So Much Abundance

best fennel 2.jpgI think it’s funny that when I’m in the middle of canning it’s almost impossible to prepare actual meals.  I end up eating a lot of sandwiches and easy food.  Back when we had more money it was a great excuse to order in from restaurants.  This week the best thing I ate was this pan of roasted vegetables all of which I got from the two organic farms I buy from.  The tofu isn’t organic and came from the regular market. 

I cut up two sweet potatoes, a few small Yukon potatoes, an enormous fennel bulb cut into six wedges, one whole block of tofu, and an entire head of garlic on my roasting pan.  I cut everything into (roughly) 1.5″ size pieces.  I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and drizzled a generous amount of olive oil over the whole thing.  I cooked them at 400 degrees, turning them about every ten or fifteen minutes for an hour.

Best meal I’ve had all week!  I’m not usually a huge fan of fennel but I have to say that eaten this way has changed my mind.  I can no longer remember how I’ve fixed them in the past.

The best thing I ate the previous week was a pasta sauce I made with chanterelles and caramelized onions added to a sharp white cheddar cheese sauce.  The sauce was so thick it worked well to spread on toast and broil. 

All my other meals have been breakfasts of eggs, cheese, and tomatoes or lunches of cheese tomato sandwiches. 

best roasted tomatoes 2.jpgI did make (and freeze) some tomato soup.  I consulted friends for herb ideas and everyone has something different to suggest.  I ended up using fresh thyme from the garden and the very last of the fresh local basil.  I thought it was really nice but Philip preferred it as a dip for a grilled cheese.  He didn’t love it on it’s own merit, which is why I didn’t bother posting my recipe here.  It needs work.  All soups should be worthy of standing alone. 

Vespa pack mule 2.jpgI made my annual trip to the local farm Bernard’s this year for tomatoes, summer squash, and eggplant – all upick.  I ended up getting some jalapenos even though I promised myself I wouldn’t.  Here’s what I packed on my scooter:

74 eggplants
3.5 pounds jalapenos
34 pounds green and red tomatoes

All of this food cost only $36.95.  I am not kidding.  The eggplants were 25 cents each, the tomatoes were 47 cents a pound, and the jalapenos were comparatively expensive at 99 cents a pound.

free walnuts 2.jpgLast year my friend Laurie brought me a box of walnuts she’d collected from her mother’s tree.  I put them in the freezer and only just cracked them all open in the last few weeks.  I portioned them into vacuum sealed bags and put them back in the freezer.  Walnuts are expensive to buy and I can go through a lot making this recipe for walnut pesto sauce.

aphid pickle 2.jpg

The pickles.  This was not my year for pickles.  There weren’t any pickling cucumbers available for upick so I decided I’d make dilled beans.  When I tried picking at the farm it was not a great moment for them either.  So I resolved to just make extra cauliflower pickles.  I love dill cauliflower pickles so I figured I’d be just as happy eating these as the usual cucumber dills.

The day I brought home my giant bunch of dill-heads I was so giddy with excitement that I got chatty with the Rite-aid check-out guy who could be expected to have no interest at all in pickles.  To my surprise I was wrong.  I said “Dill!!” and he said “Pickles!” and I spazzed out at him when I found out his grandmother makes cauliflower pickles and it turns out this barely-twenty-something kid is a fan of cooking blogs and home canning

Those dill-heads would turn out to be a grim* reminder of the superiority of insects.  For anyone who doesn’t know, it is generally best not to wash herbs any time you can get away with it.  I have been pickling for 4 years and have never had any problems with my dill.  I’ve grown complacent and careless, apparently.  I canned 17 quarts of pickles and every single one of those jars has a few tiny floating pickled aphids in them. 

I thought I was going to have to dump the jars out and cry over a very large beer.  Luckily my husband and my mother are more intrepid eaters than I am and have declared that they are perfectly happy to rinse the pickles before eating. 

I obviously had to make some aphid-free cauliflower pickles for myself.  I got more dill heads, really nice looking ones that didn’t seem to have any aphids on them.  But I wasn’t going to take any risks so I soaked my fresh dill heads in vinegar for a few hours thinking this might make all the aphids die and let go.  It worked!  (Yes, there were aphids on these ones too.)  But then I made the mistake of taking them out of the vinegar and waiting to use them the next day by which time they had developed a truly suspect odor.

In the end my last 14 quarts of pickles had no dill-heads.  Instead I used a quarter teaspoon of dill seeds and a quarter teaspoon of dried dill leaves.  I have no idea how they will turn out.

I am now done with my preserving season!  I am ready to concentrate on actual cooking, curtain making, and writing. 

*Possibly an overstatement.

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5 thoughts on “So Much Abundance

  1. Kathy

    You are so fortunate to be near a u-pick farm that has such great produce and fantastic prices. Makes my heart happy for you!

  2. Angelina

    I am lucky! Food is so expensive. The u-pick isn’t organic but they don’t spray their u-pick fields and while I would love to only buy organic I think you can’t beat 25 cents an eggplant that hasn’t been sprayed. Seriously- why aren’t such options and prices made available in more places to more people? I look forward to picking at the farm every summer. You have some good upicks close to you too, right?

  3. Angela

    Ah, but you see, tomato soup IS dip for grilled cheese. To assume the soup is at fault in this case is erroneous thinking. :-) Some people (including me) don’t eat tomato soup by itself no matter how good it is. So your soup is probably fantastic!
    I have a great idea — bring me some and I’ll test it. It might take two or ten tries, though. Hee hee.
    ~Angela :-)

  4. Angelina

    Why didn’t I think of using you as a tester?! Well, I froze some so I can bring you some. We should have a grilled cheese tomato soup evening.
    But I beg to disagree about tomato soup. I think it should have the balls to stand alone.

  5. Kathy

    Not really, no. We have a few u-pick strawberry fields but for apples, cucumbers and tomatoes I have to go to Sauvie Island. The closest farms I’ve found for eggplant, peppers, etc are in Woodburn but I think next summer I may drive the distance and make a full day of picking.
    I think no spray is great. The cost to become certified organic is so ridiculously high and just not an option for many farmers. I’m happy to support no spray farmers.

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