Friday, December 25, 2009

Duck, Duck, Goose (and Quinoa)

I said I'd work an ancient grain into my Christmas dinner! See above, as I stuff quinoa into our Christmas goose. Actually it was a duck, but thanks to the John Denver & the Muppets version of Christmas is Coming, our three year old daughter had her heart set on a goose.  $14 for a duck or $60 for a goose?  Hmmm, how about a duck we call  a goose?  Good deal. 

True to Country Tart form, I am wearing the lovely "High Maintenance Camo" shirt (that my oldest daughter gave me for Christmas) while I thoroughly violate this poor bird with my fist.  I told you I was a country tart

Above is the Apple Chestnut Quinoa Stuffing that I promised.

I had some left over (really, a duck cavity is only SO big). Thanks Donna for the kick-ass Le Crueset dishes! Pictured is stuffing before cooking. It was roasted in the oven until the top turned a lovely golden brown.

Foreground: the duck. Background: Joe's smoked pork loin, stuffed with proscuitto, fontina & sundried tomato pesto (don't fret; the recipe for that is coming tomorrow).   Seriously good holiday meal.

Dinner on the smoker.

Almost done.

This is Joe, my other half.  He's a great cook and can work magic around a smoker.   The applewood he used for smoking was from an old apple tree that had fallen during a storm two summers ago.  He had cleaned it up for the woman whose yard it had fallen in (and brought it home in pieces to dry out).  The seasoned wood filled the backyard with sweet smoke all afternoon long.

The duck and quinoa stuffing. It was the kind of "good" that one enjoys without questioning whether or not it is good for you . It WAS a "love you back" food that was good and good for you.. All the guests had a serving of the stuffing and not one person scrunched their nose and asked "what is this?" I didn't see any left on anybody's plate either. That's what loving the food that loves you back is all about.

Whatever you celebrate, Happy Holidays to you and yours from the Country Tart. ~

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Discovery of the Week: Pummelo Fruit

One of the brighter apsects in the otherwise dreary produce sections during the winter time is citris fruit. I get excited when I begin seeing clementines and blood oranges in the store. My children do too, as we cannot seem to keep a box of citris fruit in the garage for more than a few days.

I've seen pummelo before and always just assumed it was an over-priced and green grapefruit. If it weren't for the reduced, Not the Best but Still a Good Buy, sticker on one of these suckers, I'd still be in the dark. But, as it happened, I bought one for 86 cents (who comes up with these prices?) and it is delicious. I've actually been back to buy two more.

Peeling it was more like a science experiment than food prep as it is covered with a thick, fragrant pith that has a perfumy but exciting scent. It smells so refreshing, in fact, that my daugther and I continued to sniff the peel as we were eating it. The flavor is much like a grapfruit only less tart and much more perfumy.

Once the outer peel has been removed, the segment skin must also come off; leaving it looking much like a naked, enlarged blood orange, except that the revealed jewels are so large that they reminded me of pomegranate seeds. Not that they taste anything like pomegranate, but the little jewels would be beautiful sprinkled over salad or even atop a citris cake.

Whenever food needs to be brightened, I shave a bit of lemon or lime zest into the dish and instantly the flavor is lifted. I have done this with grapefruit which is also really good so why not pummelo? It was zested into the red quinoa that served as a bed for my grilled albacore steaks a couple of evenings ago. What a memorable meal. The pummelo gave dinner an almost exotic feel.

Above, grilled albacore steaks with pummelo red quinoa.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inviting the Food Snob to Dinner

A lot of people are intimidated to have me over for dinner. It's true, I do photograph 3/4 of all the food that I eat and I may just snap a pic of the hamburger helper in your pantry; should you have any you forgot to hide. Let's not forget that I will also read labels and then bitch and moan about the amount of pure crap that is in packaged foods.

