Even while eating
leftovers our mouths watered
for the leftovers.
Even red carrots
blended to soup were trumped by
the sweet potatoes.
Saturday was one of those perfect fall days to romanticize the life of a farmer. The hills were commercial green, totem like hawks were perched at two mile intervals, black and white cows posed, chewing in fields. The oak trees hardly looked real and the rutted country roads would have cost extra anywhere else. The weather was warm, a Hollywood set. Unreal. We were heading north to visit Tara Firma Farm.
The cute guy's son and I barely had the car doors open when a nine year old popped out of a shed and asked if we wanted to see the baby chicks. As quick as he appeared he left, something about finding the ducks. "Close the door when you're done," he instructed, "so the chicks stay warm." I picked one up to my cheek making the mandatory cooing noises the scene required.
Outside again we walked through a hay scented barn, a hoop house of tomatoes beyond it, tubs of green fruit inside. We passed walls of uncarved pumpkins, scattered green watermelon. And not far away we came to the hogs; hogs trained to run toward us and ask if we brought them more pumpkins. They snorted and stretched in the warm mud at our empty hands. Starlets, every one of them.
Across from the hogs were turkeys; also trained to appear effortlessly happy. They modeled their fat breasts, stood on one leg, pecked at each other caringly. Neither of us breathed a word about Thanksgiving.
We met a father and son on the way back, film extras I was sure, walking back to their car from the pond, fishing poles in hand. "The casting was good," the father said.
I bought a dozen white eggs in the farm store as if I'd never seen white eggs before. "They're white," I exclaimed. "They're white." I was embarrassed even then but what can I say? They were white!
On the way out, and neither of us wanted to leave, I gazed longingly at the sloping blue farm house, the square paned windows, the white washed porch. I wanted to stay forever. Until I realized I'd tracked a bunch of mud into the car. Then I was ready to go home.
The romance hasn't ended though. The white eggs - almost as bright and good as Dad's. What a find.
I love my cotton produce bags and hope I never get amnesia and return to plastic. But the candid fact is I get lazy and deposit produce in the fridge in dry cotton bags and forget about them. It's not pretty. The greens wilt. Carrots wilt. I've even had radishes look anemic.
Two years ago I would have tossed anything less than crisp from the fridge. That changed when I got worms. I fed atrophied produce to them instead. But I'm being more sincere about not throwing food away now. Now I soak.
It's a miracle. Last night I reached for a bunch of kale purchased on Sunday. Sure, I hadn't dampened the bag when I'd put it in the fridge three days ago but jeez. I didn't expect the kale to actually wilt. It did. I cut the bunch of leaves in half, pressed them into a cold bowl of water and sat down to a hot bowl of soup.
Twenty minutes later the kale was as fresh as Sunday. Beautiful. I made salad.
I've had the same straightforward success soaking spinach, salad greens and chard too. Carrots however take more than twenty minutes to revive after an arid bout in the fridge but they crisp up nicely. It feels like a second chance.
And honestly, everything tastes as good as new.
My winter squash obsession has become more refined. That's overstating it a bit though. Let's just say I'm learning the names of the different winter squash. To date I have nine varieties and know the names of eight. One I can't pronounce and one, the one pictured, remains unknown. This is progress.
I grew up on butternut squash baked in boat shaped wedges filled with butter and brown sugar. Later I discovered pumpkin raviolis in a buttery white sauce at a country restaurant with a chef named Pierre. I never ordered anything else. "I'll have the ravioli's," I'd smile returning the menu without a glance.
The last pumpkin ravioli I had was at that restaurant too many years ago. The restaurant, the dirt parking lot, I think they're both gone.
The next time I ate squash it came in a box. Butternut squash soup in a box. I'd add green curry, ginger. Top it with chopped cilantro. It looked good, thick, golden, like the baked squash I grew up with. But it didn't have the dense flavor I remembered. It was butternut light. Butter without the nut. That must be what happens when its put into a soup, I reasoned.
My reasoning was flawed. I made my own butternut squash soup last week. It was as densely flavored as I remember those butter filled baked boats my Grandmother served. It was better than boats. And nearly as easy as opening a box but without the resulting trash.
Even Pierre, I imagine, would sit on a bar stool, his white apron half untied and kiss his fingertips over a bowl of this butternut squash soup. This then is for him.
Wherever he may be.
Butternut Squash Soup
Three Parts Chicken Broth
One Part Butternut Squash
Peanut or Almond Butter
Serrano or Jalapeno Chili
Peel and cut butternut into two to three inch crooked cubes and wedges. Add to chicken broth and cook on medium heat with a small bouquet of thyme. Add one teaspoon of minced ginger and one teaspoon of nut butter for each cup of broth. For a medium spicy soup add half a teaspoon of minced pepper for each cup of broth.
Cook until squash is soft, remove thyme bouquet. Blend with an immersion blender and add salt to taste.
Serve topped with a circle of creme fraiche.
(Please note all measurements are approximate as I've yet to refine that fine art.)
The mushroom lady recharged my kitchen life. Neither of us had any idea at the time. I was eavesdropping, she was sharing a recipe, I asked a question, and, well, my kitchen life has been recharged.
The recipe is an old remedy for a sore throat or cough soother but I've used it for anything but. "Put pomegranate seeds and some skin into honey. Leave it on the counter for a few weeks and put it in the refrigerator," the mushroom lady said. "It will last a year."
We looked at her disbelieving. "Put a spoonful into hot water," she continued. "Drink it. You'll feel better." At this she held her throat. Smiled. "Feel better."
I left with a beet red pomegranate.
At home I separated seeds into a jar, hesitantly added bits of skin and poured honey over it. A few days later the honey was a thick liquid; not exactly honey like. The seeds were red as ever though. I tasted a few. And then a few more. And a few more after that. You get the idea.
My jar of pomegranate seeds and honey was gone in a week and a half.
Out of necessity I added the mixture, minus the skins, to kale salad as it was the only honey in the house. The kale and pomegranate seeds, earthy and sweet tastes, they were meant to be together. The red seeds were sparklers against the dark green kale.
Then I baked apples and needed a thimble of juice in the cored out center of them. Adding dried figs first I spooned the pomegranate and honey into the apples. I topped each with a teaspoon of plain honey. Another success.
I also pour the honey and seeds onto plain yogurt. I love the crunch of the seeds, the thread of juice from the fruit. I love the color, the simplicity. I love that the mushroom lady passed the recipe along.
I'm making more tomorrow. A lot more. My kitchen life would be so dull through the winter without it.
Galeuse d'Eysines Squash
Little Green Onions
Musquee de Provence Squash
Red Kuri Squash
Back Deck Harvest
Gleaned and Gifted
(From Someone Else's Yard)
Apple Sauce (Thank you, Olivia)
Eggs (Thanks, Dad)
Slow Roasted Tomatoes