Monday, July 11, 2011

Cooking from the Garden

When my sister and I were children in upstate New York, we would wander into the kitchen garden in the summer, sit down and eat cucumbers and tomatoes right off the vine.  I don’t know whether it’s a New England thing or a gluttony thing.  Yes, I know Canton isn’t in New England; but I was born in New England, and I spent most of my young life in New England—but for the New York stint.  In northeastern Maine, where we spent a good part of our summers, I picked green beans which Nana cooked into submission in the pressure cooker.  Served with butter, they were mushy and absolutely delicious.  My great aunt Latin teacher and I picked raspberries daily and had as much as we wanted for breakfast since we were the pickers.  Others had to be satisfied with whatever was left.  The pear trees were prolific.  The peas were delicious.  And we gobbled up leaves of butter lettuce sprinkled with sugar.  Oh so good. 

It’s July 11 and the garden is flourishing.  The tomatoes are beginning to ripen.  Yesterday we had the first yellow squash.  The herb barrel is full and available.  I have been using lettuce each evening.  No cucumber or carrots yet, but I can wait.  They’ll be eaten when they’re ready. I even have one eggplant—picked today-- and more on the way. 

The barrel includes some of the more common herbs that I use a lot—basil, cilantro, oregano—and others that I use less often—thyme, mint, chives, flat and curly leaf parsley.  Tonight I used basil and mint in a chicken recipe that was originally written for fish.  Quite simply, I put together in a bowl about a half cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of minced basil, and a small minced garlic clove.  I drizzled this over the chicken and seared it on the stove drizzled side down, then drizzled more on the second side before turning.  After it was brown on both sides, I added a generous amount of white wine, covered the pan and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  It was served with some of the sauce remaining in the pan and more of the fresh basil and mint sauce.  The chicken was great served with orzo prepared much like risotto.  I sautéed diced onions in olive oil, and then the orzo.  I added about a half cup of white wine, stirring until absorbed, then about a cup and a half of chicken broth, stirring often until done. The result was yummy.  I also served lettuce leaves with tomato slices on top and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper. 

There’s a reason our ancestors grew their own food. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Travel with Dog

Google advised us that the trip between Sacramento and Ferndale would be 865 miles.  When one gets close to 865 miles, it becomes more and more important that Google be correct.  It wasn’t.  We left home at about 8 a.m. and arrived in Ferndale at around midnight.  It was a long day of driving—made all the longer because of the extra stops we made for Milo.  If only dogs could talk. . .  “I’m thirsty.”  Or “I have to pee.”  It’d make those stops so much easier.  We played this endless guessing game to determine which function of his body needed attention.  Fortunately, we weren’t betting money on our record of accuracy as we would have lost a fortune and Milo would have won.  He won anyway.

Mount Shasta

While some may disagree, the trip between central California and northwestern Washington offers one spectacular view after another.  Up the central valley of California, passing one rice paddy after another—many replete with egrets standing starkly white against the green.  Fields of golden sheaves of some kind of grain, which my husband always claims is rape—no matter what it looks like.  The Sutter Buttes in the distance looking all purpley.  The Cascade mountains all the way up.  As we approached the border with Oregon, Mt. Shasta loomed for miles and miles.  At one vista point, I pulled over to take a picture.  This stop would hold about ten cars bumper to bumper and was separated from the freeway by a chain link fence.  As I got out, I left the door open and Milo jumped out.  Now as it happens we start doggie training next week, and Milo’s recall instinct is not well developed.  So I ran around the place like an ant whose hill has just been disturbed trying to prevent Milo from heading toward the freeway while he—who was moving aimlessly--looked longingly, if frantically, in the direction of those noisy semi trucks zooming along the freeway just ripe for the chasing.  Phil, in the meantime, thoughtfully opened the trunk and shook the bag of treats.  Milo bought the distraction, and we collapsed back in the car unable to speak for a good five minutes.  No photo captured that particular memory. 

View from house in Ferndale
Great blue heron

Kayaking on the bay
At the end of any journey—made by choice, of course—is something good.  And good it was.  In the morning, we awoke to the sea and the birds and the forest and good friends.  So began our week in the northwest.  We ate, we drank, we walked, we kayaked, we worked together, and I was, once again, awestruck by the majesty of it all.  My photos do not do justice to it.  But trust me, it was good.

Somehow the 865 plus miles home were somewhat easier.  We left at 5 a.m. instead of 8 and arrived home by about 10.  Manageable and memorable.