACMA has acquired Lavinia Fontana’s The Holy Family with Saint Catherine (1581). The painting had been in an unnamed “Swedish religious institution” before it was auctioned in Stockholm last November. Like most of the museum’s big-ticket European paintings, it’s a gift of the Ahmanson Foundation.

Fontana was the daughter of a minor artist, Prospero Fontana. Her first documented work was a portrait of a then-famous “Monkey Child” (1575) born with unusual facial hair. Fontana used the odd painting as a calling card to build a career as a successful artist who competed against the men while raising 11 children (!).

Lucky for her that she was born into a painting family, was trained by her father and lived in a city which supported artists. She also had a supportive husband, Giano Paolo Zappi (a painter also) helped with the kids. By the way, Fontana was also a renowned beauty and an accomplished musician, as her Self-Portrait at the Clavichord (1577) reminds visitors to Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di San Luca.

Fontana was from Bologna and thus the new painting, made in that city, builds on LACMA’s notable holdings of that school. The Holy Family is two generations earlier than the museum’s great Domenichino and two Guido Renis of the 1620s. Fontana spent the latter part of her career in Rome, where she seems to have been more popular with connoisseurs than the more problematic Caravaggio.

Thank you Germaine..
How many experts does it take to prove Mona Lisa was not a man with implants?

Mona Lisa has been securely identified by Vasari as Lisa Gherardini, wife of the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, and the portrait as the one in the possession of François I now in the Louvre. It was assumed that the picture was painted in Florence after Leonardo returned from his travels with Cesare Borgia in 1503 and before he went back to Milan in 1506. The assumption was verified in 2005 when a librarian at the University of Heidelberg, preparing a copy of the 1477 edition of Cicero's Epistoles ad Familiares for an exhibition, came upon a marginal note by Agostino Vespucci comparing Leonardo with Apelles, in which he notes that Leonardo was then working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. The note is dated 1503. (more in her unique fashion at the Guardian)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday in the kitchen at Chez Nancy

One of my blogging friends (Pam of Zoomie Station) has been trying to lure me over to the dark side of food blogging. I'm ready to expand this blog's topics and maybe get a bit more of a dialogue going with my readers. Everybody has to eat and some of us love to cook so I thought I'd post the occasional recipe here. 

My tastes in food, as in art, are wide ranging and a bit eccentric but as always, YMMV. I've lived all over the world, traveled a lot and picked up a taste for what a lot of people consider exotic. I live in SF, the epicenter of organic foods. We have several ethnic communities here and my apartment is on the edge of the Mission District  which used to be solely Hispanic but now has both Asian and  Middle Eastern stores to tempt the adventurous cook.

Today's Chronicle/SF Gate had an article on frozen pot pies. It's been ages since I was willing to spend my hard-earned money on any pie that came from the grocery store. Tiny chunks of mystery meat, soupy gravy and a few minuscule cubes of vegetables do not a pot pie make and SO SAY I! I do one major cheat (see below). That was the starting point for my Sunday Dinner.

There's a legendary Moroccan chicken dish called Chicken B'stilla, traditionally made with squab or pigeons or even chicken. It's an all day endeavor, staring with cooking the squab or pigeons, then layering onions, garlic, a few of the spices found in the Moroccan spice blend, Ras el Hanout, chicken broth, lemon juice, eggs, honey, parsley, cilantro, and toasted almonds. The filling is comprised of these ingredients, layer upon layer, baked inside a phyllo, or filo, dough crust. The cooked pie is lightly dusted with cinnamon sugar, sliced into wedges, and served.

I have made it and believe me, it's a great project for a rainy Sunday when you have nothing to do and just want to be in a warm kitchen. The clean up is endless, the end result is delicious but it's work, work and more work. I think it's best reserved for special occasions.

