December 4 – 17, 2017
Mount Washington — I stood at the wane edge of my cherry-wood counter unwrapping autumn vegetables for supper preparations when mauve light came streaming in the windows and pulled me out the kitchen door. At the garden’s edge in the cold air, I stood suspended in the soft lavender-to-violet atmosphere. I was stirred by the uniqueness of the purple hue that spread completely, an uninterrupted wash of color, over the entirety of the sky dome. It was not quite twilight. It seemed timeless. I wanted it to endure.
Stepping inside, let’s start with soup.
Soup: The last of the Florence Fennel bulbs, harvested almost two month ago, did not show too many blemishes when finally dug out of the refrigerator over the weekend. It has been tedious sorting through garden vegetables that were either stuffed into the refrigerator or placed in a cold room when brought in from the precipitous advent of frigid temperatures and arctic winds three weeks ago. The perishable vegetables had to be prepared in order of least likely to survive long storage. It was now the fennel bulbs’ turn. I craved the fennel soup I had cooked last month, a heavenly result of following the simplest of recipes offered in my “Joy of Gardening Cookbook.”*
Saute 1 1/2 cups of chopped onions in olive oil or butter until translucent. Add 4 1/2 cups chopped fennel and 3 cups chicken stock. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes; blend until smooth. Pour in 1 cup milk and heat. The fennel is delicate but strong, a soloist supported by a chorus: the onions, chicken stock and milk.
Salad: Oh, the beautiful, alizarin crimson and white radicchio heads! Harvested three weeks ago and wrapped in paper or paper bags, they are fresh and crisp, i.e. not rotted around the edges or outer leaves as they would be if bagged in plastic for several weeks. The outer pair of leaves do become limp when stored this way. I cut half a radicchio head into strips, placed it in a bowl and added the last of the fresh parsley, chopped, and the last indoor-ripened tomatoes cut into wedges. Then I dug in the frig for a few French Breakfast radishes that are stored in perforated plastic bags. I slivered them and tossed all the ingredients with a classic balsamic-olive oil vinaigrette. A cut and braised Bosc pear, picked from a neighbor’s tree, embellished the late-autumn salad.
Side: Magic Molly, All-Blue and Adirondack Red potatoes, halved and pan-roasted in a cast-iron skillet, was accompanied by braised tempeh, the sole menu item not garden-grown.
Sweet: Frozen gooseberries, picked in August, cooked in maple syrup that I boiled from sap in March, were mashed with a potato masher. This sauce has that je ne sais quoi quality of all garden-to-table food.
*Janet Ballantyne, Joy of Gardening Cookbook, Garden Way, Troy, NY, 1984.