The Weekend Dish – Basil Tomatoes

_MG_9857 basil tomatoesHere we are in the midst of tomato season and perhaps, if you’re lucky, your counter has been overrun with a red sea of tomatoes inviting all sorts of possibilities. This Basil Tomatoes recipe enhances the tomato’s natural flavor with basil, garlic and roasting. The result is an elegant tomato which can be served along with bread or added to pasta or as an accompaniment to fish or meat however you choose you can’t go wrong.

_MG_9866 basil tomatoesThe tomatoes are peeled and cored and placed whole on a bed of basil leaves then garlic and olive oil are added. It’s that simple.

_MG_9868 basil tomoatoesPlace the dish in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and a half. Your home will be filled with the most comforting and inviting aroma as an extra bonus. This recipe came to my attention via the rave reviews of a backyard son after having enjoyed it with Nana and Granddad one late summer night many years ago, and it has been a hit in this backyard house ever since.

_MG_9873 basil tomatoes

Buon Appetito!

~ Susan

 Basil Tomatoes

  • 8 tomatoes, peeled and cored. To peel the tomatoes, add to boiling water for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon then plunge into ice water for a minute or so and the skin will slide off easily.
  • 1-2 bunches of basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic

Place the basil leaves in a bed at the bottom of a pan big enough to hold the 8 tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, core side down, on top of the basil. Add olive oil to come half way up the sides of the tomatoes. Add the garlic to the pan, you can chop it or add more and leave the cloves whole. Bake at 350° for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the tomatoes caramelize and become infused with the basil perfumed olive oil.Serve with bread, pasta or with fish or meat.

Out and About, Olvera St

_MG_9745 candidA lunch trip to Olvera St with some backyard family presented the perfect opportunity to play with candid shots. Olvera St is a Mexican-themed street market located in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. It is one colorful place. From the items for sale

_MG_9765 candidto the lunch time entertainment

_MG_9755 candidthere is no doubt this is a vibrant place. The street is full of shops and restaurants and is  located downtown near the area of the founding of Los Angeles. The opportunities for pictures are many, both candid

_MG_9760 candid and posed.

_MG_9748 candidStrolling down the brick paved street or resting on a bench and gazing upon the parade of visitors are enjoyable activities which lead to all sorts of photographic opportunities. If you’re in the area or plan to be, it’s worth a trip; taking in the street scene, having some Mexican food (the fresh tortillas – so fresh you can watch them being made behind the counter), and shopping, along with a history lesson – if you tour some of the surrounding buildings – are just some of the highlights – oh, and don’t forget your camera!



Candid Vacations

IMG_3347 candidBeing on a trip and exploring cities brings out the street photographer in me. I attribute that partly to the desire to capture the people in a city, out and about, involved in either their own explorations or everyday routines. The other part is putting in the effort to keep my camera with me, out and ready at all times. I want to have it handy when something strikes me as a moment to hold on to.

IMG_3898 candidIn Paris, the streets are filled with tourists and residents alike and the opportunities are abundant. This group was preparing for a parade around the streets of Sacré Coeur one afternoon. I happened by and was able to capture this jovial moment.

IMG_3975 candidI couldn’t resist capturing this trio. Were they with a group or did they simply decide to dress alike that day? I’m not sure, but I found it worth remembering.

IMG_4278 candidWhile touring around the Olympic arena area of Barcelona a few years back, I witnessed this game and found it charming and worth noting.

IMG_4118 candidIn Spain, at the time of their Euro Cup victory in 2008, the celebrating reached levels I had never before witnessed. In the town of Alcala de Henares, it seemed as if everyone was watching the big match and when Spain won, they all spilled out into the streets to celebrate. We walked into a restaurant for dinner and were immediately swept up in the revelry by the owner. The country pride and thrill of victory commemorations continued well into the night!

IMG_3834 candidThe way Parisians utilize the city’s public spaces is admirable. Folks can be found sitting on the ground or on ledges, also lounging in some of the many chairs and benches, placed so abundantly around the city; relaxing and visiting all hours of the day and night. I find it charming.IMG_4611 candid


My companions were thankful for one of those benches in one of the many museums we visited, especially near the end of this long, fun and adventure filled trip.

If you are out and about and wanting to capture some of the local flavor. You can set yourself up in a location you like and wait for the action to come to you, in the manner of Henri Cartier- Bresson, or you can have your camera out and ready for anything that interests you as it crosses your path, like Bill Cunningham, or, perhaps a mix of the two styles will suit yours.

Find what inspires you and catch it.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Peach Cake

_MG_9645peachesThis time of year the fruit is plentiful and delicious. The peaches, plums, cherries and berries are emitting their sweet fragrances as I walk in the produce aisle of the store. Being especially fond of peaches, I like to use them as much as possible during this season. Aside from eating them alone, I like to add them to cereal, ice cream and use them to top pancakes or add them to a cake.

_MG_9687peach cake

I first tried this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated about a year ago and dreamed about it until this peach season came around again (I suppose canned peaches could be used but I like the seasonal anticipation). The recipe takes a little more effort because half of the peaches are roasted and all are macerated.

_MG_9649peachesBut it is well worth the effort.


_MG_9656peachesRoasting the peaches concentrates the flavor as well as releases some of the juices thus helping to avoid a soggy cake. Panko crumbs are added to the roast peaches after they come out of the oven to further ensure the avoidance of “soggy cake syndrome.” I didn’t use the peach schnapps called for in the recipe because I like the true peach flavor to shine through.

