Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Garden of Earthly Delights

In the garden and in the local produce stand, the bounty is coming in, and I am in heaven. I love to cook and use fresh ingredients. The strawberries from the stand a mile from our house are the best they've ever been. I ate one the size of my fist today. It was red the whole way through and dripping juice. I ate it while standing over the sink--though eating it while taking a bath wouldn't have been a bad idea. I was reminded of the title of a SARK book--Eat Mangoes Naked. We've had strawberry shortcake; strawberry pancakes; strawberry pie; strawberry salad with arugula, feta and pecans; strawberry cheese coffee cake--not to mention plain strawberries.

We've had salads from the garden: the aforementioned strawberry feta; greens and croutons with Moosewood Restaurant's spinach basil dressing; spinach salad with a poppy seed dressing; and a shallot Gorgonzola salad that I copied from Jamie at Home on the Food Network. Jamie Oliver--in the garden and in the kitchen with his accent--just too cute for words. And his salad was amazing. It was a light meal that evening that we ended with homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream we made with mint from our garden. Tonight's salad is going to be Caesar Salad with seared Tuna steaks. Our appetizer with be basil and ricotta stuffed squash blossoms.

In other harvests, we've had arugula. I piled it on top of steak sandwiches with goat cheese and caramelized onions. I also make a mean arugula pesto with walnuts that was great over polenta and pasta. We had green gazpacho with arugula combined with spinach, parsley and dill to make a fresh taste and emerald color so vivid that it made me happy to have white bowls to hold it.

Today I picked sugar peas destined for a pasta dish with local asparagus, ricotta, and tarragon. My daughter has eaten raw spring onions after a quick rinse. Those have gone into our omelets and into just about everything else. Next year I'll have to plant a whole load of them. It was a first year for them, and they were a hit. They smell incredibly sharp and green when you first pull them from the earth. I picked my first pepper today. I have ten kinds. This was a poblano. I can make it into poblano vinaigrette or do up some chiles relleno. Since this one is solo, I may stuff it with cheese and black beans, bake it, and have it for a lunch. I have bunches of lavender hanging to make lavender sugar for baked goods. A few sprigs of the lavender went in the batch of limoncello I am currently steeping for summer imbibing on humid evenings when fireflies are nigh.

And yes, as I read this, I realize that I am just a little bit over the top with my cooking and vegetables. What do they call it in writing. . . purple prose? I can get downright greeting card shmoopy. But remember, I didn't do all this in one day. The above activity was over the last month. And it was a hectic month, so it was good to have a little glory. I am not sure my kids can appreciate all that comes to our table. They eat heartily and complain little. Both of them recently watched Supersize Me, so they are starting to be aware of food choices. We've sworn off fast food while they are on break from school and are starting to look out for organic food labels on pantry items such as pasta and grains. Eating like this--it isn't a loss--we'll hardly miss a french fry. Too much bounty on the back roads and in the backyard. I can only imagine what summer will bring.

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