I am a regular pain in the ass to have as a guest. But really, it is only in the spirit of goodness (of which I believe we are all deserving) that I am such a judgmental, label-dissecting crank. Why the heck are there corn syrup solids in my peanut butter? Do the high fructose corn syrup people actually think any of us believe them for even a minute when they give us their anything in moderation spiel? OK, don't run and hide, I won't gripe about partially hydrogenated oils. I understand. It just isn't interesting to most people. That still doesn't mean they buy into whatever the manufacturers are trying to sell us. Well we do, but I meant the message--not the product.

I think I need to set the record strait. My personal record, that is. I sometimes feed my children Kid's Cuisine. I also allow them to dine under the golden arches from time to time. As the holiday season approaches, I will again be doing one of my favorite holiday activities: candy making. You can't make candy without corn syrup. Not much of it anyway. Though I have made my English Toffee with a splash of maple syrup in a pinch. Not bad, but for another post, perhaps.

The difference, at least in my mind, is that I eat these foods knowing full and well that they are junk foods. I accept that I am eating garbage and I enjoy it as nothing more. But there are just far too many foods out there pretending to be good for us that really are not.

You may already know that Kellogg's Raisin Bran has not been included in the list of cereals approved by the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program for purchase with their vouchers. Raisin bran, to me, is one of those foods that epitomizes the notion of bad health in a sneaky package of wholesomeness. Really, steamed wheat berries that have been rolled flat, toasted and then tossed with raisins: it sounds exactly like all of the grains I am always pushing on people. Try it, it will make you feel better. Why the heck do they need all the corn syrup in them? (Raisin Bran Ingredients) I saw a box of BooBerry Crunch this week in the cereal aisle. I didn't even know they still made that stuff. Do you remember it? The box of blue sugar, yes, that's the one. Sugar-laden it may be, but not a drop on HFCS in the entire box. How is that even possible? It's perplexing.

In doing my research for this little soap box of mine, I discovered that the Corn Refiners Association is located in Washington D.C. A little lobbying--in moderation--probably goes a long way, too (wink).

While I am on this kick, I thought I'd throw out a few holiday indulgence suggestions. I really believe a little of a very good, very real thing (whipping cream) is a lot more satisfying than a lot of a very fake, very not good thing (non-dairy, whipped topping).

DO NOT use Thanksgiving as the starting point to eat whatever you want for the next thirty-six days and nights.

DO allow yourself to enjoy portion-controlled amounts of your favorite holiday treats.

DO NOT be fooled by the words healthy, lite, or even low fat when it comes to holiday recipes. It's one thing to take out an egg yolk and add an extra white. It's entirely another to use 'fat free' products that use chemical fillers and who knows what else.

DO read the labels of foods such as cream cheese, peanut butter, non-dairy toppings and artificial sweeteners. Give it a farm vs. factory test. Lowered fat items such as those listed above often have very long ingredient lists that include items such as corn syrup solids as fillers. Eat the real peanut butter for goodness sake. Just eat less of it.

DO NOT eat without keeping track of what you are eating. Holiday parties, open-houses, candy, cookies, hot cocoa with Santa; it all adds up. Eggnog has 180 calories per half cup: WITHOUT RUM! Throughout the course of a party, I think I could drink about three cups of it. Add 4-6 shots of liquor and we are talking about adding 1500 quick calories to that office party!

DO find a way to keep track of what you consume. I use NutriMirror to track what I eat. This is not a paid endorsement and the site is completely free. It is a great tool that allows me to find nutritional balance through self-monitoring.

DO NOT wait until January 2 to incorporate some exercise. It is impossible to avoid the constant array of offerrings just about everywhere you turn; consider balancing that with increased activity.

DO go for a walk, take the stairs, or do some other sort of active movement that you might not usually do. Park the car as far from the entrance as possible for holiday shopping. You'll have more fresh air for fighting those holiday mobs and you'll spend less money knowing how far you have to go to find your way back to your car.

DO NOT stress about inviting me to dinner. I am all-about peasant cooking and the more homey, the better. I am really not a food snob so much as a quality snob. If it's made with love: I'm down.

