I haven’t written since October, and there are still hits every day on this blog. I keep getting comments too from people who are using the bread recipe, the date bar recipe, and the brownie recipe (which I can attest is still a very effective way to get your daily requirement of chocolate). I am flattered and while re-reading posts to see why the heck people keep coming back to this site, I was reminded that I had a garden, way back in summertime.
The other day, I made some crazy fig-glazed trout thing for dinner and went to the basement to get some potatoes to roast with the peppers and cherry tomatoes. There were 5 potatoes left in the box. Those piles and piles of Yukon Golds from the garden are GONE! and only a couple sprouts on these last hangers-on. Thus ends Garden 2011. I guess it’s time to start shopping for seeds!
This weekend we had a crazy snowstorm and spent yesterday camped out inside and today shoveling ourselves out. The wind is still nuts outside and it’s bringing me back to the beans post about chopping wood – That yellow Ikea bag is still hauling wood. There’s 2$ well-spent.
All this to say: I love the way the seasons go around and around, and how last winter can seem like yesterday, while the summer can feel decades past. And now, how a picture of last winter would have a 6-month old in it, but this winter, would have an 18-month-old… Ah, before I start getting into the metaphors, I’m gonna get to the point and then hit the sack.
Things have been really, REALLY, excessively busy for me in the last couple of months and I have missed writing. I won’t bore you with the details, but I think things are slowing down a bit, and I hope to be able to bring you and my sister some more stories soon. I was trying to think of big news or something to share, and I couldn’t come up with anything except the potato story, so I’m going to leave it at that for today. Unless, Pippa and Sari, you want more about the potatoes.
Some things I’ve made recently that might get you inspired and tide you over:
Preserved lemons (VERY experimental at this stage)
A really yummy barley and kale and mushroom soup
Something excessively non-vegetarian that starts with T and ends with –ourtière
A kind of spanakopita-inspired pie with the best crust ever…wait for it…
Broccoli roasted with bacon and parmesan. Yeah, OK, I’ll post about that one next time I buy bacon.
Oh! and how could I forget? I didn’t write after October cause I was teaching myself how to sew! And I got all obsessed with that, it being almost Christmas, and I stayed up late sewing every night. But I’m not going to start writing about sewing. Too much lingo.
I gave myself a break today, and stayed home. One of my goals was to write, but here it is 4:56 pm, the arrival of the family is imminent, and I’ve just managed to get a cup of tea brewed and cued up some nice music. Floor washed, dinner made, pear butter bubbling… wait.
What about all the garden posts I was so excited to do? Zucchini recipes, kale recipes, beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, beets?
Well the thing is – the garden’s over. There are some tenacious beans taking shelter under some plastic, and a couple of pumpkins that keep getting bigger but won’t turn orange, and of course, good ol’ kale that’ll just keep going till I rip it out of the ground by its stalk, but apart from that… well, see, it’s fall. Again. My thoughts are turning to cozy, belly-filling pots of beans and fiery curries and chilis. The light zucchini sautés of August are being pushed aside for…the stuff I wrote about last year.
The end of the summer was a little fast-paced. I went back to work and immediately started and finished 4 of the 5 courses that I have in my workload this semester. I was on the water 4 to 7 days a week. In there somewhere was Frida’s birthday party which required quick thinking on the cake (which almost got axed from the program due to time constraints but I thought that would make for a pretty shitty birthday party)
What a birthday party would be without swings and a garden, I have yet to discover.
To hang on to the last vestiges of summer, we booked a little chalet in Coin du Banc and hung out on the beach far away from our kitchen, laundry room, lawnmower and yes, garden.
And by the time I got done with all that, well, it was October 2nd, and I found myself cooking down 8 pounds of pears and hankerin’ for beans.
I did manage to squeak out some pickled beans but I have to wait for 3 weeks before I can tell you if they are any good. The bean production was out of control. I’m really happy about the late planting of Ice Haricot beans I got from Les Jardins de L’Écoumène – these beans feature “Small cloves lime green to the exquisite flavor are sought in the gourmet kitchen. The plants that reach 40 cm high should be visited regularly if you want to get an extended harvest. This bean is perfect for short seasons seasons” (I love translations). But really – I got a shitload of beans, and I think I planted them in August. They are halfway between green and yellow and have a really delicate flavour. The kids went nuts over them.
And I’m pulling up my last beets now, and would like to share with you my all-time favourite way to cook beets and their greens together. This recipe comes from Peter Berley’sModern Vegetarian Kitchen which was the first book I bought when I decided to learn how to cook for real. It’s a great resource despite the sometimes snobby and lengthy ingredient lists. While his instructions verge at times on the ridiculous (e.g., one should stir in a clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere because that’s the natural way that things, like your risotto, like to go around), it’s clear he loves food and feeding people, and his emphasis on seasonal eating works so well with a garden-sourced menu or for those of you with access to farmers’ markets or CSAs. The recipes are always delicious and there are tons of instructions for making stuff like biga, sourdough, and seitan, and even just for how to chop vegetables. It leans heavily toward the vegan rather than the meat-eating-lapsed-vegetarian, but nonetheless, my copy is dog-eared and sauce-splattered and this is one page that gets used a lot (possibly due to its short, accessible ingredient list). The result is tender, sweet beets that melt in your mouth and invariably cause people to stop and look at what they’re eating and say, “these are BEETS? Are there more?”.
