Luxurious Essentials

I have something to admit. My kitchen is pretty close to my idea of heaven — add a cold river to swim in out the back door, a nice garden full of food and a milk cow or two out the front, a nice boy to hang around and clean up my messes, a few friends living next door to feed and drink wine with every now and then, and I’m pretty sure that would make it.

I have enough of that to scrape by with believing almost every day that I am probably the luckiest girl in the whole world. One of these days I am going to have to go back into society and relearn how to cook on a four burner stove or even, horrors of horror, an ELECTRIC four burner stove. If you think a double bake-convection oven larger than standard size is too much, then develop a huge passion for cooking, move in to my house for a week and you will wonder why you ever thought such a thing. And granite counters? Kneading bread and a climate controlled space to lay tomatoes and small batches of ferment are a few reasons. And I haven’t even mentioned the miles of counter space, acres of cabinets, huge sink with a window to look out of and watch the chipmunks play, and about five really sharp knives. I don’t want to make anyone jealous. I do have ants in my kitchen, to lessen your pain. But they are sweet little teeny brown ants and actually becoming great friends of mine. They mind their own business (most of the time) and don’t do much except crawl around and eat whatever offerings I accidentally leave out. They are nothing like the gigantic carnivorous black ants you see lurking around in people’s kitchens waiting for you to fall asleep so they can take a bite of your toe. My ants are refined and intelligent and I mourn every time I unknowingly bring one out in the world with me and it is lost from its tribe. (I’ve even done some personal high-tech computer diagnosing and figured out that the reason I don’t get emails sometimes is because an ant rode a cd into my computer once and never came out and now lives in there and eats emails when he gets really hungry)

But that’s enough of that. I was going to sit down and write about what I’d been cooking today but the gorgeousness of the kitchen distracted me.

Last market I left with a case each of cucumbers and tomatoes from Signal Mountain Farm, and green tomatoes and sweet peppers from Crabtree. I also brought home some jalapenos, green beans, chicken livers, and beets from River Ridge, garlic from Crabtree, eggplant and more jalapenos from Williams Island, summer squash and those highly addictive sweet peppers from Sequatchie Cove. But those are just for myself and the rest is for this new canning fever I’ve developed.

And then I came down with a REAL fever Thursday night (I could not get to anything that day because I was out working) and was bedridden til Sunday. Which brought on feverish nightmares of all the tomatoes rotting, the fruit flies descending on the cucumbers and black ants moving in and devouring the sweet peppers. Fortunately, thanks to those granite counter tops and the Lookout Mountain Breeze, everything was basically intact. I started by making a gallon of brined cucumber from the recipe in Sandor’s book — Wild Fermentation (if you don’t have every book ever sold at market you should. Hopefully Clover Wreath is still selling Wild Fermentation because you HAVE to have it. And River Ridge is selling Grassfed Gourmet, because that is also essential to grassfed beef cooking (the only beef there should be anyway).

As my strength gathered I sliced cucumbers and let them sit in a bath of ice water for bread and butter pickles. I diced more cucumbers and sweet peppers for a cucumber pepper relish. Then I diced MORE sweet peppers for a pepper and onion relish ( I have been stocking up at market on onions every time I see them at someone’s booth — you always need onions and lots of them) and then proceeded to do my new favorite thing — peel tomatoes for simple canned whole tomatoes. Those are processing right now and the cucumber relish is waiting to go next.

In the meantime I have been roasting eggplant and sweet peppers for a babaganoush sort of dip for a potluck I am going to tonight. I have never had a recipe so I just roast the eggplant til soft, throw some garlic in the food processor with the eggplant, some tahini, salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, a touch of cumin and paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil. I also like to add roasted red peppers if I have sweet peppers to roast.

This is what you DO this time of year – so that you can have food to eat in the winter and plenty of gifts to give so that your friends and family will have food to eat in the winter. There is something deep inside of me that becomes very happy when it sees counters and cabinets full of jars of pickles, relishes, and jams. You should definately experience it.

The great thing about the market is that this time of year most of the farmers have loads of food they want to sell- what they bring to market might not be all they have. It is fun to get creative — there is a recipe somewhere in this world for almost any idea you can think of and all you have to do is follow it. Of course you need to stock up on supper-time food but for the rest of this month is a good time to stock up on the stock-up food. I’m sure that any red-blooded market goer can not imagine sitting down to a meal that is not full of vegetables from farmers they know. But my friends, those day will come. And it good to build a nice fort of full jars to hide behind, a refrigerator full of kimchee, and a freezer full of tomato sauce and everything else you can freeze (I can’t freeze ANYTHING because my freezer is already packed full with broths, strawberries, lamb, pesto, and who knows what else. I open the door, locate what I need and shut it quick enough so as not to be buried in a real Chattanooga avalanche.

I love hearing from yall — let me know how your stocking-up is going, what you ate for supper, or why YOU think your kitchen is the idea of heaven.

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