DO ask me to bring something yummy. I dislike showing up anywhere empty-handed. Oh, and when you hold out that tray of cookies, smile for the camera~

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Country Sunset

I know, I know, these aren't award-winning photos or anything. They also aren't food related. This was what we saw on our way home tonight. I liked the light coming thrown the barn so much that I turned around and went back to see it again. The second time around, we were greeted by a county sheriff, who wanted to make sure we hadn't "hit a deer or anything."

Photos are taken at the same farm where I shot the blossoming peach trees that are always found at the very top of this blog.

This last photo is the light shining through the tall pines; found in the backyard of one of my neighbors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

11/03/09 This Week's SERVING up a SMILE:

Pictured above: a resident offers trick-or-treaters healthy options in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn

SERVING up a SMILE: Avoiding the Culture Shock. Check in this week for a Country Tart comparison of city living verses the country life; read tips on slowly making small changes toward a lifetime of improved health, and discover how being a nosy neighbor can make exercise a whole lotta fun~

Thursday, October 29, 2009

10/20/09 This Week's SERVING up a SMILE:

This week in Serving up a Smile, read this writer's take on having companions in the journey toward improved health and/ or weight loss. Click here to view: Along for the Ride

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thoughts on Weight Loss and Maintenance

Today I am reposting a journal entry from NutriMirror, the website that I use to log my food.

Part of celebrating my food obsession has been coming to terms with many years of obesity, followed by weight loss and finally finding balance and enjoyment in foods that are good for me.

This was an emotional posting for me but something that I felt is relevent to this food blog as it is at the very core of what drives me to eat well and still find enjoyment in both health foods and lack of guilt over discretionary treats.

My post on maintenance follows:

"I made an important decision yesterday that (thanks to Kel) I have decided to share with my NM family. After weeks of staying at the same stubborn weight that is a mere five lbs above my ultimate goal, I am declaring that I am officially on maintenance. I changed my settings and have decided that--at least for now--I am no longer trying to lose any additional weight. I am happy with this decision.

I know there remains some fat that needs to go but I also know that after carrying around so much extra weight for so many years that there is skin (how much, I do not know) but I also can tell my body is holding onto this weight.

This might sound like the ramblings of a insane person--especially if you are still losing and feel you have a ways to go. This is why I decided to share. Once the weight comes off, the emotional baggage doesn't magically disappear. The skinny-fat-girl syndrome runs deep and I know that I don’t see the same person in the mirror that other people see. I went coat shopping yesterday. Now that 80 lbs is gone, it turns out I have a really petit frame. Many of the size small were too large in the shoulders. I was trying on size XS and S and, when numerical, size 4. I once wore a 44 EE bra and size 22 pants! As I processed this in my mind, I thought to myself, “this is INSANE that I am frustrated over five lbs of (mostly) belly fat—I wear a FREAKIN’ extra small!” I weigh what I weighed when I graduated high school. And since I am sure I have at least two pounds of extra skin on me, I am certain that I am probably smaller that when I graduated high school. And as my husband just added--I now have far more muscle.

Seeing Kristal's pics of her rockin’ back gave me something to aspire to (yes, I made Joe photograph mine to compare!). I know that I still have to strength train and eat well if I want my body to continue to transform. I am now able to run at least 6 miles (at least I have done it once!) so I know that my body is improving and doing things I never thought it would. Plus, I have finally learned to spell the word ‘maintenance’ so the grammatical concerns I had are no longer an issue!

This is what Kel said to me about my maintenance musings:

“Your maintenance decision does not mean you will stop strength training. As you continue to strength train, you will be swapping fat for muscle. The gain of muscle will boost your metabolism more; I think you will continue to lose even once you decide to maintain. You can always restart later if you don't get to where you ultimately want to be. This is your time to celebrate this! Look at your amazing progress and how beautiful you are! Kick that phantom fat to the curb and celebrate!”

