The New Museum: An Excellent Art and Food Adventure!

While driving to teach at Hofstra University a few months ago, I heard an interview on WNYC about an art exhibit by the African American artist, Faith Ringgold at the New Museum in Lower Manhattan. Her work and life story sounded fascinating and compelling and I made a mental note to visit the museum soon!

Faith Ringgold: American People

Recently, I had a free Saturday morning before an afternoon rehearsal and saw that Faith Ringgold’s exhibit was still at the New Museum. I headed down in my car to the Lower East Side and ended up parking not far from one of my all time favorite places DiPalo’s Fine Foods, also close to the venerable Italian pastry shop Cafe Roma; this was going to be a wonderful food and art expedition!

The New Museum opened in 1977 and was the first museum devoted to contemporary art created by New York City artists. The mission statement of the museum says: “the museum is a catalyst for a broad dialogue between artists and the public by establishing an exhibition, information, and documentation center for contemporary art made within a period of approximately ten years prior to the present.”

Designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA the museum is a seven-story, eight-level structure located at 235 Bowery between Stanton and Rivington Streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Faith Ringgold at 91, has enjoyed a long career as an artist, writer, educator and activist. She was at the center of the Harlem Renaissance and her works document her struggles for social justice and equality.

I found the exhibit to be inspiring on many levels; as I viewed the works of art, I felt the rich legacy of black history. I also learned about the activism that Ringgold engaged in during her life in New York City.

I chatted briefly with one of the guards, a middle aged African American woman; she seemed eager to talk about the art work with me and seemed to show a special pride for the exhibition. She also shared information about a recent visit that Ringgold had made to the museum for a reception held in her honor.

Faith Ringgold: American People

I enjoyed viewing a series of works called story quilts that depicted the stories of important figures in the 20th century.

The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles- Faith Ringgold

In “The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles”, a quilt is surrounded by famous black luminaries including Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. To the right stands Van Gogh holding a bunch of sunflowers!

In the story quilt, “Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s” from the French Collection, Part #9 991, the black writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright sit along side Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.

“Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s from The French Collection, Part #9 1991: Faith Ringgold

Bessie’s Blues- Faith Ringgold

“Bessie’s Blues” portrays the jazz singer Bessie Smith. For this exhibit, the work is own loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. I was drawn to the bold colors and patterns and found this description talking about the parallels between art and music compelling:

Faith Ringgold employed thick lines and forms to portray the singer Bessie Smith, also known as “Empress of the Blues.” The deliberate dissonance between Smith’s melodies and their musical accompaniment finds a visual echo in Ringgold’s pared-down portrait of the glamorous Smith (known for bespangled dresses and sparkly jewelry). The subtle variations among the repeated portraits hint at the variations in pitch and rhythm in the choruses of Smith’s songs“. Art Institute of Chicago

There was a stunning view of Lower Manhattan from the 7th floor of the museum with the Freedom Tower in the distance. I reflected on our fragile democracy and on it’s resilience. Even with all of it’s flaws and challenges, change is possible; made so clear this past week with the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson!

After experiencing such a beautiful and uplifting exhibit, my spirits were soaring and I was full of energy; ready for the well anticipated culinary part of my expedition!

I headed towards Grand and Mulberry Streets and to Dipalos Fine Foods, which has served the freshest Italian cheeses since 1925.

I love the homey atmosphere of the store; customers range from ultility workers, tourists and fellow foodies! On this particular day, owner Lou Dipalo’s wife brought out a tray of freshly made riggatoni, Italian sausage and tomato sauce. A delicious aroma wafted into the air and there was a collective sigh of appreciation by all of us customers standing in line.

Big hunks of cheese line the counters. Before the pandemic, customers were often treated to tastes of each cheese that they ordered. I ordered my usual; parmesan reggianno and freshly grated pecorino.

The next step was to get a Bubble Tea across the street from DiPalo’s at Ya Ya’s Tea. Often times Bubble Tea is too sweet for my taste, but here they made freshly brewed camomile tea sweetened with a bit of honey. I ordered a large with plenty of ice and with the addition of chewy pearl tapioca bubbles it was irresistible!

My next stop was to Mimi Chengs Dumplings on Broome Street. The plan was to get some dumpling to take home for dinner; I ordered chicken and zucchini and vegetable dumplings; some made it home!

Almost directly across the street is one of the best Italian pastry shops in the city; Cafe Roma. The day had gone so well, I thought I would treat myself to a pastry to eat on the way home.

As I entered the cafe, I was greeted by the heady scent of espresso and pastries. There was quite an assortment of Italian delicacies, but this day I was drawn to the flaky sfogliatelle that sat on top of the counter.

There is a story that the pastry originated on the Amalfi coast and was created by a nun at convent with left over semolina, lemon liqueur, sugar and dried fruit.

Driving home, I enjoyed my sfogliatelle immensely. I bit into the crispy buttery crust; filled with ricotta cheese, semolina and flavored with vanilla and small pieces of lemon citron, it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted! I have to say, I did make a bit of a mess; the front of my jacket was covered with powdered sugar and bits of crisp flaky pastry!

