The Quince, Sea Beans, and a Black Oregon Truffle

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Since it’s almost Christmas, it’s time for me to post what’s been waiting in my hopper. (These past few weeks have been a blur.)

Between cooking for folks here at home, ghostblogging about food for someone else, and cooking food for clients I’ve been working for as a caregiver, I’m feeling fairly proficient in the kitchen nowadays.

Our Thanksgiving Quinces as Still-life.

Last month we purchased some quince from a local co-op. We’d gone there to look for raw goat milk for making cheese and whey. When we got home, John set about making quince paste. It was a fun process and quite different than I’d imagined. Both culinary projects went well and they tasted so good. The quince paste was served with some wild boar charcuterie at Thanksgiving alongside some Spanish cheeses.

Oh! That seems like ages ago to me right now.

There are so many vegetables to give thanks for this time of year.
Sausage, Potato and Savoy Cabbage Soup is a comfort food of mine.

We’ve pickled a few beets during the last few weeks and just last week I prepared my favorite cabbage soup when we had a large family of friends over for dinner. My best friend from college and his wife have adopted a baby and I get to be an auntie again. With his whole family in town, of course I had to invite them all over for dinner too.

Know your Italian chicories: Radicchio and Treviso.

Last month there was a tasty salad I made with some radicchio too. It was raw radicchio—not grilled—so I was weary at first. Somehow serving it with crispy red onions and a citrus vinaigrette did something magical to its bitterness. It was another great success I hope to serve again soon.

Wild foraged Sea Beans.

I’d always wanted to try these so last month I purchased some samphire at the Portland Farmers Market. I was pleasantly surprised by how salty they were when I popped one into my mouth.

Sea Beans with Rice Vinegar and Furikake.

Days later I put this little salad together at home. I recommend sea beans highly if you’re into salt. They are very crunchy too. Somewhere in my office I have seeds for them. I am really curious now to see how they’ll taste when grown in my home garden.

Copper Beech in front of the Millar Library at PSU.

While at PSU attending the Portland Farmer’s Market, I enjoyed looking around. The market takes place in the park blocks and there are so many beautiful trees to look at while people watching and shopping.

For many years it was a painful place for me to visit because my health had been very poor while I was a student there. Now that I’m much better, I can reflect on those years. We all need to process our past and move forward stronger and more aware. Being surrounded by the market makes that process kind of fun for me now. My love of food and my knowledge of plants has given me some much needed strength over the past few years.

After one of the trips to the market I went thrift store shopping. I was looking for a new ikebana vase when I found this old 1980s mauve piece. When I saw the sticker it made me smile. This shop is no longer in business and had belonged to my niece’s grandmother on her mother’s side of the family. While driving home, the poor thing broke, but my niece was happy I’d at least thought to pick it up for her.
Wild Foraged Chanterelles.

I made these into an omelette. What do you like to make with yours? Just curious.

Oregon Black Truffle.

We bought truffles too and John made a delicious risotto for us. (Risotto is common in the region of Italy he hails from and he was raised eating it.) The Oregon truffle was a fun twist on our usual recipe for both of us. Yes, the domestic truffle is not as tasty as European truffles, but they are more affordable. I’ll take that tradeoff. Truffles just make me happy too. I smell them and they make me smile. When they are near me, I am content.

Seriously. I love truffles.

Lastly, for Thanksgiving we also had some flowers. It began with this simple arrangement but then I expanded from there. This year I also made sure to buy American-grown flowers. I’m dedicated to buying them more often now and I can assure you that you’ll be hearing more and more about this topic during the coming months.

Goodbye for now.
PS: Hope your holidays are going well!

Fête de la Saint-Fiacre—and a prayer too

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This past weekend our gardening friends and counterparts in Ireland and France celebrated the Feast Day of St. Fiacre—the Patron Saint of gardening. Although celebrated by other Catholics in other countries, St. Fiacre was born in Ireland and lived his life in France so these two countries venerate him more than others.
I was quite tickled (to be completely honest) when a long drawn out conversation about the Saint appeared in my Facebook feed early on August 31st. Started by a French plant breeder, talk almost immediately centered on how everyone celebrated the feast (with food of course), and why the date of this feast has been shifting. Although the official day is now set on August 11th, those in Ireland and France still apparently celebrate it either on August 30 (France) or September 1 (Ireland).
St Fiacre with his shovel.
Yes, I have a statue of the Saint in my garden. I am rather fond of this guy.

I think he’s appeared here on the blog before, but I thought I’d write a little ode to him again now that it looks like I’ll be staying here for several more years. I didn’t pray to him to help me, but I guess I can quietly thank him. Time in the garden can be so lonely. It’s good to have friends.