PHANTOM FAT. It is oh so real. I cannot tell you how many times I find myself wandering to the “plus” size section of the store only to realize I am obviously lost. And just because I am on maintenance, does not mean that I am going to go back to old habits and eat poorly. I will continue to love the foods that love me back and “eat clean.” I will continue to strength train and run. I will tell the evil fat girl in my ear to shut the hell up and let me enjoy the fruits of my labors and feel great about my body the way that it is. And next time I won’t try to hide my struggles with my NM family because I was too embarrassed to share. I guess I just felt that I had no right to bitch and moan when so many are out there still trying to get the weight off. Thank you Kel for helping me come to terms with this and to not only accept but find joy in my accomplishments.

Today I celebrate m-a-i-n-t-e-n-a-n-c-e. I celebrate that I can finally spell it correctly and that my NM food logs no longer advise me on how many calories I must stay within for weight loss. I celebrate my success and I celebrate the love and support of my NM family. Thank you for all of your continued support and encouragement."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh, Great Grains!

A sorghum field near my home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

It is very timely that I chose today to discuss my obsession with grains. The Today Show (Video Clip) did a spotlight on Farro this of the many grains that I mention in today's Serving Up a Smile: Click here: Oh, Great Grains!

Check the organic section of your local grocery, your local health food store, food co-ops, Trader Joe's, and, of course, online. My favorite manufacturers for several mentioned grains are Now Foods and Shiloh Farms, both of which have "where to buy" sections on their sites to assist you in locating a dealer near you.

Three new recipes have been added to spotlight some ideas for what to do with some of these grains (or, in the case of the popcorn, healthful, new ideas for an old friend):

Click here: Chai Amaranth Breakfast , (it’s vegan!)

Click here: Lemony Kamut with Pine Nuts, One of my family’s favorite sides.

Click here: Popcorn with Cinnamon, Honey and Parmesan, Think sopapillas meets popcorn, with a cheesy twang.

These photographs are additional examples of grains being implemented into meals...

Braised leg shank with a side of savory amaranth (grain prepared much like the Today show video clip, by adding grains to saute' of carrots, onions and herbs and then adding stock and water and then simmering until done).

Grilled salmon served over lentils, with wild rice and grilled corn and acorn squash. Lentils and rice prepared, again, in the same method mentioned above.

This is my choice for last meal, if ever I am asked! This is venison pan seared and then roasted, wrapped in Oscar's Bacon, served with Kamut cooked in vegetable stock. Because it was summertime, it was also served with zucchini "fettuccine" ribbons in a light lemon-chive cream sauce.


I am saddened to learn that Oscar's Smokehouse of Warrensburg, NY was badly damaged by a devastating fire in early September. They will be reopening this Winter. Check them out if you like smoked meats; once you try their bacon, you'll wonder what you ever saw in the store bought stuff. Available by mail order (hopefully by mid-December 2009): Oscar's Adirondack Smoke House

Our daughter and our friend's daughter, in front of Oscars, July 2009.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Repurposing Leftovers Into a Healthy Lunch

This week's Serving Up a Smile: Scrambling to Find Time Time-saving tips for nutritional eating and weight management.

I chose this as a time-saving sandwich because it is pretty to look at and if it looks good, it tastes even better. Because of the sausage, the sodium is a bit higher than I might like, but the nutritionally-packed accompanying ingredients more than make up for it. With the tomato sauce and beans, this "calzone" is reminiscent of pasta fagioli. The sharp, freshly grated parmesan add lots of flavor for a small amount of fat and calories (when compared with melted provolone).

Chicken Sausage "Calzone"

¼ c. canned cannellini beans
1/3 c. fresh crimini mushrooms
½ link (3.17 oz) of chicken Italian sausage, sliced thin
¼ c. low sodium tomato sauce
½ c. baby spinach1 Ezekiel Prophet's Pocket Bread pita
2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Combine cannellini beans, mushrooms, sausage and tomato sauce. Heat in microwave for 30-45 seconds on high. Stuff into pita with spinach and shredded parmesan cheese.

