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!

Holiday Ice

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For the last week or so we have been closely watching a young foster child and, due to the toddler status, not much is getting done in the garden—but so it goes. The little one is having a hard time, but we are working together to help with the necessary support.

Last week we had a touch of snow and with it came a hard freeze and some ice. Down here closer to the Willamette Valley floor we didn’t see much in the way of the white stuff, but the ice was fun to look at out of the car window. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it as I waited in the car trying hard not to notice it was really cold.

I spied this gorgeous little fruit/seed hanging off of one of my newer Mondo grasses and I had to get a picture of it. The color is really amazing.

Contorted Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon chingii)

These are what’s left now of my Japanese Snowbell seedpods. The outer part froze off and now the seeds are just hanging on. I probably should collect a few more while I can.

Ice kind of fascinates me. This is a small area where ice popped up and out of the soil. I used to know how it forms, but I can no longer recall. I am in awe of its beauty and mystery and that is enough for me. Since this is an area of soil that is heavily rained on due to the downspout nearby, the wet soil saturation should have something to do with its creation.

My unfinished stuffed 12″ living obelisk, a small incomplete project overseen by St Francis in pint-sized form,  appears to have acquired a new planting plan while I wasn’t looking. The mushrooms really cracked me up.

The snow has turned to ice on the globe planted with creeping thyme. Sometimes I too feel my snowy nature turning to ice and it is then that I close my eyes to imagine the sunshine warming my shoulders, and I turn, and I feel the sunlight as it heats my eyelids and I open them only to be blinded, happily.

Not sure if I have complained about Hypothryoidism much, but it makes life for me very difficult during the coldest days of winter. Raynaud’s syndrome makes socks a necessity too at all times and even in bed when I am asleep I will get foot craps if I neglect to wear them. Winter is the hardest time.

I caught the last embers of autumn along this frozen Begonia grandis stem before it warmed and collapsed. From a distance, it really was quite striking, a kind of garden graffiti I welcome.

Frosted Hens and Chicks proving yet again that they are always alive.

My ever watchful amulet. It is not the cornicello that so many Italian-Americans cherish, but it is the other evil eye amulet to protect against the evil eye. I suppose it is more akin to fighting fire with fire. This was purchased last year at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and I hope to buy another one this year when we go. It just glows in the right light.

Hope you enjoyed my mostly random garden visit. Next time I will include the garden crafts I’ve been making indoors while I’ve been overseeing the little one. For me, I am crafting in baby steps so don’t expect hand-grown, hand-woven perfection. Maybe next year though…