Sunday, August 26, 2007

She's Pissed at Pesto

There was so much to love about dinner tonight; free-range grilled chicken with rosemary and slices of lemon, Purple potatoes, baby fennel, colorful carrots, even baby artichokes simmered in vegetable broth, then grilled to perfection. But who gets all the attention? That's right, the pesto. There were even artichokes in the pesto, but like the unpopular friend who latches on to the cool kid in school, it was barely noticed. Mara confessed after dessert and the end of our movie, that she was upset. Upset with pesto.
"Pesto has an unfair advantage", she said, "it's got it all". The perfect combination of tantilizing tastes, basil (the king of herbs), garlic, lemon, olive oil, expensive pine nuts, and parmesano-reggiano (the king of cheese), this kid has got it all. The other food in the dish hardly held a candle to the sauce in the corner of the plate. I had to admit it was a little unfair. I mean here we had made a special trip to get all the special baby vegetables from the farm cooler (forgot to bring it home after market), the chicken was quite expensive, yet the pesto, made a few weeks ago, late at night as an afterthought to use up some extra wilting basil, needed only to be pulled from the freezer, lumped into a bowl and allowed to melt. Talk about being born with a silver spoon. This trustfunder never had to work a day in its life. The basil plants from which it came have loafed through the season falling prey to any member of the wrong crowd who breezed by, from beetles to grassy weeds. And yet, it shines.

There was always that cool kid in class that got all the attention, never did a damn thing, but got all the grades, girls (or boys) and teacher accolades. Pesto is that valedictorian, and my poor little baby vegetables, the quiet workers who never got noticed. Even as I ate dinner, I thought, "I could use a little more pesto." This is a call to action. We all know the score. Pesto has sat on top for centuries. Mara has vowed to dethrone the king. Can the humble mojo, a Spanish knock-off made with blended toasted almonds, roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic and salt, take down the verdant star? Can a Vietnamese ginger-lemongrass-cilantro-chile paste gain attention in the shadow of the de facto paragon of flavor? Perhaps an olive tapanade can claw its way from the back of the class to gain recognition for its hard work all these years? So many more sauces should have the attention that this simple green mash receives. I could hear the cries of the fennel, the wails of the carrots. They had grown so long in the ground (75 days!), and yet were second string in the presence of this popular simple sauce made with easy-to-grow basil (55 days!). Mara and I know the sting of being the quiet ones in class, of being overlooked, helping the valedictorians with their physics homework, only to be left sitting in the back clapping with stupid grins on our faces during the graduation speech. Well, no more! The time has come to overturn the slacker kings. We will henceforth be seaching for that diamond in the rough, the replacement for the king of sauces.
And, we will also be making a lot of pesto to freeze for the winter. Huzzah!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Otono y Suenos

So much has happened in the past 3 weeks - hard to believe its already the end of August and that we've had enough cool nights to warrant closing the hoophouse at night! The other night I had a dream that I was reading a poem my dream-self had written called "otono y suenos" - autumn and dreams. I know that with the rapid-pace of life these days and the school season breathing down Spencer's neck, we 3 are certainly dreaming of autumn and slower times, more contemplative times, and they are approaching soon!

Meanwhile, we can tomatoes, dry tomatoes, freeze beans and calabrese broccoli. We enjoy visits with family and friends (Mara's cousin Julio made a stop - first time that side of the family has seen our farm!) and turn to our autumnal activities of serious cookbook reading and recipe crafting. I'm not sure why cool nights always make us do this, but here we are once again perusing recipes and dreaming of autumn.

As I said, a lot has happened since our brunch. For starters, the Vermont Fresh Network Forum Dinner went off without a hitch with record-ticket sales, and people with very happy bellies convivially mingling late on a school night. The highlights - Gary Paul Nabhan's reprise of the Terroir-ists Manifesto, and our particular favorites - the storyboards reflecting what Vermont's food traditions were and why we should celebrate them. Spencer is obsessed with the idea of salt pork now! Suffice it to say that it was a picture-perfect evening with fantastic food (if not too many meat sandwiches!), and even better conversation! It was satisfying to see all those RAFT crops we grew out being put to good use!

The farmer's markets continue to thrive, and we seem to be able to continue to meet demand! Of particular excitement are the abundant baby artichokes and the stupendous Romano beans - they simply can't be beat! I always do get a smug sense of pride when customers incredulously look at our bucket of artichokes at market and exclaim "Surely those aren't Vermont Artichokes?!?!" I always get a kick out of sharing with them that if you start artichokes in the wee days of March, you can certainly get them way up here in Vermont. Say, maybe I should call them Vermontichokes! The marketer in me sometimes goes a bit too far... Next time, a great picture of our stupendous artichokes. Anyway, I can't go on without mentioning the proliferation of heirloom tomatoes - it seems that we can't grow enough! They are quite beautiful, though, and always inspire us to eat a few everyday for lunch, and for snack... and, uh, for dinner.... Tomato time is upon us! Eat heartily!

In other news, we took a bold mid-August sojourn to coastal Maine for some lobster, ocean, tiny blueberries, and camping! It felt like a real vacation as we stopped at roadside stands (read as: truck parked in shoulder of road with a hand-scrawled sign reading "Blueberries"), ate our fill of tiny blueberries, and camped beneath the Perseid meteor showers. Trips into Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park led us to the beach for Mr. Smeems' first encounter with salt water and horses up close! A fun time was had, and we felt only a little guilty as our hand-selected lobsters went into the pot kicking and came to our table pink and sweet. No moose sightings on this trip, though there were roadside moose-antlers aplenty!

Fall dreams: sweet dessert pumpkins, calavacitas, roasting chiles, planting garlic, disking and tilling in crops, sowing cover-crops, and tucking in the field for the 6-month sleep. We do look forward to hosting another brunch at our field this fall - please stay tuned for details! Meanwhile, enjoy the late summer bounty, the slow tear-down of garden plots and fields, remember to eat as many tomatoes as possible, and enjoy those perfect cool night sleeps. Until next time!!!

Horsing around at Pirate's Cove Mini Golf outside Acadia.