Nutritional info for one serving (one sandwich = one serving), below:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If Martha Can Do It, So Can I...

Here is my shameless plug for my new weekly column at NutriMirror, Serving Up a Smile.

This week's Serving Up a Smile: Let's Try Something New Exploring new foods and increasing the variety of foods in our menu to obtain health while still finding pleasure in food.

Please join me while I explore my idiosyncrasies, food eccentricities and overall food obsession, all while achieving weight management and balance.

To link to the actual announcement, click here.

Or, read announcement text, pasted below:

"The hard-earned transformations we get to witness here at NM make this the most heart warming place in America, I believe. Lynn Matava is a great example of one who has made an amazing transformation --- doing it in a way that is likelier to be more lasting than what we see in the outside world of "dieting". I am proud and pleased to announce she has agreed to share with her NM family, in a weekly column, the methods she employs to be so successful at weight control and nutritional balancing."


Drum Roll ....please! Coming Tuesday, October 6, Lynn's new weekly column --- SERVING Up a SMILE She's edgy, speaks "green" and is the unofficial spokesperson for the chia seed producers of the Western Hemisphere. Though she lives on the East Coast, she's often on NM holding West Coast hours. Known here as Lmatava, she'll answer to anything, including the Country Tart and "sometimes" even answering to her given name, Lynn. After years of struggling with depression, a food obsession, and about ten different sizes of pants, Lynn has come to appreciate life and make the most with what she's got. Join her each Tuesday as she makes a heartfelt effort to tackle the green-living obstacles such as money, resources, time, and self-defeating mindsets. She'll explore "loving the food that will love us back", all the while serving it up with a smile.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pickin' Up the Crumbs

This cookbook belong to my Great Grandma Rich, who, like many in her time
filled vacant space inside her books with her own personal and shared recipes,
food preparation notes and even newspaper clippings.
There are few things that can tie a people to their history as strongly as food can. When a recipe is passed down from our elders to our meal preparers of today, there is a chain that is linked of momentous proportions. Food connects our past to our now and to our future. Even with the help of a family genealogy buff it doesn't take long before the confusion of who's Aunt (on which side of who’s family) great Aunt Dolly really was. On some level I don't think we even care how Aunt Dolly came to be our aunt so much as we are glad she was because we now have her recipes for date & walnut tea cakes and apple strudel.

The family-food connection is integral to both where we came from and where we are headed. The reason, I believe, that this connection of food is so significant is this: good food stands the test of time. Unlike literature that has marked its place with words on pages, many traditional and culture-specific food preparation techniques are passed down from generation to generation, from neighbor to neighbor, from old to young, without a word of it ever being written down. Many of these recipes will survive simply because foods that pleased us as children are those soul recharging meals now recreated by us as nostalgic adults.

On some level, I feel like it is almost criminal to hoard secret family recipes. Not only for the reason that all forms of art are copied somehow from somewhere and then tweaked, but also because it is in this gesture of trying to keep these amazing bits of our history a secret that we run the risk of disconnecting that chain of the past to the future. Far worse, we miss out on sharing those cultural and familial unique traditions with others.

Truthfully, this is not a persuasive bit; a shoddy attempt to get my oven mitts on your secret family recipes. If anything, I should enter an official warning here: DO NOT, under any circumstances, feed me any of your secret family food concoctions if you want to keep the secret in the family. I have this gift; not exactly a talent but more of an obsessive trial and error type personality fault that, combined with an astute tongue and a strong desire to recreate any food that is pleasing to me--well, let's just say I can blindly duplicate all kinds of food creations. It may not be tomorrow or next week, but eventually I will probably figure it out. I make a heck of the well-guarded and undisclosed Crepe Timballo a la Termano. I am fairly certain that the last batch of Diane's Secret Cream Cheese Cuban Flan was pretty darn close to the real thing as well. [maniacal laugh heard here]

More than anything, I really dislike seeing good food go away to likely be forgotten. Sure, food trends do come and go in cycles just as fashion does. It may come as a surprise that moules marinière (muscles in broth) has been prepared since the rule of King Richard II of England (he ruled from 1377 -1399).* Who would guess that modern day almond milk found at food co-ops and health food stores was actually a popular ingredient in medieval cooking? * Without documentation, these historically relevent bits of information would probably have been long forgotten. It is probable that original documentation can be credited with sustaining these recipes so that we may benefit from them today.

