Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Falafel and the Garden

Back again with news about food and flowers and other growing things. This week I decided to plan a menu. I cook alot more often and consciously during the summer, because I am less busy (no work for teachers in the summer, it is the absolute benefit of the profession for those who care to take advantage). Here's the menu thus far.

Sunday: Veg and tofu fried rice (a good way to get rid of old vegetables and rice)

Monday: Falafel, homemade tahini sauce, and cucumber, tomato, red pepper salad.

A word about this salad.
I know everyone is talking these days about local and seasonal eating. I read it all the time, in all the food mags I get, in NY Times food articles, on television; it is obviously a fad or a trend of sorts. As a skeptical foodie, my back gets up when food trends start to sound pedantic and utopian. "You must eat local, if you have any morals or conscience!" "Local and seasonal fruits and veg will save the world and fight the corporatization of America!" Ok, everyone needs to take a deep breath and chill out a little. I mean sometimes food is just food, ya know. Good tasting and fun.

But shit, I have to admit, when tomatoes are in season, they are something to behold. The recent batch I bought at Homestead Farm Market in Lambertville NJ were beautifully tomato-eating heaven. And they, along with my homegrown mint, a healthy squeeze of lemon, some olive oil and salt, made this salad so sparklingly bright I couldn't stop eating it. It balanced the richness of the tahini sauce and the fried falafel balls (Near East boxed mix, they make it as good as I could with my own two hands, why suffer?) so well that we really couldn't stop eating it. A truly revelatory meal that made me proclaim several times "why don't I make falafel more often?" I don't know why I don't. Maybe because the fresh-local-seasonal veg salad made the meal and you can't eat local, fresh, and seasonal all year round, right? Do I sound like one of those seasonal devotees, sorry.

Not to brag, but that mint from my garden sure helped those vegetables shine. I, like many folks I know, am vegetable gardening this summer. I have tried my hand at this many times before, but veg. gardening is not easy or predictable. I have always flower gardened.

My flowers are like old friends, they come around every year. They don't need extra special tending: water, weeding, mulch, deadheading. That's it. There are enough of them that if a disease or bug infestion occurs, someone will be blooming if another isn't. I can trust them and they trust me. Vegetable gardens are different. They are emotional, whimsical, and susceptible to predation. They don't return each year, like my predictable perennial flowers. They need the right soil, the right amount of water, protection from bugs and molds. They are high-maintenance friends. I've tried year after year to grow vegs and have failed. Maybe my soil is too acidic or too alkaline, I dunno. But do you see what I'm saying, they ask to much of my brain. I want to only use my body and my heart in the garden, not my head. That's why I love the garden, it silences my analytical tendencies that are in overdrive during the academic year.

But, I heard the siren song of the vegetable garden this summer. Vegetable gardening can be so alluring. You plant the seeds and they actually produce a sprout. Oh,the excitment of seeing a seed turn into a sprout, it's fun people. And then the sprout gets bigger and bigger and hopefully turns into sumthin'. That's when things get tricky, but my hopes are high. Check out the activity.

Thusfar, I planted beets, cucumbers, zucchini, arugula, cantalope, bush and pole beans, broccoli, various herbs, and tomatoes; I think that's it. We'll see what happens. Some critter is lacifying the arugula and broccoli, and the tomatoes aren't progressing at a timely clip, but who knows what the future holds. That' s the thing with vegetables, they keep you in suspense. For those of you who successfully grow vegetables (without chemicals), I would love any advice. I can't say I will follow it, but I will read attentively.

Oh yea, the menu for the rest of this week includes: pasta tonight and fish, veg coconut curry on Thurs. Friday is open. I'll keep you posted.

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