No, I am not an active Catholic, but I am very much Catholic by culture. I enjoy having a few statues of Saints around me when I’m in the garden. When they are not there, it honestly doesn’t feel quite right to me.

St. Fiacre was a healer and worked with herbs. As I’m considering building my first herb garden, he’s a good friend to meditate upon. I also like to believe that he was a good and gentle soul determined to help others. We need people like that in our lives. I am all for healing and think about it often.

In his right hand he holds a rose.

In his left hand, he holds a shovel.

Heirloom Costoluto Genovese tomatoes from my future mother-in-law’s garden.

St. Fiacre is also the Patron Saint of Vegetable Gardeners, but that’s of course not what this prayer is about:

Prayer to St. Fiacre
O good St. Fiacre to whom God has given the power to heal
the bodies of men affected by ugly evils of all kinds,
deign to intercede for us with the Almighty Creator,
so that our body restored to health,
can attain eternal glory.
Amen.
As a good Catholic-educated woman I think that 12 years in their educational network allows me to finally write a prayer of my own. Let’s leave it as ann-onymous though since we all know that woman were not yet created as equals according to “the Church”.
Prayer to St Fiacre 
By Ann-onymous aka Amateur Bot-ann-ist
St Fiacre, I know you were good,
and you gardened, and grew herbs.
Today we celebrate you and your abilities to heal,
but I celebrate your blessings and I pray for my organic solutions.
I pray to an end to man messing with my foods.
I pray for the bees and the birds
—and that’s not just because I’m a naughty Catholic school girl and it is fun to write that now.
I pray that we can live in a world where the female is as respected as the male—because infertility can come from either side, and you’re the Patron Saint of that too.
Next year please bless our tomatoes, keep powdery mildew at bay, and try to protect our gardens from deep freezes and a Snowpocalypse.
Lastly, God bless the florists too and thank you for protecting them.
Stay fabulous St. Fiacre—eternally.
Thank you and God bless.

Wordless Wednesday: Self-Portrait of a Gardener in Winter

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Rearranging houseplants.
Playing with nature.
Ripping out the carpet in the office. Making houseplants happy.
Making more ikebana for my other blog: A Year of Ikebana.
Eldest cat Macavity as she surveys the rearranging.
Our largest cat (about 20lbs.) Maurice sleeping with the glow of the LED lit tree—probably dreaming of summer.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas…

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On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, the conclusion that we have had an amazingly simple, peaceful and joyful holiday! Lucky for us, the holiday continues until Epiphany, at which time, we will eat Gâteau des Rois and possibly a Gallette des Rois too. So let them eat cake!!! (Poor Marie Antoinette was not the famous princess who said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. So whatever famous princess did, as described in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, we will toast to her!)
Maybe I will buy another houseplant too to mark the occasion! Let me know if you have any ideas for any great ones! I am sure that I could always use a few more…
Colored poinsettia at Al’s Garden Center, Sherwood, OR. These are painted and not dyed.
The Virgin Mary looking over our holiday poinsettias purchased during our trip to Al’s Garden Center, Sherwood, OR. Our blue one is painted, not dyed. You simply use floral spray paint.
Tillandsia cyanea for Christmas that matches our Advent candles.
What our family calls Mom’s Christmas Cactus. This was given to her during Christmas of 2002 when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer for the second time. She has been cancer free ever since then and is strong and healthy just like the plant.
Columnea “Lava Flow”. This isn’t exactly the best bloom from this little tike but I have a lot of hope for its continual growth.
Christmas cactus that has not yet bloomed.
The Thirteen Desserts. It is a great Catholic tradition from the French region of Provence. We had a lot of fun with it since there was a degree of flexibility. The nougat was too expensive so we replaced it with white/dark chocolate for good/evil. It was so funny and our guests loved having the tidbits around to nibble on all night. We sat around the table for seven hours and the food, wine and conversation was outstanding.
Bûche de Nöel from our most amazing local French inspired bakery Pix Patisserie. If you are ever in Portland, OR, you MUST visit one of their 2 locations on the East Side. Note to all of you gardeners: rosemary, ladybug, and small bug crawling up the leg of the green pixie only made me more happy to be in love with gardening.
A recent fortune from a Chinese restaurant fortune cookie that I loved.
This is a REAL Christmas cactus. We had no idea where to put it, then I found a place, and it just begged for some Christmas cheer.
Last but not least, this is our Christmas Eve Bouillabaisse. The rouille is key to its success as are the vegetables at its base.  Chef Pietro had to adapt the seafood additions to our West Coast North American version, but it was by far the most amazing soup I have ever had in my life.