In reviewing our posts, I am surprised I haven't mentioned food. Cooking with our own produce is half the reason we garden! Our goal this summer is to have a meal made completely with our own labor, but that's unlikely: the meal would be unbalanced, because we don't raise enough protein or carbs. (If only we'd gotten those chickens I wanted....) Still, more and more of our plates feature our own food.
One of the first meals we made was Easter lunch: crab cakes with cilantro cream, braised fennel, roasted potatoes, roasted beets and artichokes, and a salad, which featured our first lettuces, tender and sweet. (Only the herbs and lettuces were ours.) We grew winter density, pinetree, deer's tongue, tom thumb, mesclun mix, and amaranth, a grain whose leaves are a vivid pink (see left). One of the amaranth (which can also be used as ornamental plantings) is gigantic -- a blazing pink and yellow two-foot plant in the middle of our herbs. We plan on growing some in the flower garden next year.
Our scapes were next, and we ate them with red chioggia beets were grew on the back porch. [We also grew yellow mangle beets, but they were crowded and grew more slowly. Once they were ready, I witnessed a squirrel filching them -- and took a video of his munching because it was cute. We'll consider the donation a tithe to the animals, who have been relatively kind to our garden.] Later, we stuffed trout with scapes and lemons and grilled them outside, inspired by Finn, a prequel to Twain's classic that I was reading at the time.
We didn't grow strawberries, but I picked scads at a local farm and made strawberry pie and 12 jars of strawberry jam. My ADD got the best of me, and I failed to add the sugar and pectin in the right order, so the jam refused to set completely. When I've had it on pb & j sandwiches, I race to lick the sides of the bread before it drips on my lap. The taste is fresh and the color vibrant, but jam it is not, so I've been passing it out to friends as "strawberry topping" for ice cream or yogurt. You know, it's all in the marketing.
Observant bakers will note my lattice [above] is poorly constructed. I am not good with spatial puzzles, and I couldn't follow the drawings in the Cook's Illustrated recipe. As the picture above also shows, I also lost track of time and let the whole mess boil over on the stove. Thank goodness we have an electric range. I can't imagine how hard clean up would've been with the nooks and crannies of a gas stove.
Next on our table were our wonderful purple and yellow bush beans. I made pesto, too, for cheese ravioli and another salad with our cucumbers and lettuces. (The tomatoes weren't ripe yet.) My carnivore husband surprised me by being completely satisfied with this vegetarian meal. Usually, he begrudgingly eats what I serve and laments the lack of meat -- or, inexplicably, supplements his meal with chips. Yes. David is a chip fiend. I am not sure if he likes chocolate or chips better, but each makes an appearance daily in his diet. He's blessed with a rapid-fire metabolism, so he can get away with it.
Then came blueberries, eight pounds of them, and not a one from our own bushes (thanks, birds). Franklin has a blueberry farm smack dab in the middle of town -- 5,000 bushes strong! -- and I stopped in last Saturday after going to a yard sale. The $3.25 a pound they charge is a steal, especially since the experience is pure therapy: 8:30 a.m., 70 degrees, slight breeze, ripe fruit, twittering birds (knocking out half the crop, the owner told me), huge bushes that allow you to stand up straight while picking, and the soft murmuring of people amid the rows. I picked a pound and then drove right home to get David. We returned to pick seven pounds more, and I made a blueberry pie -- with a crumb topping this time -- and served it at board game night with friends. I ate the last piece last night with ice cream. Sigh.
There were many other meals, most of which we didn't photograph, but we made sure to document (in film and video) the pièce de résistance (and -- frankly -- the raison d’être of our garden): our First Tomato Sandwich.
There are hard and fast rules for its construction: dark pumpernickel rye, lightly toasted, generous amounts of mayo (Hellman's regular is the only brand), and several layers of thinly sliced tomatoes. Avoiding delays is important for temperature: you want to bite into the sandwich when the bread is still warm and the mayo melty; the tomatoes should never, ever, EVER be refrigerated.
The type of tomato can vary, based on availability and interest. In this case, we used stupice, because they were the earliest to ripen -- though I did have a second sandwich made of sliced sun sugars (tiny little things), because I couldn't wait torturous days for the other tomatoes to be ready.
David takes the chip selection seriously, which I appreciate (not when we are shopping, but later, when we eat). This year, he couldn't decide, so we had both Pringles originals and Fritos. Chips are nice (and we also had baked beans), but those are really beside the point. Later, when the tomato tornado arrives (we hope!), we'll get more choosy about tomato variety and we might even vary the ingredients (David adds cheese and I add slivers of onion). For now, though, we're aiming for the Platonic ideal.