Wednesday, May 04, 2011

the merry merry month of

Spring makes me think of  Grandma’s screen door and Grandma’s clothesline.

That screen door – screen blackened and patched; patches sewn with strong cord in places where the dog’s front feet had rested, where children’s forearms slammed into it. Further trussed up – that flimsy frame – with wooden diagonals nailed in, and squares of plywood here and there. It was a sorry sight, yet satisfying. It was the signage of spring. Its sound, as small bodies hurtled through it, the incantation of summer in my memory.
Take this lovely remembered shabbiness off the house and place it atop a green meadowy hill. The thud of small, grimy heels comes to the ears, a small body hurdles, nearly naked, toward that door, smashes into it, through it, and bolts onward: The child flies over the hill and disappears into the valley of... adulthood?

Meanwhile, the door, alone on the green hill with only its frame to make it visible, to give it meaning, and to give the sound of it resonance when hit by the small and grubby left forearm of the child upon the special square of plywood set there to reinforce it against these repeated onslaughts, extends open to the magnitude that the black wire spring across its top will allow – like a bullfighter who, with a twitch of the hips, avoids the bull – and hangs there yawning, suspended, stretching, before reaching its final and furthest extent, pauses, then begins inexorably, to close, slowly at first, then overcoming inertia to shut with a resounding slam if it is sturdy, or a splatty slap if it is not.

But who hears? The child is gone. Only memory remains.

A voice began before the child appeared. It warned, “Don’t slaaammm...” The child appeared over the crest of the hill, left forearm at the ready, hit that door running, and was through it and over the hill before the voice finished, “...the doooor!” which was followed, of course, by the slam of the door.

Also upon this meadow, you notice, is a clothesline, and the spring breeze that tugs at the door in its frame – succeeding at times in opening it a whisk against the black metal spring’s determination –  billow the sheets around you, the fresh-smelling, pristine sheets, and the yellow sunlight slants down upon the crown of your head and you are the sheets, you are the sun, you are the billow and you are Spring. You are the voice, “...don’t touch...” warning the muddy hands of the child (also you), returned from the valley beyond the hill, “...the sheets!” But it is too late.

Ah May! The month of my birth, the month that ramps are born – wild leeks – and fiddleheads, and morels. Even dandelion greens! What good company we keep!

I couldn't resist adding this photo of the latest pie. I used basil leaves as an herbal counterpoint

And there is rhubarb, and on May Day I make the first rhubarb pie. And this is the way I did it is here.

The leeks? Eat them raw or put them into a fiddlehead quiche, found here (scroll to the bottom to find a humble pie for gentler chiders).

Morels? I dip them in flour, very lightly, and fry them in butter and olive oil. I don't stuff them into anything and I don't stuff anything into them. I like to taste them, and only them! Because they may be my favorite taste in the world.

The other thing that people don't think of as a spring food, is overwintered parsnips. Spring is when parsnips should be eaten. My friend Kathleen cookes them with a whiskey/mustard glaze, with a hint of maple, that is tremendous!
These are my spring parsnips -- quite small yet

Spring Parsnips in a Whiskey Mustard Sauce
This is the original recipe. See note below.

1 pound parsnips, scrubbed, peeled, if you like, cut into 1/3 inch diagonals
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Dijon or other distinctive, coarse-grained mustard
3 tablespoons half honey and half maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon, whiskey, or rum
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Heat oven to 450°

Steam or boil the parsnips in well-salted water until just tender. Butter an ovenproof gratin or 8 inch round baking dish and arrange the parsnip slices in it. Roast for 10 minutes. This draws out the natural sugars to caramelize in the high heat. You could also grill them.

Combine the butter, mustard, honey, maple syrup and whiskey in a small pan and cook over medium flame, stirring, for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and fold in the parsley. Spread over the roasted parsnips. Lover the oven temp to 350° and bake for another ten or fifteen minutes.

Note: I've been making this dish for years, but never looking at the recipe. It seems unnecessarily fussy. I just simmer the parsnips in a little water and butter, and salt, until they have absorbed the water and are just becoming tender, then add the other ingredients and simmer until they are very done. Then I put them into an oven-proof serving dish and run it under the broiler until browned.

Live and learn.

... Notes...
•    First of all, Congratulations to Roots the restaurant for their award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont as Vermont's most important new downtown business. If you haven’t eaten there yet, Vermont Restaurant Week is this week, and Roots is offering 4 courses for $25. Leo and I did that Friday night and were very pleased. Highlights were a fabulous Kale salad (that I ordered on a dare, kale not being my fave veg) and a very nice grilled mozzarella appetizer. The Crème brûlée is the best I’ve ever tasted.  747-7414

•    The Rutland Farmers’ Market will move back outdoors into Depot Park this coming Saturday, the 7th,  so let’s say goodbye to the winter vendors who do different farmers’ markets – like Norwich and Londonderry – in the summer, hello and welcome back to those vendors who only do the Rutland Summer Market, and let’s salute those marvelous ones who celebrate the whole wonderful, year-around Market.  And let’s hope for a gorgeous day!

•    The following week – the 14th –  there will be an official moving day parade meeting at  the Co-op on Wales Street at 10 am to escort the farmers to Depot Park. Join us. Mayor Chris Louras will throw out the first radish.  I hear there will be a raffle that Saturday, too, with a drawing every hour.

•    On one of those weekends many of the vendors will donate 10% or more of their market proceeds to Carol Tashie’s  Farmer-to-Farmer:Vermont-to-Japan campaign that has gone viral, to include most of Vermont’s farmers and perhaps our neighboring ones, too!  Support them generously, won’t you?

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