Friday, September 19, 2014

Autumn Haze

I love Autumn. The dusty, musty smell of the soil winding down in the garden for the year. The low slung golden light filtering through leafy trees just beginning to give in to the inevitable lack of light that will turn their trusses into a fiery crown. Falling to the ground, their beauty spent, their leaves will nourish the next flush of  green with the warming of days next spring.

The early morning garden had started shrouded in fog. I now look across this little farm where the holly hocks stand guard at the garden gate the setting sun  turning their blossoms into little panes of stained glass more beautiful than any church window. Beneath them between the lavender and the rosemary I can see divots in the soil where the chickens spent the afternoon happily tossing dust a foot or more into the air as they took a languorous dust bath. I make a mental note to repair them. For what purpose I don't know. They will only be at their happy destruction again tomorrow. I don't mind. I love having animals that are so obviously happy and healthy. I call the masses home with a "chook chook chook" and lock them safely into their run. They seem to  visibly relax once tucked inside, searching for bits of food or just resting in a corner, waiting for the sun to tell them it is time to go to bed.

Picking up my basket I head for the garden to see what the days offerings will be. Tomatoes perhaps.  Green tomatoes for sure but I'm not quite ready to give up on the possibility of a late flush of ripe tomatoes and another Caprese Salad (recipe follows) before cold weather takes these little beauties. If there are enough I can dehydrate them for using on pizza in the dead of winter. Yum! Summer in January!

Zucchini would be great too. I discovered that my family will eat all the
zucchini I can grow when I make baked Zucchini Fries. (Recipe to follow) I see spots of orange peeking out from under giant prickly leaves and make another mental note to write in my garden book to plant more pumpkins next year. They are so much fun and a versatile calorie dense vegi that stores amazingly well if not allowed to get too cold.

Green beans dangle from tangled vines and I pick the garden's offering. Pencil thin and straight french fillets and big fat Blue Lake beans. There is also tender wax beans and a collection of long purple beans. They will turn a deep green when steamed but it is always fun to bring a basket of multicolored beans into the kitchen. Boring vegis are not in our repertoire of daily fare at this time of year. The beets I planted in August look gorgeous with their ruby colored stems glowing in the setting sun and the ferny foliage of new carrots as a backdrop. They will be a tasty dish this winter. The beets need thinning in order to have room to become beets so the "culled" leafy greens will  be dinner tomorrow. I leave them until then.

Walking back toward the gate I spot some small pear shaped tomatoes hiding under the skirts of a protective branch. I pick one and pop it into my mouth enjoying the sweet acidic explosion on my tongue. I haven't any lettuce or greens big enough to make a salad but decide a small bowl of plain naked tomatoes would be just the ticket. Better than a candy dish without the guilt.  

Picking up my basket I trudge toward the house with my booty wondering if we will get tired of green beans before they are done for the season and if they will taste nearly as good when I use the frozen beans that I have put by.
In the kitchen I pour the beans into a large bowl to sort into beans for dinner and beans for pickling. Shining jars of peaches have cooled and sealed on the counter and are waiting to be labeled and added to the growing larder in the pantry. Partly ripened tomatoes are covering every available surface including an extra table that I have set up specifically for that purpose. Not trusting the weather I brought in all the tomatoes except the Pear and the Pacino's to ripen in the house. This year I am going to beat the blight to the harvest. I place these tomatoes into a zip bag as they ripen and place them in the freezer to be turned into sauce later. The smell of blackberry jam is still heavy in the air and reminds me of my mothers late summer kitchen. All this is a lot of work now but so easy this winter when I need a jar of something to round out a meal and I don't even have to go to the grocery store. I take the peaches out to the pantry and admire the colored jewels preserved in gleaming jars.

 I'm tired after the days work but it is a happy contented tired. The kind that means you will fall asleep tonight and sleep clear through until morning and wake up ready to do it all over again. Perhaps tomorrow I will try making green tomato relish right after putting out eggs and a few bags of green beans for my customers that make the long trek down our dusty driveway. It's fun to share the harvest and see the appreciation on other peoples faces. My only regret about the waning summer is that I didn't find the time to use the hammock set up in the front yard. So tomorrow morning I will make it a point to enjoy a steaming cup of coffee on the front porch and admire the turning of the season before starting my day.

Baked Zucchini Fries

Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan cheese
Seasoned salt
Olive oil or egg whites (depending on your diet egg whites can be used in place of oil)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil
Combine bread crumbs, cheese, and seasoned salt in a pie plate. 

Cut the zucchini in half length wise and remove seeds. Slice into 1/2 x 1/2 x 4 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle oil over the zucchini and quickly toss with your hands. (Zucchini absorbs the oil)

(Or beat egg whites just until frothy and toss with zucchini).

Press zucchini into crumbs gently shaking off excess and place onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven until the fries are golden and tender about 15 minutes. (I find that a convection oven makes them even crisper.)

Serve with catsup, sweet chili sauce, or just plain.

For those that don't know what a  Caprese Salad is here are some directions. (my youngest calls this leaves and cheese)

Caprese Salad

Fresh garden tomatoes sliced about 1/4 inch
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh Mozzarella cheese slice about 1/8th to 1/4 inch
Your favorite olive oil and vinegar type salad dressing. (ceasar works)

Alternate tomatoes, leaves, and cheese in a circle around the edge of a plate piling left overs in the middle to make an attractive display. Drizzle with dressing. Let marinade for at least 15 minutes before serving. You can also drizzle a thin line of balsamic vinegar along the salad.