At this time of year I like to take my time in my kitchen. Actually … scratch that. I like to spend as little time as possible inside my kitchen, and as much time as possible outside in my garden and at the grill on our deck. Thanks to my long-suffering husband, a ridiculously large gas grill, and a table or two; I am now the proud owner of a pretty much fully functioning makeshift kitchen in my back yard. I am about to complete it with an equally makeshift sink connected to my garden hose in order to wash veggies and muddy little hands without ever having to step inside. Cooking and composing a meal from ingredients grown feet away from my back door adds a layer of contended accomplishment to every mouthful.
The joy I glean from watching my two little people cram secret baby salad leaves or wild strawberries into their mouths (especially when they think I am not watching) is immeasurable. J eats Sorrel plucked from his own patch; paired with cream cheese and crispy prosciutto slammed together between slices of Sourdough for lunch (his own invention). If he wasn’t my own child the nauseatingly pretentious precociousness of it all would be unbearable. But he is mine.
And instead, I am smug.
D breaks all the pea vines trying to reach the fattest ones hiding at the back, that the rest of us have missed. It turns out that only skimming three feet in height has its’ advantages. I don’t care that she was too full to even contemplate a proper supper. Her clandestine foraging fills me with pride.
And so I have come to the comfortable conclusion that I am two things:
1. Ridiculously spoiled. 2. Becoming middle aged.
I know that to have a kitchen in your garden or back yard is an incredible luxury. To have produce grow in that garden, that
can then be prepared on the spot, is even more so. It is also a lot of hard work, and one that until a couple of years ago I did not have the inclination (that I can only conclude comes with age) to even attempt to grow food to actually eat myself. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, which to the trained eye I am sure can easily be spotted. However, perhaps my naivete is a blessing; and I am easily pleased with the results.
Any success I put down to happy accident, and the peas in particular seem to taste all the sweeter as I genuinely didn’t believe I would actually be able to grow any! I can highly recommend growing even just herbs with your kids. I defy you to find a fruit or vegetable that they won’t eat if you get them to grow it, prepare it and cook it with you. It is empowering. Confidence building. An adventure in your very own backyard (or even window box). Who knows, perhaps J’s sandwich, or your own 7 year olds’ crazy combo will become the next big thing?
Let’s hope so … someone is going to have to support my new found (officially middle aged) obsession with Seattle Tilth!
In case you don’t have the shared inclination or space for a veggie patch, I thought I would share this summer standby that is a bit of a permanent fixture in our family. Anyone that has had dinner more than once in my kitchen will undoubtedly have been subjected to these at one time or another. If you have managed to grow some herbs this is a great way to showcase them, and one that the kids can easily help with making – a great way to bash out the days’ frustrations if you have a decent pestle and mortar too!
Buy the best, greenest olives you can afford. Castelvetrano are great. I have used a mixture of Castelvetrano and some cured farmers’ market olives here, for added variety.
You will need:
2 cups of olives
1 lemon; use a peeler to make a few strips of the peel (about half), zest the other half and then juice it, setting aside 1 TBSP for this recipe
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp pepper corns
½ tsp sea salt
2 TBSPs olive oil
a handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro) and/or fresh flat leaf or Italian Parsley to finish
Pound the garlic, seeds, pepper and salt and lemon zest until you create a paste in a pestle and mortar. Slowly add the lemon juice, continuing to smash and stir until as you go, and then whisk in the olive oil with a fork.
Massage the marinade into the olives with your hands, gently bruising the flesh to allow the aromatics to penetrate, then add the slivers of peel and bay leaves. Place in a Ziploc bag or jar in the fridge overnight and then allow to come to room temperature before serving. Throw in some finely sliced fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro, and serve with hot bread and a cold white … or better still … icy beer.