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VOL. 37 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 02, 2013

Finding high art in the vegetable garden

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This past week, and in the weeks to come, Don and I have been moving. We have purchased another house that’s much smaller, and the yard – well, the new place is a patio home, so it’s just about non-existent.

In other words, we have purchased a home that’s more practical for us. As we grow into our “golden years,” there are things we want to do other than spend time keeping up with a large home and yard.

I tell you this because Judy Smith, an interior decorator and friend, is helping me with some things in the new house. It was Judy who gave me the inspiration for this week’s article.

She gave me a copy of a magazine she receives called American Lifestyle. It is sent to her and her husband by another friend of ours, Chad Colson, the senior vice president of Delta Trust Investments. American Lifestyle is published by ReminderMedia.

This month’s issue features Margaret Dorfman, who makes jewelry and bowls out of fruits and vegetables. Maybe you have heard about her and her “produce productions,” but I never had, and I think they’re amazing.

I looked her up online (margaretdorfman.com) to find more information about her business, and she’s extremely talented in what she makes. I think her creativity is amazing.

Since I haven’t had the time to interview her, I used what she has on her website to give you some information.

“I have always found delight in creating things. I discovered at an early age that I did not need to go to stores to find materials for my projects; just looking around me turned up acorns, bark and moss.

“To this day, I enjoy searching for unconventional materials in unexpected places – Chinatown for lotus root and bok choy, small Mexican mercados for chili peppers and papaya, [and] Japanese markets and Korean groceries for green-necked daikon. Although I now use a produce supplier, I still visit these venues with an eye out for the unusual.

“I cut all the fruits and vegetables by hand with an old-fashioned mandoline slicer, a few exotic Japanese tools, and a wickedly sharp assortment of knives. My studio follows sustainable practices: using reclaimed water and recyclable packaging; and no toxic products are used. Leftovers are composted and unused produce is donated to the local zoo.

“For the last 13 years, I have worked full-time creating art using elements from the natural world. It is never boring and I cannot imagine doing anything else. It feels like there must be some mysterious alchemy involved as these ordinary fruit and vegetables transform from commonplace, everyday items into objects of unexpected beauty. But I know it is not magic and I am not actually creating something new. I am only uncovering what was always there, waiting to be seen.”

Well, in my opinion, she doesn’t give herself enough credit. She is creating something spectacular and beautiful. It may be out of something that “was always there,” but she transforms that into something beautiful that wasn’t there.

After some searching, I found galleries scattered across the United States that feature her creations. While I was unable to find a retail store for her bowls, I did find a few for her jewelry. When you have a minute, browse through her website and look at the beautiful items. Maybe one day you’ll run across a gallery that sells her work.

So here’s the recipe. A friend posted this on Facebook, but when I Googled it to get more information, I found it all over the place. So I don’t know the original author.

I have not made it yet, but after reading some of the reviews I think I will use just one lemon, as many of the reviews said it was too lemony.

This is touted to be gluten-free, low-carb and diabetic-friendly – three pluses in my book!

Garlic Lemon Chicken with Vegetables

2 lemons, one thinly sliced, one juiced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound trimmed green beans

8 small red potatoes, quartered

4 chicken breasts (bones left in, with skin)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer in the bottom of the dish or skillet.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; add the green beans and toss to coat. Arrange the green beans on top of the lemon slices. Add potatoes to the olive oil mixture and toss to coat. Arrange the potatoes in the dish. Coat the chicken with the olive oil mixture. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in the baking dish. If there is any lemon sauce left, pour it over chicken and vegetables.

Roast until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken from the pan; if the vegetables are not quite done, place them back in oven until tender.