Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Abundant Early-Summer Rains & Snails...and the comfort of warm food & feline company

Gardeners are known to complain about both the abundance and lack of rain in a manner matching the staccato rhythm of a cloudburst richochetting off a tin roof. We spade-wielders come from a long tradition of supplication including dancing wildly about in the hope of divine intervention. And when we do get a stormy series of deluges, we suddenly realise how profoundly wet, rain is. If there's a Drizzle Demiurge, I will gladly offer a percentage of my harvest to itperhaps some huge gooseberries not only so engorged with water that they are double their usual size but also are fungus-free for the first time in the six and half years we have been chez nous.

Copious watering paradoxically prevents fungal development on gooseberries

Gooseberry roots may delight in drenched soil, but said soil does not delight in being spaded as such action compacts particles into a oxygen-deprived environment for seeds and transplants. Inclement weather is forecast all the way up to Sunday which delays the planting of the last few veggie beds. So whenever the rain lets up, whether several minutes or longer . . .

. . . I am out doing what I can do like weeding, deadheading, and trimming. The patches of ivy we inherited with this place languished as the weather at first was fairly dry for many months. Then they flourished as precipitation increased the last couple of years. So much so, that a rusty fence and a pergola with peeling paint are on their way of being cloaked with luxuriant foliage.

Ivy needs two haircuts yearly (spring & fall) to look thick and healthy

A neighbour hunted for snails in our garden one dusky evening following some rainfall. She found over a hundred! They are destined for the cook pot. Moi? I'll remain content at present with just photographing snogging snails. Having eaten some (not the snogging variety!) at a restaurant, I agree with my sister's description of their taste and texture resembling that of chicken hearts. Buying already cooked snails and clean shells makes preparation fairly easy, but doing it from scratch involves a lot of work.* However, escargot is a fabulously delicious and thrifty component of French culinary tradition. Plus when they are eaten, they can't eat leafy greens in the veggie patch!

Windy, wet weather calls for comforting food. We have recently switched to buying free-range chickens which are sold in France in regular supermarkets under the Label Rouge (red label). Their depth of flavour and dense, but tender, flesh makes us accept that we previously were eating a pale imitation. And what stock it makes! A Haitian friend said decades ago regarding her eating experience after first moving to New York City: Nothing tastes good here. Tomatoes don't taste like tomatoes. Chicken doesn't taste like chicken. I doubt she would say that about this chicken and pasta soup with an Asian flair: Put some homemade chicken broth (recipe here, though photos are corrupted in this old post, text is correct!) into a pot, add minced garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Stir in a fistful or two of broken tagliatelle. While pasta is cooking, crack an egg into a small cup and carefully slide its contents into simmering water in a shallow pan. After a minute or two, turn off the heat and let sit until the soup is ready which will give the yolk a jellied consistency. Trim any raggedly edges right in the pan. Salt the soup to taste, pour into a bowl, and place egg on top.

Spicy beef and chicken enchiladas (recipe here) are wonderful any day but especially when it's gloomy and cool. We made some changes/improvements which include increasing the amount from eight to sixteen and only baking the ones destined for immediate consumption. The others are frozen (without the cheese topping) in their rolled-up, sauced, but unbaked state. When those are ready for the oven (partially thawed is best), cheese is then sprinkled. Dousing with less sauce and not crowding them when being baked results in a firmer enchilada with some crisp edges, but still a tender one. Our favourite toppings are mashed avocados and crème fraîche. Since we have enjoyed a Cahors wine with enchiladas in the past, I wanted to try another red from our cellier, a Côtes du Rhône. But, I forgot to take the bottle out in time to bring it to room temperature! Happily, there are plenty in the freezer with which to do this pairing fairly soon.

Looks like a vanilla/pistachio ice cream banana split with raspberry sauce!

The saucers under potted plants can get completely filled with rainwater causing some roots to become waterlogged, so I tip them over, causing a flow which captivates Dirac the Cat.

When the most beautiful cat in the world (OK, OK, there may be a few just as beautiful) decides that the tide is coming in too fast, he jumps up on the potting room's windowsill to keep his paws dry.

Can this pillow be upgraded to a softer one?

When rested, he enters the room . . .

. . . for a play session.

À la prochaine!

*Much interesting information at this link for snail preparation such as:  DO NOT cook a dead snail. And never give a snail the benefit of the doubt. If you think a snail might be dead, poke it with a sharp object and if it does not react, do not cook it and Wash the unshelled snails at least 3 times in vinegar and water (one cup of vinegar to two gallons of water) to eliminate remaining mucus.

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