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Archive for the ‘Kitchen Inspirations’ Category

dianthus
viola
pansy

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three tomatoes on a windowsill

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While puttering around the kitchen this morning I suddenly yearned for a particular cup of tea. I could see it clearly, could almost smell it. But instead of Lipton tea with sugar and a long pour of Pet’s evaporated milk, I made myself some chai. I smiled at the memory though. Lipton’s was my mother’s tea. Really, the family’s tea. She never added anything except a bit of sugar but my brothers would empty the can of milk and the sugar bowl. Awhile back I noted my oldest brother’s grandson doing the same. I happened to be sitting by my brother at the time. I looked at him and with a raised eyebrow asked, “Well, I wonder where he learned that from?”

Yellow onions were a fixture in our home too. I’ve not cooked with them probably in 15 plus years having made a gustatory switch to red onions. But while walking through the grocery store earlier this month the yellow onions caught my attention. I was compelled to pick up one. Slicing through that first yellow onion brought tears to my eyes with its wonderfully pungent scent. A forgotten scent remembered. As I washed my hands before I accidentally rubbed my eyes I remembered how my father used to cry as he cut these same onions. It was a task that my mom often had him do. Now I know why. But I can’t help myself. Every time I cut one I now raise the half to my nose and inhale deep. I don’t feel compelled to eat them raw, as I must have as a child, and as I remember my father doing all the time. There is something simply serene in slow cooking with the onion, sauteing it in butter, or slicing it up for roasting vegetables. There is an upwelling of familiarity and home even in a different time and place and home.

There are other foods, flavors, scents from childhood that are “upwelling” this month. They come unbidden and they are welcome and so far they have always brought a smile.

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I’m thinking I have some learning to do about bringing outdoor herbs indoors for the winter. Some little creatures might come along for the ride. 🙂

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Pinto beans simmering in a pot with a ham hock and bay leaf. To my young mind, those beans seemed to cook all day. Then we ate it served over white rice. My father and I had sweet tooths. We spooned sugar on top of our beans and rice. It is the only dry bean I remember my mother cooking. I heard about red beans but she only cooked pinto (except, I forgot, for the black eyed peas you have to cook to ring in the New Year). I don’t remember if there was a particular day of the week for cooking beans and rice. For instance, pot roast, baked chicken, baked rice pudding, for example, they were Sunday foods, something special. I suspect beans were a weekday food because she could put the pot on the stove on a low flame and do all those other household tasks. Kale or collard greens might be served on the side. Probably mustard greens, too, but I didn’t like her mustard greens (another dish where my father would sprinkle some sugar). I remember the taste of kale seasoned with pork and spooning the potlikker that was left in the bottom of the pan. Once my younger brother was banished from the table for doing something rude and so I had the potlikker all to myself. That little hellion came up behind me and tossed in a handful of food scraps meant for Fuzzy, our dog. I was furious but I stilled loved him afterwards. That was in Virginia. Forty years later living in New England I’ve learned to play with my beans, making bean salads, mixing the colors and textures, sometimes getting so caught up in “painting” with the colors — red, white, black, green — that I lose sight of taste. But I have not done a thing with pinto beans. Until now. Why now? Because the Whole Foods shopper substituted a can of pinto beans for my requested can of white beans. The can is sitting on the kitchen counter. It makes me smile when I look at it. Soon I’ll open it. Served on the side will likely be kale cooked with olive oil and garlic. Brown rice most likely. No sugar anymore. Just good food and good memories to share.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/04/potlikker-from-slave-plantations-to-today/7129/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/your-black-eyed-pea-questions-answered-1640029

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More flowers bloom on the bell pepper plant, and I see about dozen new blooms forming. Its neighbor the shishito plant is nearing its end I think with perhaps a few more peppers to grow large but no more blooms and its once dark leaves are now light lime. In a neighboring raised bed hot peppers form and what a spicy bounty they are turning out to be. I am imagining how beautiful their red crescent shapes will be as we indulge in them throughout the winter. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes … they weigh down might thick stalks, a beautiful, brilliant green … but, oh, when will they turn red?! Bushels of basil. Not a bad problem. Can you ever have too much caprese salad or garlicky pesto on toasted bread? As for the Swiss chard … just two plants purchased on sale to please the neighborhood bunnies but they must have enough food elsewhere … nary a bite has been taken and the leaves are growing large … so now Steve will have to cook us a dish with that Swiss chard. All recipes welcome. 🙂

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tomatoes

… it should not go away because it keeps me away from my little garden and that lets the herbs and veggies do what they need to do which is simply grow. I do have to go out and snip this and that to encourage further growth, and thin this and that so that I don’t have plants competing too much, and I do have some more seedlings to plant, and some seeds came in the mail and I have to be strategic in what I do with them because I’ve got this plan, you see, to create a wall of vines, some that bloom in the morning, some that bloom during the day, and the ones that bloom at night. Whoa! I’m trying to balance gardening in support of birds and the bees while respecting that a certain person in the household who is digging my raised beds doesn’t mind beauty but he’s really into edibles, especially tomatoes and basil. But he does understand that my growing cardinal vines and borage (which is edible but he doesn’t like the cucumber flavor) will help get his tomatoes properly pollinated. In this wierdest of all years in my living memory, I’m not gardening for sustenance necessarily; I’m gardening for sanity. I know, growing up in Virginia, that my dad’s vegetable garden definitely put food on the table. I remember helping him plant seed potatoes, beans, squash, peppers, onions and he grew his tomatoes, too. He gardened to feed his family but I suspect he gardened to find peace as well.

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lemon basil

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spearmint, basil and marigold

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orange mint, marigold, curly parsley, flat leaf parsley, oregano and a wonderfully empty red pot waiting to be filled

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Nasturtium and borage blooms on the garden salad. Mostly for show. Like painting the green salad with dabs of bright paint.

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