What’s happening around these parts? It’s green. Really green. The forsythia, violets, and apple blossoms have passed. The first wave of dandelions have seeded, and the daffodils are done. This is the green spot before the rest of the daisies open, our late lilac blooms, and the wild rose explodes (but only for a short week). And then the red bee balm, the orange daylillies, and the red clover will brighten all the corners.
Green. We spend so many months in a sort of grey haze – the green feels lush and wondrous. Green space feels right. Swathes of greenery – leaves, buds, grape curls, grasses, clovers – our yard has many nongrass friends; plantain, henbit, buttercups, wild strawberry, violets, pineapple weed, and errant nightshades, docks, primroses, oats, wild carrot, yarrow, cleavers – all just a sampling of what was here before we moved here.
There’s been a lot of wind this past year, so much wind but not enough water. We have ‘enough’ for now – enough to make it all green. I hope we can keep it that way until at least November. The dragonflies have hatched – they save us from mosquitos. Duende has been building bat houses – they save us from brown tail moths. And soon we will build some Owl boxes and see if we can’t dim this tick population by lessening the vole and field mice population. The insect troubles are real – so real. By Fall we will apply some nematodes to curb the rose chafers next Spring. I want to let nature just be its own nature-self but I suppose like any other party, you invite the folks that you want to congregate with, and dissuade the rest from showing up.
We spend all Summer dreaming about the comfort foods of Winter (deep savory pies with aspic, vats of stews, casseroles of cheese and pasta) that when warmer weather comes we want simpler foods with less window dressing (grill foods, simple salads, fruit sorbets). But there are also those middle ground times – not just of ‘Spring’ and ‘Fall’ but of transitions in our lives, in our seasons, in our desires. It could be 90-something degrees outside and maybe you still have a hankering for mashed potatoes and gravy, who knows?! It happens.
Though most of the time, for us anyway, warmer weather provides the easy ‘out’. Toss together some Leafy Salad Greens and Sprouts with a Light Vinaigrette (for us it’s a 1/2-3/4 cup Avocado or Olive Oil with a 1/4 cup Rice Wine or Champagne Vinegar, a little Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper and a big sprig of whatever herb is growing best, maybe Tarragon or Sage, and we shake it up to emulsify inside a glass vintage salad dressing bottle where it can stay until the next batch on the shelf), maybe some local Goat Cheese, a couple crushed and toasted Pecans or Pumpkin seeds, classic staples like chunks of new Cucumbers or fresh Tomatoes and don’t forget the edible Flowers!
Not only are they so festive but they carry nutritional rainbow goodness – think Forsythia, Violets (including Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups), Lilacs, Apple, Rose, and Daisy Petals, Honeysuckle, Bee Balm (Mondarda), flowering herbs like Borage, Chamomile, Red Clover, Calendula and Marigold Petals, or field flowers like Goldenrod, Asters, Jewelweed, Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot), Chicory, Hyssop, or out of the garden with Nasturtiums, Chive flowers, Squash, and Scarlet Runner Bean blossoms. Generally speaking, it is customary (and sometimes healthful vs dangerous) to eat only the petals of these flowers (avoiding the green stems or center reproductive kit), to only eat a few at a time, and to taste before adding – this last step is key (not more than your health, per se, but from a purely aesthetic situation) as particularly some field flowers and even Marigolds/Calendula are just not delicious. And do make sure that you are not eating sprayed flowers (do not eat from storebought flowers unless you know their origin). So try them out first but they can make a simple salad magickal, and who doesn’t need a little more magick in their lives?!
