Category Archives: Summer

No recipe needed…

One of my food purveyors delivered a case of peaches today from which these two come. Perfect, I thought (or likely said aloud) as I opened the case. I took one and bit in and sweet nectar ran down my chin. In some instances, such as this, I also thought to myself, I could not create a recipe using these peaches that would improve them. They are perfect as is. No recipe needed. Mother nature is amazing. I just felt like saying this and sharing the photos.

A Dish of Peaches in Russia

With my whole body I taste these peaches,
I touch them and smell them.  Who speaks?

I absorb them as the Angevine
Absorbs Anjou.  I see them as a lover sees,

As a young lover sees the first buds of spring
And as the black Spaniard plays his guitar.

Who speaks?  But it must be that I,
That animal, that Russian, that exile, for whom

The bells of the chapel pullulate sounds at
Heart.  The peaches are large and round,

Ah! and red; and they have peach fuzz, ah!
They are full of juice and the skin is soft.

They are full of the colors of my village
And of fair weather, summer, dew, peace.

The room is quiet where they are.
The windows are open.  The sunlight fills

The curtains.  Even the drifting of the curtains,
Slight as it is, disturbs me.  I did not know

That such ferocities could tear
One self from another, as these peaches do.

Urban Simplicity

Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Pickles (in just five minutes)

This is a basic refrigerator pickle recipe that can be made in just a few minutes but is really delicious and will keep excess produce for months (if kept refrigerated). I make this nearly every year at summer’s end to store cucumbers still hanging on their vines. You can make it with just cucumbers or (as I do) add other items as well (this really can be made with any produce). I added garlic cloves, onion, hot peppers, dill seed, and a pinch of turmeric for color and nutrition. Anyhow, the basic recipe goes like this:

Slice cucumbers and other vegetables. Layer them in a bowl or crock with garlic and onion, if you like. Make a basic brine using the following measurements: 1 1/2 parts cider vinegar, 1 part sugar, 1 part water, a little salt, and (if you like the color) a little turmeric. Combine all of these ingredients together in a pot, place the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. Simmer the brine for just a few seconds, then our it over the vegetables. Refrigerate the bowl and the pickles will be ready in an hour or so. Simple as that.

Urban Simplicity.

Three more from a garden…

Though I took these photos today they are really a continuation of a previous post. My apologies if I’m boring you with flower photos all summer but I just can’t help myself…they look so beautiful to me when viewed up close. At any rate, there’s only another month or so of them left before we move into autumn (my favorite season)…at which time I’ll no doubt post photos of trees in transition. I really like all of these photos but if I had to choose just one it would be the one directly below…a droplet captured at its point of departure. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

In the garden after the rain…

No this is not my personal garden, these photos were taken in the garden of my place of employment. I had mentioned a few times prior that I am lucky enough to work in a place with such a lovely garden (and one which I can walk when it is empty) and I often find it relaxing to look at some of the plants through the lens of a camera. Today I was feeling a bit stressed (not about work, about other things in my personal life) and on my lunch break I went out to snap a few photos. It had just finished raining, and these are the result. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Playing with Light

One of the many things I like about digital photography is that unlike film photography you can shoot as many photos you want and choose only a few that you really like. This was the case this evening. I shot about 25 photos of Hoyt Lake and Marcy Casino at Delaware Park and these two are my favorites. What I like about these two are the color contrasts. This was achieved by not only long exposure but also the light around me. The blue in the sky was the result of the time that I was there– l’heure bleue, which is one of my favorite times of the dayand the red foreground is from a series of lampposts, which are just out of view but shone on the water directly in front of me.

 Urban Simplicity.

Chop This! (The easiest and likely the most nutritious and delicious salad you’ll ever make.)

Okay. So if you have a garden–or even if you don’t–now is the time to seize summer’s bounty. Whether you grow it yourself or purchase it at the store, the time is ripe for summer vegetables. And when the vegetables are as perfectly ripe as they are right now, eating them raw (or some lightly cooked) with the simplest preparation is the way to go. The below recipe is just a guide. Use whatever vegetables and herbs that your garden or local market has. But here’s how I made mine.
Raw Summer Salad
Dice a perfectly ripe tomato–or two if you’re eating with someone else–and as much cucumber as you think you’ll eat. Combine it in a bowl with a few slices of raw onion, a minced garlic clove, a sliced hot pepper, a handful of chopped parsley, and also basil. Sprinkle the salad with sea salt, then drizzle it with a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil and good quality wine vinegar. Gently toss together and taste summer.

Urban Simplicity.

Just One…

Just one photo. That is all. I rode to the waterfront this evening. It was cool, windy, and sort of blustery. Almost autumnal. I really enjoyed it. I ordered a beer and snapped a few photos while I watched the evening clouds roll in. This photo is my favorite. Buffalo Harbor. Click it for a larger view. And thank you, by the way, for your continued support in visiting and commenting. Peace.

