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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The First Bite Of Summer

Eight long months.

It's been eight months since last years  first frost zapped our beloved hardworking tomato plants into submission.  They weren't in the best of shape after the long hot summer and draught, but they were still producing a lot of tomatoes. The cold snap killed them. With the blink of an eye, they were gone.

This year, we only have five heirloom tomato plants growing in huge containers on the back deck. Although they have plenty of  beautiful green tomatoes on them, we'll have to wait for them to ripen and hope our groundhog doesn't get to them before we do.

It's our humble grape tomato plant that came through first. For the past couple of weeks, I've watched  small grape tomatoes form into clusters (much like grapes) and dangle from tiny stems.  Grape tomatoes are funny things.  They never  ripen all at once. They ripen one, two, or three at a time. Usually, there are never enough of them to fool with. They're to be picked and nibbled on, like garden snacks, while tending the main garden. Small warm sweet bursts of freshness.

Last night, I found eight ripe grape tomatoes dangling separately throughout the plant. Eight small tomatoes ended eight months of tomato anticipation.

We immediately plucked two and ate them, still warm from the sun.  Summer officially began.

 I knew exactly what I would do with the remaining tomatoes.

The herbs on the back deck are thriving. Really thriving. The more I cut them, the more they grow. The African Blue Basil has bolted from the rains, heat, and humidity, eclipsing the gorgeous parsley, chervil, thyme, rosemary, sweet basil, and chives.  Although it will never go to seed because it's a sterile basil cultivar, I still cut it back to control it.

Last night, we had tomatoes and bountiful herbs.

Salad caprese....with a twist.

I had already planned a simple pasta supper. Salad caprese fit perfectly with the plan. I didn't  want to muck around with the delicate freshness of our little tomato booty, so I kept it very light handed.

I loaded our blender with generous handfuls of African Blue Basil leaves, sweet basil leaves, parsley, chives, bitter baby arugula, salt, and pepper. After adding a cup of extra virgin olive oil, I pulverized and blended the herbs into a luscious bright green herbed oil.

I drizzled the herbed oil onto a plate, topping it with halved grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella bocconcinis, and basil leaves.  Fresh squeezed lemon juice finished the salad caprese.

The combination of  warm burstingly sweet tomatoes with tiny bites of fresh mozzarella peppered with fresh basil leaves was perfect.  Fresh.  Exciting.  Although certainly not traditional, the pooled herbed oil splashed with lemon juice created a broken vinaigrette, providing subtle acidic undertones. Fabulous.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Head To Tail

My boss had a side of slaughtered beef in her freezer. Knowing that her family would only eat certain parts of the animal, I was the beneficiary of the offal stuff they didn't want. My bag of goodies was filled with offal things along with bits and parcels from the entire side of beef from head to tail. Literally. Oxtails. Tail.


A couple of days ago, on a wonderfully dreary day, I pulled the gifted oxtails out of the freezer to thaw for a long slow braise.  It was the perfect day for languid cooking.

When I usually purchase oxtails from the market, they are beautifully packaged, perfectly symetrical, and equally sized.  When I unwrapped my gifted not-for-sale package of oxtails, I was surprized to find one long tail.  Oxtail. Singular.  The whole tail. The tail started from the large meaty end attached to the hind quarters of the animal and finished with the teeny tiny end used to swat flies.  Interesting.

 Have your butcher cut the tail into equal portions at the joints.

My butcher wasn't having a glass of wine with me in my kitchen.

Ok, so I destroyed my favorite cleaver years ago trimming a tree in the back yard, so that wasn't an option.  I sharpened my Whustof  knives to slice the tail. Didn't happen.  Eventually, I used a heavy duty serrated knife to gently slice the tail into practical serving pieces.  I left the the tiny fly swatter intact as a flavor enhancer.

Braising is very forgiving. Anything cooked long enough to render tenderness cannot go wrong. 

Usually, I go the bourguignon route when brasining oxtails.  Last night, I wanted to try something a bit different. I took the tails on an asian journey with a riff on orange beef.  Instead of a quick crisp stir-fry version of orange beef, I used the same flavor profiles for a long methodical slow braise.

Using what I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator, it was more of a method than a recipe.