Alright, perhaps this is a persuasive piece. Maybe I am asking you, pleading with you, to share your prized recipes with the world. For those of us who live to cook, there is a personal importance placed upon how good it feels to cook for others. I assure you, it will feel just as good to prepare it after you've shared your recipes. And not to worry, because no one version will taste quite as good as yours. You'll be buying insurance that your recipe, and your culinary brilliance, will live on.

If you are not quite ready to give that part of yourself, that is alright. Still, you may want to keep your eyes on me. If you see any odd behavior and it appears that I am pocketing scraps and pickin' up the crumbs, well--most likely I am! ~

* Sass, Lorna F. (1975). To The King’s Taste: Richard II’s Book of Feasts and Recipes Adapted for Modern Cooking The Metropolitan Museum of Art

My mother's collection of Rumford Baking Powder paraphernalia which
includes a box, various cookbooks and glass bottles that once held baking powder.

This book is a treasure that I picked up at a bazaar several years ago. It is a collection of recipes self-published by (I can only assume) an equally amazing woman named Betty Hollan Robinson. This collection begins with old fashioned recipes that were originally cooked by the then young author "at Gran's side" in a woodstove while using with hand-pumped well water. Hundreds of recipes cover a span of decades and leading up until the book's publishing in 1992. I know nothing of this book except for notes of people and places she has given credit and gratitude. Internet searches for all mentioned people and places have brought empty results. Anyone with information or knowledge of this family please feel free to contact me:

The Country Tart
Inside cover reads: Cover Photo is "Sunnyside", the ancestral home of The Holland Family in Wilmington, Fluvanna County, Virginia.

Home remedy newspaper clippings pasted on inside cover of a 100 year old cookbook. While a dealer might say that these items diminsh the books value, I believe that this makes them far more historically significant. Coming from a time when nothing was wasted, these added jewels make the books far more interesting to me.

Instructions for preparing mustard greens, affixed to a page by an old strait pin.

Recipes and clippings from my grandfather's sister Ruth.

A recipe from my Great Aunt Tess printed and given to my mother. Aunt Tess was one of the family's best and most cherished cooks whom lived into her nineties. Bottom of page: she began to share her recipe for tradional Italian Pasticciotto tarts (known commonly as "Pusties" in the Utica region of New York) but then decided that special tart pans were needed so she abruptly (and comically) stopped mid recipe.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Comfort in a Bowl

For me, just about every kind of comfort food I can think of is best served in a bowl. Ice cream, soups, stews, homemade granola with fruit over Greek yogurt. Hearty oatmeal, especially steel cut oats, just seem to nourish as it fills you up with warmth. Leftover casseroles always seem to taste better reheated in a bowl. Even a bowl of cereal eaten late in the afternoon has its comforting merits.

My favorite testament to the powers of food in a bowl is the inarguable truth that nothing brings a roomful of people together and even onto one couch like a big, family-style bowl of freshly popped corn. I think what I like most about bowls is the coziness in which they present their contents. It is a lot easier to be content with a portioned amount of ice cream when it is in a chic little bowl. And stew just tastes better in an earthenware bowl.

Early in my twenties, my food obsession mushroomed into something of a glutinous nature. Young and excited by a world of tastes, smells and new inspiration, I often ate too much and drank even more. We entertained often with the stars of the show being rich, fattening foods that were spooned out in great portions.

