boiling fruits - satsuma plums, apricot and lemon thyme

boiling fruits - satsuma plums, apricot and lemon thyme
boiling fruit - Satsuma plum, apricot, lemon thyme and turbinado sugar

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Plumb time for plums

August resides well in the Diablo Valley when big spacious, blue skies accompanied by blazing hot and dry days are part of your definition of the eighth month of our year. Conditions such as these bode very well for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons and stone fruits, thriving in loamy soil, occasionally drenched with some conserved, allotted water, creating an environment for them to be comfortably staking out real estate on the steamy side of the garden that they call home soaking up every sun bloated ray they can absorb creating amazingly big, fat, juicy fruits and vegetables for us to drunkenly consume at will, creating a conceptual whole, sweet life we live, nutritionally anyway.
As peaking produce overflows our yards and farmer’s market tables, canning and jamming take center stage in the kitchens of our summer life, acutely present in every nose for miles around your house. Plucking just picked cucumbers matched with astoundingly fragrant fresh dill heads and garlic, from the vine or market table, to be transformed in a matter of a few hours with the help of salt, vinegar and mystical alchemy to glistening jade jars of love. Tubs of peaches, nectarines and strawberries, washed and cut up, boiled in a sugar melted narcotic haze combined with whatever else heat flustered minds can imagine to mix in, become addicting, visions of fingers running along the sides and bottoms of almost empty, cooled jam pots, already beginning to gel as you gaze upon gem like colors, bedazzling eyes and minds with the promise of the perfect piece of toast come winter.
As my Satsuma plum tree encourages vast quantities of cascading fruit onto dry ground below I am fraught with sweet memories of my own Mom’s Satsuma plum which is why I have one growing in my yard today. Drupe in familial origin having a large stone pit encasing inner seed, plums are indeed a fruit engineered to provoke tender memories stemming from an age of earlier innocence in your life. Grandma’s always possessed a gnarly old tree to climb midsummer retrieving juicy fruits to stain anything on your body quenching a thirst only satisfied by that plum at that time. Plums date back centuries to milder climates of Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas but Roman historian and scientist, Pliny the Elder, maintained plums originated in Armenia and were the first cultivated fruit known. Many cultures invest in the power of spring plum blossoms, all knowing at least half of those sweetly fragrant, showy blooms represent a plum to eat, juice dripping down chin. Over years many crosses of plums have appeared in markets probably none more identifiable than the San Rosa, another Luther Burbank discovery, tempting with creamy yellowish pink flesh, sugar sweet with a tart skin. Pretty much the epitome of what comes to mind for a plum when ears share the word with brains.  Satsuma plums have deep, dark richly mahogany red interiors, with a mysteriously herbal, tart - honeyed flesh perfect for retrieving childhood images. Plum wines play a major part in several cultures for simple enjoyment as well as medicinal purposes along with beautiful ceremonial displays.
Fortunately for us plums are still immensely popular with farmers continuing to grow and sell heirloom varieties along with any kind of cross imaginable, almost. Apriums are a 30-70 mix of an apricot and a plum as pluots are a 70 – 30 mix of plum and apricot. Softly orange inside and out with a scant fuzz, or deeply magenta, both perform due diligence to represent the plum family owning tastes that are sublime. Available only from your yard or farmers’ markets, they are summer stone fruit at its best. Before frankenfruit visions scare you off, these inter bred fruits are crossed, not genetically modified, as safe as a Blenheim to devour. Eaten slowly out of hand, eyes closed, juice popping as your teeth sink into tart skin, can be the best way to explore this fruit.
Fresh plum salsa with chopped plums, scallions, cilantro, jalapeño and garlic tossed with lime juice and a shot of fruity olive oil is incredible accompanying freshly grilled fish with a light shower of sea salt. Slice plums and toss with arugula, pine nuts, veiny blue and thick balsamic. Plums set the stage for an amazingly simple crisp, slurped hot with vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top.  Plums pureed and simmered with fresh ginger, garlic, honey, rice vinegar and soy sauce create a dip worthy of the most royal dumpling or skewer. Plum jam assures summer in the winter and looks so good in their jeweled jars they can be used for home décor year round. Beyond simple to prepare, all efforts pay supremely for months.
Plum Jam
8 cups chopped Satsuma plums
3 tablespoons fruit pectin
2 cups turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Peel and juice of 1 big, juicy lemon

