It’s been a few months since I’ve written. Many things have happened in that time and life as I knew it has changed. With any change, there usually comes a healthy dose of fear and that certainly applies to me. To make it through to the other side, I have sharpened my coping skills. I have tried to make more time for things I enjoy, for things that fill my cup. One of those things is cooking – not just dinner in 30 minutes or less, but really cooking. Having the luxury of spending all day in the kitchen surrounded by the smells, sounds and textures of the season’s bounty. Derek has kept me supplied with loads of his amazing vegetables throughout the summer, encouraging me to try new things. There is nothing I love more than cooking in the summer – everything is so easy because so little has to be done to make the food shine. Tomatoes only need a dash of salt, olive oil and basil to have the most luscious summer lunch. Sautéed squash, eggplant, tomatoes and basil, all topped with fresh mozzarella is divine. And the corn? It really hardly needs anything – not much is better than that.
But my life is not the only thing changing – the days have grown shorter and cooler. We have moved into fall, my favorite season. I love the crisp air, the intensely blue sky and the changing leaves. Fall foods are here – kale, collard greens, lettuces, spinach, chard, squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes. The perfect ingredients for a warm bowl of soup, a hearty meal by the fire and even some sweet pies. I was lucky enough to have my dear friend and chef extraordinaire, Coby Ming come cook with me yesterday. I had two bushels of goodies from Derek – five different types of greens, beautiful salad mix, beets, red onions, butternut squashes and the biggest sweet potatoes I’ve even seen outside of the state fair. Ivor and Seamus supplied a beautiful chicken, garlic and basil. I had the goal of making a soup, something to nibble on in the fridge, a couple of go to helpers and dinner. For the soup, we roasted the butternut squash and blended it with onions that had been cooked down with plenty of butter and salt. I ate a quarter of it for lunch yesterday, froze half and will probably finish the rest today. Divine. For the fridge, we cooked some french lentils and mixed them with more roasted butternut squash, caramelized baby red onions, beets, basil, feta cheese and oil and vinegar. I think I ate half the bowl while checking for seasoning. It was so good. The go to helpers were garlic oil and a vinaigrette. For the garlic oil, we filled a little pan with plenty of garlic cloves and covered with a mix of olive and canola oil and let it simmer for a couple of hours. After the oil had deepened in color and absorbed the flavor from the garlic, we strained it. With the super soft sweet garlic, we took a few cloves and mixed with with olive oil, a raw egg yolk, honey, vinegar and salt and pepper. Some people might be leery of eating raw egg yolks, but I know exactly where these eggs come from.
Dinner was all of those greens cooked down with onions that had been caramelized in butter, vinegar and spices; mashed sweet potatoes; Derek’s beautiful salad mix with fall apples, pumpkin seeds and garlic vinaigrette; and the pièce de résistance, fried chicken. Coby had marinated the chicken overnight in buttermilk and spices. We dredged it in seasoned flour and fried it in my grandmother’s cast iron pan. There are not many things that can top that, I am here to tell you. My son came in the room and said, Mmm mmm, something smells good! Eating food grown with love by dear friends, prepared with friends and shared with family and friends is a very healing experience indeed.
Whether you are just dealing with the daily stresses of raising children, working at an unsatisfactory job or going through a major life trauma, find your happy place. I think I found mine in the kitchen.