CSA

Organic arugula, chard, mustard greens and broccoli flowers came this week, along with coriander seeds. Everything was wilting when I picked it up. I cut off the end of the stems/stalks and plunged it all into cool water. The broccoli flowers were awful. This might be my own fault. I don’t know but I won’t ever try them again. The arugula was good in my salad with shiso and purslane from my balcony.

Diet breakfast

The picture perfect diet breakfast. I made a key lime pie and had a lot of egg whites left over. Since I am currently on a diet, although not losing weight, I made an egg white omelet with low fat cottage cheese. I love my Le Creuset non stick pan. It is awesome! The omelet wasn’t half bad either.

Bay laurel

My old bay laurel trees took a beating this spring. I have them outside in the spring, through the summer, into fall until after the first frosts. They don’t like being inside and I have them in only 2 or 3 months and they’re back out. But this spring they got used to warm weather in March and then cold temperatures in April stressed them out like I’ve never seen them. These are 2 trees I bought as little slips of plants 20 years ago. 

At the time they seemed the same but their leaves are different and have sharply different tastes. They are over 6 feet tall. This is a problem when I need to accustom them each spring to the sun. The “hardening off” process was easier when they didn’t weigh 75 pounds. In and out and in and out, little by little until, voila, they are ready to stay outside.

I’m not sure what I was thinking as far as my bay leaf usage goes. I use one a month or so. I have enough to last a few millennia.

Housemade whatever

My friend LuAnn and I ate at Braise the other night. The food was really good. Our server a young man who looked like he just got out of classes at University School was another matter. The best thing we had were the steamed buns with pork belly. Locally sourced, organic, whatever. They were awesome. The bread was good too, it was “house-made.” God, I hate that expression. 

Gazpacho

This was the beginning of my next to last meal in Hyeres before I left without knowing I would never be back.  I was at La Taverne Royale a restaurant that locals think is ridiculous. All suits of armor and crests. It may look foolish to them and they do not go there but it’s their loss, the food is great, if not the service.

This gazpacho was absolutely incredible. I have no idea how they accomplished it or what made it so good or even why I thought it was the best I’d ever had. But it was. And the slightly charred cheesy toasts they served along side were also amazing. 

I wanted to go back again the next night with Loralyn for my last meal but they wouldn’t let us sit at our own table. The place was virtually empty but they wanted us to sit at a four top with other people (WHO WERE SMOKING!!!) and although there were at least 10 empty tables, they said no. Loralyn said (in French) “So you’d rather have us walk away than sit at a table for four?” The maitre d’ said “Oui!” 

All the people there laughed out loud (at him, in case it wasn’t obvious). And we walked away. 

When we walked by later after a lovely meal elsewhere, the place was closed. Tant pis.

How to grow Basil

I grow the most lovely basil. If you want to have great basil it must be grown in a pot where it is less accessible for insects and slugs. You also need to fertilize for leaf growth and inhibit flowering. I used to grow 4 or 5 pots of it and I supplied my own restaurant with its summer needs. After I closed the restaurant I gave all my basil to a friend who had a restaurant. Enough to keep her in basil for the summer.

I once heard the Barefoot Contessa tell the television audience not to get the leaves wet, they will turn black. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. OK, it’s not completely wrong, the leaves will turn black if the plant isn’t fully hydrated. This is why people think you shouldn’t cut it with a knife. The edges do turn black if it’s not hydrated. But you shouldn’t be using it if it’s not fully hydrated. It will look bad very quickly if you cut it. To solve this problem, you cut the ends off the stems and put it in water for a few hours. After a while you can plunge the whole thing into water. Basil absorbs water through its leaves. This should only be a problem if you’re bringing it home from the store. If you’re growing it yourself it ought be OK. Instructions follow.

Growing basil

Use a largish pot. 8-12 inches. I usually put about 4 or 5 plants in a pot. Once it gets growing fertilize with acid fertilizer. This is not all the organic, but sometimes things aren’t exactly right. Anyway. acid fertilizer is what was once called Miracid. Fertilizer for azaleas and pine trees. This makes it leaf out and not bloom. If you use Miraclegrow or some such thing it will bloom and then it’s A., Not as tasty.  and B., Gets ragged. 

Basil loves blazing sun and does very well on a balcony away from predatory insects. And believe me, there are plenty of them. If there are random holes it’s likely slugs, look around under rocks, move the pot, get it away from likely hiding areas. If entire leaves are missing, you have a caterpillar living in the dirt. Carefully dig around in the dirt and you will uncover a gray/green thing that is eating your basil. You can also, as I did this year, use diatomaceous earth. This miraculous stuff will kill anything. Organically. It feels like powder to us but to caterpillars it’s like walking on glass shards. One night and the thing will be dead. And you can rinse it off, good as new, no harm no foul. Well, except for the caterpillar.

Shiso

Last year on my balcony I grew 2 or 3 shiso plants. I love shiso and when i had a huge garden I grew it and it reseeded itself all over the place. It’s lovely and the flowers are delicate and produce lots of new plants. This year my little balcony garden is covered with shiso plants. I’m happy about it. 

Shiso looks like purple basil but it tastes something like caraway. The leaves are fuzzier and have a different mouth feel, as it were. I use it in salads mainly. 

Tomato herb salad

3 cups of tomatoes. Sliced, cut up, however you want them. Sliced onions, sliced black olives. For the purposes here, I used canned sliced olives. Other olives have too much flavor. 1 cup chopped or shredded shiso, 1 cup chopped or shredded basil, 1 cup chopped or shredded cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and gently toss. Let rest for a half hour or so. Salt and pepper, toss again. 

You can add all sorts of things to this; avocado, capers, cucumbers, orange slices, steel wool. Well, not really steel wool, but nearly anything edible.

White lasagne

I don’t recall why or for whom I concocted this lasagna. And I don’t really have a recipe, but I do recall the this stuff was off-the-charts awesome. I don’t know why I used that term off-the-charts. I hate it. Nonetheless, this was a chicken and white sauce lasagna with a ricotta-swiss cheese second layer. 

The basic recipe. A couple cups or so of cooked chicken, gotta be shredded not cubed, use one of the roasted ones at the store for extra deliciousness. Lasagna noodles, 3 or 4 cups of white sauce (besciamella – butter, flour, milk, nutmeg and of course, salt and pepper), ricotta, swiss cheese and eggs (nutmeg).

Butter pan, add about a half cup of sauce, layer of noodles (I never boil the noodles), layer of chicken cover with sauce, noodles, layer of cheese mix, cover with noodles, layer of sauce and decorate real pretty-like with parsley and little red things, I think they were pimentos but they could have been bits of tomato.

Office picnic

Last week we had an office picnic challenge. We provided the brats, hot dogs and hamburgers and asked everyone to bring a side dish. We gave them all foil pans so they had a clue as to the amount but what they brought was up to them. I asked them not to discuss it with each other so they would not know what anyone else was bringing. It did not have to be home-made (or as idiotic restaurant servers now say “house-made.” Christ).

I brought greek salad. No one ate it. They went for the traditional stuff. Regular old potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs. I’m all for that. I got to eat my salad the next day. God I love left-over smushy lettuce salads.

Some lame ass brought gum. Gum disgusts me.

Indian meal, last part

I made grilled vegetables. I’m not sure what prompted this but I love grilled peppers and onions. I made an oil to marinate them and grill them in. I slowly cooked garlic in oil and then infused it with cumin and curry powder. Let it sit overnight and then strained it. I tossed yellow squash with the peppers and onions in the oil and it was a hit.