I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …
colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul. What a difference a week can make.
Why are we as a people so fired up? In fight mode, defensive? Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul. Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own. Think, but not too hard. Meditate on goodness. Selah from the heart. Thank God. Love unceasingly.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).
“We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” Ruth R. Blodgett.
The week-long sunshine and humidity boosted garden growth. Clean, crisp leaves of arugula and leaf lettuce will make a big bowl of salad for the family crowd this week. My sister is in town from Minnesota, cause for celebration.
Sweat beaded my neckline, and then down my back and chest as I harvest the garden greens. Already 88 at 10 am. Soon salty droplets dribble onto my lips. The greens are almost sweet before the extreme afternoon temps turn them bitter. Are not we all?
The herbs thrive in the summer heat, with plenty of water. More chives need cutting. Snipette of tender dill and cilantro came ready in a couple of days. Next week I will be freezing my surplus herbs for the winter meals. The pea blossoms produced 1-inch pea pods in a matter of a week. Plant scraps are added to the compost. Earthy goodness. Primal to my taste buds. Organic gardening..
As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes. Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk. Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage. Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home. In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns. Dean is such a proud father and grandfather. He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.
Late April we were blessed with another grandchild. Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild. Beautiful baby. We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend. The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law. And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.
“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
“Co-exist” is a word that became popular a few years ago. It implies people, critters, and plants living harmoniously on this earth despite our differences. A lofty goal, easier said than done, but is wonderful to experience when it happens. I would rather think “co-thriving”. I want to thrive rather than just exist. I know there are other people in my world who feel the same. Even my Labrador, Midnight thrives when people surround, a social animal. My geraniums thrive in the warm and sunny afternoons and a humid Memorial Day rain storm. Rain finally came after many cloud build-ups this 3-day weekend!
I am hitting the age where more of my colleagues are retiring. Dean and I attended a happy hour this past week for one of my friends. More Cardinal ball games and late mornings are in my friend’s new season. I can be entering that season of life in about 4 years and 4 months. That would be 225 more work weeks. Oh, I forgot I have a few vacation weeks in there as well, but who is counting?! I want to thrive, not merely exist during retirement. Good chance I will do just that because that is what I am doing now. Key is, co-thriving with my Dean, family, and friends. I believe green plants and gardening will fill my days, as well as serving with joy the people God places in my life. Much like today. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted. I hear the music, and I want to dance every season of my life.
After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same. The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s. Plants are resilient, as new growth is coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.
An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.
I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.
“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout
My Saturday was filled with caring for green life, as so many Saturdays and Sundays in the spring time. Dean and I made an early run to the greenhouse as summer like weather was forecasted for the day. Dean mowed the grass while I attended to weeds and watering. Our peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and dill are sprouting. The chive plants are in full bloom. I cut a bundle, and dropped some off to Jack Mac, executive chef and friend at Chandler Hill Vineyards. He told me how to use the blooms in my cooking this week. For this weekend I put together a red potato salad snipping my chives and young voluntary dill sprigs into the bowl.
As tradition goes green plants and May flowers fill my Mother’s Day weekend. This year is no exception. Maybe it is tradition from my childhood. My mother still enjoys a potted tomato plant and another pot of summer favorites like petunias or geranium. This Mother’s Day I sit on the porch bench surrounded with early morning mist, song birds, and quietness from the world’s busyness. Midnight, our Labrador joins. He, too relishes the weekly early Sunday morning date with nature. My pots of perennials and annuals complete my sensual needs this morn.
As most weekend mornings go, I cannot sleep in long. Weekday awakening before 5:00am makes it difficult to sleep much past 7:00 am on the weekends. The weekend to-do-list is long, so Saturdays are packed. On Sundays, I start at a slower place making meditation and prayer a part of my morning. The front porch welcomes a cup of hot honey chamomile tea an inspirational gardening book, and me. The sights, sounds, and smells of a rain storm bring freshness to the morning. I became one with the springtime outdoors, crisp breeze and tender green plants and white dogwood blossoms. A bit shabby from winter life, my potted plants are waiting for a play date with their gardener. I withheld that Sunday knowing next Saturday will be a better time for gardening. This time was set aside to rest rather than produce.
Besides my green passion needs to get fluffed up like a flatten feather pillow. For months my focus has been our house, all those details with a major insurance claim … the funds, renovation, inspections, and the move back in. There is a good-size pile of paperwork still needs sorting through, but it can just wait. This gardener needs to get her green thumb out again, play in the dirt, sow some herb and vegetable seeds, design some pots of virid green life. We had no time to sow in trays, so direct sowing it will be this year. Better late than never.
Ambitious thoughts for another Saturday, Dean and I spent a good part of the day cleaning gumballs and rocks out of the front yard. The neighbor’s gumball tree scattered its fruit all over the neighborhood with the help of the spring winds. The rocks surfaced during the water and sewer line repairs. Perennials were brought out from the garage. The babies are seated in the cart while the large potted birds-of-paradise, lemon tree, asparagus ferns, geraniums, and arrowhead plant are now situated in the newly mulched landscape. Our succulents have been outdoors on the front porch for about a month. We placed a covering over them with a frost-forecast. Fortunately March and early April have been mild like much of the winter. The herbs and green leafy vegetables will be sowed next weekend as well as annuals planted in a couple of moss baskets. Only so much time during one day. The journey is a part of gardening, not just the end result … one day at time …one season at a time.
I relax on the porch another Sunday. This particular morning is special as my two oldest granddaughters join me. Talking and soaking in the morning sunshine, it is a tender moment indeed like the fresh spring foliage…and more porch Sundays to look forward to.
In my last post I shared some French influence in the culinary arts. That same evening I threw together an overnight blueberry french toast which turned out deliciously, and we have eaten on this dish the past couple of mornings. The kitchen is not the only room where the arts have a French flavor. The artistic style of the French poet and painter Jules Breton now resides in Dean and I’s bedroom. Last year Dean gave me a print of Breton’s painting “The Wounded Seagull”, a replica of my favorite painting at the St. Louis Art Museum. A thoughtful gift. The original was created in 1878 when the World’s Fair was held in Paris. We had this print matted and framed, and now resides over our headboard. When Breton painted it, this was a time in history when “naturalism” was replacing “romanticism” in the arts, artists portraying the daily lives of everyday people. It is thought that Breton romanticized a common peasant girl in this painting. The wounded seagull looks up to her while she appears to be in a far away thought. Sea life was not easy, for the seagull or the girl. I think this painting tells the story of so many I know and love. We care and love each other a mist turmoil. The conflict and contrast continue.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.