Gardener’s choice

The only time I really like to work in the kitchen is during a party when I’m throes of social anxiety disorder and would rather look busy washing very important forks than make small talk.  But last night Zeke decided to steam up some Brussels sprouts and I found myself wanting to work in the kitchen.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love to be in the kitchen, I’d just rather sit on my stool and chat with the cook.)

Z presented me with a question that I suspect only a gardener would spend any time thinking about.  “What do you want to do about the aphids?”, he asked.  In my mind there were two clear options:  Eat Them or Drown Them.  (Either way it didn’t look good for the aphids).  The Eat Them option had a certain self-righteous appeal – “What? It’s extra protein and I ‘m not afraid of a little bug – It’s cool, I eat them all the time.”  Plus the lazy gardener in me thinks a quick rinse of anything is really all that’s necessary.  On the other hand, the Drown Them choice played to my OCD and aphidicidal urge.  Sometimes there’s nothing more relaxing than a little bug killing session.

So I chose death by drowning and after a long Zen meditation at the kitchen sink, we enjoyed sweet, delicious mostly protein-free sprouts.

What I wonder is if other people – you know those other people, if they actually exist, who maybe don’t spend at least 25% of their waking moments either touching plants or thinking about them – would have gotten as much enjoyment as I did out of the aphid question?  Would they have been too skeeved out by the presence of critters to even eat the sprouts at all?  Would they have rinsed them well, end of story?  I guess what it comes down to for me – and maybe this is because it’s the day before Thanksgiving – is that I’m grateful to find enjoyment in certain dirty and simple pleasures of life (gardening) even when it means some stuff must die.

Z calls it The Great Aphid Massacre

Happy Thanksgiving!

Garden to Table

-by Zeke-

The ocean breeze whistling through the naked shivering trees with the shrill note of winter, winding and twisting around me, searched out all the chinks in my well worn Carrhart armor. It whispered quietly in my ear with a deafening roar “YOU’VE GROWN SOFT OVER THE SUMMER”.  It is of course correct, but that like the weather will change. The sudden bitter cold makes the simple joy of bustling about the kitchen, next to an intoxicatingly warm stove, all the more delirious. Work boots swapped for the soft caress of slippers, tool apron packed away in favor of its culinary cousin, dish towel slung over my shoulder, I attempt to dirty every dish in the kitchen.

Tonight’s dinner was a wonderful bouquet of home grown rootieness; rutabaga and carrots, beets, and beet greens. These were presented to me in their purest form, barely plucked from the earth’s nurturing embrace and plopped down all greens and roots and dirt spilling and cascading over my cutting board. This was what we had on hand, and me being too lazy to run out to the store, was what we ate.  Perhaps next time I’ll add in a little sauteed chicken with a garlic and wild mushroom pan sauce…

Now what pray tell is a rutabaga, you may well ask.  I did – I mean I know what it is when it’s sitting in front of me – but what is it really? Truth be told, it is a turnip.  A yellow turnip in fact, or Swedish turnip or “Neep” to the Scottish – nothing all that exotic but it’s definitely tasty.  And now that we know what it is let’s cook it.

veg for dinnerFirst up is the carrot and turnip smash.  Peel and chop the turnip (or rutabaga, if you are so lucky) and boil until just starting to soften, then add the chopped carrots. There is something in the taste a home grown carrot that cannot be quantified beyond the nostalgic kick in the rear of running pants-less through my mother’s garden with a carrot, greens still attached, clutched in my paw. It was the 70’s, we were hippies, don’t judge… But I digress.

Once all are nice and soft, drain and smash with a potato masher, add in butter, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. It makes a wonderfully tasty and colorful side. The beets are just as easy. Trim the greens and roots, scrub and rub down with oil, wrap them up individually in foil and pop in the oven at 350° until soft – about an hour, or two martinis, but who’s counting?  When cooked and cooled enough to handle, the skins should slough off easily.  Dice them into random sized chunks and mix with butter and fresh chopped dill, mm-mm.

The beet greens, which are not green at all: Take the nice crisp little ones that Jack Frost has not nipped and cut the stems into one inch chunks and saute in a little oil, then toss in the leaves that have been cut into 1/4 inch ribbons (or chiffonade for you cookie types).  Stir in fresh minced garlic and dried oregano and basil and cook until just wilted.  Serve topped with crumbled blue cheese – I found a tasty cheese from nearby Marion, Mass made with raw milk.  Wine paring: Something red I should think, or another martini.  Hey it’s the weekend, I don’t have to drive, stop looking at me like that. Besides I still have to make an apple pie for tomorrow, but that is a story for another day.    Z-