After seasoning the oxtails, I browned them in a dutch oven until they were deeply caramelized, removed them to a side plate, and dropped fresh minced ginger, sliced onions, sliced celery, sliced red bell peppers, salt, and pepper into the hot seasoned oil. 

When the vegetables softened without coloring, I added fresh minced garlic,  fresh orange peel and red pepper flakes.  Just before the garlic browned, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 of dry sherry (in lieu of shaoxing wine) and let it reduce by half before adding 1 cup of good quality fermented soy sauce, 2 cups of chicken stock, 2 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, fresh orange juice,  fresh parsley, and bundled cilantro stems.

When the braising liquid came to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer,  skimmed the scum from the surface, dropped in the squeezed orange halves, and lowered the oxtails into the fragrant bubbling bath.  After clamping the lid over the orange beef, I slid the pot into a 325 degree oven and let the tails braise slowly for an improbable 4 1/2 hours, checking them periodically and adding stock when neccessary.

4 1/2 hours.  That was a long time to cook anything.  I could have buried a whole hog in the back yard wrapped with banana leaves,  topped with dampened seaweed, and left to slow cook for hours under glowing embers for a pig roast. 

4 1/2 hours gave me plenty of time to prepare garnishes and accompaniments for the orange beef.  Right.
I soaked rice noodles in hot water until they softened before tossing them with sliced scallions,  sliced red bell peppers, orange zest, a splash of rice wine vinegar, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.  Done.

To add a slight whisper of crunch as a fun garnish, I deep fried fresh cilantro and baby arugula until they turned into bright green delicate translucent edible stained glass herbs.  Fun!

While the oxtails braised, I took a nap.

I trimmed the honeysuckle bushes in the back yard.

Michael and I drank lots of wine.

After 4 1/2 hours, I removed the oxtails from the heavily reduced brasing sauce, tossed the spent vegetables, degreased the liquid, and added a cup of beef stock along with fresh sliced red bell peppers.  When the sauce came back to a simmer, I tumbled the oxtails into the simmering sticky sauce, turning them to coat and heat through.

I plated the rice noodles, topping them with the unctuous oxtails.  Slivered shallots, sesame seeds, green onions, and deep fried arugula finished them off.

Trouble?  Yes.

Worth it? Totally.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Island Home

Michael and I are usually island hopping in the caribbean this time of year. For the past 12 years, we've cruised the entire caribbean eating and drinking our way through every island's culture and cuisine.

Nothing quite matches the true beauty of the caribbean. Teal blue seas mirrored by equally blue skies interrupted only by occasional gorgeous monumental clouds.  With lush volcanic islands rising from the sea like  tall gigantic stepping stones, cities and villages cling to the terrain and spill down the mountains until they meet water.
Throughout all of our journeys, the food was always spendid. Whether it was pure cocoa paste from the Fond Doux Estate cocoa bean farm perched on a mountain on St. Lucia, curried goat with rice while relaxing on the beaches of St Nevis, garlicky escargot on the French side of Sint Maartin, succulent shrimp mofongo from Puerto Rico, or spicy empanadas between swims on the beaches of Barbados, the food was adventurous and delicious. Although prevalent throughout the islands, I drew the line with horse meat. Nope.  Didn't happen.

We're not island hopping this year. Even though  we won't be swimming in the warm blue waters or flecking our toes through soft sandy beaches, I knew that with  little effort we could savor  the flavors of the caribbean right here at home.

We had a bottle of syrupy sweet Brinley Gold Mango Rum from St. Kitts buried in the freezer under a few bags of chicken backs. As a jumping off point,  I knew the mango infused rum could be a great base  for a glazeIt was a tropical drinkable souvenir that we brought home from one of our favorite islands.

I usually don't shop with lists.  I like to browse the markets, checking out what looks good on that particular day.  When I ran across jumbo plump fresh water prawns, I was totally inspired.  With ideas bouncing around my distracted mind, I scurried around the store  gathering  papyas, mangoes, limes, lemons, sugar cane skewers, bell peppers, and jicama.

A couple of nights ago, I had a blast throwing together an edible memory.

It was stupidly simple.

The mango rum was almost sticky sweet, so I added  fresh squeezed  orange, lemon, and lime juice for acidic balance before tossing in minced garlic, salt, and pepper.