My chicken pot pie is much simpler - an imaginative use of  leftovers, yesterday's roasted chicken and no preservatives or extra salt.  Altered or inspired by several other recipes that I found on the Internet

Yesterday's roast chicken - breast meat and part of the back meat, skinned and chopped into cubes. Since I wanted to make enough for 3 meals, I used about 6 ounces (2 oz of meat per meal).
Firm Tofu - again, rubbed with a spice mixture and pan sauteed before cutting into cubes. I'm not a vegetarian but I do want to cut down on meat and I like the results of mixing tofu with the chicken. It's a delicious "filler" and the final result is a lot lighter than traditional pot pies. You can use only tofu and vegetarian broth if you want to go completely vegetarian.
1 cup sliced carrots - these were fresh carrots, quickly steamed to cut down baking time
1 cup frozen green peas
Several stalks of celery - I use the outside stalks, peel them of their tough strings, blanch them and chop into slices. That way, they are softened and don't go to waste.
One cup cooked onions
One cup or more of small onions (I do buy the frozen kind and cook them before putting them into the mixture)
Roasted sweet potatoes or yams. I have to watch my blood sugars and both are much lower on the Glycemic index than potatoes.
Seasoning as you want - I use a bit of kosher salt, pepper, chili flakes, tarragon, and other mixed herbs. OR, you can make this a curry pot pie by adding a generic Indian curry spice or the whole mixture of spices that make up curry (more in a later post). 
one tablespoon or so of whole wheat flour.
A lot of recipes call for you to make a roux. I didn't want the additional butter/flour/salt so I just used a small amount of flour and mixed my chicken broth with a bit of Greek Yogurt and low fat sour cream. The sauce will be thinner but just as tasty (IMHO). 

I saute the onions, garlic and spices together and then, sprinkle with with the flour until they are all browned and crispy. I then add my chicken broth/Greek yogurt/low fat sour cream until I think it's the right consistency, making sure that the sauce is not too lumpy. Next is my major cheat. After I layer all the items in a deep dish pan (an old round baking dish, vintage unknown but a regular standby in my kitchen), I top the mixture with a layer of filo dough. A lot of people think that you can only use filo with sweets but it's equally good with savory. Anyway, cover the fixings with a layer or two of the dough, brush with a bit of olive oil and bake until the top is crispy - 30 minutes or so depending on your oven. My oven is an ancient 1948 or so Wedgewood Stove so, while it's sturdy and reliable, the temperature gauge is a bit off. 

For me, this pie makes several meals. I always add a crisp green salad with a piece of fruit for desert. But it can be dressed up with wine, bread (although I don't like to add starch on starch) or maybe maybe another cooked side vegetable instead of the salad. If you really want to go middle eastern style, add olives, marinated carrots, a bit of humus and tahini and some pita chips. 

If you have never worked with filo, here's a good introduction plus some great recipes:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico at the De Young

The show of Olmec works, opening today (February 19) at the De Young presents art works from a people whose civilization is still mysterious. It emerged roughly 3,000 years ago in the eastern lowlands along Mexico's Gulf Coast in what is today the region of Vera Cruz and Tabasco. Arguably, the Olmecs provided the foundation for all Mesoamerican art, much the way ancient Greek art did for subsequent European culture.

There are 100 objects on display at the De Young, drawn primarily from Mexican national collections with additional loans from over 25 museums. Included in the exhibition are colossal heads, a large-scale throne, and monumental stelae in addition to precious small-scale vessels, figures, adornments, and masks. The exhibit is divided into five sections, highlighting such topics as the Olmec heartland, the outlying communities and the Olmec legacy. There are videos showing current excavations and well written wall text, important to understand this still-mysterious people. The show is elegantly and simply presented, with none of the visual clutter that has often impeded previous shows in this small space.

However, the show would have benefited from a time line, showing how the late Olmec civilization overlapped other emerging civilizations such as the Maya and even how the Olmec culture stood in comparison with contemporary events world wide.

Small-scale jadeite objects, which embody the symbolism of sacred and secular authority among the Olmec, attest to the long-distance exchange of rare resources that existed as early as 1000 BC. Olmec artists were unsurpassed in their ability to work this extremely hard stone with elementary tools of stone, water and sand. One astonishing piece is a stone hammer with a subtle imprint of a human foot carved into the stone.

