This recipe came about on a weekend afternoon as I was puttering around in the garden weeding and thinning out crops that were too closely planted. Radishes were the main culprit. I don’t plant them in rows or in a dedicated space for that matter. Instead, I pop the seeds into gaps here, there, and everywhere. And then I forget where I planted them. Days later I plant some more. Or the squirrels dig them up and shift them too close to other plants. Or, like last year, I allow the crop to go rogue and now, in the spring, I find myself with loads of closely-packed plants.
But this is not a problem, because while the roots may be small, there are handfuls of lush greens that can be wilted, roasted, or fried. This is something I did not understand with my first unsuccessful attempts at growing radishes years ago. While the roots can be tricky if the soil is too dry or shallow, the prickly, hairy greens are very edible when cooked. In fact, they’re delicious!
Fava beans, broad beans, Vicia faba, whatever you prefer to call them… they’ve begun to show up at my local Italian greengrocer. There was a time when I was committed to growing both peas and fava beans during the spring season, but once I moved into an Italian neighbourhood I decided there was little point in pushing to make both happen in a small space and so these days I grow loads of peas and buy favas.
Here’s a homemade holiday gift from the garden that there is still time to make. It took me about an hour and a half to make the caramel slab and I’ll probably be cutting and packaging individual caramels until the second coming, but it will have been worth it. To say that these are gorgeous and addictive is an understatement. The best way to savour them is to put one in your mouth and let it melt slowly. They’re buttery, sweet, and salty with just enough lavender and a taste of honey. I can’t get these packaged, wrapped, and out of here fast enough because I CAN’T STOP EATING THEM.
Last weekend we dug up a boatload of Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes from the garden, right on schedule.
Believe it or not, many of the tubers are even bigger this year than last. And there are more of them! God help us.
When we began digging, I told Davin that we would only be excavating a few. But it’s like once you start you just can’t stop. And when you do think to stop you tell yourself, “Well, I have GOT to get the tubers that have grown into the neighbour’s yard. They’re compromising the fence!” The next thing you know, you’ve got a basket so big you can barely even lift it.
Recently, the addition of an island/counter that has suddenly provided me with more counter space than I have ever had before, as well as the well-timed arrival of an indulgent purchase of newly published cookbooks has us spending whole days in the kitchen. I am always drawn to the kitchen in other people’s homes. It’s the room I always seem to migrate to and camp out in for the duration during a party. I can’t express how happy I am now to have a counter that offers me the chance to spread out a little while I cook and can, as well as the space to perch and socialize when Davin is doing the work.
Now, on those books. I’m slowly making my way through the pile, savouring each one. I began first with two that feature South East Asian home cooking: Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid and Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. The first, “Burma,” is my favourite sort of cookbook, with as much put into telling personal stories and offering a small window into a culture through beautiful images as it is a manual for cooking good food. “Vietnamese Home Cooking” is not a travel journal, but it does have a personable element to it that includes beautiful photographs taken by photographer Eric Wolfinger. I have already used the advice in this book to successfully purchase my first set of cleavers and tightly wrap a proper spring roll.