Easy ways of pimping your meals! :)

26 06 2009

I am usually a rather busy person. I teach biology labs in the university, sometimes have to grade a lot (even until bedtime and then some more!), also I am a part time freelance artist, keep touch with the family (something fundamental for me), take care of the husband (another must in my life), try to keep in shape through exercising, take part in art communities, blog and cook. Cooking takes time and sometimes time is what I am missing, so along the way I’ve learned some ways of pimping your every day simple meal for it to taste as if you really put a lot into it.

Favored oils and vinegars. Parragon books.

Favored oils and vinegars. Parragon books.

Let me introduce you today to oils and vinegars. They are easy to prepare, they take some time but I usually prepare them in those days that time is not an issue. I prepare a few of them, usually two or three at a time and keep them in the fridge, when I use them through the weeks until it’s time to make some more.

I got a book “Flavored Oils & Vinegars” by Parragon books, and it has been an inspiration. It not only brings recipes to delicious oils and vinegars, but it also brings recipes that suggest how to use them. The recipes are simple, easy to follow and the photos are just beautiful!

Basil oil:

2 cups of fresh basil leaves.

2 cloves of garlic (I use more!)

1 cup of olive oil.

Wash the basil leaves, pass them through boiling water and blanch for 5 seconds. Scoop out the leaves ad place in iced water. Dry the leaves as much as possible. Chop them in big pieces and place them in a jar. Add the garlic cut in halves.

Heat the oil until warmed (don’t boil!) for 5 minutes. Pour the oil in the jar on top of the garlic and basil leaves. Let cool, cover and place in fridge.

This oil has a great flavor that is not too dominant, but it is very aromatic. I use this delicious oil to garnish pasta, pizza and some salads.

Rosemary and lemon oil:

Rosemary Lemon Oil

Rosemary Lemon Oil

5 spprigs of rosemary (5 inches long)

zest of 2 lemons

1 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Remove the leaves fromt he rosemary, cut the lemon zest into strips.

Pour the oil into an oven proof glass recipient and add the leaves and zest. Place the recipient in a pie plate in the center of the oven and heat for one and a half to two hours.

Let cool for 30 minutes and store in the fridge.

I use this oil to marinate meats and to seal chicken. Also I use it to stir fry veggies and chicken. It really makes your house smell wonderful and it gives such an extra flavor to your meals that people would ask about it!

Rosemary and garlic balsamic vinegar:

Ten 2-inch sprigs of rosemary

4 cloves of garlic (cut in halves)

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Wash the rosemary sprigs and separate the leaves. Combine the leaves and garlic in a jar.

In a saucepan heat the balsamic vinegar until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Take out of the heat, wait until it cools down a little and pour into the jar. When it is cool, cover the jar and place in the fridge.

I use this vinegar to marinate meats and paint them before baking. It adds a great and unique flavor to them!

I hope you have enjoyed these ideas! If you have a new recipe on how to use them, please let me know!

Three Rivers Art Festival. Part 2.

22 06 2009

Continuing with the prior topic, I will now showcase some more artists (I wish more had webpages!) from the Three Rivers Art Festival.

Vase by Yoko Sekino-BoveYoko Sekino-Bové.

Yoko is a clay artist with a charming sense of humor and incredible skills. delicate forms, branches, flowers and tentacles! abound in her art. The technique she utilizes includes the removal of the pigment before baking, leaving a raw area within the pigmented area, granting a very nice texture to her works.

Glass in Motion. By Sheron Davis.Glass sulpture by Sheron Davis

Sheron lived many years next to a large river, the motion and colors of the water in different moments of the day inspire her to do art, either painting or glass work. Her glass work is always one of a king, since she uses no molds, and are beautifully organic, incorporating non-glass elements, as shells and geodes. It was a pity that I didn’t find time to talk to her, her artwork is so vibrant and beautiful!

Cast paper by Kevin Dyer.

Cast paper by Kevin Dyer.

Cast Paper. By Kevyn Dyer.

Probably my favorite due to my love for paper itself. Kevin first draws the design on paper, he prepares a wax carving, casts a mold from it and then casts a mix of cotton and paper. The result is a relief of the drawing. He then proceeds to paint with several layers of colors. I was amazed by his work, so elegant! We got to talk a bit and he told me that he has been doing this for 30 years, kudos to him! I would love to have on of his pieces in my living room!

Three Rivers Art Festival. Part 1.

15 06 2009

Last weekend I went to the Three Rivers Art Festival held in Pittsburgh from June 5 to 14. It was wonderful!  The weather was nice, there was live music, lots of people and the art alley! Oh, the so wonderful art alley!

As many times happens, I wished I had the budget to buy lovely art, and I felt absolutely inferior, unskilled and untalented in front of those incredible artists that I met, talked to or just admired from a distance. The quality of the artwork was, regardless of personal taste, rather high, and it is because the Three Rivers Art Festival is juried and your art has to be accepted before you can exhibit there. It was a very eclectic gathering of styles and media, but all very interesting and extremely inspired. I came back home wanting to try new things, play more with traditional media, which I hate to admit that I am doing less and less each time, and go crazy with the possibilities of doing neat stuff.

Let me please introduce you to some of the talents that caught my eye.


Children at Play by Jupi Das

The Art of Papercutting by Jupi Das

Jupi recreates an ancient Chinese Technique. Her work consists in incredibly detailed cut paper, intricate designs with amazing precision. Mostly black paper, but sometimes embellished with color paints. The patterns are highly decorative and would look wonderful decorating any room.

I can’t help but feeling a sense of Mandala in her circular patterns, the repetition and alternation of patterns add a nice rhythm to these complicated works.

G. M. Webb

Continuous Flow of Emotions by G M. Webb

Continuous Flow of Emotions by G M. Webb

Webb’s work left me speechless. It is incredibly detailed and original, with an incredible intricacy of patterns and weaves. He started many years ago by doing the typical figurine with copper wire but he then started to challenge himself by creating more complex and abstract structures. He works with industrial wires, weaves them with his own hands and secures them with pliers, the colors are the original color of the wires. The structures are reminiscent of masks, completely solid (not just a shell) and professionally presented in black frames.

His works felt full of energy and exploration, and each piece takes from 3 to 6 weeks to complete!

image by John Kamerer

image by John Kamerer

Monumental Photo by John Kamerer.

His sense of art found in the beauty of flowers, leaves and fruits is wonderful. I loved his compositions based on color and repetition of shapes.

He offers prints in paper and also canvas. My husband was amazed by the canvas images and commented “This makes them more real!” which is probably a very good observation. I would love to decorate my kitchen with those lovely images of multicolored olives and peppers and grapes!

I certainly enjoyed the festival very much and it was very inspiring,  it recharged me in a way that other things don’t. I shall stop here, but I will write some more about other artists in a future installment.

Client-Artist relationships.

11 06 2009

I have been wanting to talk about client-artist relationship for some time now, but yesterday I saw this wonderful post by artist Melissa Findley, and I could never be as eloquent as she is, so please, if you would like to know how to Commission Artwork, pass by her blow and read this excellent article.

A personal pet peeve of mine is when I get the “Meh, it is an easy project, it shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes to do it”. Well, let me judge if it is an easy project or not. If it was, why don’t you do it? And please consider that before the piece is started, much time goes into concepts, ideas, thumbnailing and trying out different compositions.

Also, please watch this hilarious (and tragic) video to know how artists feel most of the time when trying to establish a relationship with a new client:

So, next time that you want to commission art, please think about the artist, all the work that goes into a piece, and be respectful.