Fresh Basil Selfie

Here comes the fresh and juicy, juicy tomatoes off the local vines.  Here comes the fresh strawberries hand-picked from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  And here comes the abundance of fresh sweet basil from my garden.  Seeing the shiny, glossy green leaves of this special herb is a summer delight.  Touch or rub the leaves and its aromatics lace the air with a spicy and distinguished fragrance.  So, let the foodies challenge begin!  We adore this herb. My summer plates evolve around the inclusion of basil.  And by first frost (Zone 7), fresh basil plants and their bounty will be a fleeting memory and sorely missed.  So, while basil is here, it’s king. (The name Basil comes from the Greek word “Basileus” meaning King or people’s leader).

Here are some simple suggestions for the aforementioned.  You don’t need a recipe, just snip the leaves, cut up the tomatoes, slice the strawberries and make mouth-watering  crowd pleasing and nutritional dishes.  Warning… fresh basil is intoxicating, garden-fresh tomatoes… addictive and fresh strawberries…well there are never enough.

Ugly Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar and French Baguette
Ugly tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper (Caprese) and a French baguette
Prepared platter of fresh tomatoes with fresh Basil, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar & French Baguette
Voila! It’s all in the presentation and in this case it’s also in the eating.
Ingredients for a strawberry & baby spinach salad
Fresh strawberries, locally grown baby spinach, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crumbled feta cheese, fresh mint garnish
Strawberry, spinach salad
Ta-da, ingredients assembled & layered for the freshest of fresh strawberry and tender baby spinach salad. In the background is an arrangement from my garden of sweet basil and rosemary.

Maintaining fresh-cut herbs:  Suggest trimming the sprigs in the AM before the heat of the day arrives.  Then immediately rinse under cold water, shake off excess and place the bunch of cut herbs in a container of water.  Place container in a cool place away from sunny windows.  Your bouquet will stay fresh and last a remarkable amount of time, while also bringing in the aromatics of the plant to your kitchen.

 

What’s Your Daddy Food ?

 

My Dad during WWII in his Uniform of the Day.

When I saw my father take out the black cast-iron skillet, I knew that a favorite of mine was going to hit the table within 30 minutes.  This morning food magic happened while the coffee pot was percolating cheap java with chicory and the cooked bacon sat waiting. Lard, white flour, salt & pepper, milk, in that order would be turned into white gravy.  There was no recipe or cookbook.  Skillet hit one of the four burners.  First, a scoop of lard out of the lard-jar melted in the heated pan.  Then the flour.  His hands moved with purpose and confidence.  His large, dented, stainless steel spoon with a wooden handle was part of his system.  He’d stir the stuff using a smooth circular motion, blending and blending the grease with the flour until he saw the right consistency.  Next, milk was slowly added while the stirring continued.  Both of his hands were in action.  Stirring with patience and watching for the right moment, he’d add the salt and pepper.  And voila, there was the white gravy.

We’d eat it on white bread and beg for more.  If we were really lucky, the gravy topped some of his homemade biscuits to complete this Virginia country beginning for the day.   Chipped beef-gravy, red-eye gravy and sausage gravy made by him were also favorites.

Dang, I would love to have some of Daddy’s white gravy, but even more than that, I’d give anything for kitchen time with him and watch the magic he made for us.

What’s your Daddy food?  Would enjoy you sharing about your Daddy Food as we approach Father’s Day.

 

Fresh and French

We loved the outside cafes in Provence, France.  Each day we’d find ourselves in our favorite spots by early afternoon. It was so simple.

White or red, a blanc ou rouge. That was it. The vin du pay was just the ticket. We’d have a crusty baguette and fresh radishes served with a small bowl of rough sea salt. Radishes?  At first, this combination seemed strange.  We tried the lovely roots and fell in love with them. Perhaps it was the setting, but these radishes became a favorite while on our trip. Back home, when the radishes are in season, we enjoy eating them while sitting on our patio with blanc ou rouge. It’s simple at home, too. Just today, our lovely neighbor brought me a bunch of fresh radishes from our local farmer’s market. I told her my radish story and what she told me was amazing.Fresh Farmer's Market Radishes

In France, she says, they eat the little darlings with butter. I did not know that and you better believe we will be eating these fresh treats along with butter. Can’t wait.

