Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Days 'Til Christmas

No, it is not France, however, just as interesting.  We are in London, actually Egham, with Molly and Billy.  

After a 9 AM hot chocolate and schnapps in the snowy airport parking lot in Colorado Springs with Kathy and Pete, we were on our way to another snowy, cold adventure in the UK.

Yes, the afternoon of our arrival turned white and by the beginning of the next day the airports were no longer sending or receiving passengers.
Even though the weather was bitter, Santa (Billy) delivered a new package to the house.  Yes, Santa was early, but Princess Zoe Betty was ready for a new home.  She is joining Zeb and Iggy who are still wondering what this little thing is.
Zoe takes a lot of lap naps.  She does like Molly's warm floors as do we.

Sunday lunch took us to a pub in the English countryside.  If you have watched  Nancy Meyer's The Holiday, you know that Cameron Diaz's character walks to The Pot Kiln to sing Christmas carols with the other locals.
As you can see the menu has many servings of local game collected from the hills outside the door.  The parsnip curry soup was wonderful.
Billy's dad, Bill, always has animated conversations even without his wine as he was a designated driver!
Joe's venison could not have been more delicious.
The frosty windows tell the story of summer, however, the light begins to fade about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Our desserts arrived to end our repast.  A panna cotta with quince and gingerbread and a local cheese selection with chutney and oat crackers. 

Listening carefully, we could hear Christmas carols coming from the bar.  Antlers bobbed  on heads along with Santa hats and stars as all gathered round a musician playing the familiar---and some not so familiar---tunes of Christmas. 
Cheer was had by all   inviting all to join in song.
Exiting from the cozy room, the chill winter moon greeted us.  All were filled with the warm feelings of the holidays.
Smiles warmed us in the winter night.  If you are ever in the Frillsham area of the UK, visit The Pot Kiln.  I imagine that it is gorgeous in the warmth of summer.  The Pot Kiln

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take A Wild Bunch...

The telephone rings about 7 P.M.
The voice of my son-in-law, Matt, announces that he cannot find the key to the tractor  The tractor, the primary player in harvesting the hand picked grapes, is now silent. The key always safely kept in the tractor ignition is residing in some very secure place known only to itself.  Matt, however, continues his announcement that he has collected wild arugula from the fields.  
Do we have tomatoes, pasta, Parmesan, garlic?   Now, what kitchen wouldn't always have those ingredients for an emergency.  Matt declares that he will be right over with Molly to cook dinner and later play a little Mah Jongg.
The arugula has a brilliant lemon yellow flower and is dotting all of the fields during the fall harvesting season.  As one walks through the plants, a spicy fragrance arises, another sign of cooling weather.  Plucking the leaves from the wild plans produces a bowl of emerald green.
Tomatoes are halved, garlic is chopped and....
and all are sauteed quickly to produce a wonderful bowl of Matt's Arugula Tomato Pasta.
This is a "take a handful" recipe and if you have fresh arugula enjoy Matt's recipe.

Matt's Wild Arugula Pasta
A handful recipe---
A large handful of wild arugula (roquette), or store acquired, leaves striped and roughly chopped.
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Generous amount of olive oil
4-6 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halvd
Salt and Pepper
Penne or farfalle pasta
Parmigiano reggianno (Parmesan), grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta.  When boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions.
Harvest a large bunch of wild arugula (roquette.)  Strip off the leaves and chop in large pieces.
In a shallow sauté pan, sauté the garlic in a generous amount of olive oil until golden.  Be careful not to burn or it will be bitter. 
Add the cherry tomato halves to the pan and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.  Combine the chopped arugula with the tomatoes and garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
The goal is for both the tomatoes and arugula to be lightly cooked only.  You want to retain the freshness of the ingredients.
Meanwhile, drain the cooked pasta and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the arugula tomato sauce and toss gently.
Sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan) over the completed pasta dish.
Serve with a bottle of La Gramiere ( ) Rosé.
Matt Kling

Yes, the tractor key was found.  It was residing, not on a key chain, but in the very bottom pocket of dirty work pants.  It now, however, is attached to a vibrant orange
gummi bear.

Á Bientôt,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Maybe, maybe this weekend!

