I wasn’t planning a 2 for 1 post, but it worked out that way… This session the group Cook the Books is reading The United States of Arugula, and I selected Alice Waters of Chez Panisse as the chef I wanted to cook after…and at Food -n- Flix, we watched the movie Sideways, which explores the wine country of California up to Napa Valley, which is a California stone’s throw from Berkley, so they really do go together, especially since I’m in California as well. Okay, it’s a bit of a convoluted connection, but it works, and so does basil with strawberries!
Cook the Books has been reading The United States of Arugula by David Kamp the past 2 months. Mr. Kamp takes us on an culinary “Alice Through the Looking Glass” trip through the history of epicurean development in America. Wow. Having been alive through a majority of the stories related in US of Arugula, it really took me back to my own culinary roots. Being a young wife in 1972, I was glued to Graham Kerr of the Galloping Gourmet, but somehow missed out on Julia Child. Nonetheless, she was the chef I learned to cook with when I finally kicked out the mental walls of my kitchen and spread my wings…Coquilles St. Jacques was my first “Julia” recipe!
I selected Alice Waters as the culinary philosophy I wanted to cook. I don’t like commercial food. It worries me. I’d rather garden in my backyard (to the delight of my mare, Shasta, and the dismay of her human, my beloved hubster). She’s certainly a challenge, but we’ll get it!! I am loathe to buy out of season fruits and veggies. I’ve been known to make “salsa fresca” from home-grown and canned tomatoes…it tastes better than what’s made from the “fresh” tomatoes in the stores… The concept that one can make gourmet food from garden to kitchen is pretty much a rule of thumb here. It often happens during gardening season that I’ll decide what dinner will be based on what should be picked from the garden. I love that. I really do.
My dish is a Spring standard…a strawberry-rhubarb crisp, with the exception that mine is kissed with fresh basil. I live where strawberries grow abundantly and immensely flavorful when the season is high. May is high strawberry season. I picked up a half-flat (6 bountiful baskets) of day old strawberries for $5…slightly below half price. They had just-picked berries as well, but I can’t resist a bargain like that if I can make it work! When I got home that night, I went out and cut several rhubarb stalks from my garden. Rhubarb is perennial here, which is really nice! As I walked across the porch from cutting the rhubarb, a basil plant hanging from the eaves called out to me…you need me! Thought process…okay, basil is of the mint family…strawberries go well with balsamic and so does basil…why not? Make your favorite strawberry-rhubarb crisp, and add 2 tsp. freshly minced basil leaves to the fruit and sugar when you mix it. It wasn’t “noticeable” but there was a slightly unique flavor that enhanced the fruit really nicely with a little light minty flavor. Yum.
Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Manor is our hostess this month as Food -n- Flix watches Sideways this month. IMBD.com gives Sideways a score of 7.7 and this review “Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. ” I found myself trying to place the various vineyard regions as they drove north, and was disappointed that there weren’t more regions represented. I felt like their mother, being a voyeur on their trip. That wasn’t so much fun…when did I become MY mother?? LOL! Oh well…I guess you can’t love them all! On to The Mistress of Spices!