Urban Simplicity.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! (and a few other things)

It was such a beautiful day today I was out on my bike most of the day. And one of the places I made a rather brief stop was the Buffalo Zoo, which is in fact the third oldest zoo in the country. I hadn’t been there since my son was young–so at least 10 years–and I was really glad I went. I likely would not have gone but I was offered a free day pass (thanks Heather!) so I thought I’d go and take a few photos. My favorite is the one above. As I approached the lion’s den (or whatever it is called) I took out my camera and began replacing it’s standard lens with the zoom lens (no I was not as close to that lion as it may appear). Anyhow, the place was packed; there were people everywhere. But as I exchanged lenses the lion, which was sleeping at the time, sat up and looked directly at me, sort of striking a pose. I’m not so sure about the look she’s giving me…I wonder if she thought I looked tasty.

Urban Simplicity.

The green and yellow right in front of me…

So am I the only one that cannot believe it is already the second week of August? As we enter the backside of summer I’ve been trying to appreciate it more by noticing the things right in front of me (which isn’t always an easy thing to do); but looking through a camera lens helps me do this. Anyhow, the vegetables are growing, quite literally, just outside my front door near the sidewalk, and the flowers are in my next door neighbor’s front yard.  

Urban Simplicity.

Fishing for night swimmers…and a few photos of the international border in my backyard

If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I am typing from Buffalo, NY. And sometimes I forget that there is an international border and another country in my backyard (the awesome country of Canada). A mere eight minute bike ride from my house brings me to Broderick Park, which leads to Bird Island Pier (a slim walkway–a break wall–that separates the very beginnings of the Erie Canal with the Niagara River at the mouth of Lake Erie (click here to see how the pier’s thin line juts out into the lake, and here to see a photo of it). I hadn’t been down there in a while, and when I arrived I questioned why it had been so long. Anyhow, I had it in my head to take a few photos of the Peace Bridge at dusk so I pedaled down. And as I pedaled and coasted down the pier (which was largely deserted because it being evening) I was struck by it’s beauty. But then, to my dismay, as I approached the undercarriage of the bridge I could see that there was a chain-link fence blocking further passage because of repairs (the entire length of the pier is at least a mile into the water). You can see the distance in the photos…the top photo I was at the far end of the pier (the restricted section), whereas the below photos I was just beneath the bridge. Anyhow, as I was standing there slightly saddened because I couldn’t (or at least thought I couldn’t) travel any further down the pier I saw someone approaching on a bicycle, and I could see they had fishing gear attached to their bike. It was a Burmese man about my age (Buffalo has a rather substantial Burmese population). We chatted a bit; he saw my camera gear and I  noticed his fishing gear. I told him how I wanted to go to the end of the pier to take photos. No problem, he said, that’s where I fish for night swimmers; some fish only come out at night, he added. He then showed me (and helped me) to hold my bike at a horizontal angle to fit between the railings of the pier, and “walk it” along the stones (which was a rather steep embankment) for about 50 feet, and then repeat the procedure to re-enter the pier. We walked along the canal side, which I’m sure was a steep drop off in the water, and at one point as we were walking he turns to me and says, don’t drop your bike, you won’t get it back. After we reestablished ourselves on the “forbidden side” of the pier he pedaled off while I set up my tripod; I never saw him again.  It was so tranquil. On my way back I saw two cranes and many dozen geese (who nearly refused to get out of my path). I have to say I was a bit worried about lifting my somewhat heavy cargo bike through the railing by myself but I managed (I had the Cargo-T, not the Yuba). I shot a couple dozen photos as I watched the sun set on the river while I wondered why I didn’t come here more often. Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Cool as a cucumber (and avocado) soup recipe…

This soup is really delicious and really easy to make. I know…I say that all the time, right? Well, all you have to do is put the ingredients in a blender and puree them. Seriously. Easy, delicious, and healthy…what’s not to like. This is also a great recipe for the crazy heatwave that has gripped much of the country. I hope you try this…you’ll be glad you did.

Chilled Cucumber-Avocado Soup

Makes 6-8 cups

1 English cucumber, seeds removed

1 ripe avocado, skin and pit removed

¼ small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

2 cups orange juice

2 teaspoons sea salt

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth. 

Super color burst times twenty and why I am thankful for it…

“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that would be sufficient.” 

