I had a small problem yesterday. I let Keith know that I was going outside to harvest some of the veggies. He said, “Bring a big basket.” You know how you hear something, but don’t really HEAR it? I sort of heard him say that, but it didn’t register. (If you ask him, he will say that is a constant problem of mine. I say it is because I am so intelligent that I’m constantly thinking…all the time, thinking, and sometimes, something new just doesn’t have room to enter at that exact moment. I think he would say it is because I’m not paying attention.)

Outside I go with our little basket. Green beans, peas, husk cherries, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onions, shallots, scallions…It took me three trips inside with the small basket to harvest what was ready.

If this is one day of harvest, we’ve got our hands full. I haven’t picked the basil yet, but it looks like I have about 12 cups. Dreams of pesto fill my brain. (Did I mention that I have 5 freezer bags full of pesto in the freezer from last season? Um, yeah…)

The good neighbor, his daughter and some of her friends were walking by as I was picking. They sampled some husk cherries, green beans and sugar snap peas, fresh from the basket. Doesn’t that just warm the heart? Neighbors, standing by the garden fence, chatting about the weather, taste-testing crispy, fresh-picked sweet peas. An idyllic picture of countryside life. (We had to stop mid-sentence as a motorcycle hit the bottom of the hill and revved it’s engine to pick up speed for the straightaway. Jerk! C’mon, it’s a residential neighborhood. Did you do that on purpose when you saw the 5 of us standing there? I hope you get crotch-rot in your leather chaps on a humid 90-degree day!) I smile as I look back on yesterday – a lovely Summer day on the homestead.

Keith is making blueberry pancakes for breakfast with local blueberries (if you see a farmstand, stop and get blueberries and corn – it’ll be worth it!), King Arthur flour (I love that brand) and our maple syrup. Doesn’t it sound so delish? I can’t wait. I asked him to save 5 blueberries from the container to decoratively arrange on top of the pancakes when he serves them. Martha taught me right, it’s all about the presentation! (That’s true love, he just puts up with little requests like that.)

While he works at the griddle (we love our Jenn-Air – hey look, two N’s! It’s one of the reasons we bought this house – not the N’s – the grille) I look up recipes for using green beans. You can only steam them and serve with butter for so many meals before it gets a bit boring. I bought 2 varieties. One is called Tavara. They are slim and skinny – ones I would call French. The other are Burpee Provider. They’re fat and almost fuzzy. I like the Tavara better, but the Burpee Provider is really that – they are prolific!

*****Small aside*****

Dear Future Jenn:

While you are having fun ordering seeds, please remember that more is not always better. Unless you became a vegetarian again or plan on supplying local restaurants with your harvest, might I suggest you cut back on the number of each variety you put in the ground in 2011 and try more varieties in general? While 24 green bean plants sounded good in 2010, please remember that harvesting a gallon bag of green beans each day did cause you to spend the entire July weekend in front of a pot of boiling water blanching green beans for the freezer instead of floating in the pool. Just sayin’.

*****End of letter*****

Something about the idea of that Green Bean Casserole from our childhoods makes me skeevy. Canned soup, french fried onions from a can and greenbeans, slimed up and cooked. I am making a “that sounds yucky” face. So, here I am with Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals GetTogethers trying to get inspired. Page 167 – Green Beans with lemon and toasted almonds. This sounds good. We’ll have it tonight with the buttermilk fried chicken K has been soaking in batter since last night.

2 oz sliced almonds

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 tbsp butter

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

In a medium pan, toast almonds over medium heat. Remove from pan and add 1/2 inch water to the pan. Bring water to a boil, add the beans and cover the pan. Reduce heat. Cook beans 4-5 minutes until just tender, yet still green. Drain beans and set aside. Return pan to stovetop and melt butter over moderate heat. Add lemon juice to butter (juice lemon half right-side up to keep seeds in lemon rather than in your beans). Add beans to lemon butter and coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer green beans to dinner plates or serving plate and top with almonds.

Thanks, Rachael. I’ll let you know how it is.

Another recipe is mine. This one rocks. It takes an entire day to prepare, but I’ll tell you where you can take a shortcut.

Smoky chicken pesto salad

Smoke a whole chicken in your smoker (shorcut: Don’t smoke the chicken) Cool and cut meat (white and dark) into chunks.

Boil a box of pasta (I like the bowties, use whatever you like). Rinse with cool water and drain, making sure all the water has dripped out.

Make pesto. I eyeball it – but be sure to toast the pine nuts before you put them in the food processer. I will take you it makes a TON of difference. Save some of the pine nuts aside (again, all about presentation!)

Mix the pesto into the cool pasta in a big bowl. Add grape tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Add fresh mozzarella, cut in chunks – you know the stuff that is soft and spongy and is found by the olives in the grocery store floating in a liquid? (Or better yet, make your own! Making cheese isn’t difficult! More on that in a later post!) That stuff.

Pour into your serving dish, sprinkle with some baby basil leaves (keep them whole, they bruise when they’re cut), a few more tomato chunks and then the toasted pine nuts. Dust lightly with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Nummy!

WHILE i STRUGGLE with Caps-Lock thanks to Peber, I will say this post is finished just in time for blueberry pancakes. It’s a good life.

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