(On a side note, Berley has since come out with another book that seems to have been written just for me: The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone In Between. This one’s going on my christmas list. Oh, and remind me to tell you about the Osso Bucco that was my downfall.)
Balsamic Glazed n Braised Beets and Greens
Adapted from Peter Berley’s recipe, from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges or crescents
4-5 fresh beets (more if you’re using smaller beets, enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a snug layer) with tops*, roots trimmed, and cut into wedges,
Beet greens, chopped*.
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
*if you can’t get beets with the tops still on (PIPPA: DON”T USE CANNED BEETS), you could probably substitute other greens such as collards, chard, mustard greens, or, OK, twist my arm: kale – but I wouldn’t use spinach, I don’t think it’s tough enough for this job.
1. In a heavy pan that has a cover, arrange the beet slices and onion so that they fit snugly on the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar, oil, thyme, and 1/2 tsp salt. Toss and then pour enough water over top to just cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or so, until the beets are nearly tender, but not quite.
2. Raise the heat and boil, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup and the beets are fork-tender.
3. Add the beet greens, reduce the heat again, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Uncover and turn the greens over so they mix with the beets. Add pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes more and serve.
You can tell by the wind By fresh cut wood All stacked to dry That autumn’s here And it makes you sad About the crummy Summer we had
With pine trees creaking And ravens screeching Just like the story my grandma tells About when a bird Hits your window And someone you know Is about to die
Autumn’s here It’s ok if you want to cry
Find a sweater And you’ll be better Until the kindling is tinder dry We can be quiet As we walk down To see the graveyard Where they are now I wonder how They brought their piano To haldane hill From old berlin Be hard to keep it Well in tune With winters like the one That’s coming soon Auntumn’s here It’s time to cry now
I think that ghosts like The cooler weather When leaves turn colour They get together And walk along These old back roads Where no one lives And no one goes With all their hopes set On the railway That never came So no one stayed I guess that autumn Gets you remembering And the smallest things Just make you cry.
The last couple of days here in Gaspe have been absolutely beautiful. The summer weather we’ve been waiting for since last October is finally here! It’s been hot, but not too hot. Not much wind. Beautiful evening beach weather – the kind where when you get to the beach, you still feel like swimming – with the seals who are spying on you, and the whales who are popping up a couple hundred metres off shore. Aaaah, the first days of summer – August 18 and 19!
And who’s back in her stinky, sweaty, cinderblock office?
Yeah. Me. 14 months of maternity leave – POOF! over.
I’ll try not to complain too much, cause other than the office part I do have the best job on the planet, and before you know it I’ll be chillin’ (literally) with students on the amazing rivers around here, but it is kinda a bummer that I find myself making photocopies in the bread-oven-they-call-a-sports-pavillion and staring at the World’s Slowest Computer for hours on end while summer has a party outside my window.
Today, however, I opted to enjoy the incredible morning that was dropped on my doorstep, over rushing off to an 8 o’clock teachers’ breakfast and subsequent lecture on “Generation C“ (Yeah, I thought we were in GenY, too – apparently it’s the same thing… just a different letter, cause we’re in Quebec).
Frida, Manny and I strolled down to the beach and checked out the local heron gang on the sandspit, ate a few raspberries and collected rocks and rusty nails.
And then, before going to work/daycare, we tiptoed barefoot through the too-long grass to the garden and pulled up our first-ever garlic harvest. It’s been raining so much that I was prepared for a mushy, rotten, garlicky disaster but they pulled up beautifully. Big, smelly bulbs are now curing in our hammock chair under the birch tree while I cross my fingers that it won’t rain before I can get a roof over their stinky heads.
Frida took a “baby” bulb and its stalk to daycare today and gave it to the cook to use in the day’s meals. We both went to school with dirty fingers that smelled like garlic. Perfect for picking those leftover chocolatines off the tray at the breakfast.
I DID make it to the conference on GenC/Y (which was surprisingly very interesting), ran around like crazy all day, then picked up Frida, her buddy Fay, a couple pints of Pit Caribou Blanche and a bag o’ chips and headed out to the beach for a dip and a picnic with a good friend who I haven’t seen in a while.
The drive home under the stars had me feeling like as crazy as things might be when you have a full-time job and two kids and a dog and a house and a garden, there are still a lot of magic moments to be had in a day, as long as you don’t mind feeding your kid chips for dinner.
*ok, PS, Generation C is not the same as Gen Y, for those of you who didn’t take the time to follow the link. It’s kinda cool actually: you can DECIDE to be Gen C if you want, even if you are an “aged” gen X’er like me! But the lecturer today, he really did say that they were the same, except that in Quebec we say “Generation C”. With a french accent.
PPS the roof has appeared over the stinky heads of the garlic and also the 40-or-so pounds of potatoes we dug up today. Here’s to being a pack rat : I never threw out that old tent even though I only have the fly and the groundsheet. I KNEW it would come in handy some day!__