Summers for us also mean many foods cooked directly in the firepit. We like our grill, too: we have a great metal basket for grilling smaller foods/veggies and have once or twice mastered a Grill Pizza, but we are really loving the firepit cooking. We bought a couple of cast iron pots that can either hang over the fire on a tripod or that you can bank into the coals and roast directly. I have a monster Leg of Lamb that came our way this year that is begging for a Jamie Oliver treatment of roasting in the fire with Plum Tomatoes, Dried Chickpeas, Lemons, and herbs, served with a light salad and a fresh boule of Sourdough bread sounds like a late picnic intimate gathering on the hill. Or a Harissa rubbed whole Chicken with thick slices of Bell Peppers and Onions served with Flatbreads. I’m a big fan, too, of hand crushed Herby Rustic Pestoon Late Summer Veggies and White Beans. For the Pesto: in the mortar with the pestle – grab a handful of leafy mixed herbs like Parsley, Basils of many colors, Nettle, Lamb’s Quarters, a little Dandelion leaf, etc, and toss into mortar with a pinch of Coarse Sea Salt and toasted nuts/seeds like Pine Nuts or Pumpkin, Sunflower or even Hazelnut, add Olive Oil to loosen mix and help to break down mix as you grind it together, at the end add freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, any extra can be kept in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. For the Cannellini or Broad Beans with sizzled Eggplant or Zucchini: on the stovetop, grill, or rack over firepit, warm a cast iron or heavy bottom deep saute pan with a glug of Olive Oil. Lay slices or 2″ chunks of Eggplant/Zucchini and brown on all sides (moving the fire underneath if needed to not scorch pan, slow steady coals are best to work with, then you can pile them accordingly based on heating needs), seasoning with Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper, then add cooked/drained/rinsed Beans and a little White Wine (or Chicken/Veg Broth or even just a little water) to loosen everyone from the pan and give a little ‘gravy’. When desired thickness of the mix is achieved, add your Rustic Pesto and stir in slowly. Remove from heat and serve with a Crusty Baguette or even over thick fresh slices of Heirloom Tomatoes.
And in a nod to my roots, there isn’t much I like better than Pan-fried Troutwith freshly foraged White Oyster Mushroom (or a bevy of gourmet mushrooms from a local purveyor) and if you really want to put me over the top – served with Crispy Zucchini Slices. All just sauteed in butter (flour a butterflied Fish lightly and saute on both sides until flaky, for the Mushrooms – slice and add to a Med/Hot pan with butter and turn occasionally until edges are brown – feel free to toss in a sprig or two of Thyme/Sage or Rosemary as the mushrooms give off their liquid, for the Zucchini a decadent batch requires thick slices lightly floured then dipped in a whisked egg with a teaspoon or 2 of water, then into a 1/2 & 1/2 mix of flour to cornmeal – I generally add a big pinch of Sea Salt, Garlic Powder, and a smaller pinch of Ancho Chili, then deep fry/saute in Peanut or Grapeseed Oil. I have sometimes skipped the first 2 steps and just dunked them in a little Whey/Buttermilk/or Milk and then proceeded with the Cornmeal/Flour mix and they are still delicious but a little ‘leaner’.
Is it almost time to eat outside? I’m thinking yes…and yes. Bring it on.
That’s us – the three amigo’s. Watching the world unfurl in a plethora of beauty and struggle. This little one’s struggles are not so bad. Duende does think it’s the end of the world when she’s out of ice cream (which she tries to finagle for breakfast).
We’ve noticed big changes in her attitudes and behaviors lately – a lot of growing is going on! Yes, we’re getting a bit of the “tween ‘tude” but that is just a mask for all the confusion going on – she’s really quite the lovely child. She’s watching you – all of your body language, all of your tics, and listening to your words. I feel, more than before, being a good example is key (and yet possibly beyond me – ha!). She is asking thoughtful questions of others, showing compassion, and really thinking about how to help.
She’s also physically growing – losing teeth, developing angles and soft spots – her muscles are strong and she’s getting interested in defining them (she’s just ordered herself some ‘resistance bands’ and small weights to go with her yoga mat and balance ball). Her mind is sharp, too: her and Josh have started ‘competing’ on Seterra – a website built for geography quizzes and learning, she’s a whiz (ok, him, too)!
Her arrival signals new ideas for us to progress as our own little team. As we move closer through her second life cycle, I can see how much she’s grown and how she’s in a perfect place – that cusp of childhood to teenhood is a messy one but she’s building the tools to help her through. We’re so grateful to have been able to give her a place and time and attention she can navigate these changes – she gives back so much more.
