Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, June 21, 2013


How did I come to be eating an appetizer of wild nettle sformato with quail egg and morels last Saturday? I blame it all on the influence of Other Ellen, Zachos that is. She's been harassing me about foraging for almost as long as I've known her.
Granted when Ben and I were looking for the perfect restaurant to celebrate a BIG anniversary, we headed right to the Union Square Cafe. And granted that the chef there is known to walk the half block from the Cafe to the famous Union Square Greenmarket for special local products to feature on his menu, printed daily.
A walk through the Greenmarket made us anticipate our special lunch even more.
I blame EZ for my menu choice because having dug and composted hundreds of bushels of nettles and purslane on my flower & herb farm, I would normally want to have nothing more with these horrible weeds. But I trust USC completely and maybe I even trust EZ a little*.
Using the chopped leaves of the nettle, the sformato is like a custard with the full rich flavor of a spinachy green; in combination with the morels and quail egg it's perfect.

* She's written a fascinating new book Backyard Foraging, Storey Pub. 2013, that the New York Times reviewer called "extremely appealing", though no nettles appear in it.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Collage on canvas, photos, acrylic, pressed leaves © ellen spector platt, all rights reserved.

Not The High Line Park, but my collage version made from 37 images I captured during 15 visits in different seasons starting in 2009. I select, print on plain acid free paper and cut out features that I want to include.
Starting with more images than I think I need I lay out the picture, below in its first approximation.
Then add more images,
including a man stooping down on the right, photographing hydrangea and tracks leading into the picture enhancing the  perspective. Nothing is glued yet.
Move the man to the left, add a boy to the right, more Liatris on the left.
Dab the canvas with blue acrylic paint using a dry paper towel. Glue down the skyline starting from the top overlapping as I go, then the rest of the images. Note below, both the boy and the man have been edited out. This skyline is my own, reconfigured from buildings I see from this fabulous walkway. The flowers I include don't all bloom simultaneously.
I add pressed leaves of Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) because they grow on The High Line. These come from my own garden of course. In the lower third, I add more images coated in acrylic gel medium crushed into 3D elements. See what I mean in the finished piece at the top.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Take the tram at 59th & 2nd. Ave for an astounding ride over the East River to Roosevelt Island, then a 25 cent bus ride or a 3/4 mile walk to the new park at the southern tip of the Island. The 59th St. bridge parallels the tramway.
 Designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn in 1973 to honor FDR and never built, it was finally constructed starting in 2010 and opened as a NY State Historical park last fall. At the time of planning Nelson Rockefeller was Governor, John Lindsey was Mayor, this plot of land was called Welfare Island, and NYC was heading for bankruptcy.
As you approach the park, you pass the ruin of a small pox hospital which may be preserved as a visitor center.
A park ranger explained that Kahn not only designed the space but chose the trees, copper beeches against the facade of the hospital, and two allees of lindens flanking a simple lawn.
 As you enter the park, the vista is toward the narrow island tip, the apex of a triangle, pointing to a grand bust of F.D.R. and thence to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, which Roosevelt helped to save during WWII.
 To the right is the general assembly of the UN that the President helped to form. On the back of the monument is inscribed part of the Four Freedoms speech from 1939.
 The park is simple and direct, wholly satisfying. What Kahn obviously knew and I didn't realize is that because of the vanishing perspective, when you turn around to walk back to the entrance, the lawn seems no longer triangular but rectangular, an optical illusion. I didn't even see it until I came home and looked at my images.
Though I'm no longer a fan of perfect lawns, this park was designed 40 years ago when such lawns were the ideal, so I'm more forgiving.
On Memorial Day 2013, Vietnam Vet Ben Platt joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney right, and Singer/Composer Carole King in laying a wreath at the monument. Amazingly, the wreath was formed of all fresh, undyed flowers and foliage, so I didn't have to run up and start discarding offending materials.
The park is free and open to the public  from 9am to 7pm 6 days a week, closed Tues. Learn more.

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