Heat plums in a deep, heavy pan that won’t scorch.  Mix ½ cup sugar with the pectin and stir into plums. Bring to a complete rolling boil that you can’t stir down and add the rest of the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Bring back to a rolling boil that you can’t stir down. When you reach that point, set your timer for 2 minutes and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and place into sterilized half pint jars. Close lids tightly. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 half pints.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer jamming - Could get dangerous

Jam making has always been an extremely sensual experience for me in every sense of the word. Taste, beauty, smell, touch, inspiration inevitably hits at about 98 degrees F when fruit starts to drip off of trees in fertility inducing heat. As if from a dream, as nature intended, you immediately wake to craving an addiction not felt for about 10 months. Capturing lightning in a bottle is heady stuff indeed. Sparks of permanence shoot out of every jar, until it is consumed, leaving nothing behind but the jar begging to be refilled. I am spurred my some interior fire, adding to the heat that usually spends me but on jam and canning days excites me. I have been known to close all window shades, turn on the fans and make jam naked under my apron. Unless there are people around.
 I have made jam only once with a date and it was probably the sexiest experience I have ever had. He was a much younger guy, the executive chef at a local golf club, who had never made jam before and asked me to teach him. We had been dancing around each other for a few months, having dinner, taking hikes, but never anything solidly sexual yet, not even a real kiss.  Being a single guy, barely 30, he had nothing we needed for jam making at his house, younger chefs are notorious for this, and I had a 7 year old at mine.
So I went to the farmers market choosing just ripe enough peaches and nectarines, strawberries whose fragrance I could detect before I had a bead on them and picked the herbs from my garden almost whispering incantations of passion as I went along. l gathered everything we needed, enticing him with combinations of white nectarines and rose geranium and peach with lavender as I unloaded pots, strainers, tongs and sun swollen fruits, ready for the jar from my van at his house.  Cooking equipment always excites chefs and food adds immensely to the fire while a new process learned to be tried out on clients or customers is intoxicating with possibilities. At first it was all business. Getting the canner boiling, sterilizing jars, cleaning and cutting up fruit in preparation for boiling with sugar and pectin and making sure all mise en place was in order.  Having a smallish kitchen, it was inevitable that our arms and thighs brushed one another at times during the lesson. He was a beautiful student and beyond willing to learn and I kept thinking, “I cannot be the only one this turned on”.  
As his counter filled up with glistening jars of brilliantly gemstone colored jars of jam, as the evening wore on, he suggested something to eat. I loved hearing him say that because I loved watching him eat. It was endless the amount of food he could consume with such reverence and curiosity, speaking the same language I do as I eat, especially at a new restaurant with new culinary experiences. He suggested a little Italian place around the corner from his house and we settled in at a little table for two. He ordered several items off the menu as we are wont to do without regard for what we will finish, taste being the goal of the dining event. Kicking off my sandals under the table to cool off came as naturally as wiping a bead of sweat from my brow. As we sipped wine, after a hot afternoon and evening of jam making, it hit hard and fast. Eating garden warm tomatoes with Burratta and balsamic, torn basil acidic sweet on the tongue, fat, juicy prawns sautéed in olive oil and lemon, prosciutto silky alongside dripping melon, we slowly became so  inflamed with food passion that when out feet touched under the table accidently, we both jumped. He had kicked his sandals off as well and he reached for my hand. Imploring with his eyes, “Is this ok?” Feeling allure, carnality and innocence all at once, covered with goose bumps, still smelling caramelized sugar and boiling fruit in my head, I almost fainted. It took everything we had to finish eating and make it out to his truck before we started devouring each other in kisses unlike previously shared.
Ending up at his house, as we walked into the back kitchen door, engulfed with olfactory overload,  scents of lavender, rose geranium and fruits, he looked at me and silently, actually picked me up, that does not happen much in my 5 foot eleven life, and that was the beginning of my jam passion summer with the chef. It is somewhat of a surprise to me that there are no soft core porn movies involving jam making or even cooking together for that matter. I mean Babettes Feast is pretty sexy and Eat, Drink, Man and Woman is crazy but a jam making stand alone, I have not seen that one.