One minute it’s Winteresque and feels like the snow on the North slope will never melt, and the next it is lush and on the cusp of Spring overgrowth! We mow a little less so that I can forage in certain places (non-chicken spaces) and so that magickal goodness has time to grow and flower and fruit. I just whipped up a Foraged Kimchi with loads of Daisy buds, Dandelion, Violet, Red Clover, Evening Primrose leaves, and Fiddleheads (we leave the foraging of the latter to the pros and buy them across the street from local purveyors). There are still enough Violets, Dandelion flowers, Pine Buds, and Apple Blossoms (and maybe just enough Forsythia – maybe) if I get my act together to do any wines or syrups. In another 2 weeks there will be Lilacs and Wild Rose and maybe even Honeysuckle to do more if I decide. As for other edibles on the property; the Grape leaves are unfurling, the Milkweed shoots are popping up, slender stalks of False Solomon’s Seal along with the new Asparagus shoots we planted from seed, and a great find of Yellow Morels in the Orchard. So many goodies everywhere!
Over this last weekend I signed Duende and I up for a Zoom cooking class sponsored by Cabot Cheese to make Strawberry Cheddar Hand Pies. Of course, I did not clearly read the starting time (it gave both times for West and East coast) and found it didn’t start until our wonderful guests were to arrive (Dave & Pear) so instead – 2 ‘almost 11 yr old’ gals got to do the class together – AND IT WAS ADORABLE!!! And delicious. Duende and Josh (separately but he could certainly join hers) both have their own cooking class scheduled for Thursday.
What’s on the horizon? The finishing of many projects – the new studio room (which means the front room can then get ready for its own remodel), another round of planting and finally getting the last of the garden prepared for direct seeding of many flowers, and then the big outside push for excavation. A little pond, a pergola, and a bread oven. Hopefully we will have some tree removal work done and if I’m really lucky the new kitchen floor will go in this Summer, too. There are always lots of little projects and many more plans to keep us busy.
I hope you stay busy, too – it likely keeps you out of trouble.
The reality is this week our curry will be made with leftover Turkey (since the child decided to whip up Turkey dinner last week!) and since our Thai Basil are sweet tiny wee seedlings, we will substitute with Italian Basil. If I pair this with Corn Fritters (Tod Man Khao Pod), the child might eat dinner with us. So, as usual, this is a recipe in a recipe in a recipe. That’s how I roll.
It seems as if this doesn’t focus on foods that are in season right now, but for us – we are at the tail end of Winter and just at the beginnings of real Spring for us so a lot of of we still are eating up is the stuff in the freezer (like last Summer’s Corn and Green Beans) but the herbs are coming up (Cilantro, some Basils, etc), we have young onions, and various veggies to add to the Curry (or to even replace any meat options – just add more veg like julienned Carrot or roasted Cauliflower, and right now our CSA is giving us Bok Choy which is nice and meaty, and you could add Mango or Pineapple chunks to this if you want to mix the sweet/salty and add more vegetation). This is great served with Flatbreads, Cauliflower Rice, or Lime-Cilantro Brown Rice.
If you find that most of your big ingredients are frozen/uncooked, you can also thaw the meat then add Curry ingredients to a Slow Cooker (Cook on High for 15 min, then Low for 6 or so, removing Chicken halfway through to shred and return to cooker, add Cornstarch or Arrowroot to thicken if desired), adding the herbs in the last hour. If, like me, you have a lot of these things on hand (and since my leftover Turkey is already cooked/shredded), I will do this on the stovetop. I do tell you here how to whip up a Thai Powder Curry, but the Red Curry Paste recommended in the Fritters is for you to either whip up on your own (brave soul) or find packaged (Thrive Market has a nice spicy one), and to make Lime-Cilantro Brown Rice just stir in 1/4 cup chopped Cilantro to 4 cups cooked Brown Rice while it’s warm, and Lime juice to taste – for us, generally 3/4 of a Lime, and just a bit of Sea Salt.