The grape harvest is taking forever.  Every other year we have begun and ended with only a few days between picking.  This year, however, we began by picking grapes for the La Gramiere rosé and waited.  A week later we began the grand picking---for three days--- and waited.  Four days later saw us picking more Syrah and now we are waiting.  Maybe this weekend we will complete the harvest.  Just maybe.  The grapes are very leisurely ripening and enjoying the warm Provencal sun.
As the foods we buy at the outdoor markets are freshly picked by the producer, they are ready to eat---now.    Sitting a pear on a shelf for a few days can result in mush.  Not exactly how we buy things from our grocery stores. This made it difficult for me to shop for the lunches.  I planned and we ate between the harvest what I had planned, so I began all over.
Twenty-five volunteers, friends, family, dogs, and a camera crew began the harvest at the beginning of last week.  The chill of the early morning greeted everyone as we began the careful picking of the organic grapes.
Peta Mathias, ( ) New Zealand author,cooking, and travel personality met us with Jane and Jeff, her producer and camera, man to film the harvest of La Gramiere ( ).  Peta was teaching a Provençal cooking class in the area and creating a series of shows for New Zealand TV. Amy was interviewed about her adventures in wine telling the story of how she and Matt got into vines and wines.  Traveling through the vineyard, they filmed us hard at work collecting the 2010 pre-wine or grapes!
Coffee time arrived with conversations, French muffins and new friends.  In her sun catching hat, Joan, Matt's mom, and Linda, our neighbor enjoy the morning break.
Ronny who is in communications work on St. Barts discusses Jeff's new HD camera, fascinated by its lightness.
Lunch time brought us all to the table for an Albania feast of dolmas wrapped in brined La Gramiere grape leaves and a fresh beet salad.  Two young girls, Julianne and Alysa, were staying with Amy to learn the intricacies of wine.  Alisa, with her mother's input, created the dolmas from a family recipe.  Yum!
Joining us for lunch, walking through the vineyards and enjoying the conversation was our neighbors eighty-nine year old mother.  All ages gather as on a following day we had a four month old who cried when I looked at him.
What fun we have in the vineyards!  And oh, what a good sleeping pill it is.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To Summer and the Harvest!

Walking through the vineyards tasting the grapes along the way told us harvest was near.
With a chill in the air and the grapes the deepest purple, September must be peeking around the corner.
Summer's end is notice for a picnic in the vineyard.  The note that went out said to bring a dish to share and any new friends.  Wine would be of the vineyard where the picnic will be held, Lauzette.
Along with the guests came foods of the season.  Here in the Gard, one can tell the month by the foods that are shared. Figs freshly picked from the tree on the country road.
Roasted nectarines plump with a rosy, golden glow.
A summer potato salad bursting with many flavors of the garden.
Savory madeleines filled with the flavors of Southern France:  dried tomato, rosemary, olive tapenade, cheese, and roasted red pepper.  So much wonderful food filled the tables.
And yes, the Liss' brought the most important treat to Amy---Oreos!
People gathered to enjoy a goodbye to summer.
As the sun slipped behind the hills, we all looked forward to the harvest to come and the new La Gramiere 2010 which will soon be created by those plump, purple globes.
Á bientôt,

Friday, August 27, 2010

To Market, To Market

It is market day in Saint Quentin la Poterie.  This market we never miss as it has one of our favorite producers from the neighboring town of Saint Sieffret.  The colors of the fruits and vegetable arriving in the market are a sign of the 
coming season.
.....and the colors continue....

The delicious pineapple tomato is as large as your hand.
The Black Crim, thinly sliced on toast drizzled with olive oil topped with buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, is heaven.
You do have your choice of color.  The morning a white tomato appeared.  Yes, it was added to our basket.
 The price of these heirloom tomatoes?  Less than $1.25 a pound.  YUM!
The treat is that the producers are there each week to sell their treasures.
All fruits and vegetable must have their place of origin.  As this is a producers' market, their names are included on the signs.  Even in the grocery stores you know where your food was grown as the countries are displayed along side the produce.
Can you imagine how delicious this jam would be on a cold winter's morning?
Tomato sauce with pasta is delicious made from the classic tomato.  Stock up your freezer for winter meals.
Other vegetables?  Just look and see.
All at today's market.  No you can understand how very spoiled we are.  Our food is so fresh and flavorful.  Amy and Matt are having a large picnic in the vineyards Sunday evening.  I wonder, how can I use those tomatoes?  Any ideas?
Bon week-end,