I won’t even get into pickles in this one. For another time. Suffice to say, if you have not made jam, in the heat of summer, fruit luminous, begging to be boiled and slathered on bread, it is time. Better yet shared with a special someone.

Strawberry and Basil Jam
2 cups sugar
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
2 large or 4 small basil leave
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the strawberries and continue to cook over very low heat for 35 minutes, until the strawberries release some of their juices and the mixture boils slowly. Cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate, about 30 minute more. (I keep one in the freezer.) Pour carefully into 2, sterile pint canning jars and place either 1 big or 2 small basil leaves in each jar. Either process in a water bath for 10 minutes or keep refrigerated. Refrigerated jam will keep for a couple of weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2015

cruising with the Gods

Perched on the edge of our floor to ceiling window, muscles pleasantly strained and alert as we search the inky black sky for the milky way while traversing by ship through the Ionian and Adriatic seas, my mind settles on bliss, peace, gratitude most of all. How did it take me well into my fifties to feel this brilliant disorienting experience of traversing on water?
Cruising on a small Windstar ship with my friend Lisa was a first for us both. We knew we’d see ruins being in Greece, but the allure of supremely intelligent carnality, luminous innocence and reverberating life still, after thousands of years, emanating energy from the marble and stones of massive columns and building still standing is startlingly abstract and ridiculously real at once. Hearing and realizing where our words come from by an inspired guide is riveting as your eyes seek them out carved into ancient walls and structures, almost hearing murmurous conversations between ancient gods and rulers and their muses, as they set the course of history.
Basking in intense sun as we roam ruins evokes a sense of hardship, agony, as men, laborers, toiled towards completion of temples for their Gods to reside in. Accomplished with purpose, graciously articulated comfort as well as efficiency in their environment, completion of these temples and shrines along with growing enough food to survive, was the only way of life expected for these laborers for many centuries of our history. Their technology was cutting, moving and placing massive stones.
Touring though the sites of the 1, 2 and 3rd Olympics we were educated as to how the athletes competed naked and barefoot, rubbing their bodies with pure olive oil and dirt in anticipation of brutal competitions against other warriors. Scandalous they were not, on the contrary they were puritanical in their single minded goals to win, purposely provoking love and compatibility as their sameness was part of the struggle to rise above each other.  Tent cities sprouted up for months before and after the Olympics’ as training was a major part of the actual competitions. Baths were always present as before as well as after, athletes bathed ceremoniously. After competitions, before the bath, athletes scraped their bodies of the olive oil and dirt, moisturized by their sweat, into small bottles to be sold as sacred ointments and rubs to the adoring scores of public observers to the games.
Having never cruised before I was not prepared for the immense beauty and solitude of the seas we were smoothly splitting. Our ship was pretty small, around 200 passengers and about 380 feet long.  Our adorably capable Italian Captain Ignazio Tatulli, operated his ship flawlessly through the clearly endless aquamarine water, creating a marriage of exciting and calm, an oasis of capability, every crew having as much fun as they were working hard. Interaction with the crew was one of the best parts of the day and later into the week they put on a line dancing event and then an actual talent show where one of the waiters turned into a crooning balladeer while others morphed into an awesome rock band. Our customer service gal honored us with a beautiful rendition of a popular folk song. Other crew performed a hysterical act of synchronized swimming that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe and I was going to pee my pants. Food was very accomplished and our chef was open to suggestions, taking us on a farmer’s market tour in Montenegro that was interesting informative and great fun. Dalmatian prosciutto is rosy red tasting of perfect salty smoke. Local cheeses salted our mouths as a perfect foil for chilled local white wines.  Mussels in Albania melted as butter on your tongue, briny and luminous, sexual as always. Deliciously mesmerizing.
Local olive oils we tasted as well as brought home, had a quality of earth, terroir, it is very important to the Greeks, their earth from which grapes and olives spring forth and as like here in California the earth characteristics change from parcel to parcel creating differences and nuances in the oils and wines totally discernible to your precious taste buds and olfactory sensitivities. In Venice, our Captain entertained us at one of his local haunts, a charming trattoria, serving local specialties in a small and rustic, very comfortable restaurant. We had luscious antipasto with prosciutto and burrata you could eat off each other with intensely fresh tomatoes and basil plus olive oil acidic enough to captivate and spark imaginative possibilities. Tiramisu served in darling mason jars will be appearing on my menus. Grains stirred as risotto, tossed with silky cheese, roasted coins of fresh zucchini and silky melted cheese totally put me over the edge. I bought the grain and managed to get it home to make here with my lavender and zucchini. Ignazio also introduced Lisa and I to Primitive Memoria, and Italian varietal similar to zinfandel but far more complicated and divine.
Akin to beginning a new found relationship, my excitement over cruising, only small ships though, is captivating my obsessive desire to travel overseas. It was soooo easy and amazing. Life is short and a vast world awaits our presence.  Having a best friend for a travel agent does not hinder the reality to scoot either. 

