Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Herbs on Everything

Every season my cooking methods include a gardening goal. "I will put fresh herbs on everything I cook and I will grow all the herbs I need." This is no easy feat in the desert which is why so many people here turn to hydroponics or the grocery store. I personally must have dirt. I'm a closet composter quietly snuggled up in the suburbs, on a very small pail scale, and every ounce of black gold I manage to convert just makes me happy.

This year my Tarragon is surviving. I found out that if I place the pot near the grassline just under the shade of my Bottlebrush tree then the late evening watering sends a fine delicious mist over it; the soak is just enough to keep the delicate plant satisfied in our desert climate.

Even with the drought I'm not giving up my grass, which needs frequent waterings. This little patch keeps me sane. I love the fresh cut smell and I enjoy knowing that it's giving off good clean air around my house. My dog loves it too for his own personal reasons.

Life is a series of tangents as far as I'm concerned so while I'm mentioning fresh green grass I absolutely need to quote from a book I just read, and thoroughly enjoyed. This quote had poignant meaning for me since I spent several days early this past Summer hiking through France near the place the author is describing. Having experienced the smell in person reading this quote causes me to breath deep and wistfully remember.

"We took the train to Paris and later a car south into Cevannes. In the mornings I worked on two or three essays in my increasingly lucid French, to mail back to school. I still have one of these; even now decades later, unfolding it returns me to that feeling of the untranslatable heart of France in May, the smell of grass that was not grass but l'herbe, edibly fresh, as if all French vegetation were fantastically culinary, the ingredients of a salad or something to stir in cheese."  ~ excerpt taken from The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.
The reviews on her other book, Swan Thieves, indicate it's just as supurbly written. Something to look forward to!

I'm getting all excited because that Fall crispyness is in the air and it's time for our second growing season of the year. The so-called crispy air starts with a semi-cool morning that climbs to 95°F by noon. (That's roughly 35°C for my friends across the pond.) Still it's cooling off from those searing triple digits.

I am itching to make a Fish Mold recipe right now but that little project absolutely has to wait until my birthday in December. So, to take my mind off the wait I've decided to make a small raised garden bed of my own design for the desert climate. I'll be using the portland cement recipe mixed with dolomite and peatmoss to make a manageable sized, suburb-oriented (hopefully desert-proof) raised vegetable garden. I'll be designing the tiers and collecting the materials next week.

Meanwhile, here's what I fantasize doing with my healthy green herbs:
  • Snipped bunch of Parsely played off my fingers over the morning eggs covered in melted Gruyure.
  • A sprinkle of Thyme casually dropped onto the cottage cheese heaped across the toasted Irish Soda Oat Bread.
  • Raw Shallots sliced thin and carefully arranged with delicate perfection across the cracked wheat crackers heavily loaded with homemade liver pate.
  • Chives chopped on an extreme angle strewn over the fingerling potatos already rolled in a bit of butter and sprinkled with sea salt.
  • Basil leaves rolled and finely sliced in one fell swoop practically covering the dish of sliced tomatos drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil.
  • Tarragon leaves embedded with Garlic in the beef.
  • A handful of Tarragon stuffed inside a roasting chicken and doused with a glass of wine.
  • A handful of parsley chopped fine and immersed in the salad dressing, laced with a small spoon of plain greek yogurt.
  • Broad leaves of Cilantro or Italian Parsley and quartered cherry tomatoes gently folded in with tuna and buried with Garbonza beans. Oh, and copious amounts of fresh chopped garlic in homemade salad dressing, all served on a bed of leaf lettuce. (We call that one Aunt Bee's Salad, it's a great protein fix and a quick dinner.)
  • Rosemary chopped fine and flung across a baking pan filled with garlic roasted potatoes.
Mmmm! Inspired to write an herb haiku!

Basil leaves cut fine;
Cutting board stained juice green.
Rise sweet leaf odor.



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