I did seperate skewers for the prawns and vegetables because prawns cook in a heart beat and I didn't want tough prawns.  The sugar cane rods were too flimsy for skewering, so I used soaked bamboo skewers.

After threading two sets of skewers with jumbo prawns and sliced mango, I finished the last two sets with shards of green pepper, sliced mango, halved shallots, and sliced roma tomatoes.  I layered the skewers in a casserole dish, doused them with the citrusy mango rum, and slid them into the refrigerator to marinate.

We love the apple potato flavor and crunch of fresh jicama. Thinking it could be a perfect bright foil to the grilled skewers, I tossed together a simple salad of peeled and sliced  jicama  batons, sliced  fresh papaya, slivered green onions, lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Mise en place. It was time for a wine break. Big time. We had  a lot going on this past week. Wine was essential.

Once I got my groove on and mosied back into the kitchen, it went fast.  Very fast.  Almost too fast.

I started with a lazy pot of delicate jasmine rice as a bed for the skewers. While the rice quietly bubbled away, I got a grill pan smoking hot and grilled the vegetable skewers until they were beautifully caramelized and sweetly charred.  After removing them to a warm oven, I tossed the prawns onto the smoking grill pan and drizzled them with the mango rum glaze, letting  them sizzle, dizzle, and dazzle until they were just cooked through.  Not wanting to waste the sugar cane rods, I grilled them along with the prawns in the gooey mango rum glaze.  Why not?

I plated the jasmine rice, gently nestling the skewers into the fragrant strands and nudging the jicama papaya salad to the side.

The mango rum glaze completely enveloped the shrimp, vegetables, and grilled fruit. Sticky delicious fun. The  prawns were perfectly plump and tender, squirting prawn juice through the sweet rum glaze. The tangy-sweet grilled mangoes enhanced the meaty prawns with a slight smoky acidity, while the grilled  tomatoes, peppers, and shallots balanced the sweet lazy glaze with crisp savory undertones. Oh, the sugar cane skewers? We sucked on them until they were completely dry. Ridiculous. Spectacular.  Really.

We felt like we were home.  Our island home.

There were only a couple of things missing. Michael's beloved seagulls.

And  Rum Runners......laced with Absinthe.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Side By Side

Originating in New Orleans, grillades (GREE-yahds) and grits is a southern staple for breakfast or brunch.  Typically, it's made with pounded palliards of highly seasoned beef or veal that are floured and pan fried until golden brown before braising long and slow with vegetables in a seasoned aromatic beef stock.  Served over cheese grits, grillades rock the soul.

A couple of nights ago, I busted out a riff on grillades and served them over baked cheese grits.  I pan fried  pounded floured veal cutlets until golden before removing them to a plate along with thier juices. 

Using the same skillet, I sauteed sliced green peppers, sliced red bell peppers, minced garlic, and sliced candy onions until they caramelized.  When the onions began to brown, I added 2 chopped roma tomatoes, fresh thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika, 2 bay leaves, hickory-smoked sea salt , cracked  black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of flour.  After the flour started to paste, I added 4 cups of beef stock, incorprating it until slightly thickened.  When the braising liquid came to a boil, I reduced it to simmer, added chopped green onions  and red wine vinegar. After sliding sliding the grillades with their accumulated juices back into the sauce, I covered the pan and let it braise for 2 hours.

The tomato, green pepper, red pepper, garlic, thyme, paprika, and cayenne pepper roux-based  thickened beef stock totally bathed the tender veal in a deeply flavored silken sauce. When spooned over and beside sliced wedges of baked  Weisenberger Mills sharp cheddar cheese grits, the meltingly tender grillades were a delicious and  luxurious pleasure.  Seriously.

As tasty as the grillades and cheesy grits were, they paled in comparison when paired side by side with a simple dish of sauteed glazed baby purple carrots.

Surprizingly, I had forgotten about the purple carrots tucked away in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. I still sported battle scars from an elbow match with two pretentious urbanites while shopping at the Sunday farmers' market. While they manhandled the produce, questioning the freshness of every item for their garden-fresh Sunday salad supper, I stood there with my dollar bills fluttering in the breeze.  Thankfully, they didn't touch, squeeze, sniff, or fondle my prized baby purple carrots.  I even purchased the bulbous candy onion they dropped back into the basket after learning it was cut the previous morning. Their loss. All fresh local produce is beautiful. To me, the dirt-encrusted gnarly purple carrots were absolutely gorgeous.