 Along with the colossal heads, the show has several examples of the Olmec “chubby naked babies.” Sitting upright on stubby legs, their outsize baldheads are elongated and flattened, a sign of physical beauty achieved through the practice of binding skulls in infancy. The faces are what we would consider distinctively Olmec: almond-shaped eyes, round, puffy cheeks and full lips, often drawn downward into an angry scowl. They glare at the viewer, daring you to approach any closer. Some have fanged teeth showing through slightly open mouths, further emphasizing both the allure and danger implicit in all figurative Olmec art.

The meaning of the figures is a mystery but their features recur everywhere in Olmec art. "It was really all about the human body and human beings and humans with animal attributes," Berrin, curator in charge of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, explains.

 "Colossal Masterworks" highlights smooth axes and ax fragments made from serpentine and greenstone. There are pendants, earrings, and a human bust in wood, one of only 20 that have survived through being buried in the salty lagoon in the Veracruz town of El Manati.

 One of the true treasures of the exhibit is small - "Offering 4" (Group of Standing Figures and Celt's), a crowd of flat-headed men carved from precious stone, partially circled by enigmatic, inscribed celts, or ritual tools.

Were the Olmecs a people? Or does the term more accurately describe an artistic style? The word Olmec is derived from a word for rubber which was in use at the time of the Spanish conquest, but its application to archeological finds has always been inexact. Archaeologists simply do not know (which does not prevent scholary debate from raging hot and heavy in academic journals).

Three millennium separate us from this mysterious, powerful culture. The Olmec made answers hard to come by. They left no written records. Their social and spiritual beliefs, embodied in spectacular ritual implements, are a matter of guesswork. Even the “how did they do that” – without the wheel, animals such as horses or buffalos or machinery - is a matter of guesswork.

One is reminded of the line from Shelly,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The vision presented here is both vital and tragic and it’s a pity that the Olmecs left no Sophocles to enlighten us to what it all meant to them

Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico is curated by Kathleen Berrin, curator in charge of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Virginia M. Fields, senior curator of art of the ancient Americas at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

WHAT: "Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico"
WHERE: de Young Museum, Herbst Exhibition
Galleries, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F.
WHEN: 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays and 9:30 a.m.-8:45 p.m. Fridays through May 8
TICKETS: $15-$25; free for ages 5 and younger
CONTACT: 415-750-3600 or www.deyoung

Friday, February 18, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing

The weather turned cold and I wanted comfort food, something filling and hot and easy to make because I was tired. It's been a busy week at Chez Nancy with several shows to review, a big museum opening and the normal art making and writing. After today's preview of the Olmec show at the De Young, I had a sore throat and a bit of an earache. It's my own fault for going out in cold weather without a hat but sometimes my vanity (or desire not to have my hair all flattened down before a press preview), takes precedence over common sense.

Vanity, all is vanity.

Or, in this case, Roasted Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing. Lebanese is one of my heritages and I find that I turn toward Lebanese/Turkish food or Southern food when I want comfort. Or maybe I wanted something consoling after looking at all those filed teeth, flattened skulls and overbearing stone heads at the De Young. Olmec art is a lot of things but it's certainly not fun and cuddly.

 The stuffing in this recipe contains a fantastic Middle Eastern spice blend called za'atar, which is a combination of sesame seeds and dried herbs such as basil, thyme and oregano. It's something that I keep in my cupboard and use in a variety of ways. I got the recipe from Epicurious but made the following changes. 

I substituted bulgar for the bread as I had a bowl of tabouli in the fridge. I heated it up with the za'tar and then, stuffed the chicken. I put slivers of garlic under the skin and rubbed the whole chicken with lemon. But I've included the original recipe just in case anybody wants to try it. I had a small salad on the side and a huge pot of mint tea. I gobbled it down before I remembered to take a photo. The chicken is all chopped up now and 2/3 of it are going into the freezer for meals during the week, so it's not a pretty sight. But use your imagination - just think of a nicely browned chicken with salad on the side.

1 4-pound chicken
1 1/2 cups diced crusty bread
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic plus 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
2 teaspoons za’atar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper\
Special equipment: kitchen string
 Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Remove the wings and reserve.