FYI: All arranged through Alamo World Travel, Lisa Kallen

Summer produce is probably one of best reasons to live in Northern California. It is almost endless. We are blessed with the sweetest fruits, tastiest tomatoes, hottest peppers and adding to that is an endless amount of summer yum love but ball parked at kitchen sink could cover it, mostly.
At this writing, it is starting to heat up translating warm nights to ripening goods in our yards as well as markets. Two of my favorites are local corn and stone fruits. In recent years both have gotten tooth achingly sweet. I have definite major fondness for yellow corn but being in the minority creates minor difficulty finding it. Alas usually farmers markets come through for a successful hunt. Equally impressive are yellow, sometimes called mango, nectarines at the farmers markets. Actually pretty strong mango nuances invoke balmy breezes and swaying palms while juice is delightfully dripping down arms and chins. These are amazing as grilled accompaniments to any kind of cooked savory meats as well as being heart stopping alongside waffles or French toast doused with butter and syrup.

Local yellow and white corns in their return to the farmers markets create one of my favorite phenomena of satisfying a DNA seasonal craving and knowing awareness of proximity to taste buds while actually delivering on the promise quenching all expectations regardless of how much effort is required in preparations.

Not happy being a specter at the feast, white corn insists on having summer meals staged around it. Cut it raw off the cob throwing dazzling kernels into a salad of chopped cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, sweet red onion sliced thin, basil and feta. Dress with zest and juice of lemon or orange, drizzle good olive oil and rice vinegar and toss. This salad ensures lots of party re-invites. For cob gnawers, b-b-qing corn in the husk is an adventurous treat. Peel back husks and remove as much silk as possible leaving the husks intact. Mix soft butter, chopped jalapeño and lime zest together with your hands and spread on the corn lovingly. Close the husks back up and place on grill out of direct heat for about 10 minutes. This combination of flavors lingers on your taste buds like a lingering good dream. For an amazing final act, throw plenty of raw kernels into your favorite corn bread recipe serving piping hot with plenty of butter, real maple syrup and macerated blackberries. Now we are talking Brentwood corn.

