Archive for June, 2010

beets, scapes, broccoli, daikon, chard, scallions

This week's haul: beets, broccoli, garlic scapes, daikon, rainbow chard, scallions, and a huge bok choy (not pictured).

Have I mentioned how much I love my community garden?

It’s such a peaceful place – a quiet piece of Eden in a busy, busy corner of Missoula.

I pick up our share on Monday afternoons after I leave work, and despite knowing my destination is one of my favorite places, I always quietly dread the drive.

Normally, I surpass the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Missoula’s famously congested Reserve Street by hopping on the interstate and taking a less-direct, but quicker, route home.

On Mondays, though, I must face the beast that is Reserve head-on. There’s no other way to get to the garden from my workplace because there are only so many bridges that cross the Clark Fork.

I breathe deeply and listen to music on the way, trying not to care about how much gas I’m wasting (this worry is of course directly tied to my guilt about my dependency on my car and the Gulf Oil Spill) in the barely crawling traffic, or the oppressive 90-degree heat that makes my car’s less-than-perfect air conditioning system work, feebly, on overdrive. I smile at other drivers, I sing along, loudly and badly, to the radio, I wave people ahead of me, I try to notice some sort of nature (birds, a bit of greenery) in the concrete jungle.

I do all of these things, and my hands are still tense on the steering wheel by the time I get to my turn off, the aptly named River Road, where pavement gives way to lawns and gardens and fields and forests. Within moments, I’m at the garden, and my tension slips away.

Inside the cool, shaded barn, the week’s produce is arranged on a table, and everyone’s share is listed on a white board. The garden manager, Sarah, greets everyone with a smile and is always open to questions of “What exactly, is this?” or “How do you recommend cooking that?”

Later in the summer, I’ll go out into the garden to clip flowers, and I’ll be astounded at how the noise from Reserve, which borders the garden, is muted, and instead the buzz of bees and chatter of garden helpers and tenders only occasionally breaks the peaceful silence of growing.

I hoard these moments – these quiet moments of community and connection to the Earth – so I can survive those hours on Reserve.


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Yesterday afternoon, I was craving crab cakes. I know that’s a weird thing to crave, but man, I wanted some crispy-crabby goodness. Specifically, I was craving the crab cakes from Ole Bob’s Seafood Market in Ilwaco, WA.

Mac, the yellow dog, and I spent five glorious, if rainy, nights on the Long Beach Peninsula this spring, and every afternoon we’d truck down to Ole Bob’s to pick up dinner fixings. On our third night, we picked up their pre-made crab cakes, then fried them up in our comfy little cottage and ate them on a bed of mixed greens with marinated tomatoes and Ole Bobs’ own roasted red pepper dressing. It was an amazing meal.

So amazing, we brought a tub of the frozen crab cakes home with us, packed carefully in a cooler full of ice to survive the journey.

Despite our best efforts, they defrosted on the way home. Which meant (oh, darn) that we just had to eat crab cakes again, this time in the cozy kitchen of the little house. While this:

The Pacific Ocean at the Long Beach, WA Coast

wasn’t just outside our door, it was still an amazing meal.

So these aren’t the crab cakes from Ole Bob’s, and they’re not homemade, either. Instead, they’re store-bought crab cakes, but they were delicious. I served them on a bed of mustard greens from our CSA tossed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, with tomatoes and tzatziki.

The savory crab cakes with the crispy layer of panko bread crumbs certainly satisfied my craving – but I’m still planning our next trip to the Washington Coast.

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Senate Bean Soup from our CSA

It’s impossible to take flattering pictures of soup. I tried. Instead, I give you this:

Look at those beautiful yellow-eye beans!

There were a lot of options for these beans, but the rainy weather had me craving something comforting, so I went with a traditional soup, specifically:

Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup

2 pounds dried navy beans (I used yellow-eye)
four quarts hot water
1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Wash the beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water. ‘
  2. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup.
  4. Lightly brown the onion in butter. Add to soup.
  5. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.

I quartered the recipe since we only had 1 cup of beans, but I ended up using about 2 quarts of water, and I added in some extra chopped ham. For extra nutrition and flavor (and let’s be honest, I’m trying to clear out the fridge of all these delicous, but space-consuming, greens), I stirred in about 1/2 pound (3 cups maybe?) of chopped fresh spinach right before serving. The quartered recipe made four generous bowls.

This is what it looked like. Please forgive the awful picture. Soup is perhaps the most non-photogenic of all the food subjects.

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This isn’t, by any means, an authentic bangers and mash recipe. It is, however, a quick, hearty meal that satisfies, especially on rainy afternoons. The sautéed, tangy, vinegar-spiked collard greens on the side are the perfect accompaniment to the rich mashed potatoes, sausage, and quick pan gravy.

There isn’t a recipe here for the bangers and mash. I used leftover bratwurst sausages for the bangers, and made basic mashed potatoes. I folded in some sour cream and raw chopped scallion into the potatoes after mashing for a little something extra. The pan milk gravy was made from bacon drippings, and was heavily spiked with everything in my fridge (horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, spicy mustard, Beef Better than Bouillon, Tabasco, pepper) to give it some depth of flavor .

For the collard greens, I sautéed minced garlic in olive oil, added the greens and salt and pepper, gave everything a good toss, then turned the burner to low, added a drizzle of red wine vinegar, and covered them for about two minutes. They turned out perfect.

Next up: a simple bean soup with spinach.

I love CSA season.

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2010 CSA Pickup #1

Happy Solstice!

The longest day of the year is one of my favorite days, but I always feel melancholy as the daylight fades. Every year, I feel the need to spend the day making the most of the sunshine, but the day slips away, and before I know it, it’s dark. And, from today on, the days get shorter – before summer’s even begun, really.

So far, it hasn’t really felt like summer here in the Garden City. This month over three inches of rain have fallen in the area – normally we get under one inch in all of June!

Each day that I’ve awoken to rain pattering on the windows, I’ve not despaired though, because I knew the rain was working it’s magic on the gardens in Missoula – including our community garden. Today, on solstice, I was rewarded for my grudging patience with the rain with this bounty of green:

Lucky us!

Today’s pickup included collard greens, mustard greens, scallions, red leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, bok choy, and a cup of dried yellow eye beans.

Mac filched the radishes as soon as this picture was taken, and both of us munched on spinach as we carried the goods into the kitchen. We made quick use of the scallions and collard greens at dinner (recipe and pictures tomorrow) and I have vague plans for the rest of the greens and beans throughout the week.

As I write this, the longest day of the year is coming to a close. I know the rains will fade, and the sun will shine, and the golden days of summer, full of juicy, ripe tomatoes and fuzzy peaches and sweet corn are still to come. Still, I feel melancholy. But I also feel full, and glad, and fortunate for the bounty we’ll receive this summer.

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