Combine the bread, parsley, minced garlic, za'atar and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of the olive oil to coat evenly. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.           

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper and fill with the stuffing. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the bird on the outside with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Place the wings in a roasting pan and place the chicken on top of the wings. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and add the garlic cloves to the roasting pan. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the leg is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creative Spaces

One of my friends, Sandy Yagi, posted a link to an article on creative spaces. I think that it was mostly about writers but I suggested that Anna and what I call her posse, a group of 15-30 artists who hang out together and attend Anna's Friday round table gad-about-town-and-see-the-art events, also post our art spaces. Anna also made me one of the administrator of the group - hence the new icon.

The first group of images is my home art space in the back room of my apartment. I've turned the front room into a living room/bedroom so that I can have a separate room for art work, reading and working on my writing. I will often sketch out or do the under painting on pieces here, then finish them in oil at my "other" space at 689 Bryant St. My easel is really simple. The canvas is simply popped up against an older canvas and the whole thing is on top of a two-shelf bookcase which has more storage, supplies and art "stuff."

 Going around the room counterclockwise - the easel, file cabinets and a large work table, with more bins, shelves of inks and paints, containers for brushes and pens, another table under the window, more bookcases, more file cabinets. There are a amazing amount of supplies in a rather small space.

My other space at 689 Bryant. I don't want to work in oils at home for the obvious reasons - ventilation, smelly paints and linseed oil rags and the just general mess that oils make. The down side of that space is that there is absolutely no storage and I haven't wanted to spend the money to have one built. It's also cold in winter and hot in summer although less so since the landlords have fixed the roof. Frankly, I prefer to work at home but I'm glad to have a space where I can experiment with smelly, messy stuff.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flower Power

I owe a big thank you to Anna Conti who pointed out that my printer probably had a scan function. Since I don't seem to have mastered all the buttons on my new camera, the photos that I posted on line were out of focus and well, just bad. Scanning the pieces made all the difference; now you can see the details, including the washes of color and some of the texture. I've uploaded all the watercolors that I think are fit to be seen by the public. There are in the folder titled "Flower Power." Quelle suprise, n'est pas? I also have a couple of recent paintings there - not the greatest photos in the world but you can get an idea of the art work. I also have a folder where I've put the professional scans of my "Elgin Marbles" drawings. I think that working in water based media on those is what encouraged me to do all these small watercolors. Of course, comments are welcome; artists love feedback as long as its not in the form of rotten eggs and four-letter words.

Here is the link:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Farewell to the Buddha in the Civic Center

Buddha's hand, mudra. @ Nancy Ewart, 2011. Drawing - charcoal, conte crayon on Arches paper
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

The colossal "Three Heads Six Arms" sculpture at the doorstep of City Hall will be gone come Tuesday. Its one-year lease from the Chinese government is up. Now it's going back to artist Zhang Huan's studio.

"We tried to borrow it for a longer period of time, 18 months, but we were not able to," said Luis Cancel, the Arts Commission's director of cultural affairs. "They were afraid that it might not come back.

Maybe they feared that it left its heart in San Francisco? 

When the statue was first installed,  I had fantasies that the it would break loose and demolish city hall and all our useless/idiotic supervisors but no such luck. It didn't eat any of the denizens who hang around the library either and can make life difficult for those not up to dealing with SF's entitled and cocky street people. All it did was sit there and poss endlessly for photos. Do you suppose that many of those people realized that it was supposed to symbolize the destruction of Tibetan culture? In an even more idealistic mood, I hoped it would inspire embracing the Noble Eightfold Path - "right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."

Alas no. But I will take a note from the Buddha and pray for compassion for all sentient beings.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CREAM from the top - the best of the recent MFA graduates

Now in its ninth year, the enormously successful CREAM from the top exhibition will be presented for the first time at the Performance Art Institute. 

CREAM from the top draws from the thriving communities of nine Bay Area MFA programs, gathering those candidates who have risen to the top of their respective classes. Creator and curator, Kathryn Weller Renfrow, consistently selects the strongest and most compelling emerging artists, allowing the Bay Area to discover them for the first time. 