_MG_9690peach cake

                                      Peach Cake

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

  • 2 1/2 pounds peaches
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with oil spray. Pit the peaches and slice into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Place 24 of the slices into a bowl and gently toss with 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp sugar; set aside. Cut the remaining peaches into thirds crosswise. Place in a bowl and toss with remaining 2tsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp granulated sugar. Spread peach chunks on prepared sheet in a single layer and bake until the juices begin to thicken and caramelize, 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and thoroughly combined. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream, vanilla and 1/4 tsp almond extract and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Transfer half of the batter to the prepared springform pan and spread evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle panko crumbs over the cooled peaches and gently toss to coat. Arrange peach chunks evenly over the bottom layer of batter gently pressing peaches into surface of the cake. Spread the remaining batter over the peaches and smooth the top. Arrange the reserved peach slices in a ring on the top, using smaller ones for the center. Stir together remaining 3 tbsp granulated sugar and 1/8 tsp almond extract in small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of pan by running a knife around the edge of the cake. Remove sides of pan and allow cake to cool completely. _MG_9696peach cake

Serve and enjoy!

To summer’s bounty,

~ Susan

One, Fine Cat

This neighborhood isn’t shining as brightly as it once did. Just two days ago, our plot was a friendlier, furrier place and it was due to a neighborhood cat. Although his “family” lives next door to us, he seemed a part of our family as well. This cat was like no cat I have known before.  He would come running over from across or down the street to greet us, as we arrived home, meowing all the while and looking at us with his mysterious green eyes, jumping up on the planter – conveniently right at hand height – and give our hands a nudge with his head until we pet him. DSC_0378mon & gar

All he wanted in return for his warm greeting – a pet and scratch on the head and a little time. We weren’t the only neighbors who were the object of his hospitality. Almost every morning, he would send the three children a couple of doors down off to school with a meow and a purr. More often than once, I saw him running up to people walking by and throw himself down on to the sidewalk in front of their path, hoping for a head pat in return and then walk with them for a bit until deciding it was time to turn back. Always on the lookout for any activity and chance for an ear scratch, he wandered into our side yard and right into a portrait photo session one afternoon. In the spirit of going with the flow, inclusiveness and candidness he became part of the shoot.

DSC_0396 Monica & GarHe knew how to turn on the feline charm and win the heart of this backyard daughter.

DSC_0387mon & garHe seemed at home anywhere.

DSC_0390 mon & gar

We had this welcome “gentlecat” in the neighborhood for a short five years. Unfortunately, his charm wasn’t effective on the two dogs or, quite possibly, coyotes he encountered in the middle of the night.

I am glad I have these photos and memories not only for remembering one of the finest cats I have known but also to remind us to be open to the unexpected when photographing and look for those moments to catch the informal and unscripted. This month, we will be turning our attention to the candid moments in our lives and how to capture them.

Good-bye Garfield, you are always in our hearts and we will miss you!

~ Susan

DSC_0283 gar

I hate goodbye even when I need it.

When the cousins from St. Louis come for a week in the summer and you jump on the bed every night while the grownups finish long dinners and the parents are so busy you don’t even get in trouble until someone falls and conks her head badly: like that.

Or when your parent’s friends and their children from Sacramento drive down to your house with a 24-pak of Coke, something never allowed in your house, and you and your sisters and your new best friends all drink three sodas in a row after breakfast then careen through the halls scattering rugs too wild to be caught: like that.

Inviting the muse to spend a month is most like what happens when you open your door to a visitor who disrupts the house rules and decorum, seemingly without repercussion. It’s a whirlwind of rambunctious activity. I bump into corners, forget to eat, mutter in bed at 3 a.m. annoying the cat. It’s exhilarating, draining. My fellow July poets claim we’ll “collapse into a hot mess now,” and endure “postpartum blues.”


To create a poem a day is to utterly trust and bend to the whims of the muse so when it’s time so say goodbye I feel a mixture of relief and regret. I look at my bare feet and am surprised to see them on the ground.

Call me superstitious, polite, or crazy, but I never ever want to say goodbye to the muse without inviting a return. So of course, I write a goodbye poem, the final lyric for July.


Sayonara Muse

It’s never really good-bye with us, is it dear?
Even after the fat lady sings, and she always does, you throw your shadow
give good back
pretend to walk away.

You mock me with forever. The quitting kind, I mean.
Later baby, I know your style. Gate’s open.
Soon enough I’ll start cooking up the jambalaya you love.
Don’t slam the screen door on your way back.

Go ahead.
Leave me standing here under the concrete overpass, wailing sax
drowning out the waves at the pier.
The only blue I feel is sky.
It’s really better this way. You’re a beast. Needier than roots.

Go bother some other giver. My tongue’s dry.
Platter’s empty. Bone, I say. Nothing but crackle.
They’re playing your song in another bar.
I’ve got other things to do. Slow dance for instance.
Sway by August candlelight.

Right this minute I’m diving into a quart of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
with one cold spoon.

I miss you hardly already.


Tupelo Press 30/30 Project: it’s been swell. Nine new poets are at the starting gate to compose a poem-a-day for August. Best wishes to all of them. I feel your joy. I feel your pain.

August: you’re looking pretty sweet. I’m already in the middle of a giant new project: hosting a Backyard wedding on Sunday. Abundant love and happiness, and the muse too, will arrive if you invite them in. Did you open a window today?

Happy It’s-Still-Summer,