Not wanting to muck around with their tender freshness, I prepared the baby carrots very simply.

After trimming the green tops, I gently scraped the thin purple skin from the carrots and sliced them in half.  They were stunning. When sliced, the purple gave way to red which bled to a soft orange center.  I blanched them in salted water until tender, drained them, and set them aside.

While the grillades braised and the grits baked, our house smelled amazing.  After a few several glasses of wine, I pulled the grillades and grits from the oven and finished the carrots.

After melting several pats of unsalted butter in a heavy cast iron skillet, I tossed the colorful carrots into the butter to coat.  When the butter sizzled around the carrots, I drizzled 2 tablespoons of Abigales clover honey over them and tossed them in the buttery sticky honey until they were well glazed.

I wasn't shooting for cloyingly sweet church pot-luck carrots, so I squeezed fresh lemon juice over the bubbling carrots,  removed them from the heat, and gave them a good toss in the newly annointed lemon honey glaze.

I plated the grillades and grits, tumbled the carrots to the side, and finished with fresh thyme from our garden.

The carrots were fabulous. They were tender and soft with subtle acidic sweetness from the glaze. 

The kicker?  I was in heaven when the honeyed lemon glaze oozed into the grillade gravy, creating a G-spot sauce combo.  Yep.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Face Off

A few days ago, I had a hankering for soft shell crabs. There must have been some weird instinct lingering in my brain reminding me that May and eary June is molting season for Marlyand Blue Crabs.  As they grow, they shed their smaller shells. When they molt, there is a very short period of time before their soft shells harden. During that small window, whole crabs, (soft shells and all)  are completely edible and delicious.

Either pan fried, sauteed, or deep fried, Michael and I adore them.  Whenever we run across soft shell crabs, we order them. While at work, I followed up my hankering with a call to the Lexington Seafood Company to ask if that had any in stock.  They have fresh seafood flown in regulary, so I thought I had a good shot. "Why, yes sir, we do."  I was giddy, spending the rest of my day daydreaming about how I'd prepare them. As much as I love soft shell crabs, I've never made them at home.  Big deal, right?  Fry them, douse them with fresh lemon juice, and eat them. Easy.

After searching around for various methods and ideas for  soft shell crabs, three pre-cooking procedures were consistent.

#1. Only use live soft shell crabs.  Got it.

#2. Trim the apron from the underbelly to remove the gills and other junk. Check. 

And......#3?  Use kitchen shears to cut the faces off of the live crabs. What? Cut the faces off of the  crabs?  With kitchen shears? While they're alive?  Are you kidding me????

It just seemed odd and weird.

Don't get me wrong, I've done my share of seafood killing for our dining pleasures.

 I've peirced  live lobsters between the eyes to intantly kill them before cooking. (Granted, I'll never do it again. I was in a classroom with people watching. There was pressure.)  I've dropped thousands of fresh living crabs into steam pots over the years simply for the shear joy of swiping their succulent meat through drawn butter.   I've  killed countless live clams and mussels to toss with pastas or slurp with varied sauces.  Who hasn't, really?  Easy.

But, soft shell crabs with faces off?  Nope.  Didn't do it for me.

That day, my soft shell crab hankering morphed into soup and a salad for dinner.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Baby Food

Until yesterday, I had never been to the Sunday farmers' market.  I'm not sure why, really.  We stopped by on our way to brunch to check it out.  I was quite surprized how big it was. Impressive.  There were still a lot of hydroponic tomatoes. Yesterday, some of them looked pretty damn good, almost appearing sun-kissed and not so perfectly orb-shaped.  They might have to do until our urban crop kicks in. 

Most of the offerings were teeny tiny baby versions of vegetables that will eventually be sold full-sized and abundant later in the season.  Didn't matter.  I like baby food.  If vegetables are going to be teeny tiny right now, I'll simply buy more of them.

I snagged a paper bag filled with baby petite red new potatoes.  Real new potatoes. Like, plucked-from-the-soil-yesterday-morning new potatoes. They still had dirt clinging to them. Cherry Hill Farm had cute baby yellow squash, purple baby carrots, and baby bell peppers. Bagged.  The largest item in my Martha Stewart tote was a big candy onion bulb  from Anderson county.

