Here is my New Year's portrait -- I expect it needs a little explaination: I belong to a group of 10 friends who have been getting together to celebrate New Year's Eve together at each other's houses for at least the last decade or so.
We have a fine dinner together and then spend the evening playing everyone's favorite board games and occasionally, even old-fashioned ones like charades. (My favorite!) Our website photographer Karen and her husband Bob are part of the group and instituted a costume theme every year because that gives them an excuse to take pictures of everyone.
This year the theme was masks and I'm afraid mine was the least elaborate and store-bought at the last minute. My only excuse is that I don't consider myself particularly artistic or crafty -- but I'm fortunate that many of my friends have both of those talents, and their masks were homemade and really fun. Here are a few of my favorites taken by photographer Kevin Osborn.
As always, I brought the salad for our meal. Despite the fact that we've had lots of frost with temperatures well below freezing at night, my lettuce beds are in a protected spot and my Blush Batavian lettuces and Escarole look great and are especially crisp. I also have the most incredible deep, deep dark red new lettuce variety that I will be introducing next year. I really want to call it "Blood Lust” - but I think that might be a little over the top. Maybe "Passion" would do. We'll be growing it again in spring, so I'll see what inspires me then.
In a large stainless steel bowl I bought from the restaurant supply, I combined 2 heads of the light green and deep green leaves with 2 heads of the gorgeous deep red ones. Then I put in a hefty handful of finely chopped chives and approx. 2 cups of chopped Italian plain leaf parsley from the garden (the cold weather really makes the parsley sweet , it's SO good for you). From the store, I had a long English cucumber to slice thinly into the bowl and then peeled and cut 2 blood oranges and 2 regular Navel oranges into small 2 inch chunks. Finally, I added about 2 1/2 cups of freshly toasted walnut pieces and sprinkled 2 pomegranates' yields of ruby- colored sweet/ tart pomegranate seeds over the top. This New Year's salad was as colorful as the holiday, tasted seasonally perfect and served 10 big eaters comfortably.
I can recommend my standard homemade vinaigrette to go with it: 3/4 of a cup of good-quality, fruity extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup (not too sweet) good quality balsamic or unseasoned rice vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 smashed garlic clove, a good pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and several good grindings of fresh pepper. This time, I also added approx. 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice and a little orange zest. Cover container and shake well and allow to blend for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. Freshly made vinaigrette is so much better than any kind of bottled dressing that once you try it you won't go back.
Last post, I profiled three of my favorite things to give his garden gifts but I forgot to mention one of my favorite garden supplies catalog companies - Gardeners Supply Company (http://www.gardeners.com/). It’s important to know about if you don't have a good source of seed starting supplies anywhere nearby or aren't sure what's available. They carry a variety of all the critical equipment needed (as well as all kinds of gadgets) for folks who garden from seed. I particularly recommend looking at their indoor seed starting equipment which is often hard to find. They've been in business a good long time and know their stuff. If you ever are in Burlington, Vermont, they have a great retail store there as well.
This company was started by Will Rapp, I think in the mid-80s. When I first was getting started in the catalog business, I called him up out of the blue (he was on a different side of the country and didn't have any idea of who the voice on the other end of the phone was) and asked for his help in how to design and mail catalogs effectively. He was most generous with excellent advice and played an important role in getting me started. I have always been very grateful to him and had a soft spot for his business.
Will has also been instrumental in developing many innovative demonstration projects in ecological farming and gardening in the area next to his business. One of the most fascinating I remember seeing at his location in Burlington was a demonstration of how energy can be derived from methane produced by dairy cows!