Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What to Plant in Those Hungry Garden Beds? How About Pricey Greens

I think the storms have passed in your town, and everything is growing so fast it takes your breath away. Right?

Welp, that's the way it is here too.
So my thoughts have turned to flowering trees (the orange blossoms are amazing) and what to put in the garden beds.
Beyond the obvious tomatoes, I've been fascinated this year by greens and herbs, especially the ones that are expensive or rare in the market. In years past I've tried nurturing arugula, my favorite bitter green, to no avail, just wasted space and water. But in the meantime, my experimental French sorrel, the tangy green you can never find, well, it's been taking off. It grows in big bunches yearound and loves to be trimmed back.
So this year I've taken the hint from Mother Nature.  I've given my hardy sorrel more space and gathered up recipes for Springtime sorrel dishes, beyond simple salads.

(And the same philosophy applies to my herbs. Are they expensive, aromatic and tough little suckers? Then are in. Tarragon is on the list. Thai basil is too. I'm on the lookout for more; suggestions welcome.)

So this spring I recommend you look for sorrel seeds or seedlings at the organic herb rack of the nursery. You won't regret it.
Here's a traditional French Sorrel soup from a French cook Eve Hill-Agnus.
You can read about Eve's love affair with sorrel here.

Classic Sorrel Soup 

2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 large onion
2 potatoes, peeled, diced
2 cups water
1 large bunch chard, chopped 
2 dozen leaves of sorrel, chopped 
1 cup milk
salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg

Sauté onion and potato in butter or oil about 6 minutes. Add water, chard and sorrel and salt. After greens have wilted, simmer for 10 minutes. Puree and then return to the stove over medium heat. Stir in milk.
Season to taste with pepper, nutmeg and a little more salt. Serves 2-4.

Enjoy with grilled chicken or fish, San Francisco sourdough bread and a delicate Sauvignon Blanc

Oh yeah, and I ended up planting that arugula again, and this really is the last time.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Vermouth is Better Than Your Wine

You don't have to believe me about Vermouth, just ask Ernest Hemingway. A friend recently gave me a book about Hemingway's writing and cocktail recipes, "To Have and Have Another" by Philip Greene, and between all the reverence for Champagne (his Paris era)  and  rum coconut drinks (his Florida era), something else caught my eye. 

It was the way the American legend used vermouth, both sweet and dry. Native to Italy and France, vermouth is wine that has been mixed with herbs and other botanicals and fortified with unaged brandy. It seems to have all my favorite liquid elements.  Papa Hemingway concocted a drink with both types of vermouth and a dash of bitters (another of my favorite cocktail components.)
So it's like a meal with side dishes, but not the meat.   

Anyway, it's something you can make at home or get in any bar -- if there is no yummy local wine or microbrew around. Or any time you want something different and pretty, that isn't a martini. 

In going along with the no-meat theme, it's particularly nice to sip before enjoying  a hearty vegetable and barley soup with warm, crusty bread. 
So if the mood ever hits you, give it a try and have a healthy evening --- in literary style.

Vermouth Panache

2 oz. dry French vermouth

1 oz. sweet Italian vermouth

1 dash Angostura bitters (or other bitters) 

Lemon peel

Fill a glass with ice, add ingredients and stir.