These days I try to follow more of a clean eating lifestyle with room for most foods in moderation. For me, this means journaling my food and eating a nutritionally balanced diet. This blog was not started to sell anyone on my lifestyle whatsoever; I just wanted to share some history of the journey of the Country Tart. As this page grows, there will be many health conscious recipes here and some not so nutritionally mindful. I like to think of it as food in balance. Health, nourishment, community, good food, history, family and sustainability will be among the ongoing themes of the Country Tart.

Eating seems to be something that begins even before we open our mouths to accept a forkful. It all begins with the eyes. Who hasn't reached for the cupcake with the prettiest swirl of icing on the top? A beautiful dish can make the food about to be eaten even more appetizing. The stack of rice bowls pictured above are some of my favorite food carrying vessels. Their just the right size and shape to hug the food that’s about to hug my tummy.

It is with some country hospitality and a ladle in hand that I say thanks for stopping by. Comfort served up here, with or without a bowl. ~


For more information on food journaling, food in balance, or to look into your own nutritional logging, please see the link to the left, Food in Balance. For more information on my personal weight loss and nutritional journey, go to: My NutriMirror Profile

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Savoring the Final Days of Summer

Summertime living and food preparation can be summarized in one word: simplicity. It is the time of year when meals can be thrown together in minutes and then eaten outdoors; utensils and shoes are optional.

The end of August is always a bittersweet time for me. I love the Fall but just cannot seem to let go of Summer. It is in these last weeks that I try to live life to the absolute fullest. Day after day is spent at the beach or some other place of outdoor recreation and responsibilities seem to go by the wayside. Laundry piles up for days upon days. Once clothing is cleaned, it rarely makes it to a drawer or a closet. We will spend these last days living out of the laundry baskets as if we were tourists and the baskets were our shared suitcases. During the very last of the final days we will probably end up wearing clothing directly from the clothesline and dryer. Meals will be assembled grill-side, if meals are prepared at all. Some nights a block of cheese with some crusty bread, a bottle of wine and some sliced fresh plums constitute dinner. We will sit on the porch listening to the chattering of mating insects, who are also trying to make the most of every last warm weather moment, while we further avoid the laundry and other obligations of greater importance.

Of course, summer does not officially end for three more weeks or so. But once yellow buses are seen shuttling children back and forth to school, the magic of summer quietly gives way to resumed responsibility and unsympathetically shorter days. Soon, the sounds and smells change. Instead of the clicking of the igniter switch on the grill there will be fluttering of rolling pins, the slicing of knives upon apples, the oven door creaking from lack of use. Where the smell of charcoal and meat, just days before, had filled the air all the way up and down the street, now the somewhat less traveled scents of cinnamon and sage will emerge.

There will still be a splash or two in the pool and perhaps one more visit to the beach. Then, as if the crickets have been signaling for us to do so, we will say, "Mmmm, soup sounds like a good idea for dinner tonight." Which is a good thing, because while it simmers the afternoon away on the stove, I'll have some laundry to attend to. ~

Insalata Caprese with Heirloom Tomatoes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Worms the Early Bird Forgot

If for nothing else, I am notorious for running late. All projects extend until mere moments before the deadline. Waking up to go yard saling is rarely more than an hour-long arm exercise of clumsily wacking the snooze button.

This particular Saturday morning began just like that, the alarm going off, me hitting snooze, my husband inquiring on my sleep-related intentions before pleading with me to turn the darn thing off.

I eventually got up, around 7:00 AM and managed to slip out of the door: child free. I hit a few yard sales and then a Saturday-only thrift shop before hitting a downtown farmer's market along the river. It was hot, late, and to "how much?" everyone had the same reply, "$1.00 a handful." The okra was free "too large to sell," and everything else pictured above added up to an economical $3.00. Good things do come to those who can't get their beaks or butts out of bed at a worm catching hour.

The Asian purple long beans were a particularly good score. The vendor informed me to cut them into salads or stir fry. Not a single one made it long enough to be prepared; we ate all of the "snakes" raw. Hey, whatever it takes to get a three year old to try it, right? ~