Visit: http://gracelinks.org/3876/french-breakfast-radishes-with-sweet-butter-sea-salt-and-chives for this simply exquisite recipe.

My Honeysuckle Grove

There are days when I wish I were somewhere else, somewhere other than my usual place. You know, like being in a gondola in Venice or sitting in the natural spring baths in Iceland or maybe even Giant Stadium, catching the California sun-rays or perhaps back in New Orleans eating gumbo & listening to street jazz. But today, when Brodie, my golden retriever and I were walking through the woods behind our house in Virginia, I thought… this is exactly right for us. When I told myself that I was content with walking my dog and noticing nature at its spring best, I became mindful of my surroundings. I got into the moment, and into the Honeysuckle grove that surrounded us with sweet fragrance and lush green.

The bouquet of the honeysuckle blossoms wafted lightly in the air. I remembered back to when I was a little girl. I thought of my kind grandfather showing me how to suck the sweet nectar from the inside of a honeysuckle blossom. I could see his huge but gentle hands delicately sliding the stamen out of the body of the flower while dragging the delightful honey out to meet his tongue. There was an art to this and I was a good student. Granddaddy preferred the yellow blossoms, saying they were sweeter.  I agreed. He was right.

So in honor of our honeysuckle grove and in celebration of becoming mindful with little effort, we harvested some of the blossoms. The next day I remained content being exactly where I was, as I sipped my homemade Honeysuckle & Spearmint Iced Tea.  My liquid refreshment was a simple and sweet memory drink.

Honeysuckle and Spearmint Tea

Pick about 3 cups of honeysuckle blossoms
Sprigs of Spearmint

Pick fresh blossoms, removing all leaves and stems.
In a container with a lid, add the blossoms to about 3 cups of boiling water. Add a few spearmint leaves. Cover the container and steep for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.
Strain the liquid through cheesecloth.  Enjoy over ice and with a sprig of spearmint.

Mindful Moments

Walk and think
Walk and dream
Walk and realize
The Honeysuckle memories
Pamelalucas 5/1/16

Let the beets be with you

From red to purple to yellow to orange to gold, the beet is a sturdy vegetable that has come into its own. Beets are popular. Beets are adored by foodies and seen on menus in down home cooking spots and found on the finest haute tables.

If the beets can be with you they will.

When I was a kid growing up in Virginia, this cool weather crop was seasonal at best and not what you would call popular. They made me frown. However, beets were easy to grow and a healthy, hardy vegetable to feed to a family. Beets were often served at our familial table.

Today, my family members remain divided. You either let the beets be with you or not. We like to joke about “Who’s going to eat that?” The very sight of a newly prepared version of these lovely roots is enough to clear some of them from the room, while the rest of us gobble up the beets as a treat.

Simple to prepare, here’s one of our favorite beet recipes:

Ingredients for roasted golden beets

Roasted Beets with Garlic & Rosemary
For 4 of us:
Number of beets to roast vary based on size of the beets
Garlic cloves cut in half
Rosemary sprigs (for roasting & for garnish)
Your favorite olive oil
Salt and pepper
Crumbled Feta Cheese or Goat Cheese

Cut the greens off and thoroughly wash the beets, leaving little stems. (The greens are enjoyable, but we do not partake of them.) Put the whole beets on a large piece of foil along with the garlic, rosemary sprigs, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with olive oil. Top this with another piece of foil, sealing the edges. Place this sealed packet on a baking sheet/cookie sheet. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour or until just tender. Let cool for handling.

Peel and cut the beets into wedges. (I wear gloves to avoid staining my hands with the beet color.) Plate beets on a platter for a showy presentation, drizzle with olive oil, scatter with crumbles Feta or Goat Cheese, garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and let the beets be with you.

beet final

For Golden Brodie

Beets look so strong
Beets look so healthy

Beets can be a favorite
Beets can be despised

Beets are luscious beauties in disguise
By pamelawlucas 4/28/16