It was an exhausting weekend.  While Michael and I enjoyed  a lazy Sunday, I wanted something for dinner that would practically cook itself.  No fuss. Low impact.  In addition to our farmers' market booty, I had things in the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator that I needed to use.  Soup was the answer. Chowder.  Specifically, fish chowder.

Unconventional chowder.  Really unconventional chowder.

Lazy mise en place.

I sliced 4 baby yellow squash, diced a candy onion, halved a few of the larger baby new potatoes, and crushed 2 garlic cloves.

Oddly, we didn't have bacon.  For some reason, I had a chunk of smoked hog jowel in the meat drawer of the refrigerator.  I sliced the meaty jowel into lardons and tossed them into a heated dutch oven with olive oil to render the fat and crisp up.  After the smoky fat oozed into the olive oil and started to smoke, I added a cup of diced candy onion, sliced celery, and crushed garlic.  When the vegetables softened without taking on color, I deglazed the pot with white wine and clam juice.  I let it reduce by half before adding 4 cups of chicken stock.

When the stock came to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer, tumbled in the potatoes, clamped on a lid, and took a nap.

After an hour or so, I joined Michael in the parlor for a few glasses of wine.

Between glasses of wine, I removed the lid from the simmering stock to let it reduce by half before adding 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, butter, and chopped haddock.  I let the creamy fish chowder simmer until it thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.

I spooned the  chowder into large pasta bowls with a  scattering of diced pimentos, cracked black pepper, and red Austrailian sea salt. In a fit of madness, I totally broke the rules and  grated cheese over our chowders....parmigiano reggiano for Michael's bowl  and pungently ripe Raclette Livradoux for mine.  Insanity. Garden chervil and chives finished them off.

The chowder was crazy good and very rich. The cheesy cream completely enveloped the silky haddock, tender potatoes, and  yellow squash.  While the cracked pepper provided a warm heat, the red Australian sea salt added an interesting smoky crunch. Fantastic.

What's for dinner?

Baby food.

Creamy haddock chowder with tender baby vegetables.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I had a blast at the farmers' market this past weekend. I mosied around, checked things out, and asked a lot of questions before I started shopping.  Cherry Hill Farm had lovely baby zucchini, baby yellow squash, petite Yummy multi-colored sweet peppers, and gorgeous large broccoli florets. Sold. One vendor, tucked away and hidden from the market madness, offered only three things;  hydroponic tomatoes, ( our only option for quite some time), curiously green rhubarb, and beautiful ropes of garlic scapes.  I snapped a scape in two and tasted it. It had the essence of fresh garlic without the biting heat of raw garlic. I had to have them.

Garlic scapes are the flowering shoots from young hardneck garlic cloves.  They push through the ground, curl toward the sun, and float  through the air without effort.  Garlic growers snip the shoots  to focus the garlic's energy back  into the bulbs for growth and development. For a short time, we get the scapes. Score. Our gain.  Having the texture of young fresh green beans, scapes can be stir-fried, sauteed, or pureed into pesto. 

Last night, I decided to grill them.  In fact, I opted to grill our entire dinner using almost everything I bought from the market.

 No recipes. Just food fun.

Earlier in the day,  I marinated gifted Not For Sale pork tenderloin medallions in olive oil, crushed garlic, grated onion, fresh lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.  I slid them into the refrigerator to soak up the flavors while Michael and I spent a very hot day at the pool.

After we cooled down over several glasses of wine, Michael fired the grill. I'm not allowed to light the grill anymore. My last brush with fire nearly burned down the house.

With the flames screaming hot,  I tossed the tiny peppers, garlic scapes, and halved sugar-dusted lemons over the glowing coals to char, caralamelize, and soften. As the vegetables started to  blister, I removed them from the heat and tossed them with Olivia Bella olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.  For sweet acidity, I showered them with fresh squeezed juice from the chargrilled caramelized lemon halves and set them aside.

While waiting for the fire to die down, I blanched the broccoli florets in salted water for 3 minutes, dropped them into an ice water bath to cool, drained them in a colander, and patted them dry.

After pulling the pork tenderloin medallions from the refridgerator  and slicing leftover chilled reggiano-laced polenta into polenta sticks, a much needed wine break followed. I needed to catch my breath..

