Friday, May 21, 2010

Around the Yard -- Peaches

Stepped out with my coffee one morning to survey the yard and I saw this little guy:

He was so cute, I stalked him.

I have no idea how he got in. I just had a new gate and fence installed for the very purpose of keeping bunnies out. This little guy was not ten feet from my tomato seedlings. This did not amuse me. Taking pictures, I knew at some point he would run, and then I'd find out how he got in.

I got pretty close.

I finally dropped the camera and thought, 'Well you dumb bunny, just how close are you going to let me get?'

Not closer than that. He took off toward the gate. But I guess when you are very young and small you panic easily. He went and donked his wee head on the gate. But on the next try, to my surprise, that little guy squoze between the gate and the gatepost! A two inch gap, maybe? I dashed to the gate behind him to see where he went.

Nowhere, I guess. No bunny in sight.

That a bunny broke into my back yard reminded me that a) it's time to get the tomatoes in the ground, and b) I'd better make sure all the little green peaches are up off the ground. Rabbits will eat little green peaches, and if they know there are green ones, they will hang out looking for ripe ones (says my inner Farmer MacGregor, anyway).

When we got back from Paradise, I thinned the peaches (left). Today, I thinned them some more (right). All told I think I thinned five pounds of green peaches. It was a great fruit set this year, and I'm very excited.

I'm really bad to thin peaches. I'm too tender-hearted. All those beautiful clusters of three and four and five peaches look like a turn of the century postcard! But I must be firm. Two reasons: thinning the peaches in the long run gives you bigger peaches and helps keep the tree producing year after year without skipping.

And here's the second reason:

Do you see that, that crescent-shaped mark on the peach? That's from a plum curculio. These little bugs look for the surface where two peaches touch and enter one of the peaches at that site. It's protected there; predators can't see the mark. Thinning peaches so they're 6-8 inches apart puts a crimp in plum curculio style -- no cozy, inside surfaces.

I have a feeling that part of the reason a few peaches have been dropping is not just that the tree is unloading. I think the curculios have been busy. Well, I can get busy, too.

It's not like we're suffering here. Plenty of peaches. Still, you know, there's the oriental fruit moths. And then the mockingbirds -- first year I covered the tree with netting, but this year it's so big I'm not sure I can.

Harper Lee tells us it's a sin to kill a mockingbird, but I sure would thwack one with a peach-pit if it ever went after my peaches. It's the way they do it; they use their beaks like a knife and spoil the peach and move on to the next one.

Now if mockingbirds ate plum curculios, that would be different...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

True Adventure – Tomato Basil Risotto

 When you are Very Young, Adventure sounds like a Wonderful Thing. Unknown lands! Exploring new places! Experiencing new foods! But when you become Older, “Adventure” seems more like “Bother.” Fingers get pinched, feet get sore, bowels are unsound, and figuring out where to eat night after night is a chore.

It isn’t easy to travel gluten-free. Sometimes you end up eating plain, crappy food—or none at all. Airports are a carbohydrate wasteland. In public spaces, we want to be sure we are never more than 200 yards from a soda. "Shelf-life" is a problem for food chemists, not chefs.

Of course I pack my own food—what the TSA will allow. But one cannot feel satiated on fruit and nut bars. Salad doesn’t quite cut it, either. Besides, after eight hours in an airport, who wants to eat iceberg lettuce out of a cup? Forget the dressing; “modified food starch” could mean anything. (Note to self: learn to make beef jerky.)

Arriving at a restaurant isn’t always better. The best people: bartenders who know nothing about food allergies, say so, and are willing to go into the kitchen and read the labels on the boxes for you. The worst people: servers who assume they know about food allergies and, as a result ask neither you nor the kitchen staff any further questions. It is very common for servers to confuse “gluten-free” and “low-carb.” If only you knew how many times waiters have refused to serve me French fries...

My vacation was fun, we had a wonderful time, and there is no doubt in my mind that I ate wheat and got sick from it. We were ready to come home for some comfort food.

Risotto fits the bill nicely. It’s hot, creamy, and eaten with a spoon (okay, a fork if you want, but spoons work better in bowls). It can be made in endless varieties of flavors, vegetarian or not, as a main course or a side accompaniment. It knows no season. Risotto rocks. It’s no accident that one of New York City’s premiere gluten-free restaurants is named Rissoteria.

So, ah... Why am I not showing you a picture of this fabulous Tomato Basil Risotto of which I speak? Well, um... It’s MP’s fault. He made it, and it was so fabulous, I thought, “This is absolutely my next post!” but we’d eaten it all so I was going to photograph the leftovers when I had them for my lunch but MP who almost never eats leftovers snuck into the kitchen and ate it for his lunch and there wasn’t any to photograph. The fiend.

Here. This picture is from Last Night’s Dinner, which is where we got the recipe from. Yes, it really looks that fabulous.

Many instructions for risotto are very hyper-vigilante, “You Must Keep Stirring!” but really, risotto isn’t that much of a diva. The texture will still be lovely even if you only stir it every few minutes. If you’ve never done a risotto, this tomato-basil version is a lovely place to start.

When you are Young, Adventure is Grand; when you are Old, it is a Bother. When you can embrace all that Adventure can be, knowing that the best part of Leaving is Returning to your own Home Cooking, then you have reached just the Right Age.

Looking over our photos, MP and I think we’re pretty darn close.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why yes, I was stranded on a tropical island...

Seriously, I was. I have pics to prove it!

Wow. Even I think it looks Photoshopped. It wasn't but... Wow. Blue water.

Alas, lovely as it was, tropical islands are not known as hotbeds of gluten-free eating. This one sure wasn't. Boy howdy, was I ready to come home to bake and cook.

I'm working on some ideas right now, really wonderful things. Ideas like this:

That's a hot dog bun, folks. A bit craggy, but decidedly gluten-free. But who knew that attempting to create a GF bun would lead to such a philosophical discussion of just what is a hot dog bun and what is its purpose? Trust MP to get straight to the heart of the matter: It's a bun. It holds the hot dog. That's it. It's not complicated.

And this:

You see those? Those are the peaches I had to pick off because there were too many on the tree! And I could still stand to go over the peach tree again! I am very excited.

So sorry for the delay. I'll spare you the GF woecake and get cooking!