Roasted potatoes and butter beans with summer savory

Potatoes, butter beans and savory

Potatoes, butter beans and savory

I have the whole day to myself for the first time since…well, I can’t really remember the last time. “Oh! Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being sometimes alone!” I had such big plans! I was going to get so much work done. I was going to start a novel, and make some progress on pre-production on this movie I’ve been talking about for half a decade. I was going to be creative and productive!

Six hours in, and I’m having such a strangely hard time focussing. I could blame it on the heat, because it is hellish hot, but in truth I think it’s the silence. It’s the complete and bewildering lack of distraction. Why isn’t anybody asking me for a snack, and then ten seconds later insisting on a drink to go with it? How can I possibly be expected to get any writing done if I can’t yell at anyone to stop yelling so that I can get some writing done–if I don’t have the deadline of a trip to the river to motivate me?

I’m actually a big fan of aloneness. I think it’s important to be alone some of the time, so that you can pursue the thoughts in your own head wherever they might lead you, so that you can try to figure out all of those things it’s impossible to figure out. It’s one of my tedious mantras that a person should have such a supply of inner resources that they’re happy alone with no distractions for long periods of time.

But, as in all things, I believe we need to find a balance. We need other people, and we need to be needed by them. It’s important to have an outlet and a reason for your wandering thoughts, so that you have something solid to tether them to. It’s important to have a sense of community, be it local or international. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, the last couple of days. If we know our neighbors, and understand them and care for them, then we’ll trust them as well. We won’t sit in paranoid solitude till we drive ourselves crazy with hate and rage. And we’ll understand why the actions of a few people acting out of hate and rage will be greeted by an ever-growing community of humans caring for strangers as if they were friends, with generosity, compassion and understanding.

Each week I’ve been picking handfuls of fresh herbs from the farm–rosemary, thyme, sage and more sage, oregano, mint, lavender, and summer savory. I generally throw everything together into one big mix of flavors, because this random wildness is part of what’s beautiful about this time of year. But summer savory is a flavor I don’t encounter very often. It’s not as nice dried, and it’s lovely and distinctive–a little lemony and, well, savory! So I decided to use it all on its own in this recipe, roasted simply with tiny potatoes from the farm and big butter beans that were almost as large as the potatoes. I roasted everything in olive oil, and then drizzled some truffle oil on top. If you don’t have truffle oil, you can leave this step out–it will still be very flavorful!

Here’s People Make the World Go Around by The Stylistics

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Spring herbs & greens tart


A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Ferned grot–
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not–
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
-Thomas Edward Brown

I used to love this poem, when I was little. I know … it’s overblown, it’s stilted, it’s very Victorian, but I thought it was great. I learned recently that the poem spawned a word, “godwottery.” Godwattery refers to a) gardening in an elaborate and affected style, or, b) affected use of archaic language. I love that! I love the word, I love the idea, and the gentle teasing quality of the whole arrangement.

My parents gave me a small part of the yard to make a garden in. I used to plan it furiously. I had a little garden book. I drew pictures, I researched seeds. I visited the Cloisters in New York. I read overwrought victorian poetry about gardens. I was never quite as good at actually planting the garden, though, or weeding it, or taking care of it. I did make a nice little space, for a while. Where we live now, we have a tiny yard, and an even tinier space set aside for a garden. We grew tomatoes for a few years, but we’re giving the soil a break, and this year we’re planting herbs and small greens. I’m thrilled! I’ve always loved a tangled combination of greens and herbs in any food. Not carefully planned out, but all thrown wildly together, so you get a small taste of each, and it forms a beautiful, complicated whole. I love the way this works year round. In winter you have kale and spinach, winter savory and rosemary. In summer chard, more spinach, basil and thyme. In fall, small, bitter greens, sorrel and sage. In the spring – you have a big jumble of small spicy sassy plants. Chervil and tarragon, tiny beet greens, arugula, lovage, summer savory. (I was never the most organized farmer – this is more my bright idea about how things might fit togehter! The names are a pretty part of the plan!)

I love recipes that combine a wild mix of herbs and greens. Soup meagre, or small salads that combine a few herbs and greens. You can mix them with butter, or toss them with pasta or mashed potatoes. Or bake them into a tart! Which is what I did! I combined baby arugula, baby spinach, basil, summer savory, tarragon, chervil, parsley, bull’s blood beet leaves, lovage, and chives. Most of these things we’re growing; some I bought. It doesn’t matter! It all tastes good! You can use whatever you like – whatever you can find. The only other flavoring I used was a clove of roasted garlic. And the crust has some ground pecans – a nice nutty combination with the herbs. I think it turned out very nice – every bite has a new combination of flavors. It’s possible to distinguish one or two, now and again, or just to enjoy them as they come.

Here’s footage of Louis Armstrong with Royal Garden Blues
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Zucchini with nicoise olives & almonds

Zucchini, nicoise, almonds

There’s a little market not far from my house. I love it! I have to stop going! It’s not like a regular farmer’s market, with local vegetables you can afford. It has irresistible, beautiful things that you can’t afford, but can’t not buy. I’ve gone the last three weeks, and I’m like a kid on christmas morning, with my trumpet mushrooms, fiddleheads, castelvetrano olives and french feta. But it has to stop! Yesterday, I stood clutching my bag of olives and my loaf of bread, my brain feverishly trying to catch up with the fact that I’d just spent nearly ten dollars on two kinds of olives, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out if it was worth waiting for the french feta to arrive on the scene. Sigh.

But I bought more castelvetrano olives, because I still have a big crush on them, and I bought some little nicoise olives, which are the cutest things you’ve ever seen! Small and perfect little purply-brown ovals. They’re firm and salty and meaty, and very easy to pit. I decided to add them to some quickly sautéed zucchini, with some garlic, summer savory and chervil, for a quick, light side dish. And I decided to fry some sliced almonds in butter to top it off, because they’re ridiculously tasty that way! (But you could toast them in a dry pan, if you’re vegan). Nice with an arugula salad, but it would be good tossed with pasta, as well!

Here’s Nat King Cole with This Side Up, to listen to while you make this side dish!
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