Tasty Little Cabbages

I don’t know about you, but I grew up without ever eating a lot of vegetables.

Canned corn or green beans was about it.

Although there was that one time when my mother served cauliflower – god knows where she even got it in 1960 – and we had one of those showdowns where I sat at the table refusing to eat. And I got it served to me all the next day until both I – and it – were totally done in. I shiver to think about that!

But these days I am a true cabbage lover. A skill I acquired all on my own.

And sometimes I even CRAVE cauliflower. How weird is that?

You see, over the years I’ve been exposed to foods – and ways of cooking them – that I never knew as a kid or young adult. And boy has my taste matured!

Sooo…

I was in the market the other day and picked up some Prince Edward Island Mussels. (That’s another thing I never even tasted until just a few years ago!) What a buy these were! I got a whole big mess of them for under three bucks and came home to look for mussel recipes.

Now I know I can do them in a garlic-wine sauce and slurp them up with a piece of good, fresh bread. But what are the possibilities?

Hmmmm. A quick internet search led me to a recipe by Michael Symon (of The Chew) called Mussels and Brussels. Wow… here he is frying off a bit of bacon, adding some thinly sliced garlic, then the mussels and wine to deglaze the pan. The final addition is some whole grain mustard, shaved brussels sprouts and freshly chopped parsley.

My mouth was watering just thinking about it!

So back to the store I went to pick up some brussels sprouts – and some crusty bread.

Lo and behold, the produce department had full STALKS of brussels sprouts newly imported from Mexico!

They were a dollar more than the small withered ones in the plastic bags ($2.99 vs $1.99) so I stood there and gazed at them for a while.

Doesn’t it make sense that they would be more fresh since they hadn’t even yet come off the stalk? Seemed so to me…

So I picked up a heavily-laden stalk to take home.

I kept thinking to myself… what a prize!

And when I checked out, the guy bagging the groceries held up the monstrous stalk and asked “what in the world is this?”

I simply replied, “brussels sprouts still on the stalk…” as though I buy them everyday. Of course I do…

So, I got them home and prepared to make the mussels and brussels.

But first I had to take the sprouts – stalk and all – and take a few photos to sketch from. Never should I eat something so interesting without recording it in my sketchbook!

Here’s the sketch of the lovely but unusual version of the vegetable… (unusual unless you’re a sprout farmer!)

b sprouts

And I did make the mussels and brussels a la Michael Symon. It was just ok. Good, but only ok. I think in the future I will stick to the tried and true mussels in wine spiked with garlic. You can’t go wrong with that.

Of course I still have a big ole stalk of brussels sprouts left to use up! I’ve found several recipes where you stick the whole thing in the oven after dousing it with some olive oil and salt. It is in the oven right now!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And in case you’re wondering… it DID take me longer to DRAW these sprouts than to eat them! Still, I’ve developed a taste for these delicate little cabbages. How great is that?

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Marvelous Marinara

If I am obsessed about anything… it has to be TOMATOES.

I love to eat them.

I love to grow them.

I love to paint them.

I love to cook them.

I truly think I have the heart and soul of an Italian. Because besides fresh tomatoes – which are delightful to eat right off the vine – the next best thing is marinara sauce. Who can live without it?? I can’t…

Now I only grow a few plants. Honestly, if you grow them right, a few plants will produce enough tomatoes for a family. And that’s all I can be responsible for. I would feel guilty if I had enough of the ruby fruits for an army. God forbid any go to waste.

So I also grow some parsley, oregano and basil. And when they all come ripe, I pick until I swoon with the fragrance of the Italian saints. I pretend I’m my grandmother while I harvest everything into my upfolded apron and bring it all into the house. Then I plan how to preserve the bounty until the next growing season. What a joy!

So here’s how I make marinara…

marinara

Of course this happened last fall and I’m just now getting it recorded into my sketchbook. No matter…

There’s time to grow tomatoes… and there’s time to DRAW tomatoes. I am fortunate enough to do both as time permits.

And just think… I’ve been eating these harvested fruits all winter and soon it will be time to plant the garden again.

Thanks be to God for the blessing of TOMATOES!!!

PS… I just realized that I made a similar post late last August called “the Tomatoes Won’t Wait!” – complete with some of the same photos…. Sigh… I guess that just proves how much I love tomatoes! I really can’t help myself about them…

Spring is Coming!

Oh how I love Spring!!!

However, it sneaks up on me like a cat stalking a mouse. I wait and wait for it to get here and then all of a sudden it has come and gone! Of course, I’m never TOTALLY oblivious. The trees do come to life with the most gorgeous pastel blooms… all shades of pink and white and lavender. And I delight in cherry blossoms and tulips pushing their dainty heads above ground. Then there are grape hyacinths and phlox and sand cherry florets. Those can hardly be ignored.

I also adore the lily of the valley. Even if it throws me into conniptions of sneezing. Man, that tiny sprig has an almighty powerfulness about it! One little stalk in a vase on your work desk will let you know all day who’s taking over the room! Much as I love it, I would have to take the clipping to the far side of my work area so it didn’t drive my nose bonkers!

But the highlight of the spring season – beyond flowers – is the Morel Mushroom! My dad called them “sponges” and would take us out to the woods to hunt for them. Sadly, I could rarely find them. I knew what they looked like, but they hid – incognito- in their shrouded little place among the base of trees and fallen logs.

Now here’s the thing… I think you either have a talent for finding the morels or you don’t. I once had a neighbor lady who was so good at hunting them that here’s what she did… she would actually have her husband drive her around on rural county roads while she hung her head out the window in search of morels. Every once in a while she would yell “stop!” and he did…

She was a little mite of a thing while he was a big ole brute. So he would stay in the car while she raced out and disappeared into the woods. Soon she would be back with a load of morels that would shame a priest into confession. In fact, she always got so many, that as long as I was her neighbor, she gave me a mess of them, too! Glory be, they were wonderful!

But that was many years ago and I haven’t had a taste of a morel in more than a decade. Some years ago I did come across them in a locally owned grocery. I saw them and stopped dead in my tracks. Morels? For sale in the grocery? Really?

Yep – and only $12.99 a pound.

Huh???

Well, I had to have some, so I put a few in a plastic produce bag and held my breath at the checkout.

Funny enough, they weigh almost nothing, so a dozen or so was less than a couple bucks. Sure wish I could find those again – I’d buy a whole big bunch!!!

Anyway, it is almost SPRING. And all the delights that come with it are on the way. And whether or not I have any lilies-of-the-valley… OR… morel mushrooms… I’ll be doing my annual once-a-year happy dance. I dearly love SPRING for so many reasons. And I do get to wondering these days how many more springs I have left.. which truly makes each one all the more precious to me! And here’s my sketch for today in honor of spring being almost here…

lilys2

So if you are an Ohio-an like me… run outside when the temps get above freezing. Watch for the bulbs to start blooming. Enjoy the creek waters rising higher and the mushrooms poking their spongy heads above ground.

And if you know anyone who hunts morels and has a sweet spot or honey hole where they find more than they can use – tell them I need a stash of those delightful morsels to remind me how fun life can be when the earth comes back to life after the winter freeze.

Viva le Spring!

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