Sunday, April 27, 2008

Farmers' market, new plants

These are the new babies. No, not more kittens, but new plants to go in the kitchen garden. In the black containers from left to right are chervil, thyme, poblano pepper, lemon balm and a San Marzano tomato (I was really excited to find that!) from the Cowtown Farmer's Market, a lovely little farmer's market that had plants, veggies, handmade soaps, homemade bread and treats from a small artisanal bakery, locally roasted coffee and cut flowers. Everything has to be grown and/or made by the seller and come from a distance of 150 miles or less from the market. We also bought some lovely pink and white radishes (a little spicy for some of us) and asparagus just cut the day before, along with getting an invitation to come out and visit the 2 acre asparagus farm, that I wish I had followed up on. Our daughter, starting out with a quarter in hand, came home with a very pretty pink flower that should have cost her a dollar.

From there we ran to Walmart for last minute birthday present shopping, where we found (on the left in the new plants photo) a healthy looking fern-leaf dill and (on the right) zucchini and more little okra plants than we could possibly find room for...really, there must be 20 plants in that 6-pack.
They are so small! It's going to be a long wait for that sauteed okra with cumin.

And thinking about anticipating warm weather vegetables, here is a glimpse of the very first of our green tomatoes. The sight of the first tomatoes of the season is always exciting; this plant is an Early Girl bush variety.

But no need to wait for warmer weather to have greens and lettuces. Friday night I made a big salad with ingredients all from our garden, scatter sown in the garden just about 5 weeks ago.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Earth Day

So I'm a couple of days late, Happy Earth Day anyway! Besides, shouldn't every day be Earth Day?

I spent part of Earth day working, weeding and piddling around in my garden and yard, just as I should have, when I got the brilliant idea that that evening's supper, which would of course be eaten outside on the deck, would have something grown in our yard in every dish.

So, I made my usual spinach and mushroom quiche. I had planned on it to please my daughter; it's her favorite and it had been a while, but I substituted half the spinach for swiss chard that I planted in November and is still going strong in the back yard. For a salad I made tabbouleh, which I love (I always add some cubed avocado if I have it for a little surprise creaminess) with lots of parsley from the garden where it has totally taken over its bed. There are 2 fennel plants in that bed that are having to fight for their space...okay, I am helping a little, but I plan to sacrifice quite a bit of the parsley to the Swallowtail caterpillars later in the season. Now, here is the great thing about the tabbouleh, I added just a bit of young tender arugula that I have coming up by the front door. This was an accidental stroke of genius; the nuttiness of that small amount of arugula just SO enhanced the whole dish, that I went out and scattered more arugula seeds in the kitchen garden the next morning (and kept the tabbouleh leftovers for myself!) My 10 year old daughter devoured every grain of the tabbouleh on her plate...and then went back twice for more quiche, of is her favorite, along with tomato basil soup.

My dessert got postponed by my not planning ahead with the sorbet/ice cream maker, but it got good reviews from the family last night. I gathered lemon balm from the front garden and a bit of apple mint from the back herb bed and made a light sorbet. Here's a kind of recipe, but it's very flexible, and you can pretty much put "approximately" in front of each ingredient.

Lemon Balm Sorbet

1 1/2 - 2 cups water
leaves from 3 8 - 10 inch lemon balm stems
6 -8 apple (or other) mint leaves
1/2-3/4 c. sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cup apple juice
juice of one lemon

Simmer leaves and water about 5-8 minutes, press/bruise leaves a little with back of spoon. Strain, returning liquid to pan, discard leaves...a few specks of green okay and even desirable. Add other ingredients to herb water and simmer low for about 10 minutes. Chill thoroughly. Run in sorbet/ice cream maker, or freeze about 45 minutes, stir, freeze 30 minutes, stir, scraping sides, repeat, then let freeze solid.

Options: This would also be nice with a handful of ripe strawberries or blueberries, mashed or blended up. You could then use just sugar, but for the herb only recipe, the honey really enhances it for me.

And Happy Belated Earth Day!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Poetry and Art News

Several months ago I was invited by the Blanton Museum at UT Austin
to write a poem based on a work of art in their collection. Their mail described the project as...
a collaboration we are planning between Texas poets and the Blanton Museum of Art. Our collaboration, tentatively titled “Poetry at the Blanton,” will explore and promote poetry that responds to a work of visual art (painting, sculpture, or installation). These kinds of poems are known as ekphrastic poems; two famous examples are Keats’s "Ode to a Grecian Urn" and Rilke’s “Torso of an Archaic Apollo.” Modern examples include Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Williams’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” both of which respond very differently to the same painting by Pieter Brueghel.

Finally, I decided on this painting,
Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen
Diana and Callisto
circa 1605-1608
Oil on copper

It had been quite a while since the submission deadline, and I had not heard anything and assumed my poem had not been selected for exhibition, but last week I got this message:
Thanks so much for sending the poem, "Callisto Exposed." I'm very pleased to
say that the Blanton has selected it for a wall card, to be placed next to the
painting "Diana and Callisto" in the gallery in April. It should remain there, unless the painting goes on loan or is replaced temporarily with another.
The Museum has scheduled a launch for the Poetry Project on Sunday, April 6 from 1:00-4:00 pm. From 1:00-2:00, they will have a reception; from 2:00-3:00 a reading from some of the featured poets; and from 3:00-4:00 curators will lead tours focusing on the artworks that poets chose to write about. I hope you can
join us, or at least stop by the Museum some time after next week to see your poem as well as the others.
Again, thanks so much for supporting this project.

I don't know if I will make it down to Austin for the event, but I'd like to. I like the idea of presenting poetry and visual art together, something that my friend Michelle Rhea has done before with her poems and photography.

We also got some ART news in the mail last week. The photograph that my 10 year old has had on exhibit in a Texas government building gallery, also in Austin, for the last year has arrived back home, and there will be a ceremony for the student artists at the Modern Art Museum when they pick up their work.

River Reflections

Here's what she said about it:
This place on our land is very special to me because my mom owns it and shares it with me. This amazing place is so wonderful, and I like to enjoy that part of the land every time I get a chance. I like to explore the creek and camp out on the land. The sparkling creek is as pretty as it is in my picture.

Garden Update

It's very cool and grey and rainy today. We had some pretty fantastic lightening and thunder in the pre-dawn hours. I went out early before walking my daughter to school to check the garden and pull a couple of tiny weeds.
The day before Easter we planted the cauliflower transplants, and I scatter sowed spinach and a mesclun salad mix.

Last Saturday with help from a friend visiting from California, rows were marked for 2 kinds of carrots and those seeds and the cosmos our daughter chose were planted.

Fortunately everything survived the storm, and we were missed by the large hail they have been promising us for the last few days. The tiny salad seedlings are looking great.