This year's exhibition features the largest number of artists to date, and will expand throughout the spacious galleries at 550 and 575 Sutter Street. The show continues through March 5th

The work and the artists have benefited enormously from being curated and being presented in a more professional manner. I was not the only one dismayed by last year's SFAI MFA show* but this exhibit of work is an excellent showcase of the best and the brightest of recent graduates from Bay Area art programs).

 Monica Lundy's powerful and haunting portraits of 19th century incarcerated prisoners. Her portraits of inmates in old California mental asylums and prisons exerts a powerful pull that is part compassion, part revulsion. I wanted to know about these people from the past - they spoke to me of forgotten tragedies, buried beneath layers of race, class, and gender.

(images from all of the artists in the show at the link below)

The Performance Art Institute is located at 575 Sutter Street in downtown San Francisco. PAI's The Library is located across the street at 550 Sutter Street.
p: 415-510-0575

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flower Power

New work - small watercolor pieces (about 8 1/2 x 11.) Since I can't seem to get the hang of my new camera (stuff is seriously out of focus), Anna suggested that I scan the pieces. It's a miracle - the scans actually look like the real pieces.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Articles I wish I could have written: Twist and Crawl at Richmond, Arion Press

Twist and Crawl at NIAD in Richmond. @Paul Chin/SF Gate.
If I could cover all the art shows (and printing and calligraphy and assorted related topics) that I want to, I'd be out and about from 6 AM to midnight and beyond. I'd also need a car (!), and unlimited energy. But then, there wouldn't be time to write about all that I saw or paint my own pieces. So, I guess I have to accept my limitations.

Besides, this blog would then be as big as a daily paper and who would want to read it? I've read advice on how to get more readers - use big pictures, simple text and the occasional nude photo. Cute kittens would help as well. Alas, I ignore that advice almost every single day. However, I might start adding cute kittens; fuzzy little animals are always a delightful break from the news du jour. 

When I have tried to write about a controversial subject, as in a certain MFA show a year ago, I've gotten the kind of readers that I see up at SF Gate  - spiteful and nasty, determined to belittle and denigrate by making anonymous comments. I now monitor all comments to this blog because who needs another forum for hate and bigotry. Unfortunately, I can't seem to prevent anonymous comments on my articles at the so some comments are still appearing a year after my infamous review of the MFA show.
In any case, today's SF Gate has two very well written articles, one on a show by disabled artists in Richmond and another on Arion Press. Sam Whiting, who wrote the article on Arion press is not familiar to me but I've seen Jess Hamlin's byline on any number of well written articles. It's good to know that there are still some reporters at the Chron who can both write well and write well about art.
I used to work for SF's small presses and printing companies, almost all which have all gone the way of the dinosaur. But Arion survives and produces some of the most beautiful books around. I don't know if they will have a booth at the SF Book Fair this weekend but even if they don't, it's worth the trip to take a tour of their presses:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The real Bali Ha'i coming to the Asian Art Museum

 Bird mask, perhaps 1900–1940. Wood, leather, and pigments. Collection of W. E. Bouwman,

There are so many great events in the next week that my head is spinning - SFAC Gallery opening on photographs from Afghanistan tonight, SF Book Fair on Friday, visit to the Cantor on Saturday, SF History Expo in Sunday but in the meantime, the Asian Art Museum is getting ready for their exhibit on the real Bali. Here's a clue - I don't think anybody will be singing Bali Ha'i (or maybe they will - who knows?). From Art Babble: 

Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance
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The Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance exhibition will be on view at the Asian Art Museum from February 25–September 11, 2011. It is not only the beauty of the Indonesian island that has attracted visitors but also its performance and ritual arts traditions. Although Bali is widely known as one of the most vibrant centers of both visual and performing arts in the world, there has never been a large-scale, in-depth examination of its artistic traditions in the United States. Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance will bring the art and artists of Bali to San Francisco, introducing museum visitors to Balinese history and religious beliefs, and illuminating how performance and rituals are still integrated into daily life.
The exceptional artworks on view – many borrowed from international collections and never before seen in the US – range from plaited palm leaf images of rice goddesses to wooden statues of terrifying Hindu deities; painted palanquins to gilded thrones; offerings made for family shrines to masks carved for early tourists. Accompanying videos and interactive programs, including dance, music, and puppetry, provide a deeper context to the culture of Bali.
The Asian Art Museum is the exclusive venue for this exhibition. For more information:

Lovely video about Bali at the Asian Art Museum's Blog:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Isabelle de Borchgrave's 'Pulp Fashion' at the Legion

Isabelle de Borchgrave, Worth evening gown and shoe, 1994, based on an 1898 dress designed by Charles Frederick Worth in the collection of the Costume Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel

 Isabelle de Borchgrave. Elizabeth 1 court dress (detail). Inspired by a 1599 portrait of Elizabeth, attributed to Nicholas Hillard (Hardwick Hall, UK). Photo: Andreas von Einsidel

Monday, February 7, 2011

Isabelle de Borchgrave's 'Pulp Fashion' at the Legion

Paper - the whole thing about paper is that it's fragile, transitory, utilitarian, usable and reusable. For the past fifteen years, Isabelle de Borchgrave has been creating a body of work that encapsulates the past in a fragile yet durable form, the paper of our dreams, figures that have stepped out from their gold frames and now, stand among us, real, solid, tangible. 

Her central project has been to re-create exquisite, life-size historical costumes entirely from paper. From afar, de Borchgrave’s creations appear to be masterpieces of trompe l’oeil. Taking inspiration from the rich depictions in early European paintings, iconic costumes in museum collections, photographs, sketches, and even literary descriptions, de Borchgrave skillfully works paper to achieve the effect of textiles: crumpling, pleating, braiding, feathering, and painting the surface. The culmination of a long and restless artistic career,
de Borchgrave’s mature work is best understood not only by examining her
artistic processes, her sources, and the theoretical discourse that surrounds
painting and costume, but also by considering the artist’s own social and
creative context.

One of the most stunning rooms at the exhibit is De Borchgrave's homage to Fortuny.  Fortuny (1871–1949) primarily considered himself a painter but moved easily between a myriad of artistic ventures, working as a photographer as well as a designer of fabric, clothing, theatrical scenery, and stage lighting. De Borchgrave decided immediately that she wished to capture the totality of Fortuny’s oeuvre: “I could not tell his story with just a dress. I wanted to bring the visitor into Fortuny’s world, into his palazzo. I needed to create an environment.” 

Fortuny tent, 2006–2007 Inspired by photographs of Fortuny’s Venice workshop,
Paris boutique, and display at the 1911 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. 

During a visit to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum in the summer of 2010,
de Borchgrave was captivated by the portrait of a woman in Neapolitan peasant costume
by Italian Baroque painter Massimo Stanzion.Tellingly, she has lavished as much attention on the rooster as on the figure’s dress, individuallycrafting each hand-painted feather. The overall effect serves only to emphasize the mysterious tension of Stanzione’s portrait.

Delphos dress and coat, 2006–2007
Inspired by a design by Fortuny
Eleanora of Toledo, 2006 - figure on the far left.
Inspired by a ca. 1545 portrait of Eleanora and her son Giovanni de’ Medici by Agnolo
Bronzino in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
 Why paper and not fabric? She has always loved the arte povera aspect of her work, and the fact that such a simple, unsophisticated material can be transformed into something incredible. 'It is completely different when you use fabric,' she says. 'It is soft, yes, but it's expensive, and if you paint fabric and it goes wrong, well…' She raises her eyes at the thought of all that waste. 'But with paper, if it goes wrong, you can scrunch it up and drop it in the bin and start again. It makes you more adventurous. It allows you to play.'

The art of drawing and the art of fashion

Two of my favorite blogs have posts about drawing, the absolute fundamental skill for any artist:

Liz Hager of Venetian Red writes about her drawing classes with Diane Oliver. I've wanted to take classes with Diane but either the time (night) or location (Ft. Mason and I don't have a car) haven't allowed me to work things out. 

