Monday, November 28, 2005

Olfactory joy

There are a few garden smells that stop me in my tracks and one of them is the smell of a carrot when it first comes out of the ground.  It is soil and sweetness.  I love it.  

Friday, November 25, 2005

Brassica napus
"Your Root in the Third Millennium" Posted by Picasa


It was a raw rainy cold that greeted us on Thursday morning. My contribution to the T-giving table was to be squash and rutabaga. Rutabaga is much maligned, I think, but I find it’s not T-giving without it. While searching for a rutabaga recipe I came across the ARSI website. There are few things that make me laugh uncontrollably these days, but the webcam about did me in. It is the kind of healing belly laughter that Norman Cousins wrote about.

There were a few moments when the sun came out as yesterday’s front crossed over us. Once it was the opportunity to catch the raindrops and another it was a chance to see (but not photograph) a stunning double rainbow.

You have to love a day when the sole purpose of it is to eat a meal with friends. The tradition is to take a long walk and work up an appetite, but the rain got in our way yesterday. So we drank champagne, toasted Perry’s article in December’s National Geographic, and told stories by the fire.

Enough brown sugar will make even a rutabaga taste good.

Rutabaga Apple Scallop

This rutabaga and apple scallop is baked in the oven.

  1. 6 cups shredded rutabaga, about 1 1/2 pounds

  2. 1 large apple, peeled, cored, chopped

  3. 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  4. 1 teaspoon salt

  5. 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  6. 4 tablespoons butter
Mix turnip, about 3/4 or the chopped apple, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining apple over the top of rutabaga; dot with butter. Cover and bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours, or until rutabaga is tender.Rutabaga and apple bake serves 6

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Soup fixin's Posted by Picasa

Soup from the underground

It was a dark and stormy morning, the kind that cries out for a soup to be bubbling on the stove. Here is a perfect fall offering from my underground treasures.

Apple-Rutabaga Soup
6-8 Servings

One stick butter
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1 cup peeled cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smiths
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped rutabaga
1 cup peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped butternut squash
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped sweet potato
1 quart good chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream (may substitute 1 cup fat free half and half for one of the cups of cream)
¼ cup maple syrup
Cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onion, apple, rutabaga, squash, carrots and sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and increase the heat to medium high, so that the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender and cooked through.

Transfer in batches to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer strain the mixture and return it to the saucepan. Add the cream, maple syrup, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Return to the stove and heat on medium low until it is heated through.

Can be served hot or cold and it freezes well.

Adapted from Patrick O’Connell’s “Refined American Cuisine” (Bullfinch Press)

November offerings Posted by Picasa

Before ... Posted by Picasa

... and after Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Return to the garden

It was a gloriously sunny day today! I hobbled* out to the garden fairly early after a 6 week absence (*I broke my foot in Amsterdam and am two weeks into an eight week cast). Somehow I haven’t quite put the plans I have for putting the garden to bed in line with the reality of my limited mobility. Thanks to Hunter’s help, much important work got done today.

First I surveyed the tomato crop (that might have been harvested had I been here) lying rotten on the ground. Next I brought down the bamboo, weeded lightly and blanketed the beds in a compost of grass clippings. Most of this was done via my pointing and Hunter’s moving. Tomorrow we will work on taking down the dead asparagus, cleaning and clipping the bamboo for winter storage, and tightening up the fence around the apple trees. I also have to bring in the dahlia corms and I have to pot the amaryllis.

The weather is not very promising after tomorrow and the “S” word is in the forecast for the weekend. So we will work hard tomorrow and move the focus indoors to the much neglected basement during the inclement weather.

There are wonderful sweet treasures waiting for me underground. The rutabagas have swelled and the parsnips and carrots have sweetened with the recent frosts. AND the pesky spinach looks like it will put a little something on our plates we while we are here.

Right now a Hubbard squash is in the oven filling the house with its sweet perfume. Yummmm.

Friday, November 18, 2005

a blooming rhododendron in NOVEMBER ! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Late Fall

I fully expected to return to a landscape of fallen leaves and morning frosts when I returned from Europe last week. Instead I still have a shady back yard and a rhododendron that is in full bloom! Yesterday morning it was 70 degrees and breezy. This is an unusually delayed fall.

Meanwhile the Christmas cactus has begun her budding and it is prodigious! It was a gift from Kathy probably six years ago. It is amazingly healthy given the neglect I give it.

Saturday I will return north and open the garden gate after six weeks of absence. Hopefully there will be rewards waiting for me underground.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

THE market street in Paris Posted by Picasa

Markets in France

Though I was separated from the soil during this trip to Europe, I was never far removed from the fruits of the garden. For example, one of my favorite streets in Paris is the Rue Mouffetard. Long ago it was the way you left Paris for Rome. Now it is a bustling market street. I was particularly taken with the Charentais melons for sale there. I have memories of slicing into one for lunch some 30 years ago when I was traveling through rural France by motorbike and the flavor was divine. I guess they just weren’t made to grow in New England.

The following Saturday I found myself in the market at Aix-en-Provence. I saw my first Cardoons there that day. Cardoons are a cross between celery and an artichoke and are suggested for use with a dish called “Bagna Cauda.” There were spices and beans and olives and …and ... and,

The pictures say it best.

pumpkins and mint Posted by Picasa

all kinds of mushrooms Posted by Picasa

luscious charentais melons Posted by Picasa

melons for sale Posted by Picasa

spices galore Posted by Picasa

Cippolini's Posted by Picasa

olives galore Posted by Picasa

Cardoons Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 11, 2005

Westphalia Posted by Picasa

The Lost Graveyard

We’ve just returned from three weeks in Europe. While most of the trip was centered in France and Amsterdam, we did take a little side out to a small Westphalian village called Ladbergen. My mother’s great grandmother, Maria Wilhelmine Fiegenbaum, was born there in 1833. It turns out that all Fiegenbaums in the U.S. trace their ancestors back to that village. Thanks to the careful work of others at the Fiegenbaum website, I arrived armed with birth and death dates going back to 1627 in Ladbergen. I was looking forward to a day of graveyard reverence communing with the fading headstones of several generations of Fiegenbaums.

Ladbergen is a very uncomplicated village. There are only three graveyards, and as it was the Feast of All Saints the day we arrived, the friedhof were filled with visitors. But soon it became clear to me that there were no headstones ANYWHERE in the town before the 1850’s. The town church had been built nearly 10 years after my Maria Wilhelmine had left Ladbergen. Where were they?

We were staying at an inn called Gasthaus zur Poste. After a few inquiries, the owner of the Gasthaus, Frau Haug, appeared from the back office and told us the story. (I say us … actually she told it to Hunter in German and he translated it for me.) She had grown up at the Gasthaus and was the fourth generation of the Schulte-Freckling family to live there. We followed her out into the backyard where she pointed out where the old church had been and then gestured toward her lovely garden where the graveyard had been. There, beneath one of the loveliest vegetable gardens I have seen, lay the remains of my Westphalian ancestors. She said that during the War, a bomb had dropped where the garden now is and bones had been uncovered. That is how she is sure that this was the lost graveyard.

She has bordered the garden in double rows of boxwood about 8 inches high. Much of the garden is reserved for spring asparagus. I complimented her on her compost operation (which is quite professional) and said I could think of no better place for my ancestors to rest than in her lovely garden.

Somehow, it all comes back to the garden.

A very special garden Posted by Picasa