After that, it went fast.  Really fast.

I brushed  the polenta sticks with olive oil and placed them onto the grill for a couple of minutes per side to  brown with grill marks. After sliding them to side of the grill, I tossed the pork medallions over the hot coals and grilled them for about 4 minutes per side , or until cooked through, before pulling them off the heat to rest.

While the pork rested, I grilled the broccoli just until the tips of the florets charred, removed them, and doused them with garlic butter.

I stacked the polenta sticks, plated the pork medallions next to the stacks, and nestled the  broccoli  alongside both.

After tossing the charred baby peppers and garlic scapes with the lemon juice/olive oil dressing, I tumbled the "salad" over the polenta and grilled pork, ending with a shower of fresh parsley.

There was a lot going on.  The broccoli was fantastic. Perfectly cooked with a bit of smoky char, it  dripped with garlic butter.  The  caramelized peppers slid  through the  crunchy polenta stacks, adding subtle silky texture along with sweetened lemon acidity.

The garlic scapes were smoky and crisp. With  mild garlic undertones, they had the mouthfeel of al dente green beans.  Interesting.  Dressed with  lemon and olive oil, the scapes added bright depth to the grilled pork. Combined with  fresh grassy parsley and acidic sweet lemon,  the soft  scapes suggested a flavor riff on gremolata. ( the classic lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and  olive oil garnish used to awaken long braised meats.)  Fascinating. 

It was great fun to lounge on the deck and grill our entire meal. Trouble?  Well, maybe.

One bite of the smoky caramelized candied pork fat swiped through puddled garlic butter made it worth every ounce of trouble.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?
I went through a period when gardening was of no interest to me.  My father had just passed away and  the mere thought of planting things only to watch them die just didn't do it for me. Nothing could coax the will or desire out of me to grow stuff.

Somehow, that changed when Michael and I bought our house.  Even though we live downtown, we have a huge lot. For starters,  I had to grow grass.  I planted every single blade of grass that we now pay someone to mow.  The perennial garden soon followed.  Before I knew it, The joy was back. Gardening, once again,  represented hope and beauty.
It never occured to me to grow food. Herbs maybe, but not food. A few years ago, an article in Ace Weekly inspired me to start herbs and vegetables from seed. Our house was littered with tiny plastic-covered greenhouses filled with peat pots. It was riduculous. They were everywhere. Seedling hoarders.

When it was time to plant the seedlings, the only option was to use containers.  The perennial garden was full, so we became urban container gardeners.

I had moderate success with the vegetables that year.  The herbs were abundant. I had enough herbs to share, which led to a wonderful and dear friendship. Hope.  Beauty.

Last year, Michael ordered two dozen heirloom tomato plants.  It was crazy.  We  Planted 19 in caged containers and shared the remaining ones.  Our deck was covered with tomato plants.  Along with the tomatoes, we had green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and seranno peppers. Cucumbers vined their up a trellis fastened to the garage.  We clearly had lost our minds.....
....until everything started producing. When the tomatoes started rolling in we ate them every night, still warm from the sun.  They were juicy, sweet, and pure.  We never tired of them. Eventually,  they became too numerous to simply slice and eat, so I started cooking with them. I made tomato juice for Blood Marys, roasted them for sauces, stuffed them, pureed them, and used them for soups and salads.  It was a lovely summer filled with eating food  we grew, living off  the fat of our land.

A couple of weeks ago, we strolled through the  farmers' market snacking on things and chatting with the vendors.  Apparently, the local tomato crop is destined to be very late this year because they couldn't get the plants into the ground due to the heavy rains.

We managed to get ours into the ground (containers) on the one single day it didn't rain during the monsoon season.

Our tomato plants are already blooming.

Lillians Yellow Heirloom, Sante Lucie Red Heirloom, Sister Purple/Pink Heirloom, and standard grape tomatoes.  They've tripled in size and have almost topped the cages. The cucumbers have a way to go, but soon will be climbing and vining toward the sun.  I've officially stopped buying herbs from the grocery.  I step out back and snip what I need.  Chervil, sweet basil, purple basil, rosemary, thyme, and chives. Heaven.


With beautiful and bountiful hope, that's how my garden grows.