Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eating from the Garden

I’ve just returned from two weeks of vacation. We spent the first week on Lake Michigan at the cottage of two dear friends. Lots of cooking, blueberry picking, my first experience in a kayak, and the chance to watch glorious sunsets and storms across the lake, sometimes at the same time. We shopped at farm stands for corn, purchased eggs from a 13-year-old future farmer, Joseph Marsh, and went to the Montague Michigan Farmers Market. I overheard a vendor mentioning that a customer had complained to her about finding a worm in his corn. She wanted to ask him if he preferred to find a worm or to get cancer. She said, “I know the choice I would make.” Maybe a different kind of farming is seeping into the mid-west or maybe it’s always been there on family farms. Whichever it is, I’m pleased.

I spent the second week with my brother, George, and sister, Barbara, in Athens, Ohio. After our mother died in July 2008, Barb suggested that we three sibs have a reunion every year. Last fall we gathered in Chicago. And now here we were in southern Ohio on George’s land. He bought this property in the early 1970s and has, over the years, refurbished two structures, a dilapidated old farm house and a converted chicken coop/shed. He and his wife Louise (who was away traveling in Malaysia with her sister) raised their three kids in the ever-expanding coop/shed which is now a four bedroom house. George and Louise have created a lush garden adjacent to the deck on the back of the house. Windows on two sides of the house overlook this verdant and thriving vegetable and fruit producing site. I was in heaven.

The first night my brother fed us Chicken Enchiladas. He explained that the chicken came from a farm down the road and the tomatoes that went into the sauce were in the garden that morning, along with our side dish of green beans. He had picked raspberries for dessert with a choice of raspberry sorbet or chocolate ice cream. My sister and I, weary from our travels, could not have been more satisfied.

The next morning, he gave us a tour of the garden and the rest of his land. By lunch time, I could no longer contain myself. I had to pick some veggies. I roasted some golden cherry tomatoes (you’ll find the recipe in the July 27 blog) and pulled some beets. I got them roasting below the tomatoes and cooked the well-washed and shredded beet greens until they were soft. The tomatoes and beet greens were lunch, along with some cheese and crackers, perfectly delicious, but just a hint of what was to come.

For dinner, I made a Summer Squash Casserole (adding some shredded salami) from my brother’s Joy of Cooking. My 1997 edition calls it Summer Squash Gratin, a little more highfalutin’ a name I suppose. Same dish. You’ll find the recipe below. Then a Beet Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing, also from his Joy of Cooking, and more roasted cherry tomatoes. My sister baked a splendid Rhubarb Cake for dessert. All the produce for the dinner came from the garden. Amazing.

By the next morning, I had come up with a possible menu for that evening. After a strenuous day that included yoga, a Mexican lunch, naps and a tour of the Snowville Creamery, we gathered to put our dinner together. Nathan, the youngest of George’s three, joined us and seemed to enjoy both the food and the conversation. We made Lentil Salad with Curry Spices and Yogurt from Field of Greens, Herbed Carrot Salad and Two Reds Salad (given below) both from Flatbreads and Flavors. George and Barb peeled and seeded a rimmed baking sheet full of broiled Italian peppers to which we added roasted onions and a bit of fennel, of our own devising. And finally we had more raspberries with whipped cream from the Creamery we had visited in the afternoon. Totally delicious and brilliantly colorful. Everything except the yogurt and the lentils from the garden.

Just look at the colors. Aren't they spectacular? I think I had already eaten some of the dark green peppers.

The last night we went out for dinner in town to a great place called Zoe’s. All of us ate meat in one form or another for our main course. It’s not that any of us was tired of vegetables or eating a primarily vegetarian diet. Far from it. In fact, I was sorry that I didn’t have a chance to use the chard, new potatoes, more tomatoes, and the still baby eggplants. But I am an omnivore. I appreciate and want diversity in my diet, even as I hold on to Michael Pollan’s wise counsel from In Defense of Food “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Mostly plants. But not wholly plants. There you go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so wish that I could have been there for your fun in the garden and the kitchen. I am really amazed to see how my family has grown into a food family over time. No longer does it simply feed us between our after school activities, but cooking and eating has become a strong moment of togetherness for us. I was thankful to spend the summer in Ohio with the fantastic garden that you speak of. Much love, and looking forward to seeing you! Miranda