Charlie Parker of Lines and Colors writes about a drawing book written by Harold Speed. Back in the day, this is the book that I used when I started studying drawing. I think that I still have my original copy which is pretty tattered and banged up by now. We also drew in museums and copied, whenever possible, the old masters. I realize how much art and art practice has changed in the last 50 years. I look at art all the time and it's obvious how much art making has changed. Is it for the better? I can't say - you be the judge. 

"Though illustrated, this book, like Speed’s well regarded book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials, is less “look and follow” instruction, and more “read and understand and then go practice”.

Speed, whose career spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries, carried forward the traditions of academic teaching, tempered with an understanding of the new paths then being blazed by the Impressionists and others."

Up next: Pulp Fashion at the Legion (Review to come) -

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New work in the studio

This landscape is from a photo that I took on an outing last year outside Santa Rosa. My friend and I took the wrong turn off and ended up wandering around the back roads heading toward the ocean. We found a little cafe to have lunch in and ended up at the beach. It was a wonderful day and I took a ton of photos. None of them are very good and now that I can see the work of photographers like David Sumner and Robert Vo, I know how mediocre my work is. But it's a good reference point for my art and frankly, that's all I ask of it. I thought it was finished but now that I look at it, I wonder if I need more contrast. On the other hand, the piece (which is really badly photographed) has a lovely serene quality which I really like.

This piece started out as one of my figurative works. Two people were facing each other over a cup or two of coffee. I never liked the piece and felt that the figures were beyond my usual clumsy. I painted over it, intending to repaint the same subject but decided that I really like it as a color study/abstract/landscape. 

Comments anyone? Opinions? Ideas? Titles? All that stuff in the background is my studio table with more art work propped against the wall.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wood Monkey in the Year of the Rabbit

The monkey Hanuman carrying the heroes Rama and Lakshmana
Mithila | Bihar
If you follow the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the wood monkey. According to one web site, "Monkeys are usually erratic geniuses. You are remarkably inventive and original, and can solve the most difficult problems with a lot of ease. You are a vary intelligent and a very clever wit. Because of your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality, you are always well-liked. Your sign promises success in any field you try." 

Monkey Statuette, glazed fruitware, Iran
Well, humph - I can agree with the genius part but erratic? Never.

MONKEY 2011, The METAL Rabbit Year : You'll be free again to maneuver and manipulate your way through life. The Rabbit year is always good for Monkeys. The waters are calmer; refinement is the byword in these years. It’s an excellent time for you to revamp your lifestyle. Take stock at the beginning of a Rabbit year and you'll be on the move by its end. Don't hesitate to use your pull in lofty realms. If a politician or socialite owes you a favor, knock on their door more than once.

 Monkey King, Shadow Puppet, Indonesia

All images from the Asian Art Museum web site
PS: pretty obvious nobody is reading this - I haven't gotten one snarky comment about my wonderfulness. It's great being the Monkey King (or Queen)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

Chinese New Year 4709, or 2011 in the Western calendar, is the Year of the Metal Rabbit. The Rabbit represents the fourth year in the 12 year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Rabbits are supposed to be calm and gentle and the Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be a calmer, healing year but it hasn't proved so yet. Cyclones in Australia, riots in Egypt, ice storms in the Midwest, this is one hopped-up bunny on steroids.

But at least we are going to get some gorgeous/fun/interesting stamps this year:

Look for taste, refinement and comfort. Money is easy come, easy go. But watch out, Dragon Year 2012 is supposed to be a wild, rip-roaring time (like this year isn't?) Build bridges, reach out (maybe somebody out to tell the waring parties in the Middle East), compromise (see previous comment).
 Discretion and persuasion are effective in a Rabbit Year, whereas force will not work. OK. If you say so.

Be mindful of the five Taoist elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This happens to be the year of the metal hare. In feng shui, the metal aesthetic is clean, pristine. So keep it clean, free of clutter. Try to live minimally. Always live mindfully.

Unfortunately, money is still very bad. Metal is an antagonistic relationship with hare’s earthly branch. Pinch pennies. Economize. Be like a bunny and munch on a lot of vegetables and green stuff. No sauces and only little meat.

Gong Hei Fard Choy