Often times when I am walking, my thoughts turn to what I might make for dinner that evening. I will think about what ingredients are on hand and then go from there. On one cold blustery early spring day, I was thinking of making a middle eastern fish stew. I had a nice piece of cod and some oil cured black olives. But when I started to cook, my mood started to shift towards Italian spices and a way to use some of my pungent grated pecorino cheese that I had just purchased from DiPalos. I saw a jar of capers in the fridge and imagined my stew served over whole wheat linguini and in a flash Fish Soup ala Pantelleria was born!

Fish Stew Ala Pantelleria

Ingredients:

1 pound cod

1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 medium red potato cut into small pieces

1 onion finely diced

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

4-5 mushrooms sliced

handful of green beans cut into small pieces

handful of lacinato kale, tough core removed and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup pitted oil cured black olives

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers , rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

water to cover casserole

1/2 box whole wheat linguini

freshly grated pecorino cheese

To Make Fish Stew:

Rinse cod and cut into medium size chunks- set aside.

In a large heavy cast iron pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onions and saute until softened and then add garlic, cook briefly for a minute or so.

Add all other ingredients except the fish and then cover with water. If you have a good white wine on hand, you could add a cup or so here! Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Add fish and cook just a few minutes more until fish flakes easily. Do not overcook the fish!

Prepare linguini.

Serve with freshly ground pepper and grated pecorino.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

” Oh My, What a Crazy World”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!!

A Joyous Outing to The Aldrich Museum!

Jeff, Laurie and Paul at the Aldrich Museum: Ridgefield, CT

What an exhilarating and joyous experience; this was our first visit to a museum since last March! It was also my husband Paul’s birthday and close friends and fellow Hevreh Ensemble members Laurie Friedman and Jeff Adler joined us. It was especially meaningful to visit the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut and to have the opportunity to view a special exhibition by the kinetic sculptor Tim Prentice.

Sculptor Tim Prentice

For the last three summers before the pandemic, Hevreh Ensemble presented concerts at Tim Prentice’s idyllic West Cornwall, Connecticut barn. It was an incredible experience to be playing music surrounded by his lyrical sculptures moving gently in the breeze.

At the barn concerts, my main focus was on performing; seeing his work in a different context at the museum gave me the opportunity to appreciate his work more fully.

Tim Prentice Aldrich Museum

The exhibit also included a touching and very informative video with Prentice talking about his art and what inspires him.

Here is a description of his work and process in his own words:

“In my current work in kinetic sculpture, I am trying to concentrate on the movement, rather than the object. I take it as an article of faith that the air around us moves in ways which are organic, whimsical, and unpredictable. I therefore assume that if I were to abdicate the design to the wind, the work would take on these same qualities.”

Tim Prentice: Aldrich Museum

“The engineer in me wants to minimize friction and inertia to make the air visible. The architect studies matters of scale and proportion. The navigator and sailor want to know the strength and direction of the wind. The artist wants to understand its changing shape.”

“Meanwhile, the child wants to play.”

After we viewed the exhibit, we walked around the grounds of the museum. Paul noticed bamboo plants that looked similar to the cane (arundo donax) that we use to make our clarinet and oboe reeds. I picked up a few pieces from the ground thinking that I would take some home and try to fashion an oboe reed from the cane. And then, the inner child came out in both Laurie and myself! It was so great to see Laurie in person that silliness just poured out of us. I think it was partly a sense of relief after the months of being cooped up and not seeing each other in person.

This summer, Hevreh Ensemble hopes to return to Tim Prentice’s West Cornwall barn at the end of August where we will look forward to sharing our music and also experience more of Tim’s inspiring and beautiful work!

The other day, we were in the mood for a light vegetarian dinner and Paul reminded me about a soup that I had made a while back that had both red lentils and quinoa. For this soup, I used mixed grain quinoa along with plenty of ginger, turmeric, cumin and ground coriander. I had onions and carrots on hand, but any vegetables would be good. I had made some hummus the day before and this along with a spicy mushroom shawarma spread on fresh slices of whole wheat sourdough bread from Bread Alone, made a delicious little feast!

Curried Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups red lentils rinsed

1 cup cooked mixed grain quinoa (any kind is fine)

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 large carrot finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely diced ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground tumeric

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make Soup:

In a large pot, heat olive oil.

Saute onion until it is translucent and softens.

Add ginger, cumin, turmeric and ground coriander. Stir and cook for a few minutes.

Add carrots, bay leaf, salt & pepper and red lentils. Cover with water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer until lentils start to soften, about 30-40 minutes.

Add cooked quinoa and cook for for 30 more minutes. If soup seems too thin, remove cover and cook about 20 minutes more over medium heat.

This soup tastes even better the next day and freezes beautifully!

Enjoy!

Mushroom Shawarma (based on NYT Cooking Recipe)

Ingredients:

3/4 pound mushrooms, stems removed and cut into large chunks. I used button mushrooms, but sliced portobello mushrooms would also be good.

1 medium red onion, halved and cut into wedges.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste.

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To Make Mushroom Shawarma:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place mushrooms and sliced onion on a large flat rimmed baking sheet.

Pour on olive oil and mix everything together with your hands.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roast until tender and browned about 25 minutes, turning once or twice.

Enjoy!

AND: Here is the first wildflower sighting of the season!

BloodrootSanguinaria Canadensis

HAPPY SPRING!!