2 pound boneless/skinless Chicken fillets (or Turkey, Firm White Fish, or more Veg) 2 (13.5 oz) can Coconut Milk 2 Tbsp Curry Powder, or to taste [see Note] 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce (or Soy Sauce) 2 Tbsp Lime juice (or Rice Vinegar) 2 Tbsp Coconut/Palm/Organic Cane Sugar (or Brown Sugar) 2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil/Olive Oil or Ghee 1 Large Red Onion, diced (or Sweet Vidalia) 1 Jalapeno, diced (or preferred Chili) 4 cloves Garlic, chopped 1 Tbsp Ginger, grated 1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped 1/2 cup Basil, chopped 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves (optional) Sea Salt to taste
Saute Onion in 2 Tbsp Oil until translucent, then add Garlic, Ginger, Jalapeno, Curry Powder and cook for another 2 minutes. Add Chicken, spooning spices and veg over top until coated and browning up – if too dry, or when it gets dry, add Coconut Milk, Fish Sauce, Lime Juice, and Sugar, mixing thoroughly. Partially cover and cook on Medium until Chicken is cooked. Remove Chicken and shred, then add back to pan, stirring into gravy. Add Cilantro, Basil, and (Kaffir leaves, if using) Sea Salt to taste. At this point if you find the gravy is not thick enough, cook longer a little higher or add Cornstarch/Arrowroot slurry (2 tsp of powder to 1/4 warm water, stirred thoroughly and added to Curry – cook for 2-4 minutes after adding). Serve over Lime-Cilantro Brown Rice (see in description above in blog).
1 to 3 tsp Chili flakes (or Cayenne), depending on how spicy you want it
1 tsp White Pepper, whole or ground
3 Bay leaves
1 whole Clove (or a pinch of ground)
If using whole spices, toast for a few minutes in a saute pan until fragrant (if using ground, add to onions above while sauteeing, or warm through until fragrant – careful not to burn), then grind in mortar with pestle or in spice grinder [tip: to clean spices/coffee from grinder, pulse plain rice until powdered, then wipe with cloth]. Keep in a lidded jar after cool.
Tod Man Khao Pod (Corn & Bean Fritters) (from Food52) Corn Fritters: 2 ears of Corn (2 1/2 cups kernels) 1 Egg 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour (or GF Flour Mix, I prefer Bob’s Red Mill) 1/4 cup Cornmeal 1/2 cup Green Beans (or similar bean), diced into 1/4 inch pieces 2 Tbsp Red Curry Paste 1/4 cup Canola Oil
Chili Vinegar Dipping Sauce: 1/4 cup White Vinegar 1 Tbsp Sugar 1 tsp Sea Salt 1 Thai Chili, sliced
To make dipping sauce, combine Vinegar, Sugar, and Salt in saucepan over medium heat. Stir and remove from heat once Sugar and Salt dissolved. Add the Chili and set aside to cool.
Remove Corn kernels from cobs. Discard cobs. Place Corn kernels in food processor. Pulse 5 times just to create a paste where most kernels are whole and some are broken up/smooth.
Whisk Egg with Soy Sauce in large bowl. Add Corn kernel paste, Flour, Cornmeal, Curry Paste, and Beans to Egg mixture. Mix to combine. The mixture may seem a little thin. That’s OK! It’ll cook up fine.
Heat Oil in pan over medium-high heat. When Oil is hot and working in batches, drop golf ball (about 2 tablespoons) sized amount of batter into pan. The batter should flatten out as you drop it. If not, feel free to press the tops of the fritters as they are cooking to form a patty shape. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Repeat until all of the fritters are cooked. Enjoy with the Chili Vinegar sauce or with store-bought Sweet Chili sauce.
What a consummate little hostess with the mostess, my little peach is – at the Mother’s Day Picnic she was complimented on her conversational skills, her whipping up some fresh whip cream and serving dessert, and her knowledge/information about our homestead. On the morning of we ran out to the garden nursery and she picked all the flowers for the porch and specially picked out flowers for all the ‘mothers’ that might join us.
At the picnic her uncle gave her his supercool cardboard chair that he made for a MECA project when he was schooling there – she loves it. She immediately decorated it as her faerie throne. I’m sure there will be a procession and a proclamation at some point!
Now she’s helping Josh finish up our studio room – she’s dusting the floor before we poly-whey it, and then she will probably help him install the lighting fixtures and build the shelves, she loves building. She’s a real helper sometimes (even if she doesn’t always like her picture being taken- ha!).