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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Amy's Garden

A few weekends ago on a post rainy, cloudy summer morning I visited Amy's Garden in Charles City.

I was so incredibly drawn to this beautiful place for a couple of reasons.

I believe in what Amy is doing. I believe that good, wholesome food is important and I love that she is working so hard to bring it to our community. Amy and her family farm 10 acres of organic food and flowers and deliver everything to farmer's markets and grocery stores.

Being there also brought back fond memories I have of summer visits with my grandfather. There, he lived on acres and acres of land and grew almost all of his own food and raised pigs and cows. I can still remember the high "mystery" surrounding the slaughter of a hog (I wasn't allowed to actually witness that part) and later seeing its severed head plopped up on a barrel next to the barn. Even then I realized that what I was seeing was sustenance for family for the next month. No worries. Besides, I'm a meat eater from way back. That was good looking bacon to me.

I was a young kid then who's normal life consisted of cement sidewalks, city traffic, and frequent short walks through the urban jungle to get to the corner grocery story. So these visits to "the wilderness" every summer were exotic, hypnotic…breathtaking, to me.

I'd run around the fields surrounding his modest home and play from morning until night barely stopping to eat except for the three squares that my grandmother called us in for. Snacks between those meals were likely pulled from a nearby fruit tree or bush. I can still remember plucking handfuls of berries from prolific blueberry bushes until I was ready to burst! These are some of my favorite summer memories!

Good times.

And on our next trip to the grocery store, Amy was there!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sage Cocktail

To help celebrate Jul 4, we made the best cocktail. I couldn't help but duplicate decorating the glass with the suggested garnish just like the recipe. The whole blackberry was good to eat after the drink went down. This would be a great drink to serve at Christmas not only for the colors, but for the warm and earthly flavor that would surely take the chill out of the bones on a cold night.

What caught my eye about this cocktail recipe was the simple syrup made from fresh sage, sugar, and water (and you probably know, we have a TON of fresh sage). And of course fresh blackberries as an ingredient reeled me in.

The recipe made a lot more syrup than we needed for two drinks. I put the rest of it in the fridge and now am trying to find other recipes where it can be used. No doubt that cocktail will be made a couple more times :).  The syrup keeps in the fridge for up to 30 days.

Today I added it to iced tea - surprisingly, it was so rich, earthy and good!! I wasn't sure if sage tea would be my "cup of tea", but it was spot on. It had a subtle sage flavor, and was really different.

I'd love to add it to a baked good of some kind if I had the time to figure out how to substitute it for other ingredients. The syrup would need to replace some liquid in the recipe, as well as any sweetener.

So I'm hooked on simple syrups because it's another way I can use my herbs. I'll make a few different syrups with some of our abundant mint or lemon verbena (or maybe basil?), which I think will be terrific in either cold or hot tea.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Edible in Bed 32

When we started "gardening", a few of our friends couldn't understand why we'd want to go through all the trouble. After all, for the sake of simplicity, we moved from a too-big-house in the 'burbs to a just-right-size condo near the city closer to both of our jobs and closer to where we spend most of our time.

And guess what? That simplicity, our change (drastic change) in lifestyle, has given us more time to do what we love. More time to do what matters in all kinds of ways. 

Planting a modest herb bed is one of those ways. And we it love because it is so good for us - we get super fresh herbs (farm-to-table is always healthier), it's less expensive (we bought a lot of herbs at the ridiculous price of $2-$3 a package), and we meet the nicest people who are tending their own little beds and talk smack about the advantages of hardwood mulch vs pine bark mulch or of composting vs store bought fertilizers.

And, goodness gracious, we're reaping the fruits of our labor from Bed 32!!

Tons of basil, mint, sage, thyme, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, peppery nasturtium flowers (for salads - yum) and everything else in between.

The other day I was pulling weeds (10 minutes a week if I keep it up) and took a few iPhone snaps.

All of these plants were no more than a few delicate leaves sticking out of the ground not that long ago!

We're using the herbs in creative ways - ways we never would have considered if buying from the store. Some of our salads are composed of nearly all herbs - so good!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Talking with Food in My Mouth

We usually arrive around lunch time or late afternoon on our one-day, yearly visit to NY to see my sis-in-law and her family. It's always a scorching hot, but breezy if we're lucky, mid-summer day.

Much to our delight, my adorable SIL makes sure the planned visit centers around important things like spending time with nieces and nephews, getting reacquainted with active kiddos who have grown a foot since last year, close cousins, oftentimes excited pets, and delicious Italian food.

On this visit as we arrived, a substantial Italian lunch fare was being laid out before us on the kitchen table.

There were classic Italian freshly sliced deli hams, rare roast beef, sharp cheeses, roasted peppers, artichokes, good Italian olives, and various condiments. Crusty rolls were stacked waiting to be cut in half or torn apart for sandwiches or dabbing in richly flavored olive oil. Salads waited in vintage Pyrex bowls with big spoons shoved deep in their middles.

We will usually eat for hours, on and off, and happily debate about everything from house cleaning to politics. 

There are stories told about dear family members who have gone before us and of those sitting at the table with us. Hands wave enthusiastically during the conversations to emphasize points or to finalize a crescendo of ideas. Beverages are passed around and poured into ice filled, frosty glasses. We talk and laugh as we eat - there's no shame at this table of seeing a little partially eaten food in the mouth of a great story teller. 

I love the feel and smell of the air of nearby Long Island waterways and the ocean as we sit around the kitchen table with screened doors and windows open. It's salty and misty. Or maybe it's just my romantic interpretation of normal humidity, who knows.

Towards the evening, great java and Italian cookies and other sweets from the local bakery round out the casual meal.

After we arrive back home and start our busy routines - for weeks after the trip I tell anyone who happens to be near me - there's always a soulful comfort in the visit. Always has been. Always will be.