Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Berry Good Indeed

Summertime, and the eating is easy....

Yesterday I was reading a post by the Homesick Texan about that wonderful summertime treat - homemade strawberry shortcake. The NYC transplant from Texas so enjoys June strawberries that she reports eating them every day, every way, while their short season lasts. But her favorite way to eat strawberries, from back in her childhood days, is strawberry shortcake.

She supplied her recipes, including one for delicious biscuits. A properly made strawberry shortcake is not concocted with those store purchased bright yellow little sponge cakes, (no matter what my Mother had to say on the subject) but is more authentically built upon a homemade biscuit base.I was inspired. I already had organic strawberries chilling in the refrigerator. My initial reluctance to tackle the first batch of homemade biscuits in as long as I can remember was the only thing standing between me and June delight. I followed Homesick Texan's recipe(s) from the post and was pretty pleased with the results.

Alas, the shortcake didn't last long enough to photograph. Maybe tonight's batch will smile for the camera before it disappears along with the last of the biscuits.

Along that same line, before I picked up my CSA Basket today I was reading a discussion thread on the Serious Eats website about people's favorite summer food memories from their childhood.

For me, a summertime staple at lunch during the hot weather months was a crisply cool and satisfying cucumber sandwich.

One of the first memories I have of preparing a meal for myself includes carefully shaving the skin off a cucumber with a peeler under my mother's watchful eye to make a cucumber sandwich. She wouldn't let me use her paring knife but I managed to cut thin enough slices with a regular dinner knife to get the job done. Where's there's a willful 5 year old with a hankering for a cucumber sandwich, there's a way. These childhood sandwiches were not your fancy-schmancy tea party cut-the-crusts-off type offering. They were two pieces of "standard" sandwich bread (white bread - eating wheat bread on purpose was unusual for us back then) crusts on, a slathering of mayonnaise, thin slices of cucumbers to cover, then liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper. That was it. Cool perfection.

And cool was the attraction I believe. When it gets hot, summer eating is a whole different ball game, don't you agree?

Our CSA baskets this week yielded a handful of cucumbers. After spending time earlier this morning thinking back on those summer sandwiches I'd loved, I was primed. A cucumber sandwich for lunch was a given today.

Now that I'm a big girl for real, I not only used a sharp knife to cut my cukes up, but I added some paper thin slices off one of my farm fresh red onions for a little extra zip. It was so delicious I had resist the impulse to bolt the first sandwich down and make a second one just because I could.Besides my Proustian lunch, CSA basket number 12 this week offered up not only a wonderful array of seasonal vegetables, but also a series of studies in color.The various reds and greens and purples are really stunning I think. When I laid out the vegetables to take a few shots to share, to me the deep colors were strongly evocative of a 17th century Dutch still life. This weeks' basket holds purple Viking potatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers (yay!) a tomato, mixed red and golden beets, carrots, garlic , red onions, a yellow onion, flat leaf Italian parsley and a healthy bunch of garlic chives.Offering one tomato is not the norm for a CSA basket this time of year. The Pitres report their Tecolote Farm tomato plants, like mine in the back garden, are still not really producing much.

Honestly, when experienced farmers are reporting troubles with their tomato plants not setting fruit I am all at once relieved and then even more concerned. One of the advantages of Texas heat is a bumper crop of tomatoes to enjoy. Some weird combination of bee colony collapse disorder and strange weather seems to be getting the better of summertime as expected around here. Hopefully this is just an aberration and not a glimpse of drastic adjustments to come. I turned my thermostat up just to be safe.

Energy saved is normality earned, right?

UPDATE: Last night I was able to get a shot of the shortcake before we devoured it. I had a few random "other" berries left from my sangria making over the weekend and threw those in for good measure. It was wickedly delicious. Do take advantage of fresh ripe strawberries at your market or in your garden and have some shortcake all your own while the bounty lasts.

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