In the Living Kitchen

Musings, memories, meals in the making.


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The Day We Picked Dandelions: A Prelude to Wine

Now that last week is over, and the rain is watering in seeds, seedlings and onion plants today, I can relax a bit.  Sam and I had quite the stormy affair last week, not the romantic kind.  Last year, we had all kinds of blow-outs that all stemmed from broken expectations, full schedules and the stress of the season.  This year, starting in the winter, we planned certain perimeters and schedules that we thought might help the tension caused by running a small farming business together.  It’s actually funny to me, looking back on all that planning, and all the planning we always do.  We are like two busy little relationship bees, building a hive of security.  We are so eager to fix our issues that sometimes we miss the whole point, and it inevitably comes in a thunderstorm and knocks the whole hive over.  Every time.  And still we never see it coming.

We have been planning on making dandelion wine for months now, ever since we had a vintage bottle of Jay and Polly’s dandelion wine that blew us away with deliciousness.  Yesterday was the day we had planned on the arduous task of picking 5 gallons of dandelion petals for the wine.  Yesterday also began with a nice little argue fest, the forth argue fest day in a row.  After an hour or so of tense arguing, I told Sam to go pick dandelion flowers by himself.  It’s funny how fast feelings of anger and urgency diffuse once the setting changes.  It took me 10 minutes to recompose myself once alone, and I spent the next couple of hours running errands around town and taking in the beautiful spring day.  I held the awareness of our rocky week together in the background of my mind, not quite sure what to think of it, but not quite uncomfortable with it either.  I pulled up the farm when all my errands were complete, singing, “I’m a man-man-man eater” loudly along with Neko Case, and spotted Sam sitting silently in a patch of dandelion.  (Sam later told me he was a little worried for his safety by my song choice, I told him I had been listening to it on repeat.)

I joined him with my yellow pot and he showed me his seasoned technique for de-petaling the dandelions.  After all, he had been doing it for two hours.  We moved from spot to spot around the farm, chatting every so often, but mostly silent.  At one point, we were in a nice patch and I noticed that the dandelions were big, fat, and had full, pollen filled manes.

“I read somewhere that dandelions were brought here by settlers for their beauty,” I said.

“Yeah, I read that too,” Sam replied.

“I feel like I am seeing these dandelions for the first time today, as I am ripping out their petals.  They really are beautiful.”

“Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing.”

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Ouch…Again

Holy smokes, my life it out of wack!  I keep saying out loud “everything that can go wrong is going wrong.”  Seriously.  And I think I just might even be jinxing myself even further by stating this new saying over and over again.  I won’t go into all the gritty details (hint: its mostly farm related) but I will say that I have injured my knee, my left thumb and and left wrist.  Then yesterday I stabbed a toe on my right foot, through my shoes, with a pitch fork.  Seriously, I think there is something wrong with me, I am not quite sure if it is emotional, karmic, dietary or what.  Someone said to me today, “This is a sign that you need to slow down…but you can’t right now.”  Nope, certainly not, but this new found clumsiness just might do me in if I don’t reign it in fast.

Which reminds me, I am beginning to wonder if I just might start my own health care co-op.  Probably not, but it sure would be nice.  A group plan run collectively by like minded individuals.  What the heart of health care should be…I would really like my very own specialist, you know, liberal-hippie-farmer-style–someone who can use their expertise in healing herbs, remedies and food to guide me a bit when I am feeling out of wack.  And if there were ever something really wrong, well, they could help guide me through that too.  So, who is this specialist and when I am forced to purchase a health care plan, will they be on the list?  Just some considerations I have been having quite a bit.

In good news, spring is here.  When I look out at the gorgeous views around here my heart fills with warmth and gladness.  I am making a spring greens ferment–a sort of wild kimchi–and I will certainly report when it’s done.   This year I discovered garlic mustard, a petite wild brassica that has garlic notes to start followed by a strong, bitter flavor.  It will be the main ingredient.

The fermenting season has definitely begun.  It’s time for kombucha drinking, which means mad kombucha brewing (beware the teeny fruit fly infestations…).  I am starting to make yogurt again, and with the warm weather comes the desire to use the outdoor oven at the farm, which means I have got to keep my sourdough starter fresh and fed every week.  With all this weekly fermenting,  am actually going to make a fermenting schedule.  I have decided that fermented foods are important enough to my well-being that they deserve top priority.  Last summer, I often put off my fermenting projects at the end of the day, only to regret it later. Perhaps for all the readers out there who might not understand this love of mine for fermented foods, I will make an effort to expound upon the benefits of these foods when I get around to writing about them.

On the writing topic, I started another blog a couple of months ago for the CSA.  It’s funny, having the new blog has made me feel more open in this one.  Come June, the CSA blog will start filling up with recipes and interesting farm news.


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Watercress and Quinoa Salad

It has been hot, and I mean hot.  Last summer it was 85 degrees out for like, a week.  This spring, we’ve already had two 85 degree days and counting.  Plus, I have newly damaged, red skin and a true farmer’s tan.  My body is positively flummoxed.  I should be picking arugula and radishes and cucumbers and fresh herbs (and I won’t mention the one veggie I am hoping has a stellar year this year) and eating them at 85 degrees, no?  No.  I’ve got a ton of itty seedlings, seeds, and last year’s potatoes.  (After all, our frost-free date isn’t until May 15!)  My body is in shock.  To top it off, this in-need-of-vegetable-body-shock caused me to commit the sin of all my sins, supermarket produce.  Yes, that’s right, I bought fossil fuel produce, shipped from who knows where.   I hate to break it to everyone out there, but it certainly is not as wonderful as home-grown produce by a million miles.  Seriously, buy local, in season produce this summer or grow your own.  Do it for selfish reasons first, think about the wholesome ones later.  You won’t regret it.

I was riding home for my lunch break the other day, actually dreading making lunch for all the reasons above, when I remembered the watercress patch in the stream beside our apartment.  So excited was I that I leaped off my bike, ran down the steep mucky slope, submerged my sneaker clad feet in water and rushed to the patch.  Lo and behold, the enormous patch had a wonderful salad sized handful of just big enough watercress for my greedy little hands to pick.  I’ve been eating some everyday since.  It’s amazing what one vegetable can do.

I have no pictures to share, but maybe will post some soon, just in case some readers out there have unidentified watercress patches of their own to discover and enjoy.

Watercress and Quinoa Salad

I made this for Sam and myself the other day and couldn’t even focus on our non-food conversation.  It’s that good.

Serves 2

2 cups cooked quinoa

2-4 generous handfuls watercress, roughly stemmed

2 TBS salt-brine capers

1/2 ripe avocado

sprinkling of chopped scallions, green onions, or chives (also all in season!!!)

Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

Mix the first 3 ingredients together with Mustard Vinaigrette.  Divide between two plates, serve with diced avocado and a sprinkling of chopped scallions.

Mustard Vinaigrette

1-2 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey

1 TBS fine Dijon mustard

juice of 1 lemon

splash of white wine vinegar

3-4 TBS extra virgin olive oil

pinch or two dill, dried or fresh (We have our own home-dried dill, which is great, but I hear that store bought dried dill usually lacks flavor.)

fresh milled pepper

You can just mix it all up, but if you want to be fancy, you can easily emulsify it: mix the agave nectar, oil and mustard together first until well blended, then add the lemon, vinegar and dill.  (All dressing made with a liquid sweetener, oil and acid can be made this way and they will not separate.)