In the general scheme of things I have so many things to be thankful for…but sometimes (oftentimes) with the business of life and distractions it is difficult to remember this. This week, for example, has been trying. Like much of the country we have been gripped with an intense heatwave. I do not have air conditioning in my house nor do I at work…the kitchen has been incredibly hot. At times I found myself speaking in single syllables to conserve energy (no joke). But still–when I consciously think about it–I am thankful for the job that I have…that I am good at what I do and still find it interesting and engaging. Another example (of how everything is really awesome but sometimes I don’t really see it) is represented in these photos. I’ve been having issues with my camera lens this past week and it’s likely I need to purchase another when I am already strapped for cash (if anyone has had this problem with their lens I would love to hear your comments), so I brought the camera to work with me as I often do with the intention of taking some test-shots on my lunch break. The garden where I work is incredible, it really is, and that alone is something to be thankful for. And as I took these photos sometimes the lens operated correctly and sometimes it didn’t. I was frustrated and really hot–sweat dripping from me in the noonday sun–as I stalked the garden in my chef’s uniform. But because of the malfunctioning lens it forced me to concentrate on what I saw through it. And what I saw was nothing short of pure unadulterated beauty. And for that I am truly thankful. As for the lens…it does seem to be on it’s way out (these were the better photos, many were blurry). I’ll get a new one eventually, somehow. But as I walked back to the sweltering kitchen I had the sense–as I do now typing these words–that everything will be fine, that I have much to be thankful for. And that feeling alone is enough to give thanks.

Urban Simplicity.

The Sun Also Sets…

It has been so hot and humid these past few days. Last evening I rode down to the waterfront with hopes of some relief (some, but not much), but the sunset I encountered was nothing short of stunning. I took dozens of photos and thought I’d share a couple. The top is of Buffalo Harbor looking southeast over Lake Erie, and the bottom is looking northwest over the Niagara River with Canada in the background. Click either for a slightly larger image.

Ice Ice Baby


Ice is back with my brand new invention.”
Vanilla Ice
So I’m not sure what part of the world you are viewing this from, or what your local weather is, but the forecast for Western New York is–as it has been and will continue to be for some time–is hot and humid. Thus, these recipes seem appropriate. They are of course really delicious, but they are also exceedingly easy to make…just a few ingredients, minimal steps, and you can make them in your own home freezer. These recipes are part of an article I recently wrote for Artvoice. To view the entire article, with additional recipes and info and lore, click here. I hope you try these because they are so good and so easy to prepare. In the meantime…stay cool.

Sangria Granita
Makes about 5 cups
3 cups water
2 cups red wine
1 cup sugar
2 slices lemon
2 slices orange
2 slices lime
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about five minutes. Strain into a a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.
Orange-Rosemary Sorbet
Makes about 6 cups
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 cups orange juice
t tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil; simmer for a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice, lemon juice, orange rind, and rosemary. Allow to stand at room temperature for about five or ten minutes. Transfer to a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#499)

A cardboard box (wrapped in in plastic because of the rain) containing two extra large loaves of freshly baked 100% whole wheat bread (click here for recipes). An empty dough rising bucket, and a canvas bags containing–among other things–a few books and a journal.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I Saw While Riding My Bike Today…

I of course do not know what part of the globe you are viewing this page from, but locally today (and yesterday and tomorrow) it was and will be hot and humid…really humid. Even the simplest actions caused incredible perspiration. The reason I mention this is that as the sun began to set I went for a ride to the waterfront with a camera and it felt so good to feel the breeze from first the motion of the bike and then that off the water (I also had a cold beer which wasn’t too bad either). Anyhow, these are all from Buffalo’s beautiful waterfront. I was standing at an interesting point where the Niagara River, Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Erie Canal all meet. In the two sunset photos (above and second from the bottom) Canada in the distance.

Urban Simplicity.

Silo City Times Ten (or, ten things I saw while riding my bike today)…

These are a few photos of a ride I took this morning with a destination in mind. I’ve been reading (on Facebook) about a flea market being held in an area of the city which is now being called Silo City, which I think is a relatively new term. It’s referring to an old waterfront section of the city that contains most of our city’s grain elevators, a few are still in use but most seem abandoned (I’ve posted on them before here and here). These things (the grain elevators) are like Roman ruins here; testaments to our city’s past but also–with things like the Silo Flea Market and other events there–premonitions and hope of what’s to come. This was a really cool event. The entire area is desolate; creepy, sort of eerie. It was hot. Really hot. And as I pedaled and stopped at times to take pictures a car would pass periodically down the dusty road leading to the market. Usually there is not a soul to be seen here, and for the most part this was true today on my way there. At some points, as I stopped to take photos and walk around these monuments, the hair on the back of my neck stood up a little. I felt vulnerable in a way, being there by myself. Were there squatters, I wondered, watching the observer? At any rate, when I pedaled a bit further and turned the corner it was like a surreal oasis..a market amongst the otherwise desolate grain elevators (picture above). If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I have a keen interest in the history of the city of my birth, and this in a way, felt like I was witnessing history in the making. As hokey as it sounds that’s how it felt. Our historical ancestors–those who built and worked these elevators–were smiling today. I took more than a hundred photos today but won’t bore your with them all, so here’s just ten. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Photos of the Setting Sun…

Dusk and dawn are my two favorite times to take photos…the slant of the sun does magical things. These were taken over the course of the past two days at varying times of evening; from early evening to just as it turned from dusk to night. My favorite, though, is the image above…it’s a cloud floating solo and reflecting the the pinkish-orange hue from the setting sun. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.