Nectarines are said to be named after nectar consumed by Olympic Gods and white nectarines only strengthen that myth. Low acid strips modesty of sugar levels baring floral nuances begging to be paired with rose geranium, lavender and well made prosciutto. Said glorious globes weighing down tables at the farmers’ markets beckon to be immediately consumed out of hand. When that gets old, try a shortcake spin slicing up nectarines and macerating in Framboise, spooned over a fluffy biscuit topped off with mascarpone whipped with lemon curd. Insert heavy sigh here. Lovingly lay slices over fresh pizza dough finishing with gorgonzola, lemon thyme and toasted walnuts baked in a hot oven marrying flavors for life. Transform cereal with white nectarines, berries and yogurt motivating your taste buds to sing louder than the most talented mourning doves.

 Grilled Nectarines w/ Whipped Mascarpone
 4 nectarines, split in half and stone removed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of honey

Brush the cut side of the fruit with olive oil and place on the grill. Brush the skin side for when you turn. Grill on each side about 3 minutes. Remove from grill.
Place mascarpone and honey in a small bowl and whip together.
On a plate, place the nectarine, cut side up and fill with a dollop of mascarpone. Serves 8.

Nectarine and Blueberry Shortcake
2 nectarines, spit, stone removed and sliced
1 pint of fresh blueberries, cleaned
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
4 shortcakes
½ pint of whipping cream
½ pint of crème fraiche
1 tablespoon of sugar

Mix the nectarines and blueberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and balsamic.
Whip cream to a very soft peak. Fold in the crème fraiche and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Split shortcakes and place on individual plates. Spoon fruit over one side of them and dollop whipped cream on. Place other side on top and dollop a little more cream on top. Serves 4.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Strawberries of love, sexy asparagus, glorious fava's in the markets now!

I procured the sweetest little gems of organic strawberries at the Diablo Valley Farmers Market yesterday from Rodriguez Berries out of Watsonville. Perfectly picturesque and they tasted like spring, like love, like candy, like the vision you have in your flavor place memory place in your head good. Yep that good. True season strawberries, not hoop grown with half flavor. Also in hard and strong are local asparagus, favas and green garlic. In my mind one of the holiest of food trinities around and short lived so take advantage while they are local and in our markets.

Long known as a symbol of love and fertility, astrologically governed by Venus closely wound among their tendrils, strawberries are supremely awaited come springtime in the West. Heart shaped, colored in varying shades of pink to red proudly bearing every color of magenta in between, strawberries are representative of love and rebirth, renewal and hope. In South America around 1300 strawberries were used as currency representing life, among other attributes. Romans have long valued strawberries for healing powers reputed to range from gastric ailments to tightening loose teeth. Cherokee mythology romanticizes strawberries as saving their race when the first man and woman quarreled. As she ran away God placed a basket of strawberries in her path tempting her to indulge and as she did her rage turned to love and she returned to her man. Greek mythology firmly places strawberries roots in line with the Goddess Aphrodite whose tears of despair shed by the death of her Adonis fell in little red hearts, strawberries. In the Middle Ages, strawberries were synonymous with temptation and seduction. Chocolate dipped strawberries are one of the most popular selling item come Valentine’s Day second only to the ruby red heart shaped box of chocolates.

Supremely sweet and intoxicatingly fragrant when picked and eaten in season, its no secret that strawberries have long been used as a draw for customers in early spring farmers markets, alluring shoppers as they stroll past fruit laden tables unable to resist the pull of a luscious three pack. Habit forming, when eaten out of the basket, strawberries also have amazing pairing abilities for sweet as well as savory combinations…. Sliced into salads of tender, sweet greens along with local chevre and toasted chopped almonds needing only a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of fruity olive oil this creates a salad rivaling any of the best restaurants offerings. ….. Strawberries macerated in a bit of good balsamic with a dripping of honey spooned over good ice cream could make you swoon and eat a second helping no matter what your brain says. Seduction……Ubiquitous short cake, biscuit style screams for strawberries and sliced fresh figs with fresh orange juice squeezed into the mix to be lavishly garnished with sweetened mascarpone and sprinkled with love to tempt whoever needs tempting.….Grilled strawberries and peaches tossed with lemon oil coated fresh baby arugula showered with toasted prosciutto is a match even Venus could not have dreamed up.  Love, temptation and seduction aside, in season, fresh, local strawberries take the cake and all the frosting for being the most anticipated of spring fruits…..except possibly cherries may be a little competition….

After a long winter, as if by vegetal spirit summons, around mid spring, asparagus makes an ethereal appearance amidst winter vegetable leaden tables at farmers markets. Long or short, thin or fat, as with other important items, size does not matter, personal preference only dictates what lands in heavy shopper bags. Tight tips are a must going from purple to green; firmness does matter, with asparagus having most flavor in the points d'amour ("love tips") that were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour.
Most of our asparagus heralds out of the central valley of California. Holding great significance in the San Joaquin River Delta, enough so to have Stockton honored with the location of the Asparagus Festival annually, asparagus also figures heavily in Britain with the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire laying claim to title of largest producer in Eastern Europe with an immense weeklong festival honoring the herbaceous spring flowering perennial there too.

Ancient in origin, the medicinal diuretic asparagus is seen pictured in a 3000 year old Egyptian frieze as well as boasting title of mainstay at the Roman festival of Epicurus being used frozen from the previous season. Effects of consuming asparagus relating to scents of urine have long been noted with Marcel Proust stating in a letter to Benjamin Franklin in 1781 that “asparagus transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume.” In A Treatise of all Sorts of Food dated 1702, Louis Lemery says “everybody knows asparagus causes a powerful and disagreeable smell in the urine”. It has been researched well and most scientists believe that it occurs to everyone’s urine but a few are missing an olfactory gene and can’t smell it.
Used as a companion plant to tomatoes, asparagus repels harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants while tomatoes repel the dreaded asparagus beetle. Having opposing seasons of peak production is yet another sweet convenience of nature.

Commencing asparagus season properly requires celebration on all levels of dining…. For breakfast sauté sliced tips and stalks in butter and green garlic and scramble with eggs and chevre consuming with fresh baguette and champagne….. Lunch requires chilled poached asparagus served with mustard vinaigrette and chopped chives while evening consumption demands…. asparagus is tossed with fruity olive oil, garlic and salt and placed on a hot grill to blister tender skins and be drizzled with balsamic. ….Sauté prawns with sliced cremini, sliced asparagus and garlic splashing with vin blanc and enriching with cream to reduce and lap up….. Dipping steamed tips into a soft poached egg sprinkled with cracked sea salt and feathery puffs of grated Manchego serves intimate midnight soirees unforgettably well.

Ancient and exotic, coveted tender, baby pods and big, fat, luscious adults, fava beans are an amazing culinary treat with a short season. Often planted as soil amendment adding nitrogen in infancy and carbon at the end cycle, fava’s are also an incredibly sexy treat to slowly devour. Clip ends off whole baby beans, pod and all, lube up with olive oil and season with salt placing on hot grills. The heat crisps up outer shells while steaming inside pods. In the farmers markets for a few more weeks, their season coincides with green garlic and asparagus creating the spring trilogy so popular among foodies everywhere once exposed. Rack up brownie points for time and energy displayed retrieving those two sumptuous green buds under lush padding. Pop beans from pods blanching a few minutes then ice bath quickly. Slip beans out of yet another shield pondering opportunities. Sautéed simply in olive oil and green garlic is a favorite first of the season prep. Mashed with olive oil, green garlic, lemon and salt and spread on toast, celery or your body, can be breathtaking.  Toss tiny halves into salads combining greens, tangy apricots, chevre and olive oil. Eating seasonally has benefits.

Spring Asparagus Soup w/ Parmesan Toast
2 pounds fresh asparagus, chopped
2 green garlic, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups stock
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
8 to 12 baguette slices
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Sauté green garlic in olive oil until slightly caramelized and transparent. Add asparagus and sauté 3 minutes until bright green. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until asparagus is tender. Add cream, vinegar and nutmeg. Bring back to a boil and turn off heat. Puree with a hand held immersion blender or a regular blender and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in a *350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crouton is crispy. Use to garnish soup. Serves 4

Grilled Asparagus w/ Balsamic Vinegar
2 pounds asparagus ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Toss asparagus in a bowl with olive oil and salt to coat.
Grill on low heat on a gas grill or on the low temperature end of a charcoal grill.
Grill until the outside skin begins to blister and turn bright green.
Remove from heat and place on a platter. Sprinkle with balsamic and a little more salt to taste. Serves4

Risotto with Green Garlic and Asparagus
1 large red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups Aborio or Carnaroli rice or you can substitute barley for more fiber and protein
about 6 cups stock, heated
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, sliced in ¼ in pieces
4 stalks of green garlic, cleaned and sliced
6 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly grated pepper
Heat olive oil in a deep, heavy sauce pan. Add onions and sauté for about 4 minutes until they begin to caramelize. Add the rice and sauté for 3 to 4 more minute until the rice becomes opaque and starts to brown. Add a cup of stock and let it come to a boil. Stir well and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. When stock is almost absorbed add another cup and let absorb. Add another cup and keep repeating until risotto is creamy and almost soft. Turn off heat and in another sauté pan heat the olive oil and sauté green garlic and asparagus until both are bright green. Stir into rice and season with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese. Serves 4.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

a short life

Recently there was a really huge loss in our community. A treasured friend's son made a long term decision for a problem that was insurmountable to him. He really and truly felt that this was the only way for him, and he pondered it for many of his 19 years. You really want to go straight to definable reasons and name this kind of devastating action when it happens so close. His Mom does not know what to do. His Dad is suffering. If he could know what his choice would do to his Mom for the rest of her life, would he have chosen death? How can the human mind grasp  this amazing, gifted, sports savvy, talented, funny, seemingly happy young man's decision? How do we explain the unexplainable or reason the unreasonable? Can we accept this choice he made, be sad and move on?  Mental illness and depression are sneaky for sure. We know this now. Jake taught us this. How do the parents move on? Therapy, grief counseling, groups, are they band aids or real tools. God only knows at this point. Its still so raw. It only happened a couple weeks ago. How long until my friend can experience one of her favorite pastimes and joy's in life and let herself listen to music and enjoy it without guilt or simply smile or laugh without guilt? Or anything without guilt? How do you put one foot in front of the other everyday? One other friend who's daughter was tragically killed in an accident last year says fake it till you make it and then a day may come where you notice that you aren't faking today.

I'm a spiritual gal all the way through. My tools include angels, goddesses, tarot cards, flowers, yoga, positivity, anything I can get to help me be a better woman but I can honestly say that I am not sure what I would do in her shoes. I love my friends so much and there is a sense of helplessness in what you can do to help the pain, it will never go away.

If her son had any inkling or was in any frame of mind to have an inkling of the havoc he would wreak, he would not have hurt his Mom like this. So the place we have to go to is once again, mental illness. It is prevalent in our young folks and maybe we could use a little more education regarding this one time solution kids are choosing more frequently these days than in the past. I dont know any answers, I only witness the pain of those left behind to pick up the pieces and move forward. I love this song that Patty Griffin sings and it resonated with me when I was listening to her album for the millionth time and heard it differently. What if this is what Jake meant in his note? "Mom, just climb up to that mountain and listen for God, or whoever your higher power may be. It will help you, I promise". Its what I heard anyway......

RIP Jake. I hope you are supremely happy and navigating your new existence through peace and joy and I'll watch out for your mama as best as I can. Love you kid. Lesley

Patty Griffin - Up To The Mountain (MLK Tribute) - Ver. 2