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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Art in Bloom

As I said in my last post, I returned to the MFA for their annual Art in Bloom event.  For this event, garden clubs are invited to create floral arrangements to be paired with one of the works of art in the museum.  All the floral designers clearly used the art as inspiration for their arrangements, but it was interesting to see the different ways in which they used aspects of the art, from color to shape and texture.

This arrangement clearly used color and form to mimic the composition of the painting.

This designer used a similar approach, but I like this one better.  I like the way the flowers are grouped, with each color being a separate type, to match the sections of the painting.  It’s almost the opposite technique of the painting, where small strokes of varied colors come together to make an impression.  In the floral arrangement the colors are pulled from the painting in solid, homogeneous sections.  Nifty!

This was one of my favorite displays.  I assume the floral designers got to pick which piece of art to interpret, and I think choosing a sculpture like this is more of a challenge.  You can’t use color to dictate the flowers and composition, and I really like how this designer met that challenge.  The palm fronds clearly echo the wings, and the mossy, dangling plants at the bottom of the arrangement are a nod to the texture of the flames at the base of the statue.  I also like that the arrangement avoided being too structurally literal by using three white blossoms, where it would have been more obvious to use two to match the two figures.

I am sad that I got a blurry photo here, because this was another arrangement I really liked.  This designer used colors that exactly matched the painting, but then took a playful approach with the shapes and composition, using open, metal (I think) cubes tumbling around the organic shapes of the flowers.  It both matches and contrasts with the ordered, geometric lines of the painting.

This photo doesn’t come close to showing how well the floral designer matched colors to the painting.  Here the approach seemed to be using certain elements of the painting, specifically color and curves, to inspire the arrangement rather than shaping the arrangement itself to match the painting’s composition.

This last one might not be my favorite, but the interpretation of the art is really interesting.  Who would look at that ancient relief piece and think, “I could base a floral arrangement on that”?

Art in Bloom was a fun way to spend an evening and make myself feel a little more cultured to boot.  Even if you aren’t a fan of floral arrangements, I think the juxtaposition of the flowers and art makes you see the art in a new way.  Though the event is over for 2011, it is an annual event, so you could check it out next year.  Art in Bloom always includes a Community Open House evening when admission to the museum is free, so you don’t even need to open your wallet to enjoy.

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I am noticing one upside to the long and snowy winter we had in Boston.  I am appreciating spring even more this year than I usually do.  Maybe it is just the contrast to those long months of white and gray that is making the season seem so vibrant, but I could swear everything seems to be blooming at once this year.

Since the weather was sunny and relatively warm this weekend, I went for a long ramble in the Arnold Arboretum.  I live within walking distance of the place, and it is shameful that I don’t visit it more often, but I always manage to make at least one trip each spring.  This visit was spectacular.  I have never seen so many different kinds of flowers there all in bloom.  There were hyacinths and daffodils here and there, carpets of violets in white and blue, rhododendrons and azaleas and forsythia, all kinds of blooming trees, and even a few early lilacs.

It felt so good to get out in the fresh air and surround myself with green and other colors.  And I know my body needed the exercise.  I have been extremely sedentary lately.  But every time I go to the arboretum I wish I knew more about identifying trees.  Maybe one of these days I will actually take one of the classes they offer and learn a little botany.

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I have been so lazy about cooking lately.  There’s been a lot going on at work, and singing and various social things have kept me busy in most of my off hours.  So I have been eating out a lot, or making meals out of an assemblage of snacks.  Tonight I actually shopped and cooked a lovely (though admittedly simple) meal, despite the fact that I was feeling awfully tired after work.  I felt like I could have fallen asleep in the shuttle to the parking lot, yet stopping for fast food on the way home just didn’t appeal.

Instead, I decided randomly to make fish baked in parchment (or en papillote if we want to get really fancy.)  I am not sure what came over me.  I rarely cook fish, and I had never cooked in parchment before, but why not?  Whole Foods had some wild Coho salmon (Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable – woot!) on sale, so I bought half a pound.  I wanted to make something that was simple and seasonal (it actually felt like spring today – yahoo!), so I also picked up lemon, leeks, and red potatoes. 

When I got home, I preheated the oven and chopped the leeks.  Leeks are often full of sand and dirt, so after chopping them, I throw them into a big bowl of cold water and swish them around.  Then I let them sit for a few minutes, so that the grit can fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Then you can scoop out the leeks.

While the leeks were soaking, I thinly sliced the red potatoes and a lemon, reserving the ends of the lemon for juice.   Once the leeks were drained, everything was ready for packaging.

I laid out two pieces of parchment (I kind of like the unbleached, brown parchment that I happened to grab at the store) and layered the leeks, potatoes, salmon, and lemon slices, as in the picture at the top of the post.  I seasoned each layer with salt and pepper, and added a little thyme, tarragon, and fenugreek on the salmon.  Then I drizzled the whole pile with olive oil, before folding the packages.

After folding the paper in half over the ingredients, you have to start at a corner by the crease and roll or fold the edge of the paper up little by little all the way around the food.  It’s a little hard to describe, but it’s easy to do, once you get the idea.

I baked the packages for about 25 minutes, and boy was I ready to eat!  I tore open one of the packages and could immediately smell the lemon and spices, and I was eager to dig in.

Man, this was delicious!  It was bright and springy and somehow delicate and flavorful at the same time.  The lemon was the predominant flavor, but it didn’t overwhelm the leeks and seasonings.  I scarfed the whole thing down in no time, and I am really glad I decided to make two servings, so I have leftovers to look forward to tomorrow.

I am kind of proud of how outside the norm of my cooking this dish is.  What I tend to do best in the kitchen are hearty dishes, stews, pastas, polenta, and the like.  This is unusually delicate, though not at all fussy and still satisfying.   And it has the advantages of very little cleanup (a cutting board and knife, the bowl for cleaning the leeks, and the barely soiled baking sheet) and short enough prep and cooking time to make it a really good weeknight option.  It’ll definitely stay in my spring rotation. 

Spring Salmon in Parchment (serves 2) 

1 small leek                                                       1/2 tsp. thyme

2 medium red potatoes                                  1/4 tsp. tarragon

1 lemon                                                              1/2 tsp. fenugreek

2 3-4oz. fillets of salmon                               olive oil

salt and pepper                                                parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Trim off root end and dark green leaves from leek.  Cut in half lengthwise and slice thinly.  Place sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water and stir to loosen any dirt or sand.  Let sit for a few minutes, then remove leeks and drain.  Thinly slice potatoes and lemon.  Sprinkle salmon fillets with thyme, tarragon, and fenugreek.  On one half of a piece of parchment paper layer half the chopped leeks, half the sliced potatoes, one salmon fillet, and half the lemon slices, seasoning each layer with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining ingredients on another piece of parchment.  Drizzle olive oil over ingredients.  Fold parchment over and